Is Your Dog Afraid of Stairs, or Steps?


It is a fairly common thing for dogs to be fearful of going up and down stairs, or steps. Puppies, in particular, can find negotiating flights of stairs quite daunting. Is your dog afraid of steps, or stairs? Read our Holidays4Dogs article for tips on how to teach your pup to confidentially negotiate steps. 

If your dog has a sudden fear of using steps, it would be a good idea to rule out any medical conditions first, since he may be reluctant to climb steps, if it causes him pain.

There may be lots of reasons why dogs have a fear of climbing, or descending stairs, but one reason experts suggest is that some dogs have poor depth perception. Therefore, they may find it difficult to work out how far down a step is, or how long the whole flight of steps are.

Dogs can be particularly wary of open backed steps, since this may appear to the dog that they have little support. In addition, if steps are slippery, this can also add to their lack of confidence and anxiety.

Many dogs may not have encountered stairs very often, if at all. Lots of people with stair cases in their homes prefer not to encourage their dog upstairs, so the dog never has the opportunity to learn to use them.

In other cases, a dog may be fearful of steps if he has previously had a negative experience, such as falling, or slipping.

Even if you do not want your dog upstairs in your own house, it is still important – especially when socialising your new pup – to get him used to lots of different environments and surfaces. This should include stairways, since he is bound to encounter these during the course of his life.

One step at a time.  

When teaching your dog to take stairs in his stride, start off gradually. Never force, or drag, your dog to go up or down a flight of stairs.

Be careful with young puppies as it is important for them to avoid injury, by over stretching their growing bodies. Many puppies, especially small breeds, will find a whole flight of stairs quite daunting, particularly if they are at the top.

Always introduce your dog, or puppy, to the bottom end of a flight of stairs. Use treats and, ideally a clicker, to encourage your dog to investigate the first step. You can ‘lure’ him onto the first step with a tasty treat.

If he seems calm, or makes an approach onto the first step, (even with just one foot), reward him straight away. Don’t expect him to climb the whole flight of stairs in one go. Avoid slippery surfaces to begin with and start with stairs that have carpet.

If your pup climbs onto the first stair, you can encourage him with a treat to climb back down. Don’t rush this and, again, avoid starting with steps that are too high. Always make your pup’s association with stairs a positive one.


Being able to negotiate flights of steps is useful for dogs to learn, especially if you live in an urban setting. It can also be great fun for your dog to learn how to navigate all sorts of different obstacles. See our other Holidays4Dogs article about canine urban agility for more information.