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My Puppy Says "No Way, Jose!" to Elevators

A Pet Owner Giving Some Love And Assurance To Her Dog

That new pooch you welcomed into your home has a lot to learn about the world, and you, his all-knowing human, are his guide to showing him the way. You’ve probably read or heard that socialization is a big part of puppy development and loads of interaction with other dogs, cats, and people will help to give him the exposure to the world that he needs to be a good canine citizen. And part of his development is ongoing familiarization with varied environments and surfaces - which brings us to this week's highly interesting, very popularly and oft-discussed subject... elevators (or "lifts", for those of you Britishly inclined).  ;-)

In fact, your dog, like many, may be one that has absolutely no difficulties with elevators at all - happily into and out of them to your heart's content... up and down, all around, yeeeha! BUT... you might just be one of those lucky puppy owners whose puppy turns out to be TERRIFIED by the damn things, and so some attention will be required. Ready?

An elevator is a very new experience and initially your pup may not have the confidence to ride in such a contraption without encouragement, support and training (the movement of a rapid ascending or descending elevator can be a bit of a freaky sensation for all of us). So, to help him ride like a calm, cool and collected pup, he’ll need your help to gain the confidence to not throw a fit and put on the brakes when approaching the dreaded elevator.

Firstly, prepare yourself to provide to him oodles of patience, constant encouragement, frequent familiarization sessions, and an arsenal of ridiculously tasty treats – cooked chicken is usually a really good choice! One thing you don’t want to do, if at all avoidable, is to force him; to drag him or to push him, as that will only succeed in him developing a negative relationship with elevators.

  • Start off by making the session Fun! Fun! Fun! Get yourself in a good mood and keep your voice as pleasant and as calm as possible, he’ll pick up on your mood so this REALLY does matter.
  • Try to pick a training time that won’t interfere with your building’s high-traffic hours; you wouldn’t want to commandeer the elevator and make enemies of your neighbours, now would you?
  • Get inside the elevator and call his name, show him the treat and encourage him to join you. The moment he shows any forward moment or lifts a paw toward the elevator, immediately reward him with the treat and a really hearty” GOOD BOY!”.
  • If he retreats or steps back, resist the urge to sooth him or tell him it’s OK as you’re only encouraging and rewarding the EXACT behaviour you don’t want!
  • Once he comfortably steps into the elevator, allow the doors to close and give him a treat, but don’t go up or down just yet. Practice this behaviour several times before actually moving the elevator and gradually increase the amount of time you are in there together.
  • When he seems to be at ease entering and exiting the elevator, try taking a ride, but only one floor at a time. As his confidence builds, increase the length of the ride. Remember to reward him when he’s confident, and do not coo to him when he shows any fear.
  • Do keep the sessions short and frequent.

Finally, if you can enlist another pooch that is well-versed in the art of "elevatoring", by all means, make it happen. Dogs are naturally inclined to mimic the behaviour of other dogs (sounds like some humans we know!), and if your pup sees another dog confidently entering and exiting the lift as cool as a cucumber, he’ll probably feed off that energy and want to follow suit!

PHEW! Now that you’ve got that covered, what to do about toilet training the wee terror? Have a look at "Toilet Training Puppies" for some tips.

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