Keeping your dog healthy: How to train your dog to use stairs for dogs

As a loving pet owner, it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep your dog happy and healthy as they age. That means lifestyle changes as well as the use of stairs for dogs, to help aging pets get on and off furniture safely. As dogs age, their joint health naturally declines, so it’s essential to take precautions in the name of their health. The use of doggie stairs is also important for small breeds of dogs that are more likely to hurt themselves continually jumping on and off elevated furniture.

When picking out the right set of stairs, be sure that they have a non-skid surface. This will ensure further safety by giving your dog’s paws something to grab on to so they will be less likely to slip or jump off the edge. If you aren’t using the stairs on a carpeted floor, be sure to place a small rug at the bottom of the stairs so your dog will not slip once they are done using the stairs.

Training your dog to use the new set of stairs is not as difficult as it might seem. Dogs love learning new things, and the attention you provide will make the activity fun and positive for the both of you. To begin, pick out a treat that your dog loves. Position yourself on the floor next to the steps and place a treat on the ground before the first step. If he is like most dogs, he will come up and eat the treat. While you have his attention, drop a treat on the first step. Praise your dog when he eats this treat from the first step. If your dog is uncomfortable approaching the stairs, you may want to give him several treats at the first step, praising all the way until he is comfortable. It is important to work at his pace and be patient, as this may take several attempts. Remember to stay close to your dog during this initial training process. It is important that he feel secure on the steps and has your support.

Once you get your dog comfortable around the stairs, you will want to keep showing him treats and dropping them on each step and onto the furniture. Again, do not rush your dog. Go slowly and at his pace until he can be lured from the ground to the furniture. You may want to hold a treat slightly in front of your dog so he will follow it up the stairs, instead of dropping treats on every step. Keep praising your dog as he follows your instructions. Just do whatever you find works best for your dog so he is comfortable going up the stairs.

Going up the stairs is only half the battle, and dogs are generally more cautious going back down the stairs, so it is essential that you practice both. By now your dog should be used to the treats and your praise, so training him to come down the stairs should be easier. Start at the first step again, this time placing your dog on the step and putting a treat on the ground, luring him to go down the single step. Once he seems comfortable with this, put him on the second step and use treats to lure him to the ground. Continue in this manner until he is comfortable going down the steps. Take your time teaching your dog, some will learn faster than others, so do your best to break everything you want him to learn into steps.

As your dog begins to use the stairs with ease, it is time to start fading out the use of the treats and begin to use verbal cues such as “up” or “climb”. When you want him to use the stairs, use your verbal cue (“up”) and toss a dog treatso he will use the stairs. Once he is used to the call and treat, you can start to pretend to toss out a treat. If he still follows your verbal cue, immediately give him a treat at the top or bottom of the stairs. Keep rewarding him with praise and petting during this process, so that you need only use the occasional treat.

With practice, you dog will learn to go up and down the stairs for dogs easily and at your command. The two of you will have bonded over the training process, and he will be safer by having you help him minimize the stress of the aging process.

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