Climbing up stairs with open treads can terrify puppies. It’s understandable. If you’re little and low, it looks like it would be easy to slip through the openings and fall to your death. We saw the effect such stairs had on Dionne (our fifth CCI pup) whenever we entered the stairwell in our friend Alberto’s building. Dionne was normally a bold and fearless spirit, yet she would freeze at the sight of those stairs. We worked for months to overcome that, trying in vain to lure her up with various tasty treats. But nothing worked until a fellow puppy raiser who is extraordinarily experienced broke through her phobia during an outing at Fashion Valley.

Kyndall has been having a similar reaction to the very same set of stairs. But last night we had a breakthrough. Our contribution to the evening’s potluck was hummus and sautéed lamb, and I had to slice off a lot of lamb fat while preparing the dish. Both Tucker and Kyndall watched me intensely as I did this. They stared. They drooled. To lift their spirits, we mixed in a few small bits of the lamb fat into their dinner kibble. But Steve cut up most of it into tiny squares and took a small bagful of it with us to Albie’s.

We entered the Stairwell of Terror. Steve got out a bit of lamb fat.

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Lamb fat in hand, he started up the stairs, and Kyndall bounded up after him!

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We cheered and praised her (including Albie, who is making a documentary about raising service dogs and so was filming the proceedings). Once or twice, she hesitated and we could see the old fear grip her.

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But Steve waved the lamb in front of her nose, and each time it did the trick.

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She walked all the way up to Albie’s place on the third floor, wagging her tail and licking her chops.

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It will be interesting to see how she does next time. (I’m thinking we need a little stash of that fat in reserve.)

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