How Can I Desensitize My Pup To People Going Up The Stairs?

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by MissyBC, Sep 9, 2011.

  1. MissyBC Experienced Member

    Hi there.

    Ok, so first of all, we own a cat. She is 6 years old and lives upstairs. Now, Missy my 11 month old puppy knows that there is a cat upstairs.

    Every time my parents go up the stairs, feed the cat, scoop the litterbox, go to bed... she barks and lunges at the barrier between the kitchen and front hall...

    Is there any way I could desensitize her to these things so as not to have her go berserk? :rolleyes:

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

  2. MissyBC Experienced Member

    Anyone have suggestions? Please post them! I would really appreciate it. Thanks for your help in advance.
  3. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    aw, sorry, that one is tough!

    I have absolutely zero experience with this, but, i'll make up some ideas based on some similar things my dog does, *maybe* they will help, or hopefully, someone smarter will be along soon to help you!!

    First off, you could try THIS, when Missy starts up barking at the gate: (don't get discouraged, if Missy thinks this game of hers is great fun, and if she is getting att'n for it (even BAD att'n is STILL att'n) Missy might need some time to give up her lil routine there, so stick with it!!)
  4. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    ANOTHER thing you could try, is,
    give Missy some practice being calm while someone goes up stairs.

    Get some SUPER HIGH VALUE TREATS, i mean, like bits of chicken liver, dabs of peanut butter, whatever is top treat for your dog.

    Sit next to Missy, and get her calm. When she displays calm behavior, click and give treat.

    THEN, after Missy understands, "When i'm cool, i get peanut butter", then try having someone go up the stairs, while you sit beside Missy and click/treat any moment of calm behavior.
    Might not work, might need some tweaking....

    maybe, have person go on first step only, and next day, up two steps, and so on, while Missy gets treats for watching that calmly...?????????

    BEST OF LUCK!!!!

    you can also offer Missy "calming signals", like slow blinks, deep sighs, YAWNS, etc, to help tell her you do want her to be calm.
  5. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    If all else fails, you could train "Look At Me".
    Train it solid, so Missy totally understands she has to look at you to get treat.
    Advance along, so Missy will look at you even when you have treat in your outstetched hand.
    Advance along, so Missy can look at you, even outside.

    Take care you do not accidentally give her treat for looking at treat, a clicker is very useful for this cue.

    Then, to prevent this reaction to stairs, (cuz the more times Missy does this, the more she is self-reinforcing the behavior, so you DO want to prevent it)--------get beside Missy and have her "Look At Me" while someone goes up the stairs. It might be easier, if Missy has her back to the gate she wants to attack while she looks at you. it is okay to squat down, and to speed-feed treats while Missy focuses on you.

    This will prevent reactions, but, won't do much to desensitize Missy to the sight of someone going up the stairs, though.
  6. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Also, is Missy getting tons of excercise and mental excercise every day?? DO LOOK OVER THE TRICKS TRAINING IN THE "CLASSROOM" sign above.

    Like, at LEAST two good LONG walks every day??? and does Missy get to run full speed every day?? Go to empty fenced-in school yards and run that dog til she is tired, ha ha. Great place to work on recall, too. (bring a doggie-poo bag, of course).

    dogs are more likely to do nutty stuff when they have built-up, unspent energy that they HAVE TO spend.....just a thought.
    "A TIRED DOG IS A GOOD DOG" ha ha!!
  7. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    There's a great thread around here, on desensitizing your dog to cats, i'll try to find it....that might be helpful, too, if your dog learns to be cool around the cat itself??
  8. MissyBC Experienced Member

    It's the sound of my parents (or me), going up the stairs, so it should work! :) Thanks for all your helpful advice, tigerlily! I will give it a go (everything!) and see if it helps. ;)

    I do have a clicker and she knows what it means. Also, Missy gets tons of exercise every day, be it playing ball (in the house on rainy days), tricks, playtime with other dogs, etc. I do plan to start her in agility after she finishes grade 2 obedience (she's half way through)... so that should work off a lot of her energy as well.

    Thanks again!
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  9. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    good luck, the "look at me" probably won't do anything to help Missy get desensitized to the sight or sound of the steps,
    it will only prevent a reaction, like a bandaid, and you'd have to keep doing it every single time. But, it probably WILL prevent a reaction, which is also a very worthy goal, too.

    but, yeah, finding *some* way, to teach/capture calmness, and reward Missy for being calm, while she hears footsteps, is probably your best bet for long-term success.

    YAY FOR YOU for keeping Missy from being a 'bored' collie, too! ha ha!
    MissyBC likes this.
  10. MissyBC Experienced Member

    Ok. So, my mom decided to put Missy's gate in the guest room and let Missy up the stairs to help desensitize her to the cat. Our cat's food, water and litter box are in the guest room. She can go in and out as much as she wants. Here's my question...

    If Missy decides to come downstairs on her own, (with the cat sleeping where she can't see her), and forgets that the cat is there... should i click/treat that to teach her that being with me is better than standing at the top of the stairs waiting for the cat to show up?

    Thanks for your suggestions/tips! She seems to have lost interest in going up the stairs (for now)...
  11. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

  12. MissyBC Experienced Member

    Thanks again, tigerlily! I'll give it a try and see how it goes. :) I plan to never give up! ;)
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  13. MissyBC Experienced Member

    Hello there...

    I've been working with Missy (my pup) and Muse (our cat) on this...

    First official session was tonight. I would ask Missy for a sit. Then she would automatically go into a herding stance down off and on... so I would get her back into a sit when that would happen.

    After I gave Muse a treat to show Muse that Missy isn't a huge threat, I would tell Missy "Leave it" and then lure her eyes away from the cat with the help of a treat, and then ask for "Look at Me"... and it seems to be working (a little). I'm going to stay consistent and work with them as much as I can. I want to teach Missy that chasing the cat isn't an option... so hopefully this will do it!

    I'm quite hopeful that things will work out... as long as I stay consistent, which like I said... I plan to be! :D
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  14. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    you have the dog and the cat where they can see each other now? wow, this sounds better than i would have guessed, comparing the dog attacking a gate at the very idea of a cat! That thread on cats, linked above has good ideas, too, but, it sounds like you are doing good!
    does Missy already know the cue, "look at me"?

    be sure you look over this, or join in, with more specific problems on cats over HERE: (not sure anyone else is reading THIS thread except us, and i know zero about cats, ha ha) but posting cat questions HERE might help?

    HOPE THIS WORKS OUT, GLAD YOU HAVE HOPE!! I think you are probably on right track, not sure though, so ask the ppl over on the cat thread, lol!
  15. MissyBC Experienced Member

    Yes, Missy knows "Look at Me" (on walks) and walks only, as I hadn't worked her "Look at Me" anywhere else til last night...

    Going to keep practicing with the cat and the dog (later). Missy has seen the cat since she was four months (always only around the corner from where she was (back when the cat was brave enough to come partway down the stairs...), so having the cat and dog in the same room while teaching the cat and dog to relax in the presence of each other under control at all times should work.
  16. MissyBC Experienced Member

    Dog vs. Cat Update:

    For about 3 evenings now, my mom brings Muse the cat, downstairs while I have Missy outside. She settles the cat and then I bring Missy inside.

    Last night, we made pretty good progress (3rd session)... Missy and Muse were in the same room for 2 hours straight! I would tell Missy, "Leave it" and then lure her eyes away from the cat (with the help of a treat = cheese!) in my direction.

    Hopefully we can make more progress from here. :)
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  17. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Mudflap is a cat stalker, but she and Elli looove each other and sometimes the cat will stalk her too. :ROFLMAO: Mud is not aggressive with her at all, and I can easily get her to stop stalking the cat so it's not an issue.

    You're already off to a good start. For a lot of BCs, nothing beats herding. It's the best thing on the planet. But if she does have a toy obsession, or is very food motivated, or has a very good recall, start using this to make her realize that toys/food/you are SOOO much more interesting than the cat.

    Zeke, my BC/ACD has been terrible with cats from the first day I brought him home at 12 weeks old. He was abnormally focused on them, aggressive(in a stock aggressive kind of way, herding behavior...but is very much a no-nonsense type herder, NOTHING is going to get past him and stock of any kind is going to do exactly what he wants OR ELSE!), generally very obsessed. My poor cat Elli, she's been around dogs since the day she was born and has never been around a dog that didn't like cats. I'm thoroughly convinced she thinks she's a dog. So she is excellent with dogs....but the poor thing is intellectually challenged, and does not read Zeke's signs that he wants to chase her. If I let her she would bat at him, rub on him, kiss him, etc just like she does Mudflap. And of course she would pay, because Z isn't in a place to be able to tolerate that from her and I don't think he ever will be.
    Anyway...I started at Petsmart, which may not the best idea...I was actually working with other issues(he is very fearful of strangers) and realized I could work with the cat issue there as well every time we passed the adoption center.

    At Petsmart, I started on one side of the store where he could have seen the cats across the aisle but wasn't tempted to look that way because they were so far away. We would heel, do tricks, etc here. We gradually shrunk the gap between Z and the kitties. Another important part is that I would stand somewhat between Z and the cats, but off to the side so he could still see them but I could sort of keep him from just totally focusing on them. I asked for a trick, he did it, and I would roll his tennis ball away from the cats so he had to turn around and run the opposite direction. (Z is also tennis ball obsessed, he is not food motivated. If your dog is food motivated, you would just toss a treat behind your dog.) It took a few weeks to be able to get to that side of the store and not lose Zeke when he saw the cats. We just kept shrinking the gap, and I kept making him run away from the cats(when I don't death stare the cats, I get to chase my tennis ball). When he got really, really good with this(could be right in front of the adoption center without death staring the cats), I would have him sit-stay right in front of the adoption center, with his back to it, and I would call him away from the cats. Or I would have him sit-stay on one end of the adoption center and call him from the other end of the adoption center so he had to walk in front of aaalll the cats to come to me. (***Long leash is a must.)
    He is still very obsessed with cats, but I can now call him away from cats very easily and he is not locked on every time he sees a cat. I still cannot just trust him alone with my cat; we are still working on it. But, I can at least break his focus now. I used to have to literally drag him away and even when we were 15 feet away he was still death staring and completely unaware of anything that was going on other than CATS.
    If you can keep your kitty safe and separated from your dog, but still VISIBLE, you could try something like this exercise.
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  18. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    wow, Missy, TWO HOURS in the same room and no brawling? wow, you HAVE come a long way, bet you were stoked as heck with that progress! This sounds like you and your dog are doing great, best of luck for continued success!! whooot! YAY!!

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