If you’ve only just brought a new puppy home, you may be wondering whether they can climb the stairs? And even if they can climb stairs, should they? Can it cause harm? Are there ways to make it safer for them? Well, here’s everything you’ll need to know about puppies climbing stairs.
So, can puppies climb stairs? Some puppies may be able to climb stairs, but that does not mean they should. The safest thing to do is to carry puppies up and down stairs until they are at least 6 months old (and even older, for large breeds). After that, you can teach your puppy how to safely go up and down stairs.
The best practice is to avoid giving your puppy free access to stairs until he is fully grown.
Now, that may be a little challenging depending on the layout of your home, or your daily schedule.
But it is essential that you proactively do all you can to limit access.
Let us now explore why this is the case before moving on to strategies to help prevent it!
Should Puppies Climb Stairs?
As a general rule, puppies shouldn’t climb stairs, especially when they are under 12 weeks of age. The occasional stair climbing may be okay, but this is not something you should regularly allow or actively promote.
Why Puppies Shouldn’t Climb Stairs
Young puppies won’t have a solid grip when climbing stairs, so they can easily fall and injure themselves, sometimes with fatal results.
Most falling accidents are caused by polished or wooden stairs that have been waxed and are, therefore, slippery for your puppy.
Sprains or broken bones are just some of the problems that could result if your puppy takes a fall.
Some injuries from a fall can lead to serious health problems in later life (see below).
Even if your puppy doesn’t injure himself physically, his confidence can take a hard hit if he slips or falls, making him that much harder to train.
Fearful puppies will often resort to destructive behaviors or develop anxiety or stress-related behavioral problems.
How To Prevent Your Puppy From Climbing Stairs
When your puppy is too young to climb stairs (in other words, before he’s an adult), you should block off the stairs so that he isn’t tempted to climb.
The best and most efficient way to block off stairs from a curious puppy is to use a baby gate or stair gate.
Put one gate across the top of the stairs and another at the bottom.
Be sure that the gates are high enough so that your puppy can’t climb over and strong enough so that he can’t push them open.
If you don’t have gates set up yet when you bring your puppy home, block off the stairs with whatever furniture or other heavy objects you have handy.
As long as it’s big enough to block access for your puppy, it can work.
Alternatively, you will have to keep your puppy away from the room that has the stairs until he reaches adulthood, and you can train him to climb and go down stairs safely.
At What Age Can a Puppy Climb Stairs?
The most appropriate age for puppies to climb stairs is when they reach adulthood.
The exact age at which puppies become adult dogs depends on their breed. The bigger the breed, the longer it takes for a puppy to become an adult. Below is a rough guide.
- Very small dogs (under 12 pounds in weight as an adult) usually reach adulthood at around 9 months of age. Examples of these breeds are Chihuahuas, Affenpinschers, and Papillons.
- Small dogs (13 to 25 pounds in weight as an adult) typically reach adulthood at around 12 months of age. Small dog breeds include French Bulldogs, Cavalier Spaniels, and Boston Terriers.
- Medium dogs (26 to 50 pounds in weight as an adult) can reach adulthood at around 14 months of age. Examples of these dog breeds are Retrievers, Brittany Spaniels, and Border Collies.
- Large dogs (51 to 75 pounds in weight as an adult) usually reach adulthood at around 18 months of age. These dog breeds include Airedale Terriers, Afghan Hounds, and Pointers.
- Giant dogs (over 76 pounds in weight as an adult) can reach adulthood at around 24 months of age. Giant dog breeds include Neapolitan Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and Akitas.
If your new puppy will grow up to be a large dog, you can see that you may have some heavy lifting to do for quite some time!
The larger dog breeds are prone to hip and joint issues. If their joints are overworked as puppies, they risk joint pain and stiffness as they age.
Fortunately, there are other ways to help your dog with stairs other than lifting them (see below).
Is It Good For Puppies To Climb Stairs?
It isn’t good for puppies to climb stairs because it can cause various health and safety issues.
Puppies who are full of energy and new to climbing stairs can have serious accidents.
They don’t exactly have lots of self-control or self-awareness: they are eager to explore and will run down stairs if given half a chance.
You wouldn’t want your puppy to fall down a flight of stairs and break growing bones.
And puppies will keep jumping, running, and climbing until they pass out from exhaustion.
Climbing stairs is very demanding physically, especially when you have small legs – stairs are made for people, not for dogs.
Risk of Arthritis When Older
If your puppy puts too much strain on his hip joints by climbing or jumping up (or down) stairs, he will be at a greater risk of developing arthritis as he gets older.
A study has demonstrated that puppies who climb stairs before adulthood are more likely to develop hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia, a progressive and degenerative disease of the hip joints, is the number one cause of rear-end lameness in dogs.
There is no cure for hip dysplasia, although there are treatments available to help dogs with pain relief.
Because of the severity of hip dysplasia, it makes sense to take precautions by carrying your puppy up and down stairs, or restricting access. Once your puppy is fully grown, he can climb steps safely without risk to his developing bones and joints.
If you suspect your dog could have hip dysplasia, here are some common symptoms to look for:
- Decrease in thigh muscle mass
- A swaying gait (also called ‘bunny hopping’)
- Lameness in the hind quarters
- Decreased range of motion
- Difficulty or reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs
- Joints grate during movement
How To Help Puppies Climb Stairs Safely
You can do various things in order to help your puppy access stairs safely.
Wait Till He’s Fully Grown
If your puppy will be climbing stairs himself, wait until he is fully grown before introducing him to steps.
Once his bones and muscles have fully developed, he’ll be able to climb stairs without harming himself. He will thank you when he’s older!
Walk him up and down the stairs slowly, with him wearing a harness and a lead.
Don’t let him start navigating stairs without you around – it’s your responsibility to teach him to climb and go down safely.
Don’t allow your dog to jump up or bounce down stairs, or skip steps. Teach him to take the stairs slowly, using treats for encouragement if needed.
Here’s a step-by-step method for your dog’s first foray onto the stairs:
- Begin at the bottom, as climbing up is easier (going down the stairs could seem to your dog as if he were about to fall).
- Put a treat on the first step up.
- When your dog reaches the treat, put another one on the next step up, and so on.
- Follow your dog up – they could fall back down.
- When your dog reaches the top, give him lots of praise!
- Use the same technique to start going down the stairs, staying close to your dog to keep him safe.
Put Down Carpeting
If you have hardwood stairs, consider carpeting them or putting a carpet runner down the middle for your dog to use.
Better to avoid any accidents: your dog can easily slip on hardwood stairs, no matter his age.
You can always remove the carpeting or padding when your dog is more confident with going up and down the stairs in your home.
You may wish to install ramps in your home to help your dog navigate steps without putting a strain on his hip joints.
Ramps are helpful to use over stairs and assist a dog in climbing onto your bed.
If you enjoy having your dog sleep with you, having him jump up onto your bed isn’t recommended while he’s a puppy, as he’ll put a similar strain on his hip joints.
You can buy or make a ramp that will allow him to safely climb onto your bed or onto his bed if it’s elevated.
Limit The Frequency
Limit the number of times your dog has to climb stairs: where possible, lift him onto your bed, into your car, etc.
The less he has to jump or climb, the easier life will be for his joints as he ages.
Make Sure Your Breed Of Dog Can Climb Stairs
Some dog breeds should never climb stairs, whether they’re puppies or adults.
Dogs with hefty bodies and short legs usually shouldn’t climb stairs. Some examples of these breeds are:
Stairs were not designed with dogs in mind, let alone puppies!
They are not only largely impractical for them, but they can actually cause a wide range of problems and issues.
For this reason, it is best that you do all you can to limit stair access.
Only introduce the stairs once your puppy has had a chance to develop and grow.
Even then, the less impact your dog has to take on their joints, the better.
Are Stairs Bad For Puppies Hips?
Stairs are bad for a puppy’s hips, especially if they are routinely used or a puppy is particularly young. Excessive stair use can result in damage to hip ligaments, which in time can result in hip dysplasia.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.