3 Reasons Why Your Dog is Suddenly Afraid of the Stairs

Your dog used to go up and down the stairs with ease but one day looks terrified as he approaches the stairs. A dog that is suddenly afraid of the stairs could be affected by a number of things, some of which may require the vet’s attention.

Your Dog is in Pain

There is a possibility where your dog is suddenly afraid of using the stairs because he is in pain when he uses it. This, for example, can happen to older dogs that start to develop joint conditions like arthritis. These medical conditions aren’t always visible so it’s important to do a checkup with the vet first to rule out any medical conditions.

You should try to make a note of any other symptoms that may appear from your dog at this time. For example, he may suddenly look lethargic or he could be walking with a slight limp. Recording these signs will help your vet understand what health issues your dog has if any.

Your Dog Had a Traumatic Experience

There is also a possibility of a dog having a traumatic experience with the stairs. For example, he may have tumbled or slipped down the stairs when you weren’t around. Such experiences can leave a long-lasting negative experience for your dog.

This is more likely to be the reason for dogs that are suddenly afraid of stairs if they show no signs of impaired mobility (i.e. your dog is jumping and running around just fine when he is not close to the stairs). In such cases, it’s possible to get your dog to no longer be scared of the stairs again through positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning.

Your Dog’s Nails Are Too Long

Check how long your dog’s nails are. Having long nails may sometimes make it difficult for dogs to get a proper grip on stair surfaces, especially those made of laminated wood. This may make the dog more reluctant to step on the stairs. Overgrown nails can lead to a host of other issues so we recommend clipping them to the appropriate lengths as soon as possible.

How to Get My Dog to Not be Afraid of Stairs

This isn’t a one-time process. If your vet has already ruled out any physical problems then it might be a mental obstacle that your dog needs to overcome. This can be done in several steps.

First, you need to get your dog comfortable with being near the staircase. For example, you could spend some time playing with your dog near the steps or give him his favorite toys whenever he is nearby. Once that’s done, you need to encourage your dog to use the stairs one step at a time.

You can reward your dog with a treat and plenty of praises every time he takes one additional step. Eventually, your dog will forget about how scary the stairs were before. Please note that patience is key. Don’t try to rush your dog. Otherwise, he may become even more fearful of the stairs.

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian when in doubt.


  • Ian walters | 17/03/2023

    Hi, my dog a cockapoo is 5. Last couple of days he has been lethargic and hesitant about climbing the stairs or the car and cant jump on bed, but still wants to go for a walk when i pick him up. On bed, he gets excited, tails wagging, pink tongue, eating and drinking. Many thanks.

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