Most humans have a universal fear of being trapped in a crowded elevator with a bunch of strangers. So why does it surprise us that some dogs share the same anxiety while riding from our apartment to the ground floor during a routine walk? We often set the unrealistic expectation that all dogs are going to be comfortable in all settings around all other animals and all other people all the time. It’s simply not true! Humans certainly aren’t like that, so we can’t expect our dogs to be. Although the motion of an elevator ride is something your dog quickly becomes desensitized, some dogs have trouble acclimating to the unpredictability of what each open door on an elevator ride will reveal. Every time the door opens your dog isn’t quite sure what to expect. Will it be a social dog? Kids? An aggressive dog? A rolling bag? A lady with a big scary bag? And is your dog actually confident and comfortable with whatever the surprise door will reveal? You can train any dog to be confident when the magic portal door opens by taking your dog’s favorite treat with you on the ride. Don’t hesitate using the good stuff like chicken, hotdog or cheese! Every single time the door opens you should get excited and tell your dog “Yes!” or “Good!” and then offer a reward. Your dog should remain sitting, preferably between you and the wall where he is safest to eat his treat. With enough repetition your dog will anticipate looking up at you to get a treat every single time the elevator door opens. You’ll also be reinforcing your dog for sitting and staying as opposed to lunging towards the door (no, this isn’t our floor!). Over time, you won’t need the treat anymore, just verbal praise and petting will do just fine. For the safety and comfort of all animals on board, your dog needs to learn polite elevator etiquette. Not every dog that enters will want to be greeted, nor does every human. Being a responsible dog owner means having good control of our dog, even in tight spaces!
This article first appeared in Brickell Magazine.