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Great Danes certainly come with their own unique requirements in terms of space, nutritional needs, and so forth. Just getting into the car with your Great Dane can take some prep work!
But some have suggested that Great Danes cannot or should not navigate stairs and therefore need a stair-free living arrangement as well.
So, can Great Danes use stairs?
Great Danes certainly can use stairs, but it’s a good idea to restrict stair usage for young Great Danes and be sure to train them how to safely navigate stairs to help prevent injuries from falls or overuse. Danes are strong dogs, and safe, moderate stair usage generally won’t cause any problems.
In this article, we’ll look at whether stairs cause health problems, why Dane puppies shouldn’t use stairs, some tips for safe stair navigation, and more.
Let’s dive in!
Do Stairs Cause Health Problems for Great Danes?
Stairs themselves don’t necessarily cause health problems for Great Danes. Some have suggested that stair usage might contribute to Great Danes developing hip dysplasia or other joint issues, but this hasn’t been proven. Rather, it’s unsafe or inappropriate usage of stairs that can potentially cause problems.
However, it is undeniable that going up and down stairs–and especially running up and down stairs–is a high-impact activity. Since Great Danes are so big and heavy, the impact is especially intense. Going down the stairs causes the most serious joint stress, as a Dane hops his front legs down to the next step and nearly his entire body weight impacts his shoulders.
This type of joint strain is of particular concern for young Great Dane puppies, as the growth plates in their bones haven’t yet closed. As such, their bones and joints are more prone to injury, and most vets recommend that Great Dane puppies should be limited to light, low-impact exercise for the first 12-24 months of their lives. This includes keeping them off the stairs for the most part until their bones and joints are fully developed.
For adult Great Danes, moderate stair usage isn’t likely to cause any joint problems, as long your Dane takes the stairs slowly and isn’t racing up and down them all day long.
The more likely scenario is that your Great Dane might fall on the stairs, which can result in bruising, muscle strains, fractures, head injuries, and, in extreme cases, even death. Such accidents could happen if the stairs aren’t well-lit, the stair surface is slippery, the stairs are very steep and/or narrow, and so forth.
But, with proper training and practice, Great Danes can certainly navigate stairs successfully. Many Danes thrive in agility events, and learning to climb stairs as well as agility training both encourage rear end awareness which will likely make your Dane less clumsy and injury-prone.
When Can Great Dane Puppies Climb Stairs?
As we covered above, Great Dane puppies should be restricted from racing up and down stairs in order to protect their growing bones and joints. However, they can and should be introduced to stairs at a young age, in order to get them used to the concept and develop the coordination necessary to go up and down stairs.
But, young Great Danes shouldn’t be given free rein to go up and down stairs as they please until they are at least one year old and in some cases until they are two years old. Your veterinarian can give you a specific recommendation regarding when your Dane is ready for stairs based on when his growth plates close and his overall rate of development.
Should You Avoid Homes With Stairs?
If you have a Great Dane and are looking for a new place to live, it’s not necessary to buy or rent a house or apartment with no stairs at all, which, honestly, could be fairly difficult anyways. Should you rent a fourth floor apartment with no elevator? Probably not. But, a few stairs leading to the front door will probably be just fine, and even a home with two or more levels can be suitable if your Dane will be spending the majority of his time on the ground floor.
The Type of Stairs Matters
The type and size of the stairs matter as well when it comes to safety for Great Danes. A long, steep staircase with shallow treads will be much more risky than a few low, deep steps. The surface of the stairs is also important – a slippery surface can cause falls while a grippy surface makes navigation easier and carpet can pad potential falls somewhat.
Existing Health Problems Can Make Stairs Harder or Impossible
Of course, if your Great Dane has already been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, arthritis, or other joint or mobility issues, stairs will be much harder for him or even impossible. If this is the case, you will likely need to install ramps, find a living arrangement with no stairs for your Dane, or block all access to stairs.
Tips For Having a Great Dane Use Stairs
Finally, here are some tips for helping your Great Dane get used to stairs and navigate them safely and successfully:
Introduce Stairs at a Young Age
Again, although Great Dane puppies should be restricted from intense stair usage, it is a good idea to introduce your Dane to stairs early, especially if he will regularly have to use the stairs as an adult. If possible, start your Dane puppy on a small, easy set of stairs and work up to longer, more demanding staircases as your Dane matures. As silly as it sounds, you may want to spot him on the stairs as he’s learning so you can prevent a small slip from becoming a tumble down the entire flight of stairs.
Carry Young Great Dane Puppies
If you live somewhere with a serious flight of stairs leading to your door, you may want to carry your Great Dane puppy up and down the stairs until he gets too big and heavy to do so. But, be sure to introduce the use of stairs occasionally so he will be prepared for when he has to navigate them himself. By carrying him the majority of the time, you can help prevent joint damage – plus you’ll get a good workout!
Use a Leash to Teach Speed Control
When teaching your Great Dane to use the stairs, it’s a good idea to keep him on a leash so you can control his speed and keep him from bounding up and down the stairs or taking a wild leap from the top. Train him with positive reinforcement to take the stairs slowly.
Practice makes perfect, so be sure to train on the stairs regularly as your Dane rapidly grows up and even as an adult.
And, as you can see in this video, it never hurts to have a few role models to show your Dane how it’s done:
Make Sure Stairs Are Well-Lit and Not Slippery
Ensuring that your Great Dane can see what he’s doing as he navigates the stairs is a simple way to help prevent accidents. Any dark areas are potentially hazardous for Danes, but especially so if your Dane has poor eyesight or depth perception, or problems with coordination or mobility.
If your Great Dane can see the stairs, it’s likely that his natural caution will kick in and he’ll take care on the stairs. But, if he can’t see where he’s going or even see that the stairs are there at all, he could potentially take a big tumble.
Supervise Stair Usage
It’s always a good idea to supervise your Great Dane as he learns to use stairs and even afterwards. While simply watching won’t do much to prevent an accident, it can allow you to see if your Great Dane needs more training or practice regarding the stairs. It can also serve as a diagnostic tool – many times a Great Dane will be able to walk normally on flat ground but when it comes time to do the stairs, he might show signs of pain, imbalances, or other trouble with mobility.
If your Great Dane seems reluctant or struggles to go up stairs but is fine going down them, he may have problems in hind legs or hips. If the opposite is true, his front legs or shoulders might be bothering him. Or, if your dog struggles to balance while on the stairs or can’t seem to lift or lower his head appropriately, he may be suffering from spinal and neurological issues. If you suspect an issue, have your vet check him out to be sure.
Block Access to Stairs
If your Great Dane can’t be trusted to safely use the stairs or you need to keep your boisterous Dane puppy from sprinting up and down the stairs, you may want to block his access to the stairs completely with a baby gate or closed door. Confining your Dane to a single stair-free level of your home can help him stay safe, especially if you aren’t there to supervise.
If your Great Dane is completely unable to navigate the stairs for whatever reason, you may wish to install a ramp to help him get around. While this isn’t really practical for a long flight of stairs, it can be helpful if you have a sunken living room, a couple of steep stairs to your front door, or some other small staircase that your Dane regularly needs to get up or down.
Be sure to choose a ramp that has a grippy surface so your Dane doesn’t slip, and make sure that the pitch of the ramp isn’t so steep that it’s just as difficult as stairs.
Great Danes can definitely navigate stairs, but it can take some training and practice. And, young Dane puppies should be limited in their staircase aerobics as too much intense exercise can damage their growing joints. If your Great Dane has mobility issues, you may wish to spare him from staircases altogether by arranging a single-story living situation for him or installing ramps.
With some basic precautions, your Dane will soon be navigating the stairs like a pro!