Teach your dog to go up and down stairs safely with this top tip from an expert trainer

Bernese Mountain Dog walking down steps outside with owner behind in the distance
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Unless specifically stated, any expert comments quoted in this news piece have been taken directly from the Instagram post cited below.

Going up and down the stairs with your dog sounds like something that should be easy, but in practice it can actually be quite difficult. 

If your dog likes to pull on their leash, walking up or down steps with them could be a safety issue if they cause you to fall or stumble, drag one of the best dog toys with them, or even knock over somebody else who’s using the steps at the same time. 

However, it is possible to train your pup to use the stairs with you in a calm fashion, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. 

Melissa Goodman, a certified dog trainer at  Mission Pawsitive, has laid out what you need to try in a recent Instagram post. Will it work for you and your canine? Let's find out!

“When going up and down stairs with your dog on a leash,” Goodman begins, “It’s a safety hazard for your dog to bolt up or down. Your dog can cause you to fall, stumble, or make someone in public feel uncomfortable/unsafe on public stairs.”

Goodman explains that she teaches the cue demonstrated in the video for safety rather than manners primarily, but that it is still more polite for your dog to walk with you on the stairs. 

“Dogs are naturally much faster so it can be tough for them to slow their pace down to match ours,” she explains, “This is a skill that requires impulse control and I teach a few cues to build impulse control on stairs.”

If you want to know how to stop a dog pulling on a leash, it’s worth knowing that Goodman teaches dogs to stop at the start of any stairs before waiting, in case whoever’s walking the dog isn’t ready or they need to wait for somebody else to finish using the stairs, and then she uses a “slow down” cue for the dog as they go down or up the stairs. 

What Goodman does to train dogs, as she demonstrates in the video, is to place treats directly on the steps in front of the dog. This helps the dogs to reduce their pace, while Goodman brings in a verbal cue to slow them. She explains that you can do this both for going up and going down the stairs. 

“Timing is the most important part of this exercise to catch your dog before they go too fast,” she says. “As your dog gets the hang of it, you can move to handing them treats every couple of steps as you say your slow down cue, and gradually increase how many steps you can do between treats.”

The aim is to get your dog to do the whole set of stairs without pulling – it’ll make your life a lot easier! 

But what if you have the opposite issue, and your pup’s afraid of the stairs rather than dragging you down them? Here are 32 everyday fears and phobias in dogs that you might want to explore further. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at DogTime.com, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

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.