Zara Has A Problem With Leaving The Room And Going Upstairs


Experienced Member
Zara in general is a very vocal dog. If I go to leave the room and going upstairs. She has the same reaction to both. Lunging and Barking.
She tends to be worse when its me leaving the room. She isn't as bothered if its mum leaving the room or going upstairs. She also tends to lunge at the dogs and goes to bite/nip them if they go past her to leave the room with us/me or go upstairs.

I think one of her problems is the actual stairs, she is wary of them in general. She has to be encouraged from the bottom to go up and from the top to go down. I feel that maybe her frustration of not wanting to/feeling comfortable or whatever, going up the stairs makes her attitude worse because she won't follow you up the stairs so doesn't want you to.

Its been happening in the last few months or so.

Anyone have any ideas on how I could get her more comfortable with the stairs in general and with her reactions?


Experienced Member
Just tried luring Zara up a few steps and it was a no go. She definately has a phobia of the stairs. Have to get behind her to encourage her up the stairs and she only goes up and down one side.


Honored Member
Tif, this is awesome you are going to find a way to solve this.
YAY FOR YOU, TIF!! I know that Zara is technically your mom's dog, not your dog, but i think it sounds like YOU are the most adept dog trainer in your house, so it is great that you are willing to use your skills with dogs to help Zara find a better way to be around the stairs.

I do think this is solvable, so don't give up.:D
This might be one of those things, where you might try "plan A" and it doesn't help so much, so then it has to be tweaked, and then you try "plan B" and so on, so DON'T GIVE UP, Tif, don't give up, this IS fix-able!!!!

There are probably many ways to attempt fixing this, and it wont' get fixed overnight, but please hang in there and keep trying calmly, in short lil 'lessons' at your own pace. It might even be FUN types of lessons that everyone here comes up with, and i hope you get a lot of replies.

It sounds like you have two problems here,

#1)---getting Zara to like going up the stairs herself,
#2) ------getting Zara to be calm when other ppl go up the stairs.

So, for problem #1), you might try getting best yummiest treats you can, and a clicker.
and luring Zara over to the steps. I'd put other dogs in another room for now. Just Zara.
Maybe place a treat on bottom step. If Zara puts her paw on the step, CLICK/TREAT, and praise Zara, in calm voice, not excited voice, but calm praise.

Maybe try for next step, if Zara's paw goes onto next step up, CLICK/TREAT and praise Zara. IF it is going well so far, maybe go for third step up the stairs, place treat on higher step,
when Zara's paw hit the next step, CLICK/TREAT and praise.

That's it, your first lesson is done, now play with Zara and praise her.
Next lesson,
repeat, but try to get Zara to put her paw on the third or fourth step without placing treats on them, and CLICK/TREAT and calmly praise her paw on the steps.

Zara may, run all way to top of stairs, and if so, CLICK/TREAT and calmly praise Zara.

Keep all lessons short, for now, keep other dogs in other room for first several lessons on this, and follow the lessons with play session.

Keep repeating this, a few times a day, so that Zara begins to associate having her paw on the stairway as BEST MOMENT OF THE DAY!!! kind of thing.
see how that works, let us know if this is not working, okay?


Experienced Member
I think problem 2 is caused by problem one, if she felt comfortble going up and down the stairs she would be able to just follow you up the stairs instead of seeing it as a kind of barrier. It seems like she gets stressed because she can't follow so doesn't want you to go.

Will definately give it a go - infact already done one session and a few times managed to get her to put her back feet up a step.


Honored Member
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.
Teaching "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,:ROFLMAO:
but many ppl try to TEACH "look at me" when the dog is already upset.

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" :rolleyes: 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,
over time,
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.


Honored Member
GREAT WORK, TIF, that is great progress with Zara!! WOW! I like that you are taking it nice and slow, sounds like you are already headed in right direction with problem #1!!! YAY!!


Honored Member
Staff member
For problem #1:
You could shape steps up the stairs or use targetting. For shaping, you could sit maybe on the a step with a treat just out of her reach so she has to take at least one step up. Click and reward a few times and then move back one more step. Then just gradually shape steps up the stairs until she will go all the way up. This is training with a mule, but this video is basically the exact same steps.

Or, you could teach her to target an object and then place it on the bottom step and ask her to touch it with either nose or paw. Then slowly move the target up the steps. It gives her something to focus on other than the scary stairs. :) She has to think about the task at hand instead of going up the stairs.


Honored Member
yeah, i like Tx's idea, too, which sounds a lot like my idea for problem #1 too! Must be a good idea!!;)

maybe YOU sitting down would be better way to start, though.


Experienced Member
Will have to wait a few weeks till Zaras stitches are out tho. No climbing allowed said the vet especially stairs. But will give it a go. I like the idea of maybe her targeting something. That might work.


Honored Member
When Zara is recovered,
and you do plan to proceed, in my reply in post #5 above, make sure when mom + other dogs leave room, it is not done cuz Zara is barking.
They leave room when Zara is calm.
If you have to make Zara "look at me" so Zara stops barking so they can leave the room while she is calm, that's fine.

otherwise, we might accidentally be teaching Zara, "when you bark and freak out, ppl stop going up the stairs, and you win by barking." see what i mean?

and of course, over time, you will be slooowly slowly switching over to from having Zara focusing on you, and after you've mastered that, then begin to switch over TOWARDS having Zara actually WATCH the ppl + dogs going up the stairs, and rewarding silence while watching. Even if it is only up one step, and then leave...

then they go up two steps, and then leave.....
and so on.