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This activity can help you better cope with real world situations that may arise, like shiny floors, wet or slick surfaces, thresholds, and stairs


This activity should be fun for you and puppy. Don’t forget: it doesn’t really matter if the puppy goes over something right now. So, if you need to reassess and come back to it later, don’t sweat it. The point is for your puppy to learn to trust you, to practice conquering new and slightly stressful environmental challenges, and to gain experience walking on and over different surfaces in a lighthearted way. This can help you better cope with real world situations that may arise, like shiny floors, wet or slick surfaces, thresholds, and stairs.

Going over different surfaces can be difficult for some puppies. However, even puppies who start out a little hesitant generally end up enjoying this game.

You will see in the video that you can set up ‘over’ in lots of different ways. A tarp on the ground, a broken down large cardboard box, a few hula-hoops in a pile, exercise steps, etc. Just use what you have.

It can help to start by letting puppy know that you have some tasty treats, and then encouraging him to follow you. This puppy was not very nervous about walking over things. In the first half of the video, you will see that he is following the trainer. The trainer is using her voice and her body language to encourage puppy to step over different things with her.

The trainer is rewarding puppy both for following her, and also for being brave. The puppy was just a little bit hesitant about the poles on the ground, so the trainer very quickly delivered a treat to the puppy right as he stepped into them. In that moment, the puppy was deciding how to feel about this new situation. The trainer wanted him to feel good about it, rather than at all scared, so she gave him a treat to reward his bravery, praised him, and continued to move through the course.

Generally, waiting to see how puppy will feel about something is the wrong thing to do. You can have a huge influence on how puppy feels about new things, especially the very first time he encounters them. Rather than discover that you have a problem to fix, do what you can to prevent the problem in the first place. Be very generous with your rewards; this is about making sure puppy has a good time exploring new surfaces and going into new situations with you. If puppy is having trouble, make it easier (one pole instead of four, flat tarp instead of scrunched-up tarp, etc.) and be more rewarding. Set the situation up to make sure that puppy can be successful, and then quickly build on that success.

If puppy won’t follow you even when there is nothing to step over, it is likely that your treats are not good enough. Once you have puppy happy to follow your voice and body language to earn tasty treats, start adding some easy different surfaces to walk over.

Resist the urge to show puppy a cookie or a toy to get him to walk over something he is nervous about. Instead, use your voice and body to entice and encourage him. Reach for and deliver the reward when he is his bravest, right as he is stepping onto or walking over the unusual surface, and as a surprise. Be generous! We want puppy to feel good and confident about new surfaces. It’s always better to start too easy than too hard. It’s a simple matter to gradually make things more challenging. It’s much more difficult to recover the situation if puppy is frightened or panicking.

In the second part of the video you will see a trainer be more encouraging to the puppy by using his hand as a focus point and enticement for the puppy. If your puppy will not just follow you over the different surfaces, encouraging him with your empty hand in that way can be very helpful.

STEPS: It is common for young puppies to have trouble walking up or down steps. This is understandable, as they are often not developed or coordinated enough to safely navigate this terrain. Here are some tips that can help.

  1. If in doubt, carry puppy. Don’t sweat it, he’s young. A staircase that goes from floor to floor might truly be too much for your puppy at this age.
  2. Take advantage of shorter staircases. If you have access to a single step, or at most two or three steps, let puppy practice just those stairs until he is completely confident. Use the techniques above. Walk the steps with him, encouraging (and rewarding) him for every step.
  3. Break down a full staircase into manageable pieces. Carry puppy up the staircase. Put him on the second-to-last step from the top, and encourage him to finish the journey. Reward! Do the same thing on the way down. Carry him to the second-to-last step from the bottom, and encourage him to take the last step himself. Reward! When one step is easy, add a step, etc. Sooner or later, he will be following you up and down the steps like a pro.