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Helping dog over its fear of stairs

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Q: My golden retriever mix is afraid of stairs. I don't know why. We've tried to entice her to go up or down. We even put her on the stairs, but then she just stands there frozen in place and shaking. What can we do?

A. S., Nashville, Tenn.

A: Begin by taking your pup to your veterinarian to ensure that she's not in pain, and that there isn't a physiological cause for her hesitancy to go up and down stairs.

If your dog checks out, take it one step at a time. And quit while you're ahead. So, literally take a step or two a day, enticing her with something more than an ordinary treat. This is the sort of thing they invented hot dogs for. Once she does a step, offer a tidbit of hot dog, and tell her what a good girl she is. At least for today, quit while you're ahead and the next day tackle another step or two.

Dr. Wayne Hunthausen of Westwood, Kan., has a practice limited to behavior, and he has another idea. Put the food bowl on the first step. The next day put it on the second step, the following day on the third step, and continue until you've reached the top or the bottom (depending on which way you're heading). If your pup refuses to climb, after let's say five steps, back up to number four and repeat step four for two or three consecutive days before moving to step five.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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