You bought the best pet stairs or dog ramp you could find. You placed it next to your bed with a flourish. You called your dog over and… he doesn’t want anything to do with it. He won’t use it and, if he does, he bails off the side part way, No matter. We can fix that and here’s how to teach your dog to use pet stairs:
- Block bailing. Put the dog stairs or pet ramp up against a wall, if possible, or something that prevents your dog from leaping off one side. This makes safe use more likely and helps create success during your teaching phase.
- Stabilize. Dogs don’t like to go up and down things that shift. Who can blame them? So if your set of pet steps isn’t inherently that stable (or your floor that level) wedge it between the wall and something heavy to hold it in place. You want it immovable while in use. Especially at first.
- On leash. Start with your dog on leash so you can support and assist as needed. Always attach to a flat collar or a traditional back clip harness.
- Approach then retreat. With some yummy treat in the hand closest to the stairs, approach them, praise and treat then walk away quietly. The good things happen as you go toward the stairs, not when you walk away.
- Give it a go. When you dog is relaxed approaching the stairs then approach the stairs again only this time encourage your dog to put front feet on the first stair. Do NOT drag her or force her. That will only create resistance. Cheer bravery when you see it, repeat the approach retreat when you do not.
- Bait the step. Put some treats on steps when you are done with the session. That way she can go get them when she wants to – at her own speed in her own time.
Taking your time is the fastest way to get a dog used to something new. Rushing things takes the longest. That is just part of the zen of dog training.
If your dog is small and you can safely do it, put your dog on the bottom step and let her get off. Then the second to the bottom. Same routine with the top stairs up on to the bed. Do this on leash so you can support good choices and prevent leaping off the side. If she does leap, just try again. Reward proper dog ramp/pet stair use warmly and well and your dog will soon be using them safely and consistently.
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Now you know how to teach your dog to use pet stairs. Go give it a try.