The Dogcharmer: Scrappy

When your pup is no stairmaster.

Scrappy. — Connie Berry

Dear Tom,

Our 9-month-old Havanese, Scrappy, took a tumble down the stairs when we first got him last fall. You guessed it … he hasn’t climbed more than three or four steps ever since. He won’t go up them and he won’t go down them, just whimpers and we carry him up. We’ve tried treats and cajoling to get him to go either up or down the stairs and neither seem to work. He’s a lovely dog and a real sweetheart, but it would be nice if he’d do the steps himself.

I work on the second floor at The Times, so I have to carry Scrappy up the stairs every time I go up to my office. Do you have any ideas? 

Gratefully yours, 

The Berrys


Dear Connie,

Having descended Mt. Everest the hard way is a lesson Scrappy will not easily forget, never mind repeating it. So, from his perspective, his training is complete. With but a whimper, Connie has been conditioned to transport Scrappy up and down all elevations greater than three or four steps. Thankfully, Scrappy isn’t a 9-month-old Great Dane needing such transport. The quick fix requires a leash, harness, and high-value treats.

At this point, the only time Scrappy gets people food meat treats is in conjunction with the steps. With the leash attached to the harness at mid back (not the neck), place Scrappy on the bottom first step and coax him down the one step with lots of praise and the treat the moment he reaches the floor. Then do the same from the second step, working your way up, step by step, with success building on success. 

When he hesitates at the higher steps, gently use the leash to coax him forward and down. If necessary, using the leash will make it very easy to prevent him from falling and give him the confidence he needs. He does not get the treat until he’s all the way down. Period! Your goal is a loose leash so he’s really doing it on his own. Same for going up the stairs. Start a couple of steps from the top using a little pull and coaxing on the leash, with the treat at the top, working your way down the steps. Connie, using the aforementioned, I’ve probably helped well over 100 dogs deal with all kinds of scary steps over the years with 100 percent success.

Good luck and give Scrappy a kiss for me.

The Dog Charmer

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