Outside view of VIDA Building

Teaching Your Dog to Ride in An Elevator

Three dogs standing in an elevator

July 2021

Not only do some of VIDA’s apartment buildings have elevators, but we’re in a part of town that has a lot of tall buildings. As a pet-friendly property, we realize VIDA’s dog-owning residents might be challenged by getting their dog used to riding in elevators. While it seems perfectly normal to us, it can actually be quite scary for dogs. Think about being in a space that was open but suddenly becomes closed, starts to move around, and maybe even having your ears become uncomfortably blocked. Elevator rides can also mean behaving well in a confined space with strangers. With a little empathy, effort, and consistency, you can easily make any elevator ride an easy peasy trip for your dog.

When acclimating your dog to an elevator, the most important thing is to go their pace. Forcing them to do something that makes them uncomfortable can ingrain a fear that may be hard to ever overcome. Begin by letting your dog experience the sights and sounds of the elevator without going in. If they seem startled or nervous, assure them in a calm voice. Feed them a few small treats if they show interest in the elevator.

Next, practice getting in and out of the elevator. Wait until there are no other people on board to avoid distractions. Give your dog a treat and walk them onto the elevator using a happy voice. If the doors start to close, be sure to block them with your body, rather than allowing them to contact your dog. You won’t be taking a ride just yet, so use the “door open” button to hold the elevator and give your dog a chance to explore. Walk back off and praise them. Repeat this as many times as it takes until your dog is comfortable with that activity.

Now it’s time for their first ride. Repeat the exercise for getting on the elevator, but this time allow the door to close. Just go up or down one floor. Exit the elevator, praise your dog, and give them a treat. Repeat this exercise until your dog is comfortable with the movement and doors.

Once it’s clear your dog is comfortable with elevators, it’s time to focus on etiquette. This will fast become an exercise in futility if your dog doesn’t know how to sit and stay on command when they’re not in an elevator. Assuming that’s not an issue, take them for an elevator ride without other passengers. Have them to sit and stay when they get on and give them a treat when they get off. A common issue is that a dog will break out of their sit as soon as the door opens. If this happens, keep them on a short leash and correct them. Once they can do this well, try the exercise with other actual riders.