For problem #2)
------------helping Zara learn to be calm when other dogs or ppl go up or near the steps, since YOU are the best dog trainer in the house, as well as the person going up the steps that upsets Zara most,
there may be several ways to approach this.
I think, if you teach Zara "look at me",
so it is solid like a rock in her mind,
even more solid than "sit", it would help a lot.
"look at me"
is best done when dog is NOT upset. Most ppl try to TEACH it when dog IS UPSET, but, it's best to teach this cue to the dog when he is already calm.
No one would try to teach "rollover" when ppl are throwing plates on the floor,
ppl try to TEACH
"look at me" when the dog is already
So do teach "look at me" first, so it becomes EASY cue for Zara to perform, before Zara is ever asked to do it when she is upset. TEACH it in low distraction area, and slowly,
slowly, advance along,
asking Zara to look at you when treats are being held out, Zara looks at YOU.
Overtime, ask Zara to look at you, with mild distractions around her. CLICK/TREAT and praise.
AFTER Zara KNOWS "look at me", THEN you can begin to ask Zara to "look at me" for the stairway drama.
One way, maybe you could try, is,
have Zara on leash, across the room, away from stairway. Get Zara calm (i know you have mentioned that Zara is the typical high-energy border collie, so this might not be easiest thing to do). Right now, no one is in room, just you and Zara. Mom has other dogs in some other room for now.
Offer Zara calming signals, like slow blinks, occasional deep slow sighs, and yawns. Massage her lil back, and get her as relaxed as you can.
Have Zara "look at me" (looks at you), maybe with her BAck towards stairs for first lesson or two, just to help her break her habit of freaking out when ppl go up the stairs.
Have your mom calmly bring in other dogs,(mom is silent)
and have them take one step up the stairs. CLICK/TREAT and calmly praise Zara for no reaction/looking at you,(it's not easy, but you can do it) and keep speed feeding treats into her mouth. You may even sense Zara is not yet what you'd call "calm"
but, if Zara is looking at you, HEAVILY REWARD THIS, speed feeding treats.
Later, Zara can work more on the actually "being calm" part, but for now, reward her looking at you.
You may have to just practice having Zara "look at me" for mom and dogs to enter and leave room, at first, not even going near stairs yet, --------just to help solidify how "look at me" is done in Zara's mind.
Have mom and other dogs leave again. They
should be silent, and not near Zara, ideally, for first lessons. Mom may have to leash dogs for this excercise, to keep other dogs from interfering with your exercises with Zara at this early stage of lessons.
I know it is YOU going up the stairs that upsets Zara, but, if/when you desensitize Zara to the dogs going up the stairs,
it will be easier to then work on YOU going up the stairs,
since YOU are needed to manage Zara for now...seems like, to me, anyway.
Massage Zara's lil back, and praise her.
Repeat. Have mom + dogs again take a few steps up the stairs, and then leave the room again. Heavily, constantly reward Zara, keep your eyes on Zara, keep her att'n onto YOU, while Mom + dogs calmly walk up a stair or two, and then leave again.
IT IS NOT EASY to keep an upset dog focused on YOU when they want to react to the stairway, i know this firsthand,
it can be done, but, you are right, you will have to stay focused on Zara, to keep Zara focused on you for right now, for this stage of the exercise. It will get easier later on. For now, do speed-feed her treats,
let Zara have a party in her mouth, talk to her calmly, praise her, keep her focused 100% on you for now.
Or, maybe others here have better ideas of how to first begin to desensitize Zara to first the knowledge someone is on the stairs,
and then progress to desensitizing Zara to WATCHING ppl and dogs on the stairs.
Let us know how that goes?
Then, over time, once you and Zara have mastered the "look at me" to prevent Zara from reacting to the knowledge ppl and dogs are going up the stairs, behind her back,
the goal would be
to then advance along and overtime------- begin to have Zara watching
the dogs/ppl going up the stairs, and being speed-fed treats, CLICK/TREAT for no reactions to being able to WATCH ppl going up the stairs.