An easy way to prevent dogs from going upstairs

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Stairs and dogs can be risky combination for a number of reasons; Dogs with sight or mobility problems may have accidents, young pups may get up to no good when they’re out of site, or you may just want to create an out-of-bounds area. You can take two approaches to stopping your dog from going upstairs. If you need to enforce a temporary ban, for example if you’re decorating, a barrier will do the job just fine. If upstairs is permanently off-limits, training is a better long term solution.

Restriction of movement

Simply keeping your dog shut away from the stairs will stop him climbing them. Close all doors leading to the stairs. If you’d prefer not to use a stair gate, for example if the stairs are only forbidden while guests are staying, you may be able to simply keep Fido locked away from the stairs. Make sure you do pop in to say hi every now and then so he doesn’t feel like he’s being punished.


Buy a child or dog gate. You can get these for under £40 from the likes of Mothercare or Argos. If you don’t mind having a used gate, look on or to get second hand gates for cheap or even free. Look out for easy-fit stair gates that require no screwing as these are easy to take down and won’t damage the bannister.

Fit the gate to the bottom of the stairs. All you typically need to do is squeeze the sprung stoppers in so the gate fits between the wall and bannister, then release the springs. The tension of the springs will hold the gate in place. Make sure you’ve got it the right way round so the gate opens outwards.

Negative punishment

Put the dog on a leash and walk him around the house. Allow him to roam relatively freely. Give him verbal praise as he explores. By giving verbal praise now, you are enriching his environment. By doing this, you can remove this enrichment if he goes near the stairs. This is called negative punishment. It’s the same basic principle as allowing your kids to watch TV, but removing that privilege if they don’t eat their greens.


You can stop your dog from going up the stairs by redirecting his attention.Gently tug the leash to distract your dog if your dog goes near the bottom of the stairs and stop the verbal praise. The aim here is to create an “exclusion zone” at the bottom of the stairs so your dog learns to dislike going there. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that when he goes near the stairs, his environment is less enriched.

Positive reinforcement

To counter the negative punishment, use praise and reward when your dog moves away from the stairs. This way, he'll learn that good things happen when re resists the urge to go near the stairs. You can prevent your dog going upstairs in the same way you’d discourage him from jumping the garden fence. All you need to do is make him dislike going into the “exclusion zone.”

Most recent