Your dog likes to play and stay close to you. But when he sees you climbing the stairs, he will just stay put on the ground, avoid following you and exhibit his fear.
This shows his extreme phobia of stairs, and you could see his legs trembling.
There are several reasons for this behavior.
Your dog is scared of stairs because of emotional reasons, such as unpleasant experiences with stairways, behavior (stay away from staircase) that you have taught him and height phobia. Physical factors such as steps too deep and slippery, arthritis, vision impairment, long nails make him deterred from climbing.
Traumatic Experience On The Stairway
Your dog has had an unpleasant experience with a stairway before.
He might have had a bad fall from a staircase and that resulted in a long-lasting association of stairwells with pain.
You would need to do a counter conditioning approach to help your dog forget the negative association he has with stairs.
The first step is to expose him to stairs in a non-threatening way.
For example, you can use a treat for each step your dog climbs.
It is important that you only work on one step at a time with your dog because you don’t want him to develop any fear of that “small” step.
Reward and praise him for each of the steps that he has made.
This is an important recognition from you that he is doing a great job and that would help him to overcome his fear.
It helps to make him feel that the outcome (climbing the staircase) is something positive, and he would be more willing to repeat that action.
Once your dog is comfortable climbing one step at a time, you can increase the number of steps he needs to earn his reward.
Over time, your dog will be able to climb the stairs without needing any treat.
You could also make good use of your dog’s natural curiosity and “lure” him to climb up the stairs willingly.
Get something that would trigger his investigation instincts and leave it on the top of the stairs.
This will usually make him want to check out the new things that come in his way (if he decides that it’s worth investigating and would help to overcome his staircase phobia).
Slippery Feeling On The Steps
If your stairs are made of wood or marbles, they are usually very slippery and that can make your dog deterred from stepping on them.
He feels that the texture of the steps can easily cause him to slide.
Also, if your stairs are wet or icy, your dog may avoid them for the same reason.
If that is the case, you can improve on the texture of the stairs by pasting non-slippy pads on each of the steps and that will make your stairs less slippery.
You can also apply anti-slip spray to the stairway. This works well as well.
Of course, you should also be diligent in keeping the stairs clean.
If there is any dirt or debris on the steps, your dog won’t be able to grip on it, and he will slip.
Stairs are a common source of slips and falls in the home.
(Arthritis) Pain While Climbing Staircase
Your dog will prevent any activities that could cause pain in his joints if he is suffering from arthritis.
This is especially so if he is reaching his golden years (more than 10 years old).
There are certain behavioral changes that occur with arthritis that make it easy for you to identify.
The first thing you want to do is observe your dog’s behavior during his normal daily activities.
Apart from avoiding any climbing or jumping activities, you would also likely see him becoming less active, likes to lay on the floor most of the time and licking his paws persistently.
Also, you may notice that he’s not as interested in sniffing things anymore as that needs him to move around.
All these changes are signs that your dog might have arthritis.
So, if you suspect your dog is suffering from arthritis, take him to the vet right away.
Arthritis can be really painful and make it hard for your dog to move around.
Deterioration Of His Vision (Couldn’t See Steps)
Your dog could be suffering from vision impairment that causes him to have difficulty making out the steps on the stairs.
This makes him extremely fearful to move up or down the steps as he couldn’t really see them.
What you can do is to paste some high-contrast pads (use bright orange and blue color) on each step to make it more visible to your dog.
Also, make sure that the lighting in your stairwells is bright enough.
Get some light bulbs that are specifically designed for use in stairways.
A lack of lighting can increase your dog’s stress levels, which can lead to fear, anxiety and avoidance.
Though vision deterioration tends to happen more frequently for older dogs, it can certainly happen to a young pup too.
So make sure to take your dog’s eyesight seriously.
If you notice that his vision is starting to decline, get his eyes checked right away by a vet.
Long Nails Make Climbing Steps Difficult
When was the last time you performed grooming for your dog?
He might have long nails and that makes his walking and climbing a challenge.
This is especially so if he has to climb on each step on the stairs and his long nails are affecting his grip on these steps.
There is a risk that he might slip and fall down the stairs, hurting himself.
Also, dogs with long nails are more prone to getting infections in their nails.
Thus, make sure that you have a regular grooming session for your pet.
Grooming is an important part of a dog’s overall health and well-being.
Steps Too Deep For Him
This would be the case if you have a small young puppy.
He is too small to be able to climb up and down the deep steps.
His hips are not well-developed for him to be able to jump up and down the steps and there is a high risk that he may get himself injured from doing that action.
What you can do is to get him a ruffwear vest with a handle so that you can offer him some physical assistance as he learns to go up and down the stairs.
This way, you can be sure of his safety, and he gets familiar with the stairway.
Having A Fear Of Heights
Climbing up or down a staircase can be a rather stressful task for your dog if he has a height phobia.
This is even so if your staircase is of see-through design or there is a gap between the steps.
This could be the explanation if you see your dog only willing to climb 1-2 steps and will stop moving up thereafter.
The good news is that there are ways you can help your dog overcome his height phobia.
What you can do is get a carpet to cover the steps of the staircase.
This way, your dog won’t feel the anxiety as he will just be seeing carpet beneath his feet while moving up and down the stairs and will start to associate carpet with safe feeling.
And when he feels safe, he is less likely to have a phobia.
You Told Him To Stay Away From Stairs
If you forbid your dog to climb up the stairway when you are not around, he will associate going up the stairs with negative feelings.
That is, you will get angry with him.
And if you ever scold your dog whenever he goes up the stairs without your consent, he will learn that going up the stairs equals getting a scolding.
And he will try to avoid going up the stairwell even when you ask him to do so.
This is often known as a “negative association”.
In this case, you will want to prevent your dog from associating going up the staircase with a bad feeling.
To accomplish this, NEVER scold or yell at him when you see him climbing up the stairs without your consent.
Just work on ways to prevent him from doing that, such as setting up a baby gate at the staircase to deter him from going in.
And when you want him to go up the stairs, praise and reward him for doing it.
This will create a positive association between going up the stairs and a rewarding experience.