Dogs will often struggle jumping or climbing down from sofas, beds, or other furniture, feeling frightened when at a height they are not comfortable with. Some dog breeds are too small or have hip issues which make climbing stairs difficult.
But what is almost guaranteed is that puppies will struggle to climb stairs, whether in an upwards or down direction. Their size combined with a fear and unsteady balance will make stairs a potential hazard for them.
When can puppies climb stairs? Puppies can usually climb stairs safely at the ages of 12 to 16 weeks. However, this is very much breed and size dependent, as some puppies will still not be big enough at the point to successfully navigate a staircase.
That’s the very short answer, but there’s more to it than that, including tips on how to teach a puppy to go downstairs. Keep reading so you can let your puppy do stairs safely at the right age.
Are puppies allowed to go up and downstairs?
Puppies are allowed to go up and down stairs, but when they are too small, you should supervise behind them. I would suggest also carrying them downstairs if they cannot go down one step without jumping – that means they are too small and run the risk of tumbling.
But in most cases, the age that puppies can do stairs is around 3 to 4 months.
Is it bad for puppies to climb stairs?
It can also be bad for certain breeds of dog to climb stairs. For example, stairs can be bad for puppies from the French Bulldog breed where the risk of hip dysplasia is higher.
Climbing stairs can be bad for the puppy’s hips if in this breed and similar.
More about puppies and stairs
By and far the biggest challenge that puppies are faced in your home is how to overcome stairs. For young puppies, stairs can almost resemble mountains, continuing upwards for what seems like forever.
Just one step at a time can prove a massive undertaking for a puppy, regardless of its age, and it can take many months until they begin to finally master the art of scaling them successfully.
Unfortunately, it is not that unusual for older canines to never quite get the hang of climbing stairs, with many choosing to avoid traversing them later in life.
For this reason, you must teach your puppy how to do this while they are still young. Without this skill, older dogs can quickly develop extreme anxiety towards climbing stairs, refusing to follow their owner upstairs, or enter properties where steps are abundant.
However, there is one question that many dog owners fail to ask themselves before attempting this task, a question that when left unanswered can commonly result in many younger dogs developing long-lasting injuries. When can puppies climb stairs?
At what age can puppies climb stairs?
In general, it is not advisable to introduce a puppy to stairs until they are at least 12 to 16 weeks old and fully confident on their legs (meaning no clumsiness or wobbliness).
That being said, it is not uncommon for younger pups to take on smaller steps from time to time, especially if they are very confident or boisterous. If you find your puppy can climb areas with small sets of steps in the home, do not immediately panic as this is completely normal behavior.
Likewise, you should not chastise your pup as this could cause them to develop a negative association with the activity.
If your pup is regularly climbing one or two steps, such as those found on a porch or patio, allow them to do so as this is unlikely to have any negative impacts on their health and will, instead, help them build confidence in tackling stairs for the first time.
However, that being said, always deter your pooch from climbing larger sets of stairs (such as those leading to a higher floor in the house), until they are of an appropriate age to minimize the chance of injury.
Furthermore, this advice is especially relevant when it comes to larger breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, which we will explore in further depth later in the article.
If you own one of these breeds or a similar-sized dog, make sure to keep them well away from stairs until they are at least 16 weeks old. In fact, failure to do this could be disastrous in the long run.
Additionally, you should also realize that it takes time for smaller breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers, West Highland Terriers, Chihuahuas, Mini Poodles, and Jack Russel Terriers, to grow to a size in which they can easily manage steps without any trouble.
This is due to their diminutive size and overall shorter legs compared to medium and larger breeds. Furthermore, owners of small dogs should be careful not to force their pups into climbing stairs when they are very young, as doing so could lead to nasty injuries as a result of a fall or tumble.
Although we may not realize it, stairs can be extremely high for small breeds.
Are stairs bad for puppy’s hips?
Unfortunately, many large breeds of dogs are prone to hip conditions, namely Hip Dysplasia, which can plague them throughout both their puppyhood and adult lives. Dogs suffering from this mainly inherited genetic condition develop issues with the ball and socket mechanism that allows their hip joint to move smoothly. Instead, the ball and socket will constantly rub and grind, causing canines significant amounts of pain.
Over time, this abnormal motion will result in deterioration in the joint, with some dogs completely losing maneuverability after a few years have passed.
Although not conclusive, there is some evidence that puppies can increase their risk of developing Hip Dysplasia by climbing stairs before their limbs have properly developed and strengthened.
Despite being primarily hereditary in origin, some dogs can develop this condition solely through experiencing excessive stress on their joints or by suffering injuries. Also, other environmental factors such as your pup’s diet and nutrition, exercise routine, and overall weight can play a role.
Therefore, before introducing your pup to stairs, try and ascertain whether they are at risk of developing Hip Dysplasia.
If they fall into this category, then prevent them from climbing stairs until they are at least 12 months old.
Typically, the breeds most affected by Hip Dysplasia are Mastiffs, Retrievers, Staffordshire Terriers, Shepherds, Rottweilers, St Bernards, and Bulldogs – though any large breeds can be susceptible. However, it is worth mentioning that Hip Dysplasia can appear in medium or smaller-sized canines from time to time, although this is rare.
If you find yourself worried about Hip Dysplasia occurring in your puppy, discuss this with your local veterinarian.
Often, they will be able to inform you whether your breed of dog is at a higher risk of developing this issue in the future. With proper care and early treatment, dogs can easily live a relatively healthy and pain-free life.
Is it safe to allow your puppy to climb stairs on its own?
Alongside the risk of Hip Dysplasia, young puppies who regularly climb the stairs unsupervised are naturally at a greater risk of injury. Therefore, you should make sure to keep a close eye on your pup when they are attempting to navigate stairs, even if they have successfully done so before.
Despite many dog owners feeling this is excessive or unnecessary, all it takes is one nasty tumble for a puppy to seriously injure itself. To minimize the chance of this happening you should always block the stairs when leaving the home, even if you are only gone for a short time.
Alternatively, if you are unable to block access you can ask a friend or family member to keep an eye on your pup.
In the case of older puppies (9 months plus), it is normally okay to allow them to climb stairs on their own. At this stage, they will have developed all the functions and skills to climb stairs without any problem. That being said, be careful not to leave any objects on the steps to limit the chance of your pup tripping and falling. Likewise, you should discourage your pup from playing or running up the stairs, as this can also increase the risk of an accident. Furthermore, this behavior is not only dangerous for dogs but can also result in owners being seriously hurt as well.
How do you teach a puppy to use stairs?
Teaching a puppy how to climb stairs is a relatively straightforward task. For example, one popular method used by dog owners is placing treats on the stairs.
To start, grab some treats and place them on the first 2 or 3 steps, slowly encouraging your pup to climb each one. After they have done this successfully, place a few more treats higher up and repeat the process, continuing this until they have completely climbed to the top of the stairs.
Make sure that you reward your puppy for any steps they have cleared successfully as this will reinforce their belief that they have nothing to fear.
Additionally, you should remember to remain patient as it could take multiple tries before they feel comfortable. All puppies are different, and some may take weeks before they can climb the stairs without getting stuck or feeling frightened.
Similarly, try to project confidence towards your puppy, regardless of whether you are nervous on the inside. They will quickly pick up on your positive attitude and feel less fearful when attempting to climb stairs for the first time.
Although home environments are mostly a safe and comfortable place for puppies to grow up, there are often several areas that can provide a challenge for even the most adventurous of pups – along with balconies, stairs are up there with the worst of them.
Similarly, some dogs may even develop a reluctance to step through sliding patio doors, much to their owners’ continued bafflement and amusement.
With puppies and stairs you need to keep a close eye on them until they are older, more agile, and big enough to climb up or down.
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Image in header via https://unsplash.com/photos/06EFQVjKIB8