Is your dog scared of stairs? Trainer shares a solution for reducing anxiety

Dog sitting at bottom of stairs looking up
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just like us, our pets can sometimes get scared of different things. Anxiety in dogs isn’t unusual, but a fear of something in particular can be really debilitating for your pup. 

Take stairs, for example. For most of us, going up and down the stairs is something we don’t even think twice about. But some dogs, particularly puppies or those who are smaller and have short legs, stairs can be quite intimidating. 

Fortunately, Alex Sassa, head trainer and pet behavior expert at Peach On A Leash Dog Training, has got some advice to share – and all you need is a handful of the best dog treats. You can watch her advice in action below to continue reading to find unveil her wise words.

In an Instagram video, in which she demonstrates her advice with a small dog, she recommends placing some food on the bottom stair to encourage your dog to approach, and then working your way up step by step with food. 

“Regardless of whether your dog is afraid of going up or going down, you’ll still want to start on the bottom step,” Sassa says. “If your dog gets a little stuck like this dog gets here, you can give them an achievable win by tossing additional food in an easier spot”. 

She explains that by resetting the exercise, you’ll get your pup more comfortable again. You don’t need to say anything specific to your dog while helping them get over their stairs fear – while praise is good, it’s best to avoid saying things like “come on, come on”. 

Sassa continues, “Be sure you’re standing back from the stairs to avoid putting pressure on your dog by hovering over them. It doesn’t usually take long before dogs will tackle the whole flight of stairs with confidence. 

It’s also a good idea to make sure the stairs are clear before you practice this with your pup. If there are things your dog could trip on or knock over, it may scare or startle them further, taking you back to square one. 

And, remember to be patient. Something that seems so simple to us can be much more daunting to your dog, and it may take multiple sessions for them to be comfortable with using the stairs. Keep sessions short, fun, and upbeat, and you’ll probably find better results in the long run. 

But, if your pup’s fear seems too intense for them to get past, it might be a good idea to consult a professional trainer or behaviorist, or your vet. And if your dog is really struggling, you might benefit from reading up on how to calm a dog down during periods of high anxiety

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.