Sadie is almost three years old now and has gone up and down countless flights of stairs. But there is one particular set of stairs she’s never traversed on her own – the main stairs up to the second floor apartment where we live. Sadie is fine with the stairs in the office because they’re carpeted. She’s comfortable with the brick steps up to the front door and even with the rugged wooden steps off of our back deck. But shiny, slippery, interior wooden stairs were out of the question. If she was a bigger dog I may have worked on convincing her to try those stairs. But since she’s small enough to carry and I knew we would be getting those stairs carpeted eventually, I decided to err on the safer side and just carry her up and down those slippery steps. But now the time has finally come. We just had carpet installed on ‘the’ stairs. All I need to do is convince Sadie that the stairs are now safe and she will no longer be carried up or down them anymore.
I started the process at the top of the stairs. Big mistake. I spent valuable time trying to convince Sadie to step off the landing, but she just wouldn’t go. Eventually I took her off the landing and placed her on the top step to get her moving downward, but she just stood on that top step and refused to move. After more negotiations, which Sadie won, I gave up and carried her down the stairs. We went outside for a potty break. When we came back in, Sadie stepped up to the bottom step, then looked back at me. All I said was “Go ahead” and she shot up those stairs like a bolt of lightening. I couldn’t have been more proud of her.
But going down the stairs was still a problem. Sadie did not want to step off the landing. I tried luring her down the stairs with food, but Sadie has never been very food motivated. I tried throwing a squeaky ball down the stairs, hoping she would chase after it, but she just stared sadly at me until I went and got it for her. Just when I was running out of ideas, the doorbell rang. Sadie raced down those steps without a second thought, wanting to know who was at that door. All it took was that one distraction for Sadie to finally stop thinking about how scary the steps were and start thinking about what’s exciting at the bottom of them. From then on, Sadie happily goes up and down the stairs with ease. I can’t believe I went so long having to carry her, because life is so much sweeter when I can have free hands on the stairs.
This weekend it took me over fifty attempts to get the above photo. Sadie was sitting on the front steps, watching the humans do more yard work. Something about her pose struck me as cute, so I decided I would take a picture of her. I put down my rake for what I thought would be a couple seconds to snap a photo, and didn’t pick it up again for twenty minutes. Sadie was just absolutely refusing to be photographed. She must have tried every avoidance technique she could think of, from running down the stairs to get away to scratching at the door to get back in the house. She stubbornly refused to look at the camera, and when that didn’t stop me from trying to get a good picture, she got more mischievous. Sadie started looking at the camera, and then as soon as she heard the camera focus, she quickly looked away, leaving me with lots of blurry photos. In the end I just had to be more stubborn than Sadie and kept trying until I finally got the perfect photo. Continue reading →
Today on our way out of the office Sadie changed her normal routine. It wasn’t a big change, but it seemed really deliberate. It left me thinking for the rest of the day about whether she made a random, one time choice or if she actually learned from past experience and planned her actions accordingly. Continue reading →