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I recently adopted a 9 month old female doberman mix dog. She is the sweetest thing, however she seems to have very high stress and anxiety.

She seems to be terrified of the stairs which is the only way in and out of my home. Going up seems to be less of a problem and she negotiated going down relatively easy the first time. However now she will not even approach the front door/landing.

Obviously I'm a bit concerned because I would like to be able to take her out for the bathroom. I have carried her down which seems to only exacerbate her fears. I have tried patiently waiting and encouraging with treats.

I am really very unsure of what I should do? I think I may be having adoption remorse. Please help!

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There are a few thing you should try to discover before you decide how to move forward. First, does your dog fear all stairs, or only the particular ones at the entrance to your home? If she resists all steps of any kind, it may be worth taking her to the vet to rule out physical pain, such as a joint problem, as the source of her fears.

If it's just your front stairs, consider what about them might be scary. Has she had a bad experience there or fallen? Are the stairs slippery hardwood, or do they creak loudly? Try to correct any obvious deficiencies that have a simple solution. (i.e. add non-skid runners or remove a disorienting large mirror from the bottom of the stairwell, etc.)

Either way, once the source of the problem has been dealt with, the fear my well remain, and is best dealt with by counter conditioning. This is a pretty good simplistic description of the process: https://www.wikihow.com/Help-a-Dog-Overcome-Its-Fear-of-Stairs

Basically, you can very slowly teach your dog to associate steps = food and praise, and replace the steps = scary association.

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I would encourage you to be patient with her. But also to evaluate the staircase and landing area from her point of view. Can you provide us with more information?

Do the stairs and landing offer "secure footing"? Are there a lot of stairs or a few? Are the stairs steep? Is there a glass doorway on the landing? All of those things could potentially 'freak out' your dog.

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I find it interesting that carrying her down them seems to trigger the same fear. That makes it seem less like the fear is the stairs themselves (fear of falling, etc.), and more like it is something else. Is she afraid of being picked up in general? Does she have the same response to being carried if it is just around your home and doesn't involve the stairs/going outside?

What is the process of going downstairs like for her when you carry her? Is there a point where she becomes less or more afraid? Could there be one specific scary item on the path? Or is it possible that her fear is of going outside/leaving the safe space of your home?

Here's an experiment to try. Carry her outside and let her do her business, sniff around, give her treats and praise, etc. When she seems calm, start to head back inside. Before you climb any stairs, turn around and walk back away from the house. Is she happy to follow or is there any resistance? What about if you climb one stair with her and then have her turn around and go back down? Two stairs? Three? Is there a specific point where the fear starts to show up? What if you get all the way back to your front door?

When the fear does show itself, have her still go back to the outside and wait until she is calm before taking her back in.

Hopefully, this will help give you a better idea of what the specific problem is.

There are a few ways for you to move forward. I highly recommend you look into a professional dog trainer who specializes in fear and anxiety. Dealing with fear is hard and your pup is young enough that any accidental mishandling of the situation could have life-long effects. A professional would be able to guide the process safely and help you make a plan for solving the problem.

If professional help isn't possible right now, I recommend doing some research on curing fears in dogs. Once you have a clearer idea of what the core of the issue is, it should be easier to come up with a solution.

Best of luck!

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