As you may recall, I recently revealed that Beau had quite suddenly stopped going up the stairs. The downward trajectory was NOT a problem, but heading up was another matter. We attempted to coerce him with all matter of tempting treats, but he was not biting (pardon the pun).
We talked to his obedience teacher at class last week, and she gave us several tips for breaking the cycle of fear and getting him moving again. Specifically, she recommended placing him partway up the stairs and letting him walk the rest of the way, adding a step or two to his ascent each time, and treating him at the top. She also stressed that we should not make a big deal out of the whole issue, but rather just administer a simple acknowledgement it when he made it to the top, “Ok, good boy,” and move on. This guidance, couple with very similar advice from a wise Lab mentor, left me feeling well-equipped to tackle the problem.
First thing Tuesday, we began positioning him on the steps, and while he made it up each time, he did it on his belly, trembling fiercely and hugging the stairs like they were the deck of the Titanic. I was beginning to think we really had a problem, and then voila–I’m upstairs in the bedroom folding clothes and who appears at my side but the Beau man, who just moments ago had been two flights below. Needless to say, I was delighted that he had conquered his fear and was once more traversing the steps on his own, as my back was beginning to protest the additional 60 lbs. that I was hauling up the stairs each day.
But here’s the kicker–HE WON’T WALK UP WHEN WE’RE WATCHING! Gives new meaning to the phrase “performance anxiety.” 😉
It’s the damnedest thing! If I head up the stairs, he stands at the bottom with his front feet on the first step, gazing up at me with an expression that can only be called forlorn. Let me disappear around the corner, though, and within minutes I hear the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of four little chocolate paws heading my way. At first I thought it was just a fluke, but he consistently waits until we’re out of sight (Lola can’t even witness the act!) before beginning his ascent. Not surprisingly, curiosity quickly got the best of me, so the other night I hid and peaked around the corner to see what he was up to. What I witnessed was truly comical. He does two ‘false starts’ at the bottom, as if revving his engine or building his courage, and then he gets this look of utter determination on his face and with the third surge launches himself into what it best described as a ‘forced march’ up two flights of stairs. It is too much. If only I could get it on camera…..
I have no idea what’s going on in that head of his, but whatever the scenario, we’re all glad to have him back. 🙂