How Can I Stop My Dog From Going Upstairs? (Vet Tech Answers)

How Can I Stop My Dog From Going Upstairs

There’s no question we love our dogs and enjoy spending time with them, and if it were up to them, we’d never leave their side. Unfortunately, for one reason or the other, this isn’t always possible!

Growing up, the second floor of our home was off-limits to our pack of six chihuahuas. That was our retreat, free from dog hair, potty accidents, and allergy-ridden nights.

Everyone’s reasoning differs for why we may not want our furry friends to explore the second story, but fascination seems to get the best of our pooches more often than not.

So, now you’re left scratching your head wondering, how in the world can I stop my dog from going upstairs?

There are a few methods you can try to help stop your dog from going upstairs. Most importantly, train your dog away from this unwanted behavior into more productive ones. As supplemental methods, you can use a pet gate, deterrent sprays, and sticky tape to help promote desirable behavior from your dog instead. 

For your dog’s well-being and your own peace of mind, training your dog to stop going up the stairs is an excellent step to take. And no matter the age of your pooch, you can still stop your dog from walking up those steps, keeping patience and consistency in mind!

Puppies Vs. Adult Dogs

When it comes to determining which method to try first, consider your individual dog and what they’re used to already.

Puppies are undoubtedly easier to train to stay away from the staircase, especially if you’re bringing one home for the very first time! This is because they don’t know the rules of your household yet, the “laws of the land” if you will.

Over the first month or so, your young pup will learn your expectations for behavior and understand what they can and can’t do. Or in this case, where they can and can’t go (like the stairs).

On the other hand, adult dogs can be a bit more stubborn depending on what they know. Whether they’ve spent most of their life using the stairs just fine or they’ve recently discovered the intriguing mysteries you keep at the top of those steps, it can be difficult to shake the habit. And while “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has some truth, I can assure you that you can retrain your pooch that life won’t end if they can’t use the stairs anymore!

With puppies, try starting with training techniques. Training your young one that going up the stairs isn’t allowed should be enforced alongside other expectations, such as crate, potty, and obedience training. Plus, they can pick up on what is acceptable and come to terms with it quickly as they don’t know any different.

As for adult or senior dogs, a pet gate might be your best bet to begin with to physically limit them to the first floor and you can work on training from there!

How Can I Stop My Dog From Going Upstairs?

So, what exactly are these techniques, and which ones will provide the most help? Let’s take a closer look now!

1. Use A Pet Gate

This is the fastest way to stop your dog from going upstairs, for puppies, adults, and seniors alike.

A wide variety of pet gates are sold online and in stores, and they typically come in two “types”. The first kind is where you can install the gate permanently by bolting the sides into the walls, which tends to be more sturdy.

But what if you can’t make holes in your walls? Well, that’s where the second option comes in! This alternative option lets you pressure mount the gate to the walls. Yep, no drilling is required!

I should warn you, however, that the latter type of pet gate can be knocked over easier than the former, especially if you have a medium or large-breed dog. I learned this the hard way with my chocolate lab and found him snoozing in my bed when I got home.

There is also a chance that your dog can scale the pet gate entirely (no matter which type you choose) if they’re known to be jumpers. Consider these possibilities when deciding which pet gate would be the best for your specific circumstances.

And if you find that the gate works brilliantly when you’re home with your pooch but they still manage to find their way upstairs when you’re gone, try utilizing a pet crate! This way, your dog can be kept safely contained and lessen any worries you may have surrounding leaving home.

For the most part, pet gates have provided a plethora of pet parents with relief as this is still a reliable deterrent for your pup going upstairs, physically blocking them from scaling those steps. Plus, they are widely available and come in different sizes, colors, and styles to best fit your needs! And a side note, baby gates work just the same!

Check out this video for some top-ranking pet gates and to give you some ideas of what may work for you:

2. Deterrent Sprays

Another method you can try to stop your dog from going upstairs is using bitter (deterrent) sprays. These typically smell and/or taste bitter to pets (depending on which type you purchase), creating a sensory deterrent for any unwanted chewing, walking, or bathroom-related behaviors.

There are anti-chew sprays on the market as well as dog deterrent sprays. Anti-chew sprays are more tailored for mouthy canines, hence the name, but the smell may still offer a deterrent. However, I would recommend dog deterrent sprays instead for those dogs that race up the stairs instead of gnawing on them.

You can find a few different scents out there that advertise the same results: keeping your pet away! Now this may sound harmful, but the smells used are entirely safe and non-toxic for inhalation and consumption.

Studies have shown that liquids incorporating citronella, essential oils (think tea tree or eucalyptus), vinegar, cherry, grapefruit, apple, or pepper into each spritz offer primarily a scent-based blockade, so when your pup approaches the stairwell, they’ll get a good whiff of some rather unpleasant stuff.

Every individual is different, so have patience in mind when trying out your first scented deterrent bottle.

My parents’ dogs love all things sour green apple, yet my foster dog ran the opposite way when he got his nose too close to an apple slice. Certain dogs will react in the way you’d like them to, staying away from the sprayed and smelly area, whereas others will walk right through it, not phased in the slightest.

This is why you’ll see such varying reviews on products online, as one pup may despise citrus smells with a passion, whereas others find them manageable or even appealing!

For this trial and error, it may get a bit pricey and frustrating to figure out which deterrent is the most effective for your pup. You’ll have to continue spraying the area during the training process too, since scents wear off over time. However, if you can find what works for your dog’s specific nose, this can be an extremely useful tool to utilize in keeping him away from the stairs!

It is always recommended to do a spray test first, where you spray the product on a small piece of fabric and ensure that it doesn’t change the color. The last thing you need is a splotchy staircase and a dog running up and down those stairs!

3. Sticky Tape Or Carpet Runners

This is another method that can aid in teaching your dog not to scale the stairs anymore, but it won’t solve the problem by itself. Similarly to deterrent sprays, think of sticky tape and carpet runners as a supplement to your training regime, but not the only solution! With that being said, how can we use these items to our advantage?

If a pet gate and scents don’t stop your pooch in his tracks, it’s worth seeing if he avoids unpleasant textures on his paws.

I may be a bit biased when it comes to sticky tape, as my eldest cat (whom I commonly call my dog) was getting into and destroying everything in his younger years. I mean, he chewed on and scratched anything that piqued his interest, whether it be cords, carpet, wood, trash, toilet paper, or plastic.

Almost all of my furniture has battle scars from his murder mittens and kitty canines. And his favorite place to drink water and fish for a snack? On top of my fish tank. I wish I were kidding.

You can imagine my relief when I learned about sticky tape, a double-sided tape that you can apply to virtually anything (always test the furniture or fabric with a small strip to ensure it doesn’t cause damage), and the best part? The majority of the tape sold for this purpose is clear so your pet can’t even see it coming!

It has curbed my cat’s appetite for furniture and fish water, and I still have a roll handy in my pet cabinet in case he finds some new trouble to get into.

Once you get some sticky tape (or generic double-sided tape that is durable), place it on the first few steps of your stairwell. You want to avoid applying it to only the first step as dogs can learn it is there and jump right over it.

Especially if your dog has never interacted with tape before, this is likely to startle your dog out of taking more steps. He will see that the tape is sticking to his paws, leaving your pooch with an uncomfortable, sticky situation to get himself out of. And out of a desire to not deal with that again, your pup may begin to avoid the staircase.

In a similar fashion, you can grab a plastic carpet runner and flip it upside down. With the cleated side up, your dog will take a few steps on it and (ideally) turn right back around to avoid that discomfort on their paw pads. Would you want to walk up a set of stairs that is made out of pointy rocks?

I cannot stress this enough, but please be aware of the placement of any items on your staircase and ensure any family member is aware as well! Tape and carpet runners can pose a hazard to humans if you are not paying attention. We don’t want anybody to get injured during this training period, so watch where you step!

4. Verbal Commands & Positive Reinforcement

Arguably the most important way to get your dog to stop waltzing upstairs is by using positive reinforcement. Rewarding a desirable behavior to dissuade your pup from doing undesirable behaviors has grown in popularity as it keeps in mind the dog’s welfare and the long-term efficacy of the training.

Training your dog can be difficult, and with the sheer amount of varying information online about how to train your dog, it can feel pretty confusing as to which method we should follow.

However, as more studies come out, researchers are advocating for positive reinforcement as the results of this teaching style are indicating higher success rates in stopping unwanted behaviors when compared to training using e-collars or other punishment-like equipment.

Using these techniques is the best option to get your dog to stop going upstairs, though it takes time, patience, consistency, and sometimes a little help from the other methods discussed above to fully solve the root of this issue.

So, how do we tailor this training to our specific behavioral problem of running up the stairs?

First, when you are home, supervise your dog. If he likes going upstairs by himself, keep an eye on him! Once he walks over to the stairs and takes those first few steps, give a firm “no”. And if you find him already roaming the second floor, bring him back downstairs with a command similar to “downstairs”.

Each time these situations happen, use the respective command and follow up with a rewarding training lesson to teach your pooch where you want this behavior redirected.

Ideally, you want to shift your pup’s attention to something positive, such as his favorite toy or a treat. Each time you see your pup creeping over to those stairs, utilize obedience training to have your dog lie down in his bed instead. And each time he listens to your command, you praise that behavior.

With enough repetition, your dog should prefer laying in bed and experiencing a pleasant result and lose interest in what is on the other end of those steps (especially if he never succeeds in scaling them). Similarly to humans, dogs will want to behave in ways that will give them comfort and happiness, not distress!

Find what motivates your dog to listen and learn, whether it be toys, food, or affection from you. Use this to your advantage in training as your dog is more likely to stay engaged when it involves something he really enjoys!

Method Under Debate

I felt the need to add this section to this article as new studies consistently come out and debate the effectiveness of devices used in training and behavior modification. With new technology emerging every year, it’s natural to question the validity of these products and whether they’re safe for our pets.

I’ve included one method here that may help stop your dog from going upstairs, but it is not recommended as much anymore.

Many critics claim this aversive technique promotes “positive punishment” whereas others see no harm if used in moderation and find it useful in tandem with positive reinforcement efforts.

With confusion and a lack of widespread research still prevalent on how to humanely train your pooch, do plenty of research and decide for yourself if this is worth incorporating into your training regime.

Ultrasonic Devices

Functioning differently than shock or electric collars, ultrasonic devices are intriguing in the fact that they emit a high-frequency sound that isn’t audible to the human ear. Dogs, on the other hand, can hear this sound!

The noise produced isn’t harmful to a dog’s ears, but it does trigger an uncomfortable and sometimes distressing response for the pup that is intended to stop the behavior in its tracks.

There are handheld devices that you can directly control with the push of a button, and there are also automated devices that detect motion and trigger the sound as a result. Either way, if your dog heads over to those stairs, you can stop them with ultrasonic noise. If your pup is startled by the noise and walks away from this action, reward him with a treat or his favorite toy.

It is intended that your dog will want to avoid the unpleasant sound, and with this avoid the stairs as your pup should start to associate the stairs with a negative experience.

This is where the debate comes in, as studies on ultrasonic noises and their impact vary. Dogs will react differently to stimulus, as some research has shown dogs to care minimally to not at all for these high frequencies, and others have resulted in the dog(s) being overcome with fear, stress, and even aggression after being exposed to ultrasonic noise.

I have tried an ultrasonic barking device and it worked at first, but my dog quickly got used to it and kept barking. Because of this, it’s important to adjust your training to your specific dog and what works for him. Some dogs are more tolerant to this noise than others, and overuse of this technique can lead to desensitization without proper training in place.

Ultrasonic devices will not solve the problem on their own (like anything in this list) and should be accompanied by positive reinforcement techniques. And as a greater understanding of dog welfare comes to light, we may be skipping the ultrasonic devices altogether in the process.

Ultimately, we want to teach our pups that unwanted behavior will not be tolerated, but we are more than happy to reward them for desirable behavior!

Closing Thoughts

It can feel frustrating to constantly monitor or disapprove of your dog going up the stairs, especially if they’re older and more set on frequenting the second story.

Luckily, there are methods you can mix and match to show your dog this behavior isn’t allowed anymore, but you’ll have to supplement with consistent training regardless as this will be the only way to solve the root of the unwanted action.

The pet gate is the easiest and seemingly most effective way to stop your dog from going upstairs (besides positive reinforcement training) since it physically blocks your dog from doing the respective behavior. While the other methods may be useful in your particular situation, they are temporary and typically only deter your dog for a short amount of time until he gets used to it.

Without proper training, your pup may never fully understand that going upstairs isn’t acceptable, so instead he will find ways to avoid the deterrents themselves but still do what he wants (which is running up that flight of stairs).

Regardless of the method(s) you want to try, supervise your dog and ensure the materials aren’t appealing to him to the point of chewing and ingesting them. This isn’t always the case, but it can happen because, after all, dogs are curious!

Starting with these methods and continuing with reward-based training may offer the best chance to teach your dog to stop going up the stairs once and for all!

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