A few years ago some clients of mine had their first baby, and after he was born, they came to class and they said that for them, the most important training tool that they had learned in my class was teaching their chocolate lab 'rules of the stairs'. With a new bundle of joy in their arms, they had peace of mind going up and down the stairs as their dog never got under foot.
Teaching dogs how to go up and down stairs may not seem like a big deal, but getting your dog to understand where it needs to be in relation to you can certainly diminish potential issues.
So, here are some basic rules to follow when working on stairs:
When you are training to go up and down stairs with your dog, you want to make sure you are always leading.
Start off at the bottom of the stairwell. With leash either in hand or umbilical method (leash around your waist), start going up the stairs. If the dog starts to get ahead of you, use the side of the stairway, or wall to cut the dog off. You can use your legs to do this. You always want to make sure that your feet are ahead of the dog’s paws. When you get closer to the top, you can skip a step to ensure you get to the top first. Same rules apply when going down the stairs. Near the bottom, you can even jump the last few steps to again, ensure you get there first.
As you practice this, and as the dog starts to learn the new expectations, you can drop the leash and repeat, and then repeat with no leash at all. You can also stop midway on the stairs and if the exercise is done properly, your dog will stop too, a few paws behind your feet.
Again, it is critical that you always ‘win’; you must always be ahead of the dog.