Why Won’t My Dog Go Downstairs Anymore?

For some dogs, they enjoy going up and downstairs; but for other dogs, it may be a huge struggle. If this becomes challenging, it’s safe to assume there is a reason behind this. 

dog climbing downstairs

As a dog parent, you must identify any change in its behavior, and understanding the cause is the first step towards the right cure. 

A few years ago, I moved into a two-story home that had very steep stairs. My dog had terrible anxiety, so I quickly moved. 

This can be combated, though, which is why we have made a list of five possible reasons that could make your dog reluctant to go downstairs.  


Reasons Your Dog Won’t Go Downstairs Anymore


For most young puppies, stairs are a common fear. While looking down from the top may scare them. Not only for young puppies but going downstairs can be scary for big dogs as well. 

Dogs who have never used stairs before or live on the ground floor can be quite fearful while climbing stairs for the first time. 

As dogs are always learning, what seems new to them can develop a phobia. Moreover, the reason behind the fear could be due to any history of falls from stairs.

Impaired Vision

Just like humans, dogs can also face issues with vision, and it could change and worsen over time. Vision changes are primarily observed in old dogs, but young puppies can endure it also. 

The impaired vision of dogs can deteriorate their ability to depth perception. Ultimately, going down the stairs can be a daunting task for them. 

In this case, your dog may feel frightened to take the next step down the stairs without any support. In addition to this, impaired vision can also lead to falls. 

History of falls and injuries makes the dog have a negative association with stair climbing.   


If your dog is injured, it may become fearful of climbing the stairs or feel the need for some extra support. As a pet parent, you must pay notice to all shifts in your dog’s behavior. 

You may not be cognizant that your dog has an injury, but this behavior change can very well indicate a problem. 

For instance: a dog can experience a back or leg injury while playing that went unnoticed. 

As stair climbing requires more leg and back muscles than walking on the ground, the dog will start avoiding this activity to ease the pain.


Arthritis can cause swelling and tenderness of the joints in the body. Although it is not very common in dogs, it is sometimes seen in older dogs.

If the condition goes untreated, it will gradually involve more joints and grow to become even more painful. 

Your dog may cope with the condition for a few months, but after a particular point, the pain of raising its legs to climb downstairs may just be a little too much. 

Dr. Gary, a veterinarian, claimed that if a dog has a problem with stair climbing, arthritis may be affecting its spine or hip joints.

Anal Gland Problem

Among all the obvious reasons for your dog not happily going down the stairs, we are going to highlight another major reason behind it. 

Anal gland problems can elicit the pain response when a dog moves his legs to go down the stairs. Dogs have anal glands around the region of the rectum, which functions to drain fluids. 

Sometimes, the anal glands get clogged, or the stool passing through the rectum is too soft. 

Affected dogs keep their tail down because even moving the tail upwards can cause pain, so you can imagine the pain of moving the lower body muscles while going down the stairs. 

What To Do About It

Positive Reinforcement

Due to any fall or bad experiences at the stairs, a dog could build a negative association with it. A great solution is to use positive association to help fix it. 

You can do so by placing your dog’s favorite treats or toys on the stairs. You can start from the top and place a treat on alternate steps. 

This will encourage your dog to take the next step. When they start showing interest in stair climbing, start praising them. 

They will ultimately build a positive image of stair climbing in their mind.

Familiarize Them 

Dogs who live on ground floors and rarely climb the stairs can develop a fear. 

Sometimes, they are fine with the stairs at home but refuse to move an inch on the deck stairs or any stairs that have spaces between them. 

As these stairs are pretty common outside people’s homes, you must address this issue. In some cases, the unfamiliar design of new stairs can throw them off.

In this situation, they may just need a little help and encouragement from your side. You can go down the stairs in front of your dog first and then encourage him to follow you.

Train Them

If your dog is new to stairs, it may need a little support and training from your side. An essential element of training is a good training time. 

You should choose the time when your dog is alert and content. When your dog is alert, it will be swifter to pick up on a new skill. 

On the other hand, avoid the times when your canine is overly tired or needs to eat. 

I also suggest breaking your training session into several small sections of about five to ten minutes each. Giving rest time between training will keep your dog’s interest.


Acting as a dog parent is a full-time job. You will always be learning, exploring, and experimenting with your dog. This is important that you never ignore any of the red flags. 

The behavior change is a way of your dog telling you that there is something wrong with him. Many people break stair fear in dogs down to plan anxiety. 

And while this could be the case, make to consider all other cases as well. You don’t want to write it off as anxiety, when in reality, your dog may be in pain, and silently. 

If you have checked every box, anxiety could be the case. If you do suspect this, then be patient and do not rush anything. Dogs need time to adapt, just like humans do.

Written by Damon W

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