Dogcharmer: Stair-crazy

Abbey is not a fan of going up (or down) the stairs.

Abbey may get used to climbing stairs if treats are on the steps. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Hi, Mr. Shelby:

I recently adopted a sweet little 9-year-old Yorkie named Abbey from Susquehanna SPCA. She speeds up my front and back porch steps with no problem, but refuses to climb the 15 steps to my upper floor sleeping quarters (both hers and mine). Come to find out, her previous owner had a one-floor home, and when they often visited the owner’s sister’s home, Abbey was prohibited from going up the stairs to the second floor. She apparently was trained very well to stay on the first floor. Fortunately, a few years ago, we had a stair lift installed, so now I give Abbey a ride up at night and down in the morning, with her shaking all the way. I think our choices are:

  1. Have Abbey sleep in her crate alone downstairs.
  2. Continue to carry her upstairs (she’s only 10 pounds), either under my power or on my lap on the stair lift.
  3. Re-train her to go upstairs on her own power.

I wonder if you would offer your advice; if retraining is the answer, would it be possible?

Thank you VERY much.
Jan McGrath

Dear Jan,

First, thank you for being one of the beautiful people by adopting a 9-year-old dog and giving her a new lease on life. What makes this interesting is that in the majority of “dog vs. stairs” issues, I’m teaching the dogs to negotiate going down the stairs, not up. To many young pups the feeling of the first look down a long staircase is probably similar to the feeling I had when the guy yelled “Go!” and I jumped out of the airplane on my first time skydiving. With those pups I start them one or two steps from the bottom and lure them down with special people food treats, working my way up the stairs with a leash and harness in case the puppy starts to fall.

As for going up the stairs, thankfully, Abbey weighs a lot less than a Lab, and with a leash and harness it would be easy for me to lift her up a step or two if she balks as I’m luring her up the stairs with pieces of chicken. If experience is any indicator, she’ll be joyfully running up the stairs in about 10 minutes.

Best of luck, and thanks again for being an adopter.
Dog Charmer Tom

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