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How to Ride an Elevator with Your Dog

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I’m going to be the first to admit: elevators are not part of our dogs’ daily lives. With a two-story house, they’re accustomed to going up and down stairs to our upstairs offices but they don’t routinely ride an elevator.

Many of the hotels we stay with the dogs are multi-story (and it seems like we often wind up in a guest room on an upper floor). The hotel where we often stay after our nursing home visits with John’s relatives is a three-story property. While we often take the stairs to walk off the many hours we’d spent in the car and on a nursing home visit, sometimes it’s nice to take the elevator (especially when we’re checking in and out with luggage).

Although Barli has now stayed at the property several times, on his first visit we’d only had Barli about three weeks since his adoption. He was already pretty good with his sit command so, with both John and I to tackle the elevator, we loaded up to prepare for Barli’s first elevator ride:

I’m happy to report that Barli did great, and since then has taken many elevator rides during our hotel stays. Tiki is accustomed to riding the elevator so I think that helped keep Barli calm, as did our experience with dog elevator rides.

Although you might be accustomed to hopping in and out of an elevator without a second thought, riding an elevator with your dog is another story. Taking the elevator with your dog is a time for your full concentration to keep you both safe. We’ve all seen the horrifying news videos of dogs being separated from their person as they enter an elevator, with the dog either trapped inside the elevator or outside its doors–and, when the elevator changes floors, the dog’s leash hangs him. Even if the handler drops the leash, the elevator doors hold it tight, and the dog is pulled up or down by the force of the elevator and choked. This short video ends well thanks to a quick-thinking hotel manager who just happened to be in the right place and the right time:

It’s easy to see how important it is to make each and every elevator ride a safe one for your dog!

Like most activities with your dog, you’ll want to approach the elevator ride calmly and alert for potential problems. If you’re especially concerned, consider a break-away collar (like this one on Amazon).

How to Ride an Elevator with Your Dog

  1. Give the elevator ride and your dog your full attention. Put away your phone.
  2. Make sure your dog is calm when approaching the elevator. If he’s anxious, you may need to just stand by the elevator for a few sessions, rewarding and praising calm behavior with a treat. If your dog is super stressed or you are feeling stressed about tackling the elevator, the stairs may be a better choice.
  3. Standing to the side of the elevator door (so exiting people can disembark from the elevator without going around your dog or making your dog move), put your dog in a sit. Praise your dog.
  4. Press the button and calmly wait for the elevator. Shorten your hold on your leash so your dog is right beside you.
  5. When the elevator doors open, allow people to exit.
  6. When it is your turn to enter the elevator, stand in the elevator doorway and block the elevator door with your body, leading your dog in through the elevator doors. This will prevent the doors from suddenly shutting and separating you and your dog.
  7. Direct your dog into a corner of the elevator and ask for a sit. Praise your dog. Continue to hold the leash short so your dog cannot suddenly bolt out if the door opens between floors.
  8. Exit the elevator at your floor, again blocking the doors with your body so your dog can clear the opening without risk of sudden closure.
  9. Do not return the leash to its full length until you are a safe distance away from the elevator when there’s no risk of him suddenly turning back to the elevator.

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