Has your dog ever been in an elevator? Elevators are a regular part of life for many big city dogs, but elevators can be scary and stressful for dogs if they aren’t used to them. Even if you don’t live in an apartment building or big city, teaching your dog how to be comfortable riding in elevators is a useful skill as you never know when your dog might encounter an elevator. For example, if you and your dog ever travel together, your dog will encounter elevators in parking garages and/or in hotels and it’s helpful to be prepared.
What You Need to Teach Your Dog to Ride in an Elevator
- Dog Treats: lots of small pieces of dog treats that are high value to your dog (your dog’s favorite treat above all others, such as turkey bacon for dogs).
- 6-Foot Dog Leash: When riding in elevators, always have your dog on a dog leash and make it a short dog leash for best control (this is not the right situation for a retractable leash).
- Elevator in a Dog-Friendly Building: For teaching your dog to be comfortable riding the elevator it’s helpful to find an elevator that is in a dog-friendly building but relatively quiet to give you time to practice.
How to Teach Your Dog To Ride the Elevators
When teaching your dog to ride in an elevator, go at your dog’s pace and don’t force your dog into an elevator. While you are working on getting your dog used to riding comfortably in elevators, use the staircase as most dogs will be more comfortable with the stairs until they get used to elevators.
Let your dog experience the sights and sounds of the elevator first by having your dog watch the elevator door open and close. Give him a dog treat for any interest in the elevator and make sure your dog isn’t nervous about the signs and sounds of the elevator before moving on. Treat and repeat until your dog is calm and comfortable near the elevator.
When your dog is calm and comfortable near the elevator, it’s time to practice getting in the and out of the elevator. Wait until there aren’t other people waiting so you can go at your dog’s pace and focus on your dog instead of trying to stay out of the way of people bustling in and out of the elevator. When the elevator comes, give your dog a treat and then walk into the elevator, using a happy voice to encourage your dog to go with you.
When you get in the elevator, press “door open” to prevent the doors from closing. When in the elevator with the door open, praise and give your dog a treat and then leave the elevator together while praising and treating your dog.
Repeat several times until your dog is comfortable coming into the elevator with you and is able to comfortably eat treats while standing or sitting in the elevator with the elevator door open.
Once your dog is comfortable getting into the elevator then it’s time to ride!
Next, get in the elevator with your dog the same way you did before, but this time push the “door close” button and go up a floor. Praise and give your dog a treat while in the elevator. Let your dog explore the elevator and praise your dog for investigating the elevator. Some dogs might be a little nervous about the movement, while others won’t even notice. Continue to praise and give treats to your dog while the elevator is in motion.
When the elevator opens, get your dog’s attention with a treat. In a happy voice encourage your dog to exit the elevator with you. The idea here is we want to continue to practice leaving the elevator calmly with us. This will prevent your dog from building habits of bolting out of the elevator in the future, which is not only rude if there are people outside waiting to get on but can be dangerous.
If at any point your dog seems uncomfortable or nervous about getting in or being in the elevator, go back to the last step where your dog was successful and practice that skill for a little while until he regains his confidence. The goal is for your dog to be comfortable in the elevator, which means going at his speed and comfort level.
Elevators Closing on Dog
Most modern elevators have sensors that prevent the elevator door from closing on your dog, however older elevators may lack motion sensors. When you are getting in an elevator with your dog, always pay attention to your dog when in and around elevators to prevent injury. Do not be on your cell phone or get distracted talking to someone. When riding an elevator with your dog, always block the elevator door with your body to prevent the elevator from closing on your dog or on his leash
Keep your leash short and your dog close to you as you are getting in and out of the elevator and don’t allow your dog to lag behind you or forge ahead to prevent you and your dog’s leash from getting stuck in the closing door and you and your dog becoming separated, which could be life threatening for your dog. While some elevators have an emergency stop button you could hit, not all do and there are reported cases of dogs having died by strangulation after their leashes got stuck in elevator doors with their person on the other side.