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Stair Refusal (up Only)


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About a month ago, I horrifyingly closed my grey's tail in the car door and she had to have surgery to get it stitched up. The bandages came off after one week and then the stitches came out after the second week.


After the stitch removal (a couple of days), my grey then had a little stumble on the bottom steps (when heading up) open hardwood stairs (that I have mats on to provide her with traction). I was right there to stabilize her and get her back with four feet on the ground again. She has had a LOT worse stumbles in the past (when I have also been there to catch/stabilize her). In the past she has never baulked at just continuing up and down the stairs as if a stumble/fall had never happened...ie previous falls never spooked her on the stairs.


She did not cry when I was righting her footings after the stumble - and she is a "crier/screamer" so I don't think she hit her healing tail when she stumbled. Similarly, I don't think she twisted/hurt her legs/back because this was a minor stumble (vs others) and again, she did not yelp/cry at all.


However, that day she refused to go up the stairs again. And the next day. I could not force her and she was completely terrified (to the point of shaking) when you took her over to the stairs. So I gave her several days off from even trying them. And I did not note any limping or crying in pain on any of the legs during these days.


Then I recarpeted the steps completely to cover all the holes in the "open steps" and to provide absolute full grip power on each step (which is how I taught her to climb stairs initially - two years ago). It was a very very bad fight to get her to go up...I practically had to drag her. Her very favouritest people and/or treats/food would not even convince her to go up. And she would fall to pieces with anxiety any time you tried to take her any where near the stairs. Note however that had no issue at all coming back down the stairs.


Anyway - I took her to a relative's for a week so she could avoid this stair case (and reprogram her mind to forget whatever the trauma was). At the relative's, I had a difficult (but not impossible) time getting her up the carpeted stairs, but managed quite a few times. And every time, going down was no issue.


I brought her back to the open stairs a week later (after not having been in the building where they were)....and she had a complete anxiety attack again - the week away did not erase her memory. So I asked greytalk how to "carry" her up the stairs and have been doing the lamb carry ever since. And she comes down perfectly fine on her own. Each time I attempt to bring her near the bottom step on her own though, she falls to pieces - shaking so bad her teeth chatter and she'll fall to the ground, belly up in the complete submissive position....so I haven't even tried for two weeks to make her do it herself (ie to try to drag/push her up with food etc.)


And I am watching her walk all the time....but I don't think I see a limp anywhere...but I have been staring so closely for weeks now, that it is hard to know when I think maybe I see something if I am imagining it. She has done a few outside stairs with no issue, and sometimes will do carpeted stairs elsewhere with coaxing. And steps into buildings are ok (ie 2-3) And yet today, she outright refused another set of outside stairs after the first landing and had an anxiety attack again.


She wants to go up when I ask her, but she just "can't"....and it is only the "up"...and there is hesitation (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little) on other staircases to go up....and outright refusal at the hardwood stairs. Her tail seems to continue to be healing fine and be no issue. She can get in and out of the car ok. She will still run in the yard and when she wants to on walks, will take off trotting really quickly on a mission to find the perfect poop spot. And at the end of longer walks, she still isn't limping at all, or crying or looking like she is any pain.


So I can't say that she is limping (for sure) or in pain (no crying). And yet there is a definite problem with the stairs and going "up"...that both food and time don't seem to fix. I would be happy to take her to the vet to look at her - but what do I say? I don't feel bumps/lumps anywhere, she isn't crying in pain, she isn't limping...but just "look at her" anyway? Or take xrays of her whole body? (that can't be good for her with all that radiation can it?) In the past when she hurt her back, they wanted to see her move around the parking lot outside to see where she favoured herself (she was crying at the pain back then - more than a year, year and a half ago)....but if they take her into the parking lot now there will be nothing to see...


I don't know what to do. I can keep carrying her up the stairs. But I would like to "fix" whatever the problem is...so she doesn't have the anxiety around the stairs and can be free to move around again as she chooses.

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Can't answer as to whether something is hurting her. You really do want to figure that out before proceeding.


The procedure I use to teach up stairs is:


1. Get a pocketful of really delicious treats -- slivers of cheddar cheese or hot dog are good.


2. Position dog facing stairs. Your knees behind dog's butt, one hand holding dog's collar. You're behind and sorta leaning over the dog. Knees behind butt are important -- they're what helps keep the dog from falling or turning around. Be prepared for the dog to lean back against you HARD.


3. Lean over, put a treat a couple steps up, and give your command to go up. "Up we go!" or whatever.


4. If dog doesn't start moving on his own, reach down with your free hand and start placing feet, one at a time, on the stairs. Lots of cheerful "Good dog!" and treats -- even though you are doing all the work.


5. Big party at the top of the stairs, go on down and do it again. 2-3 times in a row is probably enough for both of you, do it some more later.


No pulling, only moving the feet and pushing a little from behind. I pretty much take no notice of terror. My house has stairs, and all but the injured have to learn to do them. I'm mean that way.


If you don't feel confidence in doing that, the first thing I would probably do is tell her, "let's practice," take her to the bottom of the stairs, set her down so ALL FOUR FEET are on stairs (say, one up from the bottom), tell her she's wonderful! and feed her a chicken liver (or the equivalent)! WHILE she is still all fours on the stairs. Then walk away. Once all that is easy and she is looking forward to that chicken liver, then you're ready to toss a liver a couple stairs up and see if she'd like to go get it with a little help from you, her best friend.


Hugs and luck.

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Guest Energy11

Sounds like she is totally afraid of the stairs. Mine will NOT climb them, and we had to build a ramp here, as the steps up to your porch are very steep.


Might totally be an anxiety issue. I hope, with patience, and lots of love and practice, she will again climb the stairs. Good Luck with this.

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