Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stairway to Success

An example of an open staircase
Puppies and dogs often have trouble getting used to stairs. All Seeing Eye® puppies are intentionally exposed to a small set of open and closed steps during their first weeks at the breeding station, and the exposure really seems to help.

Vinson has never shown fear of stairs, but he didn't get much time to practice them since his leg was in a cast for his first month with us (if you missed the broken leg story, be sure to go all the way back to the April posts in this blog)!

Now that his leg muscle has recovered we've begun working on stairs. While he would eagerly take on entire flights, the best way to start is by gently placing the pup just a couple of steps from the top or bottom of a flight. Then you encourage them to advance under leash control and reward them with praise for success.

Downward stairs are typically more difficult, and if you think about it, this makes sense. An instructor here at The Seeing Eye put it like this: "Imagine you are crawling on all fours. Which would be more daunting, an upward staircase or a downward one?"

Traveling down steps can give a pup the feeling that they might fall end-over-end.

The great news here again is that Vinson shows no sign of a problem going up or down short jaunts, so I think he's well on his way to being a great stair climber. Soon, we'll introduce him to an open staircase and see how that goes (open stairs allow the dog to see through the back, which can be startling - like stairs in parking garages, train platforms and outdoor areas).

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