[UPDATED JULY 2023]
If you live in a house with stairs, the chances are that the sound of your dog pounding up and down them will be familiar.
But this may bring up a few uneasy questions. Questions like ‘are stairs bad for dogs?’ Or even, ‘can puppies climb stairs safely?’
As a general rule, it’s better not to let your canine companion have free reign of the stairs. However, as dog owners ourselves, we know that it’s inevitable that they will sometimes find a reason to climb up and down.
What goes up…
When you go upstairs, your dog may well trail behind you, just to make sure you don’t go out of sight. They might rush upstairs to find their favourite person or retrieve a precious toy. Or they might sneak up the stairs to lay claim to your bed.
… must come down
When your dog rushes down the stairs, half the time it will be a race to the door, triggered by the doorbell. Or perhaps you’ve opened the fridge (a.k.a. the ‘magic cupboard’), raising their hopes that it’s dinner time. Or maybe you’ve done something to suggest that a walk could be imminent – e.g., you’ve picked up your keys, put on your coat, or opened the door.
Investigating the ups and downs
Whatever the reasons for your dog routinely going up and down the stairs, is this actually bad for them? Here are some considerations to take into account.
Carpet vs wood
The first point to think about is what kind of material is under your dog’s paws as they race up and down the stairs. Any kind of carpeted stairs will provide considerably more traction than bare wood stairs. Wood can, in fact, be pretty slippery for a dog, especially if they have long, untrimmed nails.
This applies to wooden floors just the same as wooden stairs. We talk about this in our blog on how to adapt your home for your senior dog, where we recommend putting down non-slip mats on wooden floors, to give your dog a more secure surface to walk across.
If you have bare wooden stairs, you could make life easier for your dog by carpeting them. You can even get pet-friendly non-slip stair treads which stick onto wooden stairs and give your dog extra traction as they go up and down, helping to prevent them from slipping.
Which breeds do best on stairs?
Breed can also come into play when you’re thinking about how easily your dog will manage on the stairs.
It’s obvious that a rangy, long-legged Lurcher is going to find it simpler to bound up the stairs than a little low-rider like a Chihuahua or a Yorkshire Terrier. Dogs that have extra-long backs, such as Dachshunds, Corgis and Bassett Hounds, should take extra care, or avoid taking the stairs if possible.
Dogs that are scared of stairs
Another factor to consider is that some dogs are scared of stairs. Technically, this is called ‘bathmophobia’. It comes from the Greek for step – ‘bathmos’ - and fear – ‘phobia’.
What can make a dog scared of stairs? Unfamiliarity is one factor. If your dog just isn’t used to stairs – such as if they’ve grown up in a bungalow – this could contribute to fear and uncertainty. Alternatively, a dog who’s previously had a bad experience on some stairs might develop bathmophobia.
Either way, you can help your dog to overcome this fear by being patient, rewarding them for coming near the stairs, and helping them to see that there’s nothing to be scared of.
Puppies and stairs
From your puppy’s point of view, your stairs are a mountain to climb. They can also represent a hazard for a young dog. Are stairs bad for puppies’ hips or joints? Well, they can put excess strain on your puppy’s joints during the most formative phase of their life, in addition to presenting tripping and falling hazards, among other things. It is recommended that puppies should be very closely supervised when they use the stairs.
If in doubt, ask your vet for advice and fit a stair gate at the bottom of the stairs.
If your dog is a portable size, sometimes the best solution is for you to simply carry them up the stairs. See our blog for tips on how to lift your dog safely.
And, for a bit of extra joint and mobility support, why not try giving your puppy YuMOVE Joint Care for Young Dogs?
Dogs that are prone to stiffness
When your dog is going up and down stairs, it does require a greater range of motion in the front and back joints, compared to when they’re strolling along on flat ground.
And if your dog is getting older and showing signs of stiffness, going up and down stairs can put extra pressure on their joints. In this case, a stair gate can be a good idea to stop them from following you up the stairs when it’s really not in their best interest.
You might also consider using a ramp if your pup has difficulty walking up indoor or outdoor steps. You can buy one ready-made, or do a quick online search and you’ll find all kinds of ingenious solutions.
If your dog doesn’t do stairs, it’s probably not because they’re being a diva. It’s possible they might have stiff joints. As well as the approaches we suggest here, why not consider giving them YuMOVE Joint Care PLUS, our high strength formula perfect for dogs with stiff joints, and clinically proven to work in just 6 weeks?*
* Canine study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College. Excluding YuMOVE Joint Care for Young Dogs.