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Dog wont go up the stairs.

rtsrts Registered User regular
edited March 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So a couple of years ago I made a post on here about wanting to get a dog, and asking for advice. I ended up getting a Newfoundland, and things have been great. But about 6 months ago a problem developed, he stopped going up the stairs.

Now he's a big boy, about 160 lbs so I cannot carry him up or force him to go up. He doesn't have any hip problems, and he will easily go up the concrete stairs outside. The stairs in here are hardwood, and I definitely think that is the problem. I invested in some nice stair treads and mounted them on the stairs but I can't get him to give them a chance. I have tried everything I can think of. I put down treats, treats with peanut butter, toys , toys filled with treats....toys filled with treats and peanut butter. I have had other dogs come over and run up and down the stairs... he just sits at the bottom and stares longingly. I took him to the dog park, he ran around a bunch, then I ran him home and ran around the park outside here and then came in and tried to run him up the stairs (I had seen a dog whisperer or something with a similar problem where he just wore the dog out). It didn't work. He is too strong, and I think the whole ordeal just made it worse because now he thinks I am trying to trick him into going up. Which I am.

The problem started gradually, and I should have got the treads then but I was stupid. There is a little landing where the stairs turn a couple of steps from the bottom, and when the problem first started he would get to the step before that landing and stand there and drool and drool and drool (he drools when he is nervous). But if I walked over he would come down the steps. Then he started pausing at the top of the steps. Then he started hesitating going up. Now he won't go up at all. I don't think he has ever fallen or lost his footing on the steps. I have seen him slip a bit on the floor at the bottom of the steps when he comes off of it, but never anything serious.

He loves it upstairs, there is a nice balcony up there he likes to lay out on and watch the kids playing in the park outside. My studio is up there and I need to spend the majority of my day up there and I don't want to leave him down here by himself all day.

Please please please help.

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skype: rtschutter
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    zilozilo Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    How steep are the steps?

    zilo on
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    ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited March 2011
    How old is he? Is it possible he's developed some join problems lately?

    ceres on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    The steps are a little steep, but far less steep than the steps just outside that he has no problem with. He is only a little over 2 years old and he doesn't appear to have any joint or health problems.

    rts on
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    zilozilo Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    How long is the outdoor staircase? If it's short, and he jumps down them more than run down them, my guess is that he's now too tall to get down the inside steps without being freaked out and he won't go up because he figured out it's stressful to come back down.

    zilo on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    It's just as long or longer than the steps inside the house.

    rts on
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    MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    How big is the landing zone at the bottom of the steps? Maybe he doesn't think his brakes are good enough.

    MushroomStick on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Could you turn half of the stairs into a ramp (or all of them I guess)?

    Improvolone on
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    urahonkyurahonky Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    It could still be arthritis, right? My family's dog has always had a problem with steps.

    urahonky on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I am almost completely certain it is not because of any physical pain. He is a very young dog and hasn't ever shown any signs of pain. I cannot turn the steps into a ramp.

    The landing at the bottom is about 3.5'x3.5' and is big enough for him to lay down on if he wanted to. Plenty of room I think.

    I have never given him any food other than dry dog food, and I was thinking of maybe cooking up some bacon, giving him a small piece and then putting the rest of it on the steps. He isn't usually too motivated by food but I think something extreme like that might get his attention. Do you think this might lead to other problems later?

    rts on
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    MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    What I meant was maybe he thinks he's going to pick up to much speed going down the steps and ram into the wall before he can stop.

    MushroomStick on
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    KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    How wide are the two stair cases? My cocker is just the wrong length so he isn't comfortable on the stairs unless he is angled (ie he is too long to fit on just one stair and the one above it but too little to skip a stair in between). I could see a bigger dog having the same issue but not being able to walk at an angle on a narrow stair case.

    But really the cause doesn't matter. The treads are a great idea, you can also safely use resin based products like firm grip on his paws to prevent him from slipping. Does he have hair growing between his paws? Or long toe nails? Both of those can make dogs less comfortable on smooth surfaces. I know you put down the treads, but your dog doesn't seem to have noticed and if he feels more comfortable about traction in general he may be more willing to try the stairs.

    I think the really special treat idea is a good one, but probably you stopping caring about it will make a bigger difference. If you are upstairs all day your dog is probably going to want to be upstairs too. Your dog can tell if you are stressed about him and the stairs and that is likely just making him even more sure that the stairs are worth being worried about.

    What sort of issues down the line are you worried about? Bacon is kind of greasy, maybe something like freeze dried liver wouldn't leave any grease behind to freak your dog out?

    Kistra on
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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited March 2011
    I had an akita with stair issues. he wouldnt round the corner to angle himself to go down the stairs, and would opt for slipping around the corner and scaring the shit out himself then barreling down them strait into the wall. for a few months he would only go down the steps with me there. he would freeze in the improper angle, scared, and I would just scoot his butt around till he was facing forward. It was ridiculous, but as soon as he was properly angled, down he went.

    I once or twice lead him upstairs on the leash, because he was so conditions to walk right next to me on it he would do stairs fine. If franklin is not a particularly leash trained dog, this wont really help though. If the stairs are wide enough for both of you, he might confidently walk by your side and do it.

    My situation maybe slightly less extreme, because left on his own he would get over it and do it himself, but in a sloppy slipping mess, and after like an hour or two of whining.

    If its been a while for a vet trip, it could be a joint, but its more likely hes just nervous


    Edit: You own the place right? I dont know how sturdy the tracks are, but you might consider just carpeting the stairs.

    Iruka on
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    DerrickDerrick Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    It's possible the poor guy had an accident on the stairs while you weren't there and now he's wary of them.

    Derrick on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Franklin is extremely well behaved on a leash, but when I try to lead him up the stairs on a leash he immediately sits down or pulls backward. And he is incredibly strong, so that pretty much ends it right there. The idea behind running him around until he was really tired was so that he wouldn't have the energy to resist when I try to pull him up the steps, but he doesn't need any energy to resist. He can just lay down and there is nothing I can do.

    I don't think stair width or height or anything like that is the issue. He was using the stairs after he was full grown and it didn't seem like a problem then. He just has some kind of fear of the steps which is almost certainly related to them being hardwood. Which is why I put the treads on. They are extremely secure, and quite large. It's basically like the stairs are carpeted with door mats now.

    The reason I am worried about using something like bacon is because right now he is a 160lb dog which is easily large enough to take food off of a table or kitchen counter without lifting even one foot off the ground. This hasn't been a problem though so far because his interest in food is actually pretty minimal. He definitely is interested, but not enough to upset me at all. But if I start giving him bacon or some other type of food that I might have on my own plate, I am concerned he will start to take liberties in the future.

    I might try coating his paws with something that gives him better grip, it's a good idea. The real trick now is just getting him to try the stair treads. But his fear of the steps is so great that he doesn't want anything to do with them, and I can't exactly communicate to him that the situation has changed.

    I actually just took him to the vet a couple of days ago, he is perfectly health.

    I think I am going to try the bacon thing tonight to see if it works.

    rts on
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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited March 2011
    do you have some of the treads left over?

    Put some on the stairs outside and have him walk on them, since he has no objections to them. Then put some a little before the steps so he can feel the new texture and see that it extends up the stairs.

    Iruka on
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    garroad_rangarroad_ran Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Don't try to get him to go up the stairs.

    Get the dog to put his front paws on the first step, and congratulate that.
    Repeat for a few days until you can convince him to put his paws on the second step, then congratulate that.

    Rinse, repeat.

    garroad_ran on
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    NappuccinoNappuccino Surveyor of Things and Stuff Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Don't try to get him to go up the stairs.

    Get the dog to put his front paws on the first step, and congratulate that.
    Repeat for a few days until you can convince him to put his paws on the second step, then congratulate that.

    Rinse, repeat.

    Yep... even start by praising him for walking towards the steps. Then when he's with in, say, 3-4 feet of the stairs. Then when he stands next to them. then when he puts 1 paw on a step. then two paws and so on and so on.

    Small, tedious, steps to getting him to climb the stairs but that how we do it according the the psych classes i've taken. Look up Operant Conditioning, Shaping, and Approximations for anything more indepth

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    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    That's what this whole thread is about....trying to get him to take a single step. He isn't a puppy who I am training to use the steps for the first time, he has a terrible fear of these particular steps and getting him to take even one step onto them is impossibly difficult.

    Also bacon isn't working. He gets really close to the steps and leans over them as much as possible but refuses to take a step.

    rts on
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    NappuccinoNappuccino Surveyor of Things and Stuff Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    yeah, just keep rewarding him for getting near the steps- then after some of that, only reward him if he gets on the step and so on.

    Nappuccino on
    Like to write? Want to get e-published? Give us a look-see at http://wednesdaynightwrites.com/
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
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    oncelingonceling Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Personally I would find some more stairs to test what he is really concerned about. At a friends place, public building or something, find a nice steep long set and see if he's concerned.

    I would not be surprised at all that a dog that large had joint issues. I'm not saying its definitely joint problems or anything, just that there are ways for you to double check.

    EDIT: I know you have stairs outside he doesn't have a problem with, but its possible he knows he has to go up the outside ones, and the inside ones he's like "hell no, there be nothing that great up there". You can find out real quick if its just a psychological problem by finding some more stairs.

    onceling on
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    garroad_rangarroad_ran Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    If something is impossibly difficult then you're probably just not making it gradual enough.

    Can you get him to sit beside the stairs? If so, sit down with him, grab one of his paws, and place it on the first step, and congratulate him. Eventually he should get accustomed to putting one paw on the first step enough that you can get him to do it while standing.

    garroad_ran on
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    KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    You are going too fast if you are trying to get him to step on the first step already. How far away from the steps does he prefer to be right now? Praise him and call him away (double reward!!) if he puts one paw inside that distance. Then after he is *happily* going that new distance start only rewarding him for getting one step closer, repeat.

    If he is already walking up to the stairs but won't step on them, praise and call him away for sniffing the stairs or touching his nose to them. You want to get him interacting with the stairs in a way that doesn't cause him to worry so that you can build a positive association with the stairs. Does he target?

    Kistra on
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    ducttapeenthusiastducttapeenthusiast Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Do you have carpeting or a non-sliding rug at both the top and bottom of the stairs? My dog was afraid of the stairs for a very long time, and we figured out that it 100% came from a fear of hardwood and tile floor. He slides around a lot on those kind of surfaces and it makes him paranoid. Once we put down some good rugs at both landings he would go up and down without hesitation. Funny thing is, if our other dog flies through at full speed and kicks one of the rugs out of place, he won't use the stairs until it's put back.

    ducttapeenthusiast on
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    saltinesssaltiness Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Is it a floating type of staircase where you can see through it when you look straight at it? I've seen lots of dogs be scared of these types of stairs because it's hard for them to see the steps.

    saltiness on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    He will go up to the bottom step and lean over it as far as he possibly can, but he won't take the first step. It's been like this for awhile, no amount of praise or treats or encouragement seems to help.

    The steps are not floating.

    rts on
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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited March 2011
    When you say you cant convert the stairs to a ramp, were you talking about all of them? Maybe you could ramp him up to the first landing and he would do the rest.

    You might be able to find a behaviorist in your area who can help, they generally have one staffed at local SPCAs, and if they cant help they might point you in the right direction. I think all of us will probably just continue to make off hand "might work" suggestions, if the situation is that extreme then a pro might suit it better.

    Iruka on
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    KistraKistra Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    cakemikz wrote: »
    He will go up to the bottom step and lean over it as far as he possibly can, but he won't take the first step. It's been like this for awhile, no amount of praise or treats or encouragement seems to help.

    The steps are not floating.

    I think you are looking for too big of improvement all at once. Can you get him to sniff the first stair? Touch the vertical part with his paw? Look at it?

    EDIT: and by "can you get him" I mean with you sitting in a chair ten feet away and him happily offering behavior near the stairs and you rewarding him at your chair.

    Kistra on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Well I made a trip to the pet store and bought everything I could think of that might make him want to go up. And there has been progress. I was able to get him to get both front feet onto the landing (which is the second step). But getting him to put one of his back feet onto the first step is going to be really tough since those are mostly supporting his weight. For now I have put his food on the landing where he can eat it with just two feet on the first step.

    I have found that praising him as he tries to climb makes him more nervous and back away from the steps.

    rts on
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    lyriumlyrium Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    You said you tried running up and down the stairs to get him to follow? This may not pertain to Franklin because he probably isn't crazy like my dog, but do sounds bother him? You wouldn't make a lot of sound on the concrete steps, but a lot of clattering running on wooden stairs might frighten him, in which case it would help to walk more calmly on them. But like I said, it's probably not the most likely explanation.

    lyrium on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Sounds don't bother him really, and I just ran him around outside until he was really tired and then ran in and tried to drag him upstairs so he wouldn't have the energy to resist. It didn't work.

    rts on
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    NappuccinoNappuccino Surveyor of Things and Stuff Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    cakemikz wrote: »
    Well I made a trip to the pet store and bought everything I could think of that might make him want to go up. And there has been progress. I was able to get him to get both front feet onto the landing (which is the second step). But getting him to put one of his back feet onto the first step is going to be really tough since those are mostly supporting his weight. For now I have put his food on the landing where he can eat it with just two feet on the first step.

    I have found that praising him as he tries to climb makes him more nervous and back away from the steps.

    How are you praising him? He might be nervous you'll touch him (pet him) which could put him off balance. Or, similarly, that he'll get distracted and become off balance. Maybe wait to praise him until he's totally still and obviously not going to move further?

    Nappuccino on
    Like to write? Want to get e-published? Give us a look-see at http://wednesdaynightwrites.com/
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
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    ben0207ben0207 Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Have you tried buying it a few drinks first?





    Serious answer: it'a been my experience that some dogs are just rubbish at climbing stairs, but slowly moving his food bowl one staep higher every couple of days might work.

    ben0207 on
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    dzenithdzenith Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    There might be some anti-anxiety medicine that your vet can provide. My mother in law's dog completely freaks out when she takes him on planes but he flies fine if he is medicated. I'm not suggesting the medication as a permanent solution, but rather a temporary one to show him that going up the stairs is fine. Unless of course your dog seems anxious all of the time.

    dzenith on
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    LankyseanLankysean Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Derrick wrote: »
    It's possible the poor guy had an accident on the stairs while you weren't there and now he's wary of them.

    My dog refuses to go anywhere near the steps near my side door. He won't go up or down them since he fell down them as a puppy.

    Lankysean on
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    HK5HK5 Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    No front limb discomfort/lameness at all? I only ask because a 2 year old giant breed dog with a fear of stairs makes me think elbow dysplasia. Otherwise it's probably just a phobia you'll have to overcome slowly with the excellent positive reinforcement tips offered in this thread.

    HK5 on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Yeah he has no dysplasia. Operation Get Giant Dog Upstairs is on hold though for the time being as I had to go to LA for a couple of weeks. Will resume upon return.

    rts on
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    rtsrts Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Alright I am back. Before I left for LA I ordered some custom made carpets (to match the stair treads) for the hallway at the top of the stairs, the hallway at the bottom, and the landing which is two stairs up. Well when I returned they were here waiting for me and within 2 minutes of putting them down he had all four feet on the landing. Huge progress. But now he is facing the large part of the stairs, with about 12 steps between him and the top.

    Using one treat at a time to lure him up is different here, I am not sure if I want him slowly going up the stairs picking up treats on his way. It's already awkward enough without him trying to get treats. I may take some pictures or shoot some video and upload it so you guys can better see the dilemma.

    rts on
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