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Can Basset Hounds Climb Stairs? [Safety Considerations For Owners]

Basset hounds are notorious for their large bodies on short legs. It can make moving around less than ideal and they can even be quite amusing to watch. But what about the stairs? Can, and should, this breed be using the stairs or must they be avoided entirely? I decided to research the breed, consult with some vets and speak to some other basset owners. Here is a summary of the information I found.

So can Basset Hounds climb stairs? Basset hounds can physically climb stairs, both up and down, and will likely attempt to do so if given the opportunity. However, use of stairs should be limited. Basset Hounds are prone to injuries with repetitive stair use. This is due to their stature; both being long-backed and having front-loaded bodies. Overweight Basset Hounds and those with existing injuries should avoid stairs entirely.

Basset Hounds are very heavy-boned, possessing a long body and a somewhat rectangular appearance. From an anatomical perspective, it doesn’t really make sense that they would be able to climb stairs – but as we know with most dogs – when there is a will there is a way!

Let us now take a closer look at the Basset Hound and their abilities to climb stairs. We’ll also be covering some practical alternatives so be sure to keep on reading until the end!

Should Basset Hounds Climb Stairs

Whether your Basset Hound should or even can climb stairs will ultimately depend on context. It will depend on your dogs health status, age, weight, the type of stairs they are looking to climb (and how steep they are) and of course, how often.

While there does not appear to be any publicly available studies on the topic, there are a lot of reports from owners and anecdotes that we can leverage.

So, what is the general consensus?

Fully grown Basset Hounds (aged 2 years and older) who are in good physical health, without any injuries, should be safe to climb stairs every once and a while.

Being at full physical maturity is essential; it ensures their growth plates have sealed and it does not lead to stunted growth or pain. Equally, their joints and bones will be much stronger after this time.

Either way, stair climbing, both up and down, should never be a common occurrence. You do have to be especially careful with this breed.

For example, one of the biggest potential risks to a Basset Hound in the short term includes falling down stairs.

For this reason, you should always remain close and monitor your Basset as they attempt stairs. They should not ideally be left to take on stairs alone, or have free run and access to them at any given moment.

Interestingly, some owners have reported that they have added particular stairs for certain contexts to support their basset hounds when they do need to get up somewhere. In these situations, stairs are considered preferable to leaping and jumping.

One of the best things you can do to prevent injuries and issues, especially back problems at any age of a bassets life, is to prevent them from becoming overweight. This is easily done in this breed and adds a lot of additional stress to their joints, bones and frame.

Ultimately, you have to be cautious with stairs and Bassets.

There are plenty of examples of Basset Hounds developing back troubles later in life.

In Bassets with back issues, vets will often recommend that any stair-climbing and jumping is prohibited entirely.

We have to remember the unique bodies they have. They have a heavier front half which can make going down stairs problematic if done too regularly. This is likely why they sort of bunnyhop down stairs, using both of their front feet at the same time and both of their back feet going together too.

You’ll want to therefore limit stair climbing to only when they really need to use them; say twice a day in the morning and at night prior to bed.

Its also important to note that not all Basset Hounds will be confident or willing to use stairs. This is fine and is to be exepcted.

Some owners report that they even need to train their dog to use them, when they reach the appropriate age.

Just never force your Basset to use stairs, especially if they are showing signs of discomfort.

When Should Your Basset Hound Not Climb Stairs

Due to the delicate backs and the length of their bodies, certain movements like stair climbing are not practical or even recommended for certain Basset Hounds.

Below, are some of the circumstances where stairs are best avoided:

Puppies And Basset Hounds Under 2 Years of Age

It comes strongly advised to not encourage or allow stair climbing and/or jumping until your Basset Hound reaches two years of age.

Bassets are very heavy-boned with a large body on fairly short legs. They are equally bulky and mature slower than other breeds. They do not often reach their full adult size and physical maturity until 2 years of age.

So under two years of age, a bassets legs have not developed to a point where they can fully support the impact and pressure of stairs. It can lead to issues that develop over time.

Growth plates can be damaged and affected too; even leading to deformities that are impossible to correct and lead to pain. Expensive surgery may be required later down the line.

Once your Basset is around 2 years old, their growth should have completed and stairs will be less problematic.

However, if you suspect that your basset has not fully developed, even by the 2 year stage, you should hold off letting them use the stairs. They may be a slower developer. Your vet will be able to offer support here and should be advise you as to when your basset hound has reached maturity.

Health Complications

There are several health problems that the Basset hound are susceptible to. These will make stairs either not appropriate, more challenging and therefore dangerous, or outright painful.

For the following conditions, you will likely notice signs of pain in your dog, or other behaviors which indicate that something is not quite right.

Neurological disease is also known as wobbler disease/syndrome, due to its effects on your dogs movement. It leads to a dog not being able to feel their feet. As such, unstable legs, stumbling and falling are common. As you can imagine, stairs are not possible or even advisable when a dog has this condition.

Heart disease will result in your Basset feeling weak or tired, potentially fainting and/or collapsing. Breathing is also impacted. Again, this condition can prevent safe use of stairs.

Injuries

The following injuries may arise as your Basset ages, or can be a consequence of too much jumping/climbing. They typically occur in Bassets of older age:

Hip and elbow dysplasia is an inherited disease that prevents joints from developing properly. It results in arthritis and can be very painful for a dog – restricting movement. Stiffness in the hips/elbows are likely to be experienced and you may notice that your dog has lameness in their legs and struggles to get up from lying down.

Back problems with Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) being one of the most common. This condition occurs mainly in dogs with long backs and short legs, so the Basset more susceptible than in some other breeds. This condition causes spinal discs to press against the spinal cord. This will likely result in an unwillingness or inability to jump or climb stairs, alongside pain, hunching, crying and even paralysis in more advanced cases. If you suspect symptoms, you must contact a vet at the earliest opportunity.

Spinal Deformities can even arise from birth, causing instability or disability. Usually it is clear when a dog has spinal deformities and your vet will likely confirm this to you. In this context, stairs are unlikely to be appropriate.

Despite their stature, Bassets are still very active. They can develop injuries just by living their day to day lives.

If an injury develops, your Basset will need time to heal. Climbing stairs during this time will likely be counterproductive to healing.

So, if your Basset is inured, you should look to prevent any climbing or jumping as far as you can. This includes any injuries to the hips, legs, back or even muscles.

When your Basset has fully recovered from injury, stairs may be able to be introduced slowly but you do need to remain cautious and careful. If an injury persists or develops again, stairs may be the causal factor or something that they are not quite ready for.

Obesity

Basset hounds are prone to obesity and this can cause a lot of issues in this breed.  The most common include problems, digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. 

Any additional weight needs to be carried; and taking this load up the stairs adds to the pressure on joints and limbs.

For this reason, you must ensure you are providing adequate and appropriate exercise and providing them with a high quality diet. From there you should do what you can to limit any excess weight they may have accumulated.

Old Age

As your Basset ages, they may not be able to climb stairs effectively due to a restriction in general mobility or even eyesight.

Often, stairs are not advised for older dogs for these very reasons.

How Do I Stop My Basset Hound From Climbing Stairs?

Limiting or stopping your Basset Hound from using the stairs is simple for some, but for others it can be more challenging.

It depends on the layout of your home, your Bassets temperament, desire to climb stairs, their access around your home, and so on.

Equally, it doesn’t help that Basset hounds are devoted and affectionate, keen to spend time with their owners and will do so by following them around.

So, you may need to think a bit creatively on how you can stop or limit the use of stairs. Here are some of the best and often recommended techniques:

Set Up A Dog Pen

Pens designed for larger dogs are a great way to restrict a dogs movement, but to still give them sufficient room and not to confine them to a cage or a crate.

This Exercise Pen from Amazon is fantastic – its a great price, is very durable and you can easily move it as it can set up and collapsed quickly.

Child Gates

This is a common option for many as it enables your Basset to have free roam while still being limited access.

You can close off entire spaces and rooms without restricting your own acess.

This is the gate that I would get from Amazon, if this is the route you wanted to go.

Shut Doors, Restrict General Access

The free option is to simply shut doors, close spaces and prevent your Basset from being able to climb the stairs.

You will likely need to be more careful here, present and mindful. But it does work well if you are around more often than not.

You’ll need to think about the layout of your house and ensure that your dog cannot sneak their way through to the stairs.

Just make sure all doors are closed securely and be sure to listen out for your dog.

In Summary

Healthy, adult Basset hounds can climb stairs and are usually willing to do so.

However, not all Bassets will be as willing, and not all should be able to. Young age, health complications, obesity and injuries are perhaps the most common reasons to prevent a Basset from using stairs; and it is in both you and your dogs interest to do so.

Ultimately, you need to consider your own context, dog, and situation. What might be the right thing to do now may be different later on.

Only you will know what is right for you and your dog.

But remember, the health and safety of your Basset is always the priority. Irregardless of if you want them upstairs or downstairs with you at all times.