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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all!

We have a 2yo mix of perfection. He was 4 months old when we brought him into our family. He has an excellent temperament, and wants nothing more than to please us. In his first two weeks with us, he quickly learned to master the stairs. Me have carpeted stairs inside our place and TREX stairs outside our place connected to a small deck outside the main door we use to enter and leave our place (live on the second and third floor of a house).

For the first year and a half, he's had no issues with any of the stairs (our place, other houses parks and so on). Since the middle to end of the last winter, he will not go down the stairs from our place to, well outside. We have to carry him down now, every single time. He goes up these stairs no problem, it's just down. Plus this is only isolated to this one specific stair case.

Now after 6 months carrying him down these stairs, trying to trick him into doing it on his own with a treat on every other stair, we need help!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yes, he's been to the vet, he's perfectly healthy. He has no problem going down any other set of stairs anywhere else in the world. It's just this one set of stairs he will not go down anymore.
 

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You've probably already done this, but I'd look at the stairs to see what's so different about them, just in case it's as simple as nailing down some tread so they aren't so slippery. Dogs can be surprisingly sensitive!

My dog was TERRIFIED of stairs when she first came home. I assume she'd never seen them before, and she acted like the stairs in the middle of our house were a yawning chasm of doooooom. Forget going up or down them, she couldn't even walk past them...even looking at them could make her pee in fright.

I made sure never to try to coax her toward them, either with my voice or by luring her with food. When we lure or coax dogs around scary stuff, we often teach them that the "reward" for pushing themselves to the limits of their comfort zone is that we will ask them to take just one more step...and once a dog learns that, they will stop pushing themselves at all (and often become even more fearful).

Instead, I gave her a cookie every time she looked at the stairs (or chose any kind of interaction with them). I walked around the house normally, and let my dog choose how close she got to the stairs, rewarding her any time she investigated or interacted with them. If the stairs had been outside, I would simply have practiced walking to the back door, feeding my dog a cookie, and walking away. Then walking through the back door, feeding my dog a cookie, and walking back inside.

After a couple of days, she could walk past the top of the stairs with only a little bit of nervousness. So I'd walk, and she'd follow me, toward the stairs, pause briefly at the top and give her a cookie, then turn and walk away from the stairs. After doing that about a dozen times, she caught onto this cool new stairs game, and was walking toward the stairs really comfortably, with her tail wagging in huge circles because she could not wait to get to the treat station. I probably started with a "treat station" about three feet from the top of the stairs (because that was where my dog felt comfortable -- closer or further is fine, providing that is where your dog is comfortable), and gradually moved it a little bit close to the top of the stairs. But after every visit to the "treat station," I always walked away from the stairs. Again, I did not want my dog to learn that her "reward" for bravely facing the stairs was going to be me asking her to keep moving forward.

Then I started walking toward the stairs and stepping down onto the top step, pausing, feeding her a cookie, and then turning around and walking away. Again, I didn't lure her -- if she balked, I read that as a sign I was moving too fast, and I'd go back a couple of steps. But she kept wagging, and I kept playing, and eventually I was walking halfway down the stairs, treating, and then walking back up. At that point, I walked toward the stairs, walked down the stairs to the bottom, my dog followed with only a tiny amount of nervousness, and then we had a major cookie party downstairs. A few more repetitions, and she forgot that stairs had ever been a concern.

Your dog might need more time. I did not do this with my dog on leash (because we were indoors), but if I had, I would have made sure to never, ever use the leash to pull her forwards -- it is crucial that the dog is making all the decisions, and being rewarded AFTER making the relatively easy decision to get to whatever "treat station" is currently most comfortable. Use really great treats and keep them in a pouch or pocket, so that he only gets them after he finishes walking to her current comfort point. Be generous, be patient, and don't push your dog (keep carrying him down for regular potty breaks or other outings, until he begins to voluntarily go down the stairs on his own). Once he is going down the stairs, get into the habit of giving him a bonus cookie at the bottom -- at first every time, and after a couple of weeks, just randomly, to keep reminding him that these stairs are super awesome and, hopefully, to prevent a return of his worries.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Sound like maybe he slipped on the stair and it hurt him so he is afraid it will happen again if he goes down there. This might help.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-CCJxF-9U4
You hit the nail on the head!!! At the time he became scared of the stairs was when he started to try and jump off them from the third stair from the bottom. When he'd do this, his back legs would slip trying to push off of the TREX to make the jump. His front legs made it to the ground, his hind legs kind of stayed behind in he jump position hitting the last three stairs on his way down. After of week of this, he no longer used them.
 

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You can get rubber stair tread to tack onto the bottom 3-4 steps for more traction. It's cheap. He'll still need to re-learn to feel safe going down, but it could help prevent a repeat scare.
 

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You hit the nail on the head!!! At the time he became scared of the stairs was when he started to try and jump off them from the third stair from the bottom. When he'd do this, his back legs would slip trying to push off of the TREX to make the jump. His front legs made it to the ground, his hind legs kind of stayed behind in he jump position hitting the last three stairs on his way down. After of week of this, he no longer used them.
If something frightening or painful happened on the stairs, then counter conditioning is the way to go. The Kikopup video should be very helpful.
 
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