Dear Dr. Zeus, I am so afraid of the stairs, especially the ones that you can see through. I haven’t had a bad experience on them, but I have just never been a fan. Is this an irrational fear? It puzzles my mom because she’s never given me a reason to not like them and she doesn’t force me to go up them. But, I still hate them? Why am I so afraid?! Stair-phobic in Washington – Indy, the Labrador Retriever
This is an interesting question. Most of the time dogs develop a phobia of stairs when in their excitement, they do not pay attention to where their legs are and take a painful tumble down a few steps. But in your case it comes down to instincts! Instinctively, dogs know that it is a bad idea to get close to edge of a cliff and, from our point of view, that’s really what stairs look like – a steep downward slope.
Most of us encounter stairs for the first time as puppies and usually need coaxing to get down them. But older dogs can be very stuck in their ways and if they encounter stairs later in life, they are much less inclined to learn to navigate them without some pressure. All they hear is their instincts telling them that they are in a dangerous situation and that going up or down that cliff could be threatening. Thus, they stay firmly planted either at the top or bottom of the stairs. This sounds like it must be your situation. So what it’s going to take for you to get over this fear, is to take it step by step, literally. Take your time conquering each step and although your instincts are there for a reason, trust that your mom is not putting you in danger.
Often when we get scared our people want to comfort us and being that we learn by association it takes about two seconds for us to realize that being afraid of something is a great bid for attention. Don’t let this be the case. Don’t use this fear as an excuse for attention, rather let your success of making it up and down the stair be the reason for attention. Hopefully your mom will give you the time and have the patience to let you work through this issue on your own!
I hope this helps Indy and that you can conquer your fear of stairs. Doing so will take you to great new heights!
Regards, Dr. Zeus
Category : Ask Dr. Zeus