How Old Before A Puppy Can Go Up/Down Stairs? (Vet Tech Explains)

How Old Before A Puppy Can Go Up or Down Stairs

The moment you bring home a new puppy is a moment unlike any other. A million thoughts are running through your brain and emotions are high. Not only do you have to think about food, training, and sleeping, but you also need to consider their safety. If your house isn’t already puppy proofed, you’ll have to work on that. Stairs are a particular area where puppies can get into trouble.

So, how old should a puppy be before it can go up and down stairs?

Puppies shouldn’t go up or down the stairs before 12 weeks of age but may need to be carried up and down until 6 months old. After that access to stairs depends on things like breed, size, and confidence. Stairs can be hazardous for puppies, by causing issues with hips and acute injuries from falls.

In this article, we’ll talk about what age you can start letting your puppy use the stairs. We’ll also talk about how to train your dog to use the stairs safely and how to prevent them from getting on the stairs in the first place. First, let’s discuss what age is appropriate for a puppy to go up and down stairs.

At What Age Can Puppies Go Up And Down Stairs?

Puppies under 12 weeks old should never go up and down stairs on their own. There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t let your three-month-old puppy use the stairs however, most of them come back to the development of their senses and musculoskeletal system. We’ll talk more below about how your puppy’s hips might be affected by going up and down the stairs too early.

According to the Royal SPCA, 12 weeks might not even be old enough of a cut-off. This animal organization recommends, carrying your puppy up and down the stairs until they’re at least six months old. Now, these age ranges vary based on breed, size, and individual.

It’s always possible that you might have a small dog who wants to go up the stairs and is confident or a big dog that is too scared to go down the stairs even when they’re older. If you’re worried about keeping your dog safe around the stairs, it’s best to limit access until they’re fully grown.

As you can see in the video below, this husky puppy is probably too young to be navigating the stairs.

Hopefully, his parents took him for a checkup at the vet after that fall!

Adult status comes at different times for different dogs. For miniature or toy breeds, 9 months is usually considered an adult age. At 12 months, small dogs between 15 and 25 pounds are full-grown. Medium-sized dogs reach adulthood around 14 months of age. Large dogs are mature at around 18 months of age. And giant breed dogs aren’t fully grown until about 24 months or two years of age.

Once your dog is fully grown and has proved their prowess with the stairs, you should be safe to let them go up and down as they please.

Are Stairs Bad For Puppies Hips?

Puppy hips are very different from adult dog hips. Going up and down the stairs too soon might cause permanent damage to your dog’s hips.

The reason for this is that puppies are born with cartilage hips, as opposed to hips made out of bone. This cartilage is not as dirty as the bone eventually will be. The ball of the hip is held into place by a ligament that is also not fully developed. If a puppy’s ligament stays intact and no injuries occur, a puppy’s hips will mature normally. The fall of the hip will stay in place and continue to grow into solid bone.

However, if the hips are damaged when a puppy is young, they’ll likely grow up with hip dysplasia. Stairs are one of the most common ways a puppy can injure their hips from the get-go. When a puppy goes down the stairs, most of its body weight is in its front legs. But, when they go down the stairs, a lot of weight and pressure ends up on the hind legs.

This impact alone can be enough to cause a tear or other injury to puppies’ soft hips. Try not to force your puppy into anything that stresses their hips out at a young age. So, besides falling, hip injuries are a big risk of letting your puppy climb the stairs before they’re ready.

Reasons Why Puppies Might Have A Hard Time With Stairs

Even if your puppy is technically old enough to start trying stairs, you might notice they have a difficult time navigating them. There are a few different reasons that explain why puppies just aren’t good at going up and down the stairs.

Reason 1: Vision

In general, puppies don’t have the best vision. Most puppies aren’t even able to open their eyes until they’re about 2 to 3 weeks old. For the next few weeks, their vision will be impaired, and their eyes won’t be fully mature. He might not be able to focus on the same things that an adult dog could easily see. As you can imagine, navigating stairs with a vision impairment, just makes everything more complicated.

In most cases, age will solve this problem. However, there are some breeds that are predisposed to cataracts. If you notice that your puppy’s eyes are cloudy or white, consider taking them to an ophthalmologist to get their eyes checked.

Reason 2: Underdeveloped Muscle

As puppies grow, all of their tissues grow with them. When puppies are young, their muscles, bones, and joints are underdeveloped. While this might make them super flexible it doesn’t make them the most athletic.

At this time in their life, puppies aren’t as strong as they will be one day. They’ll probably have issues doing simple tasks like going on walks, jumping up on furniture, or jumping off the bed, and, of course, climbing stairs.

If you provide a puppy with appropriate activities to focus on while they’re growing, they’ll be strong enough to climb the stairs in no time.

Reason 3: Lack Of Coordination

As we all know, puppies are somewhat uncoordinated. They’re clumsy and tend to fall even on flat surfaces.

A lack of coordination can be a big issue when stairs are involved. Stairs require the user to move their limbs together at the right time, and missing a stair could cause a big fall. Large breeds of dogs like Great Danes are even more uncoordinated as they’re growing because their body grows at such a fast rate.

Luckily, as puppies grow into their bodies they become more coordinated. As time goes on your puppy will become more confident and able to navigate stairs on their own. But at first, they don’t have the motor skills they need to climb up and down stairs.

How To Keep Your Puppy From Going Up The Stairs

If you have stairs in your house and also have a new puppy, don’t panic!

There are easy ways to keep your puppy from going up the stairs too soon. The most effective way to keep your puppy off the stairs is to put a barricade up. For most staircases, the easiest way to block them will be a baby gate.

A baby gate will keep your dog from going up the stairs without you knowing about it first. It might be a hassle, but hopefully, you’ll be able to step over the gate usually while your puppy gets stuck downstairs. Of course, if you want your puppy to come upstairs, you’ll just need to carry them for a while.

How To Help Your Puppy Get Up And Down The Stairs

Once your puppy is old enough, depending on their breed and size, you can start to help your puppy, go up and down the stairs.

There are two things you want to do as you’re teaching your puppy to climb a staircase.

1. Make Sure The Stairs Aren’t Slippery

Slippery stairs are a recipe for disaster. Your puppy has a better chance of success if your stairs are nice and grippy. If you have slippery wood or tile stairs, try adding a carpet, runner, or individual grips to each stair. Remember that this doesn’t have to be permanent, but will help your puppy. Learn to go up and down the stairs without feeling like they’re going to lose traction.

2. Add Cushions To The Bottom

There’s no guarantee that your puppy won’t fall down the stairs the first few times they try. While we want to avoid accidents if possible, that’s not always realistic. It’s a good idea to add some cushioning to the bottom of the stairs just in case your puppy falls. You can place couch, cushions, heavy, blankets, or pillows at the bottom of the stairs to break a fall.

3. Start Slow

If your puppy successfully navigates the stairs, don’t get too excited. One thing you really don’t want to do is push your puppy beyond its limits. Let them try the stairs once or twice each day until they feel confident and strong enough to go up them without encouragement.

Try not to force your puppy to go up or down the stairs if they don’t want to. Remember that they’ll get tired more easily and their bones and muscles aren’t developed like adult dogs are.

4. Don’t Place Them In The Middle of The Staircase

Lastly, you don’t ever want to place your dog in the middle of the staircase if they don’t know how to climb up and down the stairs. This might be tempting to help give your puppy the push they need to go up or down. However, if your puppy isn’t ready to go down the stairs, and get placed in the middle of them, you’re just asking for an accident.

Try to let your puppy start at the top or the bottom of the stairs, but they feel more secure and have time to plan out their next move.

Breeds To Keep Away From Stairs

Even though all puppies should stay away from stairs, until there a certain age, there are specific breeds of dogs that will have more issues with stairs. If your dog is one of the breeds below, pay special attention to how and when you let them go up and down stairs.

Basset Hounds, Daschunds, And Corgis

Basset hounds, dachshunds, and corgis all have very long bodies with very short legs. This body shape puts these dogs at a higher risk of injury when going up and down the stairs. That’s because their joints are under more stress, holding up their hefty body weight with their small limbs. If you have one of these puppies, keep them away from the stairs for longer than you might think.

Giant Breeds

On the other hand, some giant breeds might have issues with stairs.  Many giant dog breeds like Great Pyrenees, Great Danes, and Rottweilers faced issues with their joints at some point throughout their lives.

Allowing these dogs to go upstairs multiple times a day may put them at a higher risk of something like arthritis or hip dysplasia. If you have one of these dogs and stairs in your house, don’t worry, but also try to keep them from going up the stairs more times than they need to.

Older Dogs

Lastly, older dogs should always be kept away from stairs. Older dogs have less cartilage in their joints than younger dogs do. Repetitive weight-bearing movements, like going up and down the stairs, might cause existing arthritis to flare up and make them painful.  If your older dog hesitates or flinches when using the stairs, make sure to let your veterinarian know.

Final Thoughts

Puppies should never go up or down the stairs under 12 weeks of age. After that, puppies can start learning how to go up and downstairs with supervision. Remember that puppies shouldn’t have free range of stairs until they’ve reached adult age. Stairs can cause permanent damage to joints when puppies are young and it’s safest to just keep them away.

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