Earlier this summer, Liam the pug wrenched his back while jumping up to sit next to me on a chair. He spent weeks recuperating in his crate, and he's only recently been returning to exercise. I'm happy to report that his back is, so far, healing up nicely.
But to keep that process moving forward, I need to do one key thing. I need to keep him from jumping up and jumping down from high places. Both of those activities can put a great deal of stress and pressure on his delicate spine. And that pressure could make his back pain come back.
Pet stairs, like this set, are the answer, people tell me. With these stairs, pets can climb both up and down from furniture without harming their delicate backs.
There's just one problem: Liam pretty much hates these stairs. Fergus the little kitten loves them, as he can run up and down the stairs to get to the places that are normally hard for his little kitty body to reach (Missed his adoption story? See it here.). But Liam avoids those stairs with all of his might.
Training is the key here.
Liam is an athletic dog, and he's perfectly capable of leaping onto the couch, should he want to do so. It is my job, as his trainer, to make the stair option much more attractive.
Treats help. I can coax him to go up the stairs if I use a treat in front of his nose. And I've been using the word "stair" and asking him to touch the stairs with his nose for a treat. The idea is that I might be able to train hum with the term "take the stairs," when I don't want him to jump.
But if I am not actively training with him, Liam will attempt to skip those stairs altogether. Which is fine, as I've found another great use for them.
Stairs like this can also work like blocking devices. If I push the stairs close to the coffee table, Liam can't get a good leaping point onto the couch. I've blocked that route with the stairs. Typically, that means he stays on the floor. And that's where I want him in the first place.
I have every confidence that Liam will, in time, learn to use these stairs. But here's my takeaway for all of you: If you're hoping your little one will magically understand the benefit of stairs like this, it's time to adjust your expectations. To dogs, these stairs can just be confusing. You'll need to train with treats to make those stairs part of your dog's life.
Anyone out there use pet ramps or pet stairs? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Hit me up!