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Canine Behavior/dog fears stairs


U have a 15 year old 45lb terrier/sheltie.  She does have arthritis.With the bad winter in the midwest she has slipped on ice few times. About 10 days ago coming up stair she slipped on stairs and hit her nose on storm door I was holding open,  She shook it off. She was at vet. He thinks she may gt over it in warm weather. She gets excited when I get her leash. the door opens, she sniffs the air. and won' t go out. I have carried her in and out not easy.  I have placed her feet on first stair and she usually  goes down the stairs then. going upstairs on and off. Like she lost her confidence. Yet, the other day, she charges down stairs after mailman. I am aafraid to fall with her. I am 60 year old  female. Tried treats, I don't think she is in severe pain. She seems to want to do it, but I think she' now afraid.  Help

At 15 years of age, she almost certainly has arthritis in her hips, shoulders and/or spine. Even without actual arthritis, she may lack full range of motion and full muscle tone at this age, which makes her less able and less confident to maneuver stairs (you may also see that lying down and standing up are a bit more of an effort for her). Also, her reflexes are not what they used to be. The cold can make her feel much stiffer, further limiting her range of motion, and with the slippery surface she has slipped or fallen more than once, which will make her more cautious. I expect there is a loss of confidence as well as a likely loss of some of her ability.

Sure, there will be times when she's motivated beyond her concern for the slick surface (e.g. chasing after the mail person). But it's reasonable that she's concerned about the stairs right now. It may or may not improve with the warm weather as she'll be a few months older by the time it warms up.

You can try getting no-slip booties available at most pet stores. There are a variety of them out there from some with thick treads like shoes to disposable ones that are essentially like little balloons you can slip over her feet. I prefer the lower profile (less tread) as I find dogs acclimate more easily to those. Also, if she is having difficulties with limited range of motion, the increased tread thickness may make it more difficult to navigate stairs as she'd have to lift her legs higher to clear each step.

You can also either by a doggie sling - a fabric device with handles that you slip under her belly and then you can slightly lift her rear end to help support her, taking part of her weight and preventing her from slipping. Or you can use a bath or beach towel rolled up as a make-shift sling. If you don't feel secure in managing the sling to help her down the stairs, then you'll need to coordinate with a friend, family or neighbor to help you get her down the stairs (getting her back up will be easier for you).

I had to do similar for my dog in her final months with me. She was 58 lbs. While we don't have slick/cold here in Los Angeles, I do have a set of 12 steps up to my bedroom as well as steps in the lower part of my house. I put carpet treads on the wooden steps to create more traction (this is an option for outside steps as well. They make outdoor carpeting that you can put down. Some even resist ice formation or can be salted to keep them free of ice. I was unable to find a sling of the right size and so used a bath towel that I rolled up to assist my dog when she was going down stairs. I carried her upstairs as I was comfortable doing that. I also tried a shoe which had too thick a sole for her and kept her from clearing the stairs. I ended up creating my own shoe for her because she was also dragging her feet, causing her nails to bleed so I needed protection over her toes. But there are disposable shoes on the market (see link below) that will provide greater traction without specifically protecting the toes or top of the foot from dragging.

This link provides a variety of shoe options

These are the disposable ones I was referring to

Doggie Slings - premade

Or you can very easily make a sling using a reusable fabric/canvas grocery bag. See video below

I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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