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Stair Problem

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I am interested in getting opinions on how to proceed with a problem we are having with stairs.  So -- the pups (almost 2 years old now) will not go down our basement stairs.  They have been fearful of them since they were young.  Nothing bad happened on them. 

The interesting thing is they will go up and down other stairs.  They go up and down our main stairs, 16 steps, that are carpeted.  They go up and down the kennel steps outside (12 steps, bare wood, and quite steep).  They even go up and down my husband's workshop steps (12 steps, steep, bare wood, and even open at the back and on one side.)  And they go up and down all those stairs like gangbusters!  But they continue to balk at the basement steps (only 8 steps down and carpeted down the middle.)

We have tried having everyone in the basement (including my kids & their dogs) and other tempting and fun things down there.  They just will not approach and go down those steps. 

I am not a clicker trainer.  However, I decided to give it a whirl with this problem.  So I have Parker coming to the steps, and going down one step with his two front paws to get a treat.  But he won't let his back legs leave the top landing.  He at least will come down to the landing now when he hears the clicker.  And that first step has been a big deal for him.  But we are not progressing very fast.  We've been on one step for over a week. 

I really believe that I could teach this easily by back-chaining up the steps, IF I had access to the basement from outside and could start them down there.  But, unfortunately, there is no outside access to our basement.  And....because of our age and physical issues, neither of us can carry them downstairs. 

Anybody have any suggestions?  Has anyone had a similar problem where the dogs would do all steps except certain ones?  Thank you in advance!


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It sounds as though you are doing OK with this, using the clicker and treats. You will just have to be patient and give it more time. One week is a very short time to change a behavior that has been present for a long time. If you keep up the work with the dogs, eventually you will have success. You just have to be persistent. The fact that you have made progress means it's working; the fact that they are not going down the stairs yet doesn't mean it's not working. Keep at it and don't give up and you and the dogs will get there.

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ok, that's what I needed to know (unless there is someone else with another idea that I haven't already thought of.)  Actually, it has been about 3 weeks since I started clicker.  It is one week that he will put front paws on first step down....and no further.  I did not know whether that was a long time to do just one step, or not (since I have never done clicker for a particular action.)  thank you!

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SUCCESS!!!  Don't know if it was the clicker, the added light, or the motivation.  Had my son carry Parker down the steps and he went right up them.  Then we encouraged him down with treats and lots of excited praise.  Once he went down, he then saw they were "just steps" and he was going up and down them.  Once he was doing it, Piper followed.  yay :D

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