My rescue dog won't go down the stairs to my basement and I want to take him down there where it's cool so we can play. I don't want to force him, can you help me?
Dear Mr. Frawley:
I have inquired with other trainers who have not helped me in my situation: One year ago I rescued a sweet 1 year old 100 lb. white Field Lab who is very, very laid back, sweet and wonderful. However, he does not get enough exercise even though I have a fenced in back yard. I take him to the doggy park but all he does is just lay on the cement and watch the other dogs. My problem is (I have a one story ranch) my basement is unfinished but I cannot get him to go down the stairs. I want to do fetch and all kinds of fun things down there especially when the weather if too hot here. I have tried food incentives but he just resists going. I do not want to take him by the leash and force him because I don't know his past history. He might have been raised with a cat because at night he purrs. Please help me if you can... what should I do? Thank you for any advice.
Adele P.S. I had an English Lab that I rescued at the age of 7 who has since passed away and he used to love going downstairs and play on the cool cement floor.
A lot of dogs are reluctant to try stairs and most people are impatient and don't want to allow the dog to work it out in a confident manner. I'm glad to hear you don't want to force him (that's what most people would do).
First of all, I would stop feeding him his regular meals for now. The only food he gets should come from your hand when he approaches the stairs. I would feed him little bits from your hand every time he even thinks about approaching. If he doesn't want to do it, no big deal. Put his food away until the next day. Use the food in your had like a lure, to get him to move forward. Don't cave in and feed him his regular meals! If you so, you will lose the use of a very important dog training tool (FOOD).
Don't worry about how long this takes, your goal is for him to be confident. Going down stairs is much harder for most dogs than going up.
It would help if you could communicate with him what you want and when he's right. I would read our article on training dogs with Markers. I've successfully taught a lot of dogs to do things they were totally NOT interested in (swim, cut nails, stairs, get in the car) all with the use of marker training.