Getting a dog to take the stairs

Marc Morrone / Newsday /


Published Oct 25, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Q: I have a 3-year-old Goldendoodle named Annie. For the past two months, she’s refused to go up the stairs in my house or outside, though in the past she had no problem with stairs. She did suffer a mild sprain of her back leg, but the veterinarian said there was no fracture. She is back to running around in the yard but just stops at the base of the stairs when I encourage her to come up! Any suggestions?

A: Animals rarely accept our guarantees or assurances a situation is safe when their instincts tell them otherwise. When she was hurt, your dog felt the stairs were not a safe place to be. She will continue to think that until her firsthand experience proves otherwise. So your job is to allow her to experience going up the stairs without drama and with her in control of the situation.

The best way to do this is to grab a handful of treats and allow the dog to see you holding them. Then calmly walk up the stairs, leaving a treat on each step and saying nothing to the dog at all. Just go up the stairs and ignore her. Most likely she will then suck up as many treats as she can reach without going up the stairs, but the lure will be too much for her, and she will decide her fears are unfounded and she will zoom right up the stairs after the rest of the treats.

Q: Every fall, migrating birds hit our windows in our office building, and it bothers me to see those pretty little songbirds lying dead on the sidewalk. This year the management put black bird silhouettes that are supposed to scare the birds away from the glass, but they obviously do not work. Is there anything more you can suggest?

A: Birds following the same migration paths that have been used for generations now have many urban and suburban obstacles in their path. A few silhouettes on a big window are really not going to do much.

Netting or sheets to reduce visibility or reflection work best.

The Cornell Institute of Ornithology in Ithaca has studied this issue in great detail. Its website, allabout birds.org, highlights some research scientists are pursuing to cut down on window collisions. Some involve using ultraviolet strips that birds eyes can perceive but human eyes cannot.