How to Teach St. Bernards to Go Downstairs

I'm sorry, I thought that was my slipper.

I'm sorry, I thought that was my slipper.

St. Bernard’s are large-breed dogs with a massive heads, shoulders and chests. When your dog is at the top of a staircase looking down, he feels off-balance as if he will fall forward. Going upstairs is easy for a St. Bernard, but he needs training to walk downstairs comfortably.

Trim your St. Bernard’s nails so they do not touch the ground when he walks. Trim any hair between his toes by combing it outward from his paws and clipping it with round-tipped scissors flush with his paw pads. Long nails and extra fur on the bottom of his feet tend to make balancing on stairs harder for him.

Place carpet runners on your staircase for better traction if you have wooden stairs. Carpet runners or carpeted stairs help your pet to grip the stairs so he is less likely to fall down the steps and feels more stable.

Attach your dog’s leash to his collar. Take him outdoors to a small set of steps, such as steps to a front door or from a driveway down to the sidewalk.

Put your dog in a sit position at the bottom of the steps. Walk forward up two steps and tug on the leash slightly to get him to follow you. If he does not follow you, go back to the bottom and try again. He will more than likely go up the small amount of steps easily. After he follows you up the first few steps climb to the top of them with him. Praise your dog for going up to the top of the steps.

Turn around and go down the steps with your dog by your side. Gently tug on the leash to get him to go down and continuously reinforce that it is OK and you will not let him get hurt. When he goes down the few steps and is at the bottom, give him a dog treat. Practice going up and down the small set of steps several times with lots of praise and a treat each time he goes down.

Return to your home with your dog. Stand at the bottom of your staircase and coax him to climb the stairs with you while he is still on his leash. Going up stairs is easier and he should climb the staircase without stopping.

Turn around at the top of the staircase. Go down two steps at a time with a gentle tug on his leash. Hold onto the staircase railing for support; if he stops suddenly you do not want to fall down the stairs. When you reach the bottom of the staircase, give him a treat and lots of praise. Practice going up and down with him on the leash several times.

Walk up the staircase with your pooch still on the leash. Remove the leash from his collar. Walk down the stairs and call him to come down while showing him a treat. Give him the treat when he reaches the bottom. Walk to the top of the steps with your dog. Walk back down, show him a treat and call him. He will soon be going down without any assistance from you.

Items you will need

  • Nail trimmers
  • Metal comb
  • Round-tipped scissors
  • Carpet runners
  • Leash
  • Dog treats

Tips

  • Small sets of outdoor steps are generally wider than a staircase inside. Training him outdoors first allows him to walk next to you for his comfort before practicing indoors.
  • After your dog goes downstairs comfortably by himself, offer him praise or a toy instead of a treat.

Warning

  • Never scold your dog for his fear of new things. If something frightens him, he has a reason for the fear. Encourage him to try things with a lot of praise to calm his fears. A St. Bernard may be large, but have a small scaredy-cat inside of him.
 

Photo Credits

  • bb st bernard image by nathalie diaz from Fotolia.com