Whilst steps have made life convenient for humans, the same can’t always be said for our dog friends. In simple terms, stairs were not designed with dogs in mind. Whilst many will bound up and down them, others can hurt themselves… hence wanting to stop your dog going upstairs.
Other owners will want to prevent their dog using the stairs to stop them from accessing rooms they shouldn’t.
No matter why you want to stop your dog from going up stairs, there are some cunning ways you can prevent stair climbing, all of which I’ve listed below.
How to stop a dog from using the stairs
The best way of ensuring that your dogs do not use the stairs is by denying them access. This can be done effectively by installing a pet or baby gate at either end of the staircase.
A longer term solution would be to train your dog not to use the stairs but to wait until you are ready to pick it up, if it is small enough, or help it along with a back support. Some dogs have been trained to ring a bell for assistance.
If the intention is to limit the dog to the ground floor then it needs to be trained that the stairs and beyond are out of bounds.
If space and resources permit, additional options such as a ramp or chair lift could be considered to enable your dog to be your constant companion.
Preventing your dog from using the stairs
As stated earlier, the best way to keep your pets off the stairs is to deny them access. The technology that has frustrated generations of babies works just as well for dogs. A baby / pet gate is a tried and tested way of keeping them safe.
There are two types of these gates. The first type is screwed into the banisters, wall or door jam and needs to be the exact size. This is the safest option at the top of the stairs as it is securely bolted.
The alternative is adjustable and uses tension rods to fit into the required space. No tools or screws are used when attaching it to the wall. It can be removed and used elsewhere if needed, such as when you go on vacation – you don’t need a special pet one, the same as you would buy for babies and toddlers is fine, like this one on Amazon.
Gates have difference options for opening. Some do not open at all but need to be stepped over, and are not suitable for high traffic areas like stairs. Other choices include swing gates with latches that can be operated with one hand, and retractable gates that roll to one side and are hidden from sight when not in use.
Some gates have bars at the bottom. These need to be set low enough to thwart all of Houdini Hound’s attempts to slip under them. They also need to be borne in mind when passing through the gate so that you do not trip over them. There is little to be gained by keeping the pooch safe while endangering the life of its owner.
Sometimes a solution dwarfs the original problem. If your family of eight decides that the inconvenience of passing through multiple turnstiles on the way to their sleeping quarters, several times a day, out weighs the need to keep your pampered poodle safe, you may need to rethink the gate option.
The alternative is to train your dog not to go on the stairs. If it is to be confined to the ground floor in perpetuity or has to wait until it is carried, escorted or assisted up the stairs by a human family member, this training needs to start when the dog is young, for optimum results.
Teaching a dog that it should be carried upstairs should be limited to breeds that will remain small. A Rottweiler pup, for example, weighing 12 pounds at 8 weeks old, will triple its weight within the month, and again within the first year, rendering the training useless.
Harnesses are available that help a handler to support the undercarriage of the dog while they ascend or descend together, thereby reducing the weight and subsequent strain on the dog’s leg joints.
Some owners provide their dogs with an on-demand option for traversing the stairs. Bells are positioned at the top and bottom of the stairs. These are to be rung at the discretion of the dog, when it feels the need to change levels.
This option calls for the utmost devotion and dedication on the part of the owner. Judging by the number of times my pack of six request to go in and out of doors, it could become a full time occupation escorting dogs up and down the stairs.
Reasons why stairs are dangerous for dogs
Strain on the way up
The average height of a step is 7.5 inches, which is chest height for a medium sized Jack Russell. For humans it takes one small step, for a dog, each step is the equivalent of a human jumping onto a bed.
Going up a flight of stairs, the dog may have to do this motion 15-20 times. Although your pup may seem to have boundless energy, this activity eventually takes its toll on its hips, knees and other joints.
Some breeds, by virtue of their shape, have inherent back issues. For example, because of their proportions, Dachshunds need to be prevented from carrying out maneuvers that will strain their backs. Running up and down stairs should be avoided at all times.
For a larger dog the height and distance between the steps will cause a problem with the placement of each of its four legs.
The strain on the body is worse if your dog is elderly, not feeling well or recovering from surgery. Its desire to be near you or other canine companions could cause it to become reckless. Your compromised canine will incur further physical harm if it uses the stairs to do so.
Weight distribution on the way down
While going up stairs is a physical achievement, coming down is even more difficult. Whereas humans remain upright when descending stairs, dogs have to descend face first.
All of a dog’s weight will be borne by its front legs. It will need to contort its body with each step while having little control over its centre of gravity. This action is fraught with danger.
Whereas the height perspective will be an additional challenge for a small dog, the long term effects of the weight distribution will cause problems for larger dogs.
Danger of falling
The sheer height of the steps overall could be daunting for a dog, big or small. There are several amusing videos online of puppies learning to negotiate stairs.
A puppy has a strong desire to be with its mother, litter mates or new family members. It will strive to overcome its fears to socialise. Its cautious but clumsy efforts could result in a fall.
An exuberant dog may have little regard for other users of the stairs and could cause humans as well as other animals to lose their footing and take a tumble.
If there are no sides to a staircase, or the steps are made of smooth, well-worn hardwood, for instance, this could add to the hazards associated with using the stairs.
Stairs are especially difficult to navigate if it is dark or they are dimly lit, for both humans and canines.
Handy Hint: If you have ever worried about your dog jumping from your balcony, then you need to read this guide.
Use stairs to highlight any health problems
Much like humans, the process of climbing stairs is made more difficult for a dog if it has any underlying health problems.
The exaggerated movements required by your dog will certainly highlight these. If your dog shows reluctance or signs of distress when using the stairs, this could point to orthopedic injuries or problems with one or other of its internal organs. If you suspect this to be the case, a trip to the veterinary clinic is advised.
Alternatives to using the stairs
If the stairs are wide enough, you could consider creating a ramp on one side of the staircase for your dog to use. Ensure that the surface of the ramp has enough traction to prevent it becoming a slide.
If money is no object, you could consider installing a chair lift to ferry your furry companion up and down the stairs. However, your dog would still need to wait for you to assist it off the apparatus at the end of its trip.
And there you have it, that’s how I stop my dog from climbing stairs.