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How to Teach Your Dog to Use Pet Stairs

How to Teach Your Dog to Use Pet Stairs

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Ever since Fe tore his achey breaky ACL, we’ve been looking for ways not just to help him heal, but to keep him from over using his hurt leg.

Last year, we built a DIY Dog Ramp to help Felix get in and out of our ultra tall bed. We’ve been using a dog stroller on long journeys to help keep Fe from over using that knee. Until now, we’ve been limiting jumping, but Fe is part kangaroo (or thinks he is) and we’ve had the hardest time stopping him from jumping on and off the couch! (Sorry downstairs neighbour! Does it sound like the sky is falling when he does that? Probs, eh?) I knew we probably needed to get him a set of steps to making getting up and down easier (and quieter), but you guys, I really didn’t want to.

Don’t get me wrong! I want to do everything I possibly can to help my Felix heal and stay well, but pet steps? I could just see them, in the middle of my lovely living room, all huge and ugly and plastic. *ugh* If I was going to have pet steps in my house, I at least wanted ones that kind of went with my decor. My living room is filled with rich greys, shiny metals, and bright colours. All I could find was dark wood and beige plastic. While dark wood is super tasteful, it’s really not my style…and don’t even get me started on how I feel about the plastic! I knew that I needed to choose steps that I could DIY into something fabulous. Enter the Solvit PupSTEP Wood Stairs.

Snazzy looking, right? Buy 'em on Amazon {affiliate link}

Snazzy looking, right? Buy ’em on Amazon {affiliate link}

There’s a whole lot to like about the Solvit PupSTEP Wood Stairs.

First, they’re made of solid wood, which means that aside from being quite sturdy, they can be sanded down and stained or painted in a colour more suited to my decor. Plus, they’re collapsible! That’s right, the brace folds down, so that you can tuck them out of sight when you have company. I was convinced that these were the stairs for me, I just had to make sure that Felix felt the same way. After all, there’s no point in having pet stairs, if you can’t teach your dog to use them.

I consulted a few friends before we got our stairs and many of them told me the same thing. Don’t bother. They had stairs and their dogs never used them or worse, that their dog was afraid of them. I was prepared for the worst though. Just like with any new piece of equipment, you have to train your dog to use them. You can’t just expect to push them up against the couch and have your dog “get it”. It’s a bit of work, but with a little patience, you can teach your dog to climb the stairs instead of hurtling themselves on and off the couch.

How to Teach Your Dog to Use Pet Stairs

teach your dog to use pet steps

You can teach an old dog new tricks. Just ask Felix.

  •  Let Your Dog Get Used to the Steps. If you have a fearful dog like Felix, the arrival of new furniture isn’t always a good thing. The first thing we did was set up the stairs. (ie. Open the box and fold out the legs. Seriously, you guys, that easy.) Felix wouldn’t go anywhere near them, so I decided to leave the stairs out for a few days, placing them near Fe’s spot on the couch, and  let Fe get used to them.
  • Felix says carrots are awesome.

    Felix says carrots are awesome.

    Bait the steps with treats. Once Felix stopped flinching every time he saw the steps, we took it one step further, placing a treat on each step and waiting. I nearly chortled with glee when he would tentatively creep over and snatch the treat off the bottom step. Whenever he would snatch up a treat, I would replace it with a new treat until Fe was reliably taking snacks off the bottom step. Once he was consistently taking treats off the steps, I stopped making it easy on him. If he wanted treats, he had to put his feet ON the stairs.

  • Practice makes perfect. For a few minutes, a couple times a day, we would work on climbing the stairs. I would grab my tastiest, smelliest treats and use them to lure Felix up the stairs. Continue practicing until your dog is going up and down the stairs easily. At this stage, if you want to add a command, go ahead and do it. We used “stairs” to remind Felix what we wanted. (I don’t know what it is about “down” stairs, but it’s apparently scary and awkward. Make sure you practice going down the stairs, not just up or you’ll end up with a dog like mine who climbs the stairs to get his treat and then jumps down. {facepalm.}
  • This looks nice right? Decorative & classy?

    This looks nice right? Decorative & classy?

    Make the stairs the only access point. I swiftly learned that getting Felix to use the stairs and getting Felix to use the stairs every time, even when you weren’t luring him with goodies, were two very different ideas. He’s stubborn that boy! I’m stubborn too though. To restrict access to the couch, I propped up our baby gate against it. The gate ensured that the stairs were the only way to get on or off the couch.

  • Koly likes to practice the stairs.

    Koly likes to practice the stairs.

     

  • Be patient! This process isn’t going to happen overnight. We worked on it every single day and it took Felix a month to start using the steps. Even now, I have to remind him to “take the stairs” and redirect him when it looks like he’s going to jump down.

Now that Felix is using his stairs, it’s time for me to remake them.

IMG_4344IMG_4343IMG_4348

I’ve got a simple, awesome DIY project planned to fancy the Solvit Pet Stairs stairs up a notch and make them the perfect addition to our living room. Just because you have pets, doesn’t mean you have to live in a dog house. Wood pet stairs might be a tad more expensive than plastic ones, but they’re totally worth it, since you can recreate them to look exactly how you want. I can’t help be excited about what we have planned for these. (If you happen to follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you just might get a sneak peek!)

Have you ever used stairs or ramps for your pet? Why did they need them and how did you teach them to use them?

 

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Learn more about Felix’s ACL injury and how we’ve treated it, plus stories from other dogs with this injury, product recommendations and more on our Achey Breaky ACL feature page.

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