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old labrador - forgotten how to use steps - advice please

(12 Posts)
sidandlinus Wed 12-Dec-12 12:30:38

Really looking for any tips or shared experiences please.
Our beautiful Labrador is 13 years old. She is lively, reasonably healthy and happy to go for walks. She eats and drinks well, is at the right weight for her age and size and is continent. She is still as bubbly and daft as a puppy - wags her tail and greets people when they come round.
The problem is that we have three steps into the house and try as she might she seems, for want of a better description, to have "forgotten" how to use them.
At first she was reticent about going up them - so for the past three/four months we have carried her up them. Now she has "forgotten" how to go down them. This is to the point that she will stand at the top and whimper and then either go and sit back down, wait to be carried down or literally launch herself off the top step and land spread-eagled on the floor. If I wasn't worried about her hurting herself it would, at times, be comical.
Now we have visited the vet and she has been given the all clear.
Her eyesight is fine, her ears have been checked so it's not a balance issue and in spite of mild arthritis this should not stop her using the step. The only thing we can think of is that she has a form of dementia or spacial awareness problem. On a walk - she can go up and down pavements, walk up and downhill, run around, jump up at us - so I don't think this is an agility problem. At present we are having to carry her up and down stairs. This is fine as her quality of life is still great and it's just one of those things - however can anyone think of something we or the vet may have missed? Any advice greatly appreciated

ThePsychicSatsuma Wed 12-Dec-12 12:32:52

could you lay her down a plank/duck board / hen ladder type thing down one side?
maybe the particular angle of them hurts her joints/back or legs, so she's reluctant.

nemno Wed 12-Dec-12 12:35:37

There are ramps you can get to help load old dogs into cars, would something like that help? or harnesses with a handle on top so you can take some of the weight off her and help guide her.

LetThereBeCupcakes Wed 12-Dec-12 12:36:04

If she'll step down a kerb can you start from there and put a command to it? So as she steps down just say "step" and reward. then maybe try and find a slightly higher step (a friend's doorway perhaps?) and try the same thing. Gradually build up to a flight.

In the meantime, can you fit a ramp to your steps to save your back? Could be easily removed once you've trained her and hopefully stop her getting into the habit of walking out of the door herself.

Incidentally, our then 2-year-old lab couldn't comprehend the step out of my In-Law's caravan, which we borrowed last summer. We spent 3 days teaching him how to use it. Bizarre...

AgathaHoHoHo Wed 12-Dec-12 14:16:56

We're having this problem with our old dog at the moment. He can do pavements and steps into and out of the house and is generally reasonably fit for his age, but he can't do the stairs very well now. It is exactly as you describe - he seems to have forgotten how to do them. He sways from one foot to the other as though trying to lift a foot onto the next step, and eventually he manages a few, then the process starts again.

sidandlinus Wed 12-Dec-12 15:10:05

Thanks for replies - Agatha - it's very odd isn't it? - it came on quite suddenly and is the only real sign of ageing. Even odder is that after nine years in this house - I realised there are five steps not the three I said earlier - must be going senile myself! I think the number of steps would make a ramp harder to negotiate (especially as steps are quite narrow) - but may look at the harness idea. Thanks everyone.

Whippoorwhill Thu 13-Dec-12 17:04:34

My 12 year old lab cross is doing this at the top of the stairs. Our living room is upstairs and she manages to get all the way up to the top and freezes with two more steps to go. I thought at first it was an eyesight problem because she has cataracts but even with a bright light on on the landing she won't do it. She can still jump onto the settee despite dodgy hips and she's fine going back down and getting out of the car.

Presently I'm luring with really good treats and sending the Pupiraha up behind her to encourage forward movement. smile. She does tend to then try and jump both together though and that can go a bit wrong.

AgathaHoHoHo Thu 13-Dec-12 18:16:05

It's sad when you see your old dog struggling, isn't it?

twojues Fri 14-Dec-12 09:35:59

We had this with our old golden retriever. We had 9 steps down to our garden from the decking area. He could just about manage to get down them, although he did seem reluctant to do it. I think he panicked a bit in his old age that he would fall.

To get back up he would do the old swaying from one foot to another, put one foot on the bottom step and then go back down and start swaying again.
We used to go behind him and say one, two, three and then as he put his foot on the bottom step push his bum. He just needed that to get started and then he was fine. I just don't think he had the oomph to do it himself.

AgathaHoHoHo Fri 14-Dec-12 10:10:55

I've seen this to help support dogs with these sorts of problems, but I can't find anything like it in the UK. Has anyone seen anything similar.

nemno Fri 14-Dec-12 10:55:43

Would this suit?

AgathaHoHoHo Fri 14-Dec-12 11:03:14

Thank you, that looks just the job smile

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