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How to teach an adult dog steps

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  • How to teach an adult dog steps

    So I recently adopted an almost 9 year old retired American Foxhound. She has lived her whole life in a kennel. She has no concepts of longer flights of steps. I can get her in the house as it is only 3 steps but not to the 2nd floor.

    She has a bit of separation anxiety if she is not with DH, I or my lab Cooper. I have been sleeping on the couch. However I would like if I can get her to come upstair to the bedroom to sleep.

    My last retired foxhound already knew how to do steps as she had spent some time at one of the members houses a few times when she got injured.

    We tried to put turkey on the steps and got her to go up about 2 steps but she was really concerned. My next concern is getting her down if we do get her up there. She is 67 pounds so I am not carrying her down and DH can't either due to health issues. The steps have a runner on them but one side is partially open.

    My current lab as a puppy figured them out really quickly so we didn't need to do much with him and that was 10 years ago.

    I am thinking that maybe if we work on the short 3 steps a lot with treats and get really comfortable there first. We then switch to doing the main steps a few at a time up/down in small sessions. She sees the lab go up them but she just stays at the bottom all worried and whining.

    So how have others taught a large adult dog how to do steps?
    Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)

  • #2
    Adult greyhounds often need to be taught how ro navigate steps upon adoption, so there is a fair amount of info on how to do so online. Here's some info

    Your idea of starting with the short steps sounds safer. She'll figure it out with your help. Good luck!


    • Original Poster

      snowblaze Thank you for the link.
      Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


      • #4
        The greyhound link was good. One more tip, when dogs get anxious, they tend to put their head up, and then they are unable to go down the step. If you put a treat on the step they are on or the next step down, so that they lower their head, they are more likely to be successful.

        If you can find steps that are a shorter flight and/or shallower steps until she gets the idea, that helps. Plenty of delicious treats and a confident “tutor dog” are helpful too.


        • #5
          walking the stairs down: a harness like this can help (also when doggy gets older as you said you are not able to carry the dog). Dogs often hesitate when the stairs are e.g. open or slippery, so maybe there is some adjustment needed.
          Attached Files


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by Salo View Post
            walking the stairs down: a harness like this can help (also when doggy gets older as you said you are not able to carry the dog). Dogs often hesitate when the stairs are e.g. open or slippery, so maybe there is some adjustment needed.
            The stairs have a nice runner that isn't slippery. There are risers, so not open between the treads but there is not a wall on both sides. It is open on one side to the downstairs hallway with no banister. The harness is a good idea for going down.

            Another odd complication is that Kerplunk has not walked on a leash much and when she did it was 8.5 years ago. They don't leash walk foxhounds much. I think when she was first introduced to foot cubbing the puppies were started on the leash through the woods following other hounds.
            She has never had a harness on. I tried a harness on my other retired foxhound and she freaked about it. However Blossom learned steps quickly and actually jumped over my lab on the steps one day since he was in her way.
            Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


            • #7
              I’ve had great luck teaching both puppies and adult dogs stairs, teaching from the bottom.

              Start on the ground. Put a piece of cheese on the first step. When the dog gobbles it up, toss a treat behind her so she has to turn around to get it. Repeat 5-10x and stop.

              Next session (at least half an hour later), do the same thing, but alternate putting the piece of cheese on the first and second steps. Repeat 5-10x, then stop.

              Go one step further each time. If she seems scared, go back a step.

              I’ve yet to have this approach fail to teach a dog to go up and down stairs within a few hours.


              • Original Poster

                Lazy Palomino Hunter thanks for the suggestion

                Yesterday we had her doing the 2.5 steps between our mudroom and garage with a reward of turkey breast. When we were done she kept hoping down the steps into the garage for another treat. I am going to do those steps again tonight and then transition to trying the long set of steps a few steps at a time starting tomorrow.

                I am bummed my friend that has a split level house moved to Florida. His house had lots of short sets of steps anywhere from 4 to 6 steps. That would have been a nice middle ground. He was a dog person so would have been happy to help.

                Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                • #9
                  Glad it's helping and that she's so enthusiastic and volunteering the behavior! Building up a positive association by pairing the stairs with high value treats is a hugely important part of the process, so you're definitely on the right track.

                  As you move toward doing the full set, just remember that you shouldn't ever need to cajole her up to a treat on a step. If you find yourself egging her on to try and get a treat off a higher stair, that's a sign you need to go back down a stair or two until the next session.

                  In my experience, at some point when you get close to the full set of stairs that there'll be a lightbulb moment and the whole "stair thing" will suddenly click for the dog. It might take your gal a bit longer than a puppy, since she is older, but she'll get there.

                  Keep us updated on her progress!


                  • #10
                    Stop it - you remind me of my greyhounds and the beginnings we had with them - then, true, the lightbulb moment came and it did all click for both of them. I miss them both so much....but I do have Pebbles the Boxer now who is also adorable.
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