a dogs fear of steps...what to do??

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by ma2babygurl13, Jan 22, 2011.

  1. ma2babygurl13

    ma2babygurl13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2009
    Fairborn OH
    My almost 1 year old German Shepherd has a fear of steps, and he has to use them to get in and outside.... I have tried everything I can think of to get him to be ok with them... but I dont know what else to do, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! I have tried bribing, carrying him, helping him up and down them, etc nothing has worked... he is refusing to come up them right now, it is freezing cold and both other dogs are in and he keeps barking to come in, but I open the door and he peeks his head in, but then darts away...almost like a game... I usually get the leash and walk him up them, but he usually runs from the leash too (again I think a game) because once he is on it he is fine but I don't feel like chasing him around out in the cold and snow. And this gets hard to do when the kids are up. There are only 1 step up onto a small "platform" and then 2 steps up into the kitchen... I don't know what to do, I am at my wits end! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
  2. Ema

    Ema Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 4, 2010
    N. Ontario CANADA
    I have a King Sheppard St. bernard mix and he does the same thing, but its not a fear of the steps, he want to play. if I close the door and ignore him he barks until I am blue in the face and open the door back up. then he does the same thing. Now whenever I get impatient I just yell out "get in the house" and he literally runs in, he has knocked me down a few times, he has no manners either, no matter what I do, he just doesn't think the rules apply to him. I love playing with him, even if he is huge, he is a big teddy bear, he just picks the worst times to play his games, like today its -40C out, I had to force his butt in the house.

    If it truly is a fear of the steps in the case for your dog I would suggest you bring him to the vet to have him checked for a middle ear infection in the case he gets woozy on the way down or up, another 2 big reasons a dog would be afraid of steps is one, if she/he suffers from vertigo. When I was a teenager my dog Bear had this and the vets gave him meds. two, if he/she has had a bad fall in which it occurred on the stairs, in this case I would sit on the stairs with the dog and show him/her there is nothing to worry about until he/she get comfortable enough to trust them. Dogs can funny sometimes. They have quirks and fears just like we do.

    oh I should mention...check your stairs for stability, levelness, ask someone else, like a friend or family member or neighbour who doesn't come over too often to check them for you for a second opinion, sometimes a slight leveling issue could give the stairs the fun house effect and dogs are much more susceptible to react to this than someone who may be used to it.

    good luck,
  3. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Leave him out until he is good and ready to come in....if he truly wants to come inside he will brave a few little steps. You could also place a treat on each step and then one right inside the door so he will have to climb the stairs to get each consecutive treat. Or you could just sit down on the steps, cuddle and treat...then climb one step higher, cuddle and treat, repeat until you are at the top.
  4. CoyoteMagic

    CoyoteMagic RIP ?-2014

    This is going to sound strange but what color are the steps? Plain wood/concrete or painted? Some dogs don't like shiny surfaces, my GSD wouldn't walk on our kitchen floor.
  5. dewey

    dewey Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 9, 2010
    north of eternity
    Maybe try draping a blanket or something over the steps. Teaching her basic obedience to reliably come, sit, heel, will at least stop the come-try-to-catch-me game, lol.
  6. Ema

    Ema Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 4, 2010
    N. Ontario CANADA
    Quote:LOL...my dog doesn't like my wood floor in the livingroom because he slides everywhere, he much prefers the lino, which unfortunately for him needs to be replaced this spring, 5 large dogs can reek havoc on a floor for sure :-( so the new floor while it will still be lino, it will be much more slippery than it is now...than again if he would walk instead of running everywhere he might not have this issue
  7. equine623

    equine623 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2009
    NE PA
    Sounds less like a fear of steps and more of an untrained dog. Everytime he goes out and plays the game to come back in, he is training you. If he doesn't reliably come back in the house, then he doesn't go out alone. Yes, consider the texture of the stairs, are they solid or open backed, etc...but ultimately sounds more like a respect issue than anything. If he's genuinely afraid, perhaps some carpet pieces stapled to the steps will help with traction and going up and down on a leash with a matter of fact attitude from you will help. Carrying, bribing, all those things may be reinforcing in his mind that he has a reason to be afraid. If you anticipate his reaction, he will act accordingly. Try approaching it with a "well, this is how you go outside, no big deal" mind set and reward him, not bribe him. But I think the first step is to put the leash on his before he goes outside, eliminate the opportunity for games. Good luck!
  8. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    Don't assume it's a game - that is just putting an emotional interpretation on it and always causes problems in training animals.

    Just because it LOOKS playful doesn't mean it is. Dogs, especially working and protection breeds, often try to 'cover up' fear of obstacles and don't always show it obviously. In any case, it's irrelevant whether it's playful or not.

    I would say the mistake you make is trying to deal with this when he's off lead.

    You have to keep in mind that given how tall some dogs are, or how short, or how they're put together, certain obstacles hit them wrong, and make them just about frantic. I mean literally 'hit them wrong'. My dog got rapped in both stifles every time he jumped up on my old bed. You have to be willing to consider that the way these steps are spaced or whatever, that it's just possible that he is getting a real good bang in the stifles every time he went up them and he quit because he's smart, not stupid.

    The OTHER thing to consider, is that this dog is developing dysplasia or puppy lameness (he's at the exact right age for puppy lameness), or some other physical issue. ANY time a dog is reluctant about an obstacle that other dogs in the house are going over, or that does not seem like much of a barrier, consider very seriously, that this can be due to pain.

    I would also not leave him out and let him 'get hungry enough to just get over it', or drape a blanket over it - the more excited he is the more likely he is to make the blanket slip and be even less willing to go on the steps the next time. Even if his foot slips slightly, he will be less willing next time.

    What I would do, assuming he is not in pain, is put him on a leash indoors, take him out another way, and lead him on the leash, up to the steps.

    JUST STAND THERE. Just stand there next to the steps. Use the leash and collar to put him right next to the steps and parallel to them. No petting, comforting, pleading, NOTHING. Just have some treats and give him one once in a while. Just use the leash, and hold him next to the steps, do NOT try to get him to go up yet. Let him stand there for about ten good minutes. Just do that for a couple days. Make the steps a nice place where he gets fed.

    Then, again, put his leash on in the house, go out by another route, and take him, on his leash to the steps.

    Now depending on if he was hitting himself going up these steps, you may have to teach him a different way to get up the steps. It depends on the geometry of the steps. Steep, tall porch steps really can rap a dog very hard. If they're very low and the issue is clearly that he just does not like them...you just take him up straight, but don't discount the possibility that the way he was going up, he was getting hurt.

    But say if it's more a dislike for their look or feel, not actually getting hurt.

    Then you spend a few days teaching him to put his front paws on the first step, over and over, for a treat.

    Then usually, if you have given the first steps enough time and repetitions, you can walk up into the house, hold out a treat, and call him and lead him up the steps with the leash, and give him a reward.

    Do NOT try to fix this off lead. And give him the treat after he DOES something, after the first couple days of just standing by the steps, that is.

    Desensitize, reward, then train, reward. Then you're done and the problem is over.
  9. rodriguezpoultry

    rodriguezpoultry Langshan Lover

    Jan 4, 2009
    Claremore, OK
    Quote:This is the issue we had. Draping with towels and astroturf helped IMMENSELY. We had to carry Thunder into the vet's office..he simply could not walk on shiny/unrough surfaces.
  10. ma2babygurl13

    ma2babygurl13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2009
    Fairborn OH
    He doesn't appear lame at all, the vet who he was at recently doesn't seem to think so either. I think it is because the steps are linoleum and therefore he cannot get enough traction. Unfortunately I cannot go out and have him on his leash everytime as I have 2 kids 2 and under that require my constant supervision when DH isnt home. He isn't as well trained at this point as I would like, but he listens well and will come on command if he is say loose out of the yard. And comes up everytime in the backyard unless I have the leash in hand, or the moment he sees it he takes off. I have had him since he was a pup, and there has been no reason for him to not like the leash as anytime he gets leashed he gets to go for walks, and he LOVES going for walks. The thing that I think annoys me the most is if he is on a leash, he goes up and down them no problem, but he is a butt to get the leash on. It is when he isn't leashed that he fears them. Again I think it is because they are slick and he just doesn't like the feel of them (though he is fine with the linoleum in the kitchen and wood flooring in the living room) but I watched him go up them today and he doesn't even try to use the stairs he just tries to "leap" up to the top easily done since he is big and the stairs are no more than say a foot from the landing to the top, but because he doesn't "use" the stairs when he tries to jump to the top he doesn't get good traction on the top and slips a little causing fear. So we are not only going to try to walk him up and down the stairs by himself repeatedly on a lead to teach him it is ok and to take his time. We are also going to try to tack on a rug or carpet square onto the top of the stairs to see if that helps! And both entrances to the house have stairs so there is no way to avoid it. [​IMG] Thank you for all the suggestions. And if in the meantime anyone else has suggestions let me know [​IMG]

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by