i had tried the leash and walking confidently down the stairs and he bolted in the other direction, nearly pulling me off my feet. after spending more time with him last night and this morning, i am certain that he was not afraid to go down the stairs . . . he's actually not afraid of anything that i have noticed. in his former home, the crate was in the basement, and as far as i can figure, they must not have spent any time with him down there and probably just used the basement as a place to leave the dog when no one was home.
so i think he was anticipating being put in a crate in a strange basement and left alone.
so i took him through the back door into the basement last night, and after i got him to stop looking for an escape route, i got a book, laid down on the cushioned bench, and hung out with him and read for an hour or so. he settled down on the rug next to me and went to sleep. i then put him in his crate for an hour, went upstairs, and came back down and let him out and hung out with him again for about half an hour. lather, rinse, repeat.
this morning the basement has been all about hanging out without crating. we got up at 6:30, i took him out to play on the springpole, then i fed him down there, watered him there, took him in and out of the back door, up and down the basement stairs, played with him down there.
he's now going up and down, in and out willingly though with some suspicion.
thus, i don't think it was fear he was showing so much as a conditioned aversion to the basement!