Most of us take for granted the ability of our dogs to successfully negotiate flights of stairs, particularly if we have stairs within the home! Notwithstanding the first few times that young puppies learn to tackle the stairs, which can be highly amusing to watch, handling flights of stairs is something that most dogs do without thinking, and this is perfectly fine!
However, for some dogs, stairs can be problematic for them, or they might not be able to manage the stairs at all. Also, some breeds of dogs are at a disadvantage when tackling stairs, due to their size or build, and some breeds should not be expected to traverse flights of stairs at all, for their own wellbeing.
Read on to learn more about some of the reasons why certain dogs might be unable to manage flights of stairs.
Very small dogs might simply have problems tackling flights of stairs due to their small size, and what to us is a simple procedure can seem like climbing a mountain for some tiny canines! The graduation of the steps comes into play here too of course, such as the height of each individual step and how steep the incline is, and how many stairs there are altogether. The little Chihuahua and the tiny teacup Yorkie dog are just two of the smaller dog breeds that may need a hand getting up and down stairs!
Some other dog breeds that are not tiny but that have an unusual conformation may also have problems with the stairs, and in fact for some breeds, encouraging or allowing those dogs to tackle stairs at all should be discouraged for health reasons. Dogs that have short legs and long backs, such as the Dachshund, Corgi and Bassett Hound should be discouraged from climbing or descending stairs, for their own protection. Dogs with conformation of this type are particularly prone to spinal problems and ruptured discs, problems that can develop or worsen through climbing and descending stairs.
Some dogs that suffer from genetically inherited health problems might find stairs a challenge, and might have an existing condition exacerbated by climbing and descending stairs. Also, the process of tackling stairs on a regular basis may in some cases actually lead to the development of a condition that was potentially present within the dog, and so this is something that should be carefully considered by owners of dogs of these breeds. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and patellar luxation are three conditions that can be worsened or encouraged by climbing stairs, and generally, descending stairs is thought to be worse than ascending them. For dogs that are known to come from a breed line that is prone to any of these conditions, it is sometimes recommended that they are not permitted to ascend or descend stairs at all until they are at least two years old, and that they be discouraged from doing so even when mature.
As your dog gets older, they will naturally begin to lose some of their strength and muscle mass, and may be prone to stiffness and potentially, conditions such as arthritis. If your dog appears to be stiff or not able to move as freely as they used to do, climbing of any sort, including the stairs, may prove to be painful or challenging for them. Keep an eye on your aging dog and how they are managing with relation to climbing, and minimise their usage of steps and stairs if they start to run into difficulties.
Understandably, if your dog is injured or has undergone a surgical procedure on their legs or spine, they will find tackling the stairs problematic until they have healed, and should be prevented or discouraged from doing so. This might mean that you need to restrict your dog’s access to other parts of the home for a while, or carry them up and down stairs if this can be done safely for both you and the dog!
Once a dog has learnt to climb and descend stairs, it can be a challenge to stop them from doing this if they are determined! For dogs that will never be able to safely or comfortably tackle stairs, such as small dogs and dogs with conformation problems, this is less of an issue as the chances are that they will simply never learn to try it!
For other dogs, however, you might need to take a pro-active approach to keeping them off the stairs, such as by closing doors that provide access to the staircase, or by installing a baby gate of a large enough height that your dog cannot get over it!