Afraid of heights?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Barked: Wed Sep 30, '09 4:00am PST 
Hi! I am new here. I have 4 dogs (I made profiles for each). I actively compete in Agility and Rally, I teach puppy classes, and work at a doggie daycare. So I'm fairly dog savvy.
However, my newest addition has me stumped!!

Franklin aka Frankie is a now 14 week old BostonxPug mix. (Not a designer dog...he was a true mistake)
I think he is truly afraid of heights.
There are a few behaviors that lead me to think this. The first: He will NOT go down the stairs. In fact, he won't even go near the stairs. If you are going down the stairs with the other dogs to say, go for a walk, he will stand near the top but not on the landing and whine, scream, bark, and act very scared. I use positive R only and clicker training specifically. I have worked every day on shaping him to go near the stairs. Progress has not been made. We have NEVER forced him to go down them. We just pick him up and carry him down.
Which leads to the second thing. If he gets the impression that you are picking him up to carry him down the stairs he will freak out. Or if he is up on something (the bed, couch, or in the car/truck) and he thinks you are picking him up to put him down, he freaks out. All other times he loves to be picked up and held. Likewise, when you are holding him and go to put him down, he will get upset and worried about the process of putting him down onto the ground.
He has NEVER fallen down the stairs, fallen out of the bed or couch or vehicle. No one has ever dropped him.
He will step down off a curb, or off one stair on a threshold, but anything high and he gets scared.

Any suggestions? I've never had a dog afraid of heights before!

Black dogs rock!
Barked: Wed Sep 30, '09 4:28am PST 
Bunny will not do the basement stairs. He will go on the first one but thats it. I think its because the other stairs are all open. I had another dog once who started acting strange around stairs, turns out he was going blind. I myself have a depth perception problem , maybe your dog has a similar problem. He could be afraid of heights too, dogs get scared of thunderstorms and other things, I dont see why they couldnt be scared of heights. I know I amlaugh out loud

Barked: Wed Sep 30, '09 4:43am PST 
Thanks Bunny! I never even thought of the depth perception thing. I've had the vet check his vision, and he has no blindness, but maybe it is depth perception.
I also think that if I were 4" off the ground I would be pretty scared to go down the stairs too. frown I just want to help him through this.
My pure Boston puppy didn't go down stairs until she was about his age, but she also has longer legs. smile


Barked: Wed Sep 30, '09 4:56am PST 
Roxie was scared to go down the stairs for months.. I think she was about 5 months old before she attempted them.. And she slipped, which set her back a bit! Se would go up them without a problem.. But down? No chance!

I was told to start from the bottom.. Encourage her to go down the very last step, use treats to lure her etc. Once she was confident enough for that, try it down the last two steps.. Etc etc. Once she was confidently going down four or five of them she just decided one day that they aren't as scary as they look, and she started going down them all. shrug I don't know.. All I know is that is what worked for us!