Are Stairs Bad for Golden Retrievers?

Stairs aren’t necessarily bad for young, healthy Golden Retrievers, but they can be a problem for little pups or elderly Golden Retrievers. It’ll also depend on the stairs – one step to get through the back door is different from taking a steep flight of outdoor stairs after it’s rained.

A Golden Retriever with health issues like arthritis or hip or joint problems could end up aggravating their condition by taking the stairs. If they have mobility issues, it’s also possible that they could hurt themselves when trying to go up or down. 

Read on for a further look into whether stairs are bad for Golden Retrievers, to find out some safety tips to help keep your Golden Retriever safe when they’re using stairs, and more.

Stairs: Good or Bad for Golden Retrievers?

If you’re struggling to decide whether it’s best to let your Golden Retriever use stairs or not, then have a look at the pros and cons listed below. It’s ultimately up to you as their owner to decide whether you’ll let them use the stairs.

Benefits of Golden Retrievers Using the Stairs

There are a number of benefits your Golden Retriever can get from regularly using the stairs:

  • Strength building in their legs, hips, back, and shoulders.
  • It can increase the range of motion for a Golden with arthritis.
  • Boost their muscle and tendon strength.
  • Resistance training (from gravity).
  • Improves coordination.

As long as they’re in good health and the stairs are safe, the risk is low when your Golden Retriever uses the stairs. They’ll have access to more places in your house and it’ll save you from having to block the stairs off or carry them up and down.

Drawbacks of Golden Retrievers Using the Stairs

As with anything, there are also negatives that can come with a Golden Retriever using the stairs. Since Golden Retrievers are prone to certain illnesses, their joints can be aggravated by using the stairs.

Health conditions that can be aggravated by the stairs:

Arthritis is inflammation of the joints because the cartilage there is damaged. As the cartilage recedes, the bones at the joint rub together, which will cause your Goldie a lot of pain. This can make a short flight of stairs into a painful trek. 

Hip Dysplasia is where the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t align as they should. It means they won’t work as easily as they should, and they’ll have pain and limited mobility as the ball and socket rub against each other.

Look out for the following signs of a hip or joint issue that might need mean your Golden Retriever shouldn’t be using the stairs:

  • Limping.
  • Difficulty getting up.
  • If they can’t stand for long.
  • Low energy.
  • Struggling to walk.
  • Not wanting to exercise.

If your Golden Retriever doesn’t have any of these health issues, they should be just fine going up and down the stairs. You’ll need to just continue to monitor them, and make a vet trip if you begin noticing the signs of a problem.

If you want to learn more about these health conditions, check out this post.

Safety Tips for Your Golden Retriever Using the Stairs

The stairs can cause injuries for even the healthiest Golden Retriever. But there are some precautions you can take to make it as safe as can be:

  • Clean up spills: Any dirt or spills (especially liquids like water) can make wooden stairs dangerous to use. This also goes for if your Goldie’s paws are wet and they walk on hardwood flooring. 
  • Add a carpet or runner: Adding a fabric on top of a hard floor will massively increase your Goldie’s traction. It might even prevent slips and falls on the stairs if they have a better grip.
  • Make a clear path: Try not to leave stuff on the stairs – like shoes, bags, or anything that can turn into an extra obstacle on the stairs. By further reducing the space on the stairs, your Golden might struggle to get past it or trip over it. 
  • Watch out for railings: If you have railings alongside your stairs with gaps between them, you’ll have to be careful that your Golden pup doesn’t get their head stuck or fall between them. You might be best waiting until your pup is too big for this to be a problem before they’re allowed on the stairs.
  • Watch out for gaps in the stairs: In a similar vein, if your stairs are in a style where there are gaps between each step, there’s a risk of a paw or whole pup falling through the hole if they misjudge it. 
  • Add lighting: If there isn’t good lighting where the stairs are, consider adding some. Poorly lit or dark staircases will be harder to use by a Golden Retriever and may result in injury.

If you’re out of the house and using stairs, make sure your Goldie takes them at their own pace. Also, keep close so you can grab them if they stumble. If you don’t know if they can make it, consider carrying them or taking an alternate route. 

Alternatives to Stairs for Your Golden Retriever

If you’re worried about your Goldie managing the stairs, there are a few adaptions you can make to help them avoid it. 

You could install a dog ramp. This can be introduced at any time in your Goldie’s life. It can be used to get in and out of vehicles as well as around the house. They might not work for tall flights of stairs but are useful for shorter flights. You might have to train and encourage your Golden to use a ramp if they haven’t come across one before.

Another option is to carry your Golden Retriever – if they aren’t too heavy! This means they can continue using the upper floors of your house and you have peace of mind that they can avoid risk by being carried.

Or, if you want to completely remove the risk, you can use a stair gate to block off the stairs. This will mean your Golden can’t tackle the stairs even if they wanted to. 

If you’re worried about your Golden Retriever’s mobility, you can speak to your vet and look into medication or supplements. This can give them a boost, but you’ll need to make sure it’s right for your Goldie and that it’s alongside exercise and a healthy, balanced diet.

When a Golden Retriever Should Be Using the Stairs

As mentioned above, the stairs are only bad in certain situations. Young puppies or elderly Golden Retrievers shouldn’t risk using the stairs and are at increased risk of injury if they do. But there’s a happy medium where they can safely take themselves up and down. 

Check out below to find out when it’s appropriate for your Goldie to use the stairs:

When Can Golden Retriever Puppies Start Using the Stairs?

A Golden Retriever shouldn’t be allowed to climb the stairs until they’re over twelve weeks old. It might be closer to sixteen weeks for some Goldens. Before they can use the stairs, their hip joints should have the chance to fully develop so they don’t get damaged. 

It also takes a lot of energy and muscles that they’re not used to using in order to tackle a full flight of stairs. If you don’t think they’re ready, it’s better to wait a little longer before letting them try. Make sure you’re on hand to help them in case they get themselves into trouble.

When Should an Elderly Golden Retriever Stop Using the Stairs?

There isn’t an exact age when your Golden Retriever should stop going up and down the stairs. You’ll have to judge it based on your Golden’s ability and if they are suffering from any conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia that can be worsened by using the stairs. 

If your Golden Retriever usually sleeps upstairs you should gradually encourage them to sleep downstairs, and perhaps invest in a stairgate to block them from going up. Though they probably won’t like it, it might save a nasty trip or injury.

How to Teach a Golden Retriever How to Use Stairs

Climbing up or down stairs isn’t a skill that Golden Retriever puppies are born knowing how to do. When you bring them home, you might need to teach them how to use stairs.

To teach your Goldie how to use stairs, follow these steps:

  1. Assess your Golden Retriever: If they’re a pup, they should be at least 12 weeks old. If they’re older, they shouldn’t have any serious mobility or health issues. If they do, then it’s probably not worth teaching them how to use stairs.
  2. Make sure they’re leash trained: You want your Goldie to be comfortable walking on a leash beside you and obedient to your commands. For example, leash trained so they aren’t fighting you as you walk and so they take cues to stop or carry on walking with a hand gesture or word from you.
  3. Sit them on the bottom stair: Let them see the rest of the stairs and pause for a moment. When they’re calm and listening, continue to the next step.
  4. Start walking up the stairs: Take it slow and gently tug on their leash so they understand they’re supposed to follow. Remember to give plenty of encouragement and praise as they start going up. 
  5. Celebrate at the top: Once they reach the top, praise your Golden Retriever and perhaps give them a treat. This positively reinforces the behaviour. 
  6. Now repeat these steps but in reverse to go down: This might be harder as your Goldie has to learn how to go head first. Make sure you stay close so you can catch them if they start to fall. Plenty of encouragement and patience will be needed here.
  7. Keep practicing: After managing to go up and down a few times, they should grow in confidence. After a short time, they’ll be able to use the stairs independently. Make sure they aren’t missing steps or going too fast.

Remember to not show frustration or use harsh tones while your Golden Retriever is learning. It’s daunting to tackle the big stairs, and your impatience will only cause greater anxiety. Slow and steady is key here.

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