Just because you love your pet doesn’t mean you want to give him free run of your house. If he’s wandering around upstairs and you’d rather he didn’t, you can set some simple boundaries to make sure he gets the message and stays where he belongs.
Measure the opening at the bottom of the stairs. The barrier method works best when at least one side of the opening is a wall, and the other side is either a wall or sturdy banister.
Purchase a pet gate that fits in the opening. You can buy one made for dogs or one that is designed for children; just be sure to take your dog’s size into account so the gate is both tall enough and sturdy enough to keep your dog from knocking it down or hopping over it.
Install the gate across the opening at the bottom of your stairs. Pet gates install in various ways, depending on the size of the opening, the style of the gate and your specific needs. The easiest ones to install use simple pressure to hold them in place. You can open and close them by raising or lowering a handle that pushes the sides apart, holding them in place, or moves the sides inward, releasing the pressure so you can move the gate. These don’t require installation but can be inconvenient to use. Other pet gates screw directly to the wall and have a gate section that swings open and shut on hinges, so you don’t have to move the whole thing to get past it. This is often easier to use, but requires installation and does require putting some holes in the wall.
Teach your dog to respect the pet gate. Most dogs will see the barrier and stop, but a determined few may try to climb it, jump it or knock it down. Spend some time watching your dog approach the gate and praise him when he turns away from it. If he seems overly interested, distract him from it by calling him away and offering a toy or treat when he leaves the barrier behind. He’ll quickly get the message.
- Use upside-down car floor mats just outside the barrier to discourage your dog from getting too close to the gate. The underside of these plastic mats is covered with sharp, prickly little bumps that will deter your dog from going too close to the gate, but won’t cause him any harm. Once he understands, you can remove the mats.
- Some pet gates can be harmful. The worst of these are the gates that expand like an accordion, leaving a series of open “Vs” across the top where your dog’s neck could be trapped. Look for gates with closely-spaced bars or with small, diamond-shaped openings too small to snag your pet. The top should have a solid bar across the entire gate.