Having your dog comfortable in taking an elevator can be a huge benefit for both of you.
Living in a city condo means taking your dog in the elevator several times a day so it’s an incredibly important skill to master. But, if you live in rural Alberta, you may have never thought about taking your dog in an elevator, however, it is a good exercise to learn for you never know when you may need to take your dog in one. Many hotels welcome dogs and while a taking a few staircases may not do you two any harm, you may get booked in a room on a higher floor (a view is always nice). If you visit the dog friendly Canadian Kennel Club head office in Etobicoke, you will have to take the elevator up to the fourth floor. Even some dog shows require dogs to take elevators as well (like the Piers at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. The only way to the second floor rings is by elevator).
Many dogs will walk right into an elevator and think nothing of it. Others have a much different reaction. When you think about it, elevators can be a very odd experience for our four-legged friends. They walk into a small room, the door closes, the floor moves, there’s a ding sound and all of a sudden they are in a different place. Pretty freaky for a dog!
Most dogs can be comfortably introduced to elevator rides. Like the majority of dog socialization, it’s easier if the experience starts early. Puppies under 4 months of age rarely show any reaction to an elevator ride. This could be because so many experiences are new at this stage of their life or that they are usually carried into the elevator at a young age and have pleasant associations with the trip. I mean, who can resist a puppy cuddle in an elevator?
Older dogs can also be introduced to the elevator, but patience and positive reinforcement are key. Please keep in mind that all dogs are different and that this process might take an hour or two for some dogs and a couple weeks of practicing for others.
Building Comfort with Elevators: Socialization Steps.
Bring a human friend and choose a time when the elevators won’t be too busy and be prepared to keep waiting for the next one if the car is too full.
Once the elevator arrives, have your friend go inside and push the door hold button. Have your dog heel at your side as you enter the elevator. Once inside the elevator, give him a treat and some praise. Once he has finished his treat, have him heel with you as you leave. Repeat the process.
As walking in and out of the elevator becomes easier, you then will want have your dog accept the sounds of the automatic doors closing. What I would do here is time the moment of the doors closing to when the treat is given. Walk into the elevator with your dog, have your friend close the doors and at that moment give the treat. Remember – don’t press a floor button yet! Once the treat is finished, have your friend open the doors and walk out.
Once walking into and out the car with doors open and closing seems easy, you will want to take the next step – movement of the car. Just like with people, elevators seems less scary when they are going up as opposed to when they are going down so begin with a journey up.
Have your friend select a floor or two up and just as you did by giving treats as the doors were closing, now give the treat as the car goes up and continue to give the treats until the car stops. If this is stressful to your dog, take the stairs back down as a bit of exercise might distract them for a bit and calm them down.
Once going up is easy, then do the same thing as the car goes down. Give treats and praise as the car descends, gradually building up to more and more floors.
As your dog’s confidence builds, you will want to start considering some elevator etiquette to ensure your dog is welcome in all elevators.
Here are some elevator etiquette rules to follow:
- Always have your dog on a leash. There may be other dogs in the car, or people who are uneasy around dogs.
- Do not push a button until you are sure both your dog and his leash are completely inside the car.
- Do not use a retractable leash when using an elevator. Awful situations have happened when an owner was distracted while their dog ran into the elevator as the doors closed.
- Have your dog sit next to you. My preferred spot in an elevator with my dog is having her sit next to the wall while I stand beside her. I find that this is comfortable for her and if there are other dogs in the car, this position makes everyone less excitable.
- If there is a dog who seems aggressive towards other dogs in the car as it opens, wait for another.
- If the car is too crowded, wait for another.
- If you have a small breed of dog and you are in a car and it begins to fill up, carry your dog to avoid him getting stepped on.
- Do not let your dog approach or exit the car before you. You never know who or what could be on the other side of the doors. (My friend can tell you a great story about her dog, an unsuspecting party guest and a very large cake.)
Having a dog who is comfortable taking an elevator can open doors and make many situations easier for both of you. It simply takes a bit of patience, a friend to help out and plenty of treats!