I need Falcon to be comfortable in all types of environments both inside buildings and in the woods. This includes weird things like elevators.
I’m not sure why elevators are scary; but I’ve seen a number of dogs just stop in their tracks when the elevator doors open or else the dogs tremble and slink as they get on. Some dogs get so panicked once the elevator moves they bolt out the door as soon as it opens. Absolute worst case is if the dog gets so scared it pees or poops in the elevator. No one wants that.
Finding an elevator to train with is the tricky part. I want an elevator that isn’t heavily used as I want to be able to take as long as I need for the dog or puppy to comfortably go in and out.
The best places I’ve found to train are multi-level parking garages. Most of them have an elevator and I have never seen a “no dogs” sign on an elevator in a public parking garage. Also, if you go during non-peak hours; there generally aren’t a lot of people around. Dog friendly apartment complexes also often have elevators; but you run the risk of coming face to face with another dog getting on or off the elevator which could be too much for your pup’s first outing.
I practice going up and letting the door “ding” and then open and observe the puppy. If the pup is comfortable or curious I’ll walk on the elevator. If I can, I’ll let the puppy off leash (if it is 100 percent safe only) or I’ll go on first and just stand there with a loose leash. I want the puppy to willingly follow me in rather than follow a path of treats in.
Just like people, dogs want to make up their mind if a situation is safe rather than feel pushed into making a decision or bribed into moving.
Be sure you hold the door open if your pup takes a bit to decide whether to get on. You don’t want the door to start to close on him if he is still trying to make up his mind. Just be aware that if you hold the door open too long; it will most likely set off an alarm.
If the puppy is too nervous, just walk away from the elevator until you can see the door; but the puppy isn’t so close it is nervous. Ask a friend to push the elevator button. Reward your puppy for looking at the door or stepping closer to the elevator. It may take you a few days to actually comfortably get the puppy close to the door.
Once on the elevator, I make it rain treats. I want the puppy to explore the floor so he has something to do other than wonder why he is moving. For my older dogs, I often have them do hand targeting or some other behavior they enjoy so they focus on me and not on what is going on around them in the elevator.
Once your puppy is comfortable getting on and off the elevator, then you want to teach the puppy to wait while the doors open so you can cue him to leave the elevator. This is just common courtesy and it is safer. You don’t want your puppy to rush off the elevator into the face of another dog or to run into a person who may be getting on the elevator. Remember, not everyone likes dogs and some people do get nervous being in an enclosed space with a dog. I like to look out the elevator door first; with my dog slightly behind me and make sure everything is safe before I let the dog out of the elevator. This is the same behavior I practice at my front door.