When Can German Shepherds Climb Stairs? (Plus how to Build Your Own DIY Dog Stairs)

Categorized as German Shepherd Puppy
German shepherd climbing stairs

When I first brought home my German Shepherd puppy, I didn’t think much about my stairs. Until that is, I saw my little guy struggling to use them. Suddenly, I was filled with concerned questions: Should my puppy be using the stairs?

And if so, when can German Shepherds climb stairs? It turns out that German Shepherds can use stairs once they’re at least 3 months old and until they reach their senior years, or until they start developing joint problems. Read on to learn why this is the case, how to safely introduce puppies to stairs, and the answers to further stair-related questions you might have.

Teaching Puppies to Climb Stairs

If you have a puppy who needs or wants to use stairs, it’s important that you show him how in the right way at the right time.

When Can German Shepherds Climb Stairs?

3 months old German shepherd waiting for her owner

Puppies of any breed shouldn’t be using stairs before they are at least 3 months old. One reason for this is their lack of coordination.

Trying to navigate the uneven height of stairs and added pull of gravity with their short legs and muddled reflexes is potentially dangerous for a puppy. A few slips and tumbles are to be expected with developing dogs, but a long fall down a flight of stairs could cause serious injuries.

Additionally, using stairs puts a lot of pressure on joints, and the under-developed systems of newly born puppies aren’t equipped to handle this. Using stairs too early can introduce or worsen a pre-existing susceptibility to joint issues.

German Shepherds in particular are prone to issues like hip dysplasia, which is a condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit properly in the socket. According to PetCareRx, 19% of German Shepherds will develop this condition at some point in their lives, though most who will struggle with this develop issues by the time they’re 4 months old.

How to Get Your Puppy to Use the Stairs

Once your puppy is old enough to use the stairs, they should be shown how under careful supervision.

Start by clearing your stairs and the floor above and below of all clutter. Make sure the stairs have some kind of traction support like carpet or traction tape.

Once your preparation is complete, set your puppy at the bottom of the stairs. If your puppy needs some encouragement, try coaxing them up the stairs with small pieces of treats. You can do this by holding the treat in front of the puppy’s nose, then slowly move it to the next stair until the puppy follows along.

Be patient and encouraging and be sure to make this a positive training experience so your puppy learns to associate the stairs with good things, not anxiety or getting yelled at.

Why Your German Shepherd May Be Afraid of Stairs

Potential Health Problems

Your German Shepherd may be hesitant to use stairs if he has some issues with his joints or limbs. If your dog seems to have trouble standing up, laying down, or running in addition to being hesitant around stairs, he probably has some health problems. Talk to your vet to rule this out before you press your dog to use the stairs.

Traumatic Experiences

Your dog may not want to use stairs if he has had trouble with them before. If this is the case, he will usually display signs of anxiety like ears pinned back and tail tucked between the legs.

Gentle encouragement and lots of positive reinforcements with treats and praise should help your dog overcome his anxiety.

Lack of Familiarity

Your dog may also seem afraid of the stairs if he hasn’t been exposed to them much before. To avoid this, familiarize your dog with stairs once they reach 3 months old. If you have an older dog who is trying to navigate stairs for the first time, support, treats, and encouragement should overcome the problem.

How to Build Dog Stairs Yourself

Step 1. Measure

Measure the height of the platform your puppy is trying to reach. This is the height of your tallest stair. The rest of the stairs should then descend by around 6 inches. So, if the height of your tallest stair needs to be 24 inches, you will end up with 4 stairs at 6 inches, 12 inches, 18 inches, and 24 inches.

You’ll also need to measure the length of your steps. If your dog’s legs span 12 inches, you should make the steps around 14 inches long. The tops of the steps and the step faces would then be 1x6x14 inches.

Step 2. Cut

Cut 2 planks at each of the different lengths you will need. This will give you your side pieces, the tops of your steps, and your step faces.

Step 3. Assemble

Attach the steps and step faces to the long supports and the long supports to each other using wood glue and strong nails.

Step 4. Sand

Use fine grit sandpaper to sand off any rough edges. You should also add some carpet pieces or traction tape.

1. Are Stairs Bad for Large Dogs?

Not necessarily. Large dogs are prone to joint issues, but according to PetMD, stairs generally reveal issues that are already there, they don’t cause them, as long as your dog doesn’t start using stairs when they’re too young.

2. Are Stairs Good Exercise for Dogs?

Stairs are excellent exercise for dogs. Running up and down stairs is great cardio, and it forces them to use muscles that aren’t exercised as much when walking or running.

3. Are Stairs Bad for Older Dogs?

Stairs can be bad for older dogs who are dealing with arthritis or other joint problems. If your dog is older and struggles with stairs, consider getting a ramp.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.