The fact is, time is the best factor when training dogs to use the stairs. You might have to give it a few weeks or months before it’s safe for a puppy to tackle them!
Training your puppy to use the stairs is vitally essential for their safety in their day-to-day lives and should begin only a few months after they are born. But, unfortunately, one of the most dangerous things to your puppy is that essential tool in your home: the stairs or staircase.
A puppy will normally grow out of problems on each step or set of stairs as they age – but why put them in harm’s way, to begin with? It’s important to know when it’s going to be safest for your puppy to start climbing.
Many dogs experience hip issues and physical problems that make getting around very difficult. These can be worsened or even caused by using a staircase or even a small flight of stairs. Unfortunately, these can get worse with age, too.
If you’re new to puppy training at all or just want to know when you can start safely taking your puppy to the stairs, we’re here to help. Keep reading for all of the info you need to start training your pup (of any size) to use the stairs safely.
How Old Does a Puppy Have To Be to Tackle Stairs?
As you know, dogs come in all shapes and sizes. However, most dogs can start to try stairs at about 12 weeks old. That means, depending on the breed, your puppy may be able to take step after step at quite a young age.
That being said, bigger dogs such as border collies, labradors, the Staffordshire terrier, and more should be kept away from stairs for longer. This is because these types of dogs are all prone to hip and joint issues. Overworking and over-exercising them may increase their chances of having physical pain and stiffness in those weaker areas as they age.
That goes for climbing stairs, too. Therefore, these dogs should only really start climbing stairs when they have reached a year old. By that point, they should be big and strong enough to tackle them safely. Sometimes, while it might seem like a good idea to take your puppy up the steps at an early stage, it’s not always so safe.
Potential Risks to Puppy Climbing Stairs
Puppies are generally full of energy and eager to see and try everything. That being said, certain things should not be taken on too early for the risk that the puppy gets hurt. Unfortunately, stairs are one of those things! Here are a few reasons why stairs are dangerous for puppies:
- Your puppy could easily fall. Nowadays, most stairs aren’t carpeted, making them very slippery and dangerous, even humans! Now, imagine being a puppy with fluffy feet and no self-control. Your puppy will run a high risk of slipping and falling down the stairs if given half the chance. Be careful with their growing bones.
- They could permanently harm themselves. Puppies will go on running and jumping until they pass out! It is up to us pet owners to ensure that they get enough exercise while not overdoing it for their health. Climbing stairs is very physically demanding, especially on those small legs. For bigger breed dogs, going that hard at such a young age could cause dysplasia or arthritis.
Are Stairs Bad For a Puppy’s Joints?
Depending on the dog breed, stairs can be very bad for puppy joints and bones. It’s easy to assume that leaving it for a few weeks is the answer, but you might have to give it even more time.
Their bodies are still developing, and despite the high energy levels at that age, they are not meant to run and jump everywhere! Climbing up and down the stairs is a very physically demanding thing, and certain breeds are more prone to physical ailments due to their size.
Although one might assume that the smaller pup breeds should not climb stairs as puppies, the bigger ones in height and weight are more vulnerable to diseases like hip dysplasia. If you’d like further information on exercising dogs with hip dysplasia it’s here.
They’re also at risk of other pains and sores related to their hips and legs that can cause them severe discomfort when they move.
Allowing a puppy to complete complex physical tasks when they are too young could encourage those health problems to start earlier than they usually would. Unfortunately, they could also leave your four-legged friend unable to exercise or move easily for extended amounts of time.
Breeds That Shouldn’t Climb Stairs
It’s not just puppies that should stay clear of stairs. There are certain dog breeds for which stairs are dangerous, their entire lives! From puppy to older in age, they are:
- Bassett Hounds can technically climb stairs, but they should not do so often nor without supervision. These dogs are known for their big, long bodies that rest on small legs. They are also much heavier in the front. This means that simply put, gravity does not work in their favour on stairs!
- Dachshunds, also known as sausage dogs, earned their nickname due to their long, thin body and short legs. Climbing stairs will be too physically demanding on their spines and could leave them with injuries.
- Corgis are quite heavy-set dogs that are also prone to hip dysplasia. When climbing stairs, their entire body weight will rest on their hips, causing pain and possible permanent damage.
How To Teach Your Dog to Climb Up and Down Stairs
As cute as they are, many puppies are not the most physically adept creatures out there! They lack a certain grace, and it can result in a lot of hitting and falling. Cute as it may be, this is particularly dangerous for them, especially when climbing stairs.
As a puppy or dog owner, you must train your pup to safely climb stairs. Thankfully, it is a relatively quick lesson as it is fairly intuitive! Here are a few top tips for teaching your dog or puppy to climb up and down stairs safely:
- Start at the bottom. Don’t start by going down, as that is far more difficult and will require them to have complete trust in you and the process (as it can feel like falling). From the bottom step, you climb up one and lure them with a dog treat.
- After a few steps, you can start placing treats on all of the steps, and make sure to follow your puppy up! Don’t let them do it independently, as they could easily fall back down.
- When they reach the top, let them know that they did a good job!
- Then, you can start doing the same technique in reverse to go back down. But, again, stay near your puppy to ensure their safety!
Reasons Why Your Dog is Suddenly Afraid of Stairs
Even dogs who used to be perfectly able to climb stairs can suddenly refuse or be scared to climb them from one day to the next. This fear can be due to a few things, some of which are easier resolved than others.
- If your dog is entering their senior years or has recently suffered a physical injury, then it could be that the stairs are simply too painful for them to climb. If the injury was not too severe, then the chances are that they will mount them again soon, but ageing sadly cannot be reversed.
- We all sometimes forget to watch our puppies’ nails, but they do grow, some more than others! You may notice that they are beginning to limp during long walks, which could be due to over-grown nails. If you have never had the experience of cutting dog or puppy nails before, take them to the vet.
- If they have recently fallen or experienced something terrible at the bottom or top of the stairs, your dog or older puppy could be experiencing trauma. It is up to you to help them gain their confidence back. First, try to overcome the fear using the same method to train a puppy to climb the stairs.
If your staircase has recently been waxed and/or washed, then the chances are that they are too slippery for your pup even to climb!
This video shows how to help a fearful pup to tackle stairs.
Making Your Stairs Safe for Puppies
Make Sure They Can Get a Good Grip:
- Making your home dog safe includes making the stairs fall-proof. Your puppy needs to be able to hold on to something to travel along the staircase safely. Consider installing a carpet or buying sticky grips to line the edges of the stairs. Ensure that the grips are properly glued down, as they can easily become tripping hazards for you and your dog!
- If your dog can move freely around the house without you, ensuring that they can always see the stairs is essential. This does not mean that you always need to leave the main light on; however, you could invest in a lamp or two to line the staircase or in an LED strip that you can leave on. They do not consume much energy and provide ample lighting to help guide your puppy’s path.
- Do not leave anything in the staircase that could trip up your pup. For example, some people use the extra space on their staircases to hold books, bags, vases, etc. These are sadly all things that could endanger your puppy as they go up and down.
Install a ramp in the garden or porch:
- Make their lives easier by making their daily outings more accessible! Some houses tend to be quite high above the ground, proving quite tricky for puppies and smaller dogs. Installing a ramp or a few short steps will help them in and out and reduce their risk of getting physically hurt, temporarily or permanently.
Discourage running up and downstairs:
Reduce your dog’s risk of hurting themselves by discouraging running in the stairs. Many puppy owners use their staircases as a workout tool by having their dogs run up and down. This is a reckless mistake! Your dog could very easily lose its grip and slip. Being at speed, their chances of getting injured are far higher.
Injuries to Dogs Caused by Falling Down Stairs
There are multiple ways in which a canine could injure itself by falling down the stairs. Unfortunately, we sometimes ignore just how dangerous this can be for them, especially for certain dog breeds. Here are just a few of the injuries that your canine could get from running falling downstairs:
- Limping can be caused by anything from bruising to a broken leg or displaced hip. If the limp seems to linger, then definitely have it checked out by a veterinarian. Likewise, if your four-legged friend cries or winces as they walk on the limp, then you must consult your vet about that as soon as possible.
- This is not something that you may notice instantly but can lead to emergency surgery or worse. If your four-legged friend has taken a nasty fall down the stairs, then a good rule of thumb is to automatically take them to the vet in case of internal bleeding.
- If your canine hits their head hard on the stairs, they risk brain damage and other head trauma. This is, as you can imagine, an emergency.
How do you know if Your Dog Has a Head Injury?
You can sometimes immediately notice a head wound due to bleeding, but it is not always so simple.
If you notice that your canine appears to be stumbling about or appear disorientated, you must immediately take them to the vet.
If they become unconscious or show any other sign of a concussion, then again, take them straight to the vet!
Some head injuries can be cured, but it is always best to have them treated sooner rather than later in any case such as these.
Your furry friend may get up after falling down the stairs and seem completely fine. However, this does not mean that they are, and sadly, they cannot always find ways to tell you that something is wrong.
Prevention is always better than cure, but if your four-legged friend has suffered a tumble down the stairs, do not wait to have them seen by a professional. If they already suffer from joint disease or hip dysplasia, then the need for immediate help is all the more important.
Should You Block Off Stairs?
In most cases, yes, it is best to block off your staircase. People who don’t block off may assume their dogs are confident enough to handle them. This time will come – but as you can imagine, there is a reason for
Once a canine is well-trained, using the staircase is usually relatively safe for them, but not without risk. Anything can happen, and should they fall while you are out, they run a far higher chance of being permanently hurt or worse.
Blocking off a staircase is easy to do with a simple baby gate. You can also purchase gates for pets specifically made for our four-legged friends at a low price on Amazon.
Ensure that your canine only has access to the stairs when you are home and present to best ensure their safety.
What About Dog Stairs for Puppies?
Dog steps and ramps have become increasingly popular over the years, and with good reason! There are various types of steps for dogs in the UK online and in pet shops. In addition, you can choose heavier, more permanent dog steps for parts of your home that you know will need them for a long time (such as the access outside, onto the sofa, the bed, etc.).
There are also plenty of steps that are easy to carry around for when your four-legged friend needs an easy way into the car and other areas.
These steps are not just ideal for puppies. They are also handy for smaller dogs who need help getting around after an op and senior dogs who are starting to slow down.
Stairs are a part of most of our daily lives. However, for dog owners, they can become quite the safety issue that we sometimes ignore. Conditions like hip dysplasia are certainly no laughing matter, and they are, of course, only going to get worse with age – no matter the size of the dog.
Something as simple as playing tug of war with them on the staircase, or having them jump up and down from high furniture, could be causing them more damage than you might realise. However, there is a lot you can do to protect your pup.
The best thing that you can do is to follow your vet’s advice. However, it is also a great idea to protect their bones and their slippery little paws by installing a pet gate and keep the games in a safer place! Lucky for you, we researched the best dog ramp for your pet to help you both get started!
Making your family pets safe is usually a question of time, finding the right information, and sometimes dipping into the bank account! But, it is, of course, always worth it.
Do also take the time to check out more information from some of our other guides to raising a puppy – there’s nothing to fear when you have solid advice on hand.