Can Golden Retrievers Climb Stairs? (And at What Age?)


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Chances are, regardless of where you live (apartment, condo, or house), you have stairs. And, if you are a Golden Retriever owner, then it is inevitable that your dog will need to climb those stairs. So, that begs the question: can Golden Retrievers climb stairs? 

Adult Golden Retrievers can climb stairs with no issues if they are in good health. However, stairs may pose a problem if the dog is older or suffering from health issues that affect mobility. Climbing stairs may also be difficult and risky for young puppies, so they should be monitored to prevent falls. 

Stairs are fine for healthy adult Golden Retrievers

Climbing stairs at some point is almost a given for a Golden Retriever. However, it’s not a problem for most dogs and should pose no issues. 

However, there are a few instances when care must be taken, which will be discussed. Additionally, we will also explore some benefits of stairs and if there is an age restriction when a dog should climb stairs.

At What Age Can Golden Retriever Puppies Climb Stairs?

For pet owners with Golden Retriever puppies, stairs are an understandable concern. Often their little bodies have difficulty navigating and climbing stairs. So, understandably pet owners may wonder when (at what age) can a Golden Retriever puppy climb stairs. 

Healthy Golden Retrievers puppies can safely climb stairs at 12 weeks of age. However, Golden Retrievers can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Therefore, preventing or limiting access to stairs until they are eight months of age or older can help decrease abnormal development of the joints. 

So, it depends. If you believe your Golden Retriever puppy will have no hip or elbow issues, then 12 weeks is the minimum safe age. 

However, consider that Golden Retrievers are often highly prone to hip dysplasia and have a medium risk for elbow dysplasia. 

According to Embrace Pet Insurance, Golden Retrievers are at a 20% risk for hip dysplasia [Source] and 11.4% for elbow dysplasia. [Source

Larger breed dogs such as Golden Retrievers can grow too quickly, and the hip and elbow joints do not have time to properly fuse or grow normally. Both dysplasias are inherited. 

The concern is that before 8 months of age the stress from stairs on the hip joints may interfere with the normal development of the sockets. [Source].

I would suspect this applies to elbows as well, especially considering that going downstairs puts a lot of stress on the front of a dog’s legs. [Source]  

If you’re interested in the most serious and costly health issues in Golden Retrievers, then check out this article I wrote: The Most Serious and Costly Health Issues in Golden Retrievers

Stair can be dangerous for young puppies

If you purchased your dog from a high-level breeder, they might have assessed their breeding stock to ensure no hip and elbow issues. These dogs are often examined between four to 24 months of age and then certified as having no problems. 

Alternately, if no certification is done and you trust the breeder, you can take their word that there are no issues. 

While hip and elbow certifications are no guarantee of an issue-free dog, it does add some degree of confidence. However, if there is any doubt, or you just wish to err on the side of caution, it certainly won’t hurt to limit access to stairs. 

Our Golden Retriever did not come from parents with hip and elbow certifications. However, the breeder noted the parents had no joint issues, and we were comfortable letting Bailey on small flights of stairs (two to three stairs only). 

However, we blocked access to any large flight of stairs, including the upstairs and basement. As a result, Bailey was almost a year old before he had access to the upstairs. 

Considering how Bailey sprints up and downstairs now, including often jumping the last few, I’m glad we waited

I discuss some tips in the next section on how to make stairs safe, and the last tip outlines how to prevent access to stairs. 

Is Climbing Stairs Bad for Golden Retrievers? 

Golden Retrievers are highly active and high-energy dogs. Therefore, stairs to most Golden Retrievers are of no issue and instead can be a great source of exercise. But, is there any situation where climbing stairs is bad for Golden Retrievers? 

Stairs can be bad for Golden Retrievers if they have mobility issues or are prone to dysplasia’s. Golden Retrievers puppies less than 12 weeks old should not be allowed on stairs due to the increased risk for falls and serious injury. However, stairs are not bad for healthy adult Golden Retrievers.

So, stairs are typically acceptable for healthy Golden Retrievers at the appropriate age. As we’ll discuss in the next section, it may even benefit them. 

Stairs become problematic when there are mobility issues such as bad knees, hips, or back. In those instances, care must be taken to prevent falls and not aggravate existing mobility issues.  

Due to their increased risk for hip and elbow dysplasia, it is recommended to prevent access to large flights of stairs until 8 months of age or older. 

The other potential risk for stairs is to very young puppies less than 12 weeks old. Very young puppies do not have the size or coordination to navigate stairs. The risk of injury to their still fragile bodies is a concern. 

Senior Golden Retrievers with no severe mobility or health issues are okay with climbing stairs. In fact, as we will discuss in the next section, stairs can be beneficial to Golden Retrievers, including older dogs or even ones with arthritis

Typically older dogs just take the stairs slower, which is fine. 

Stairs are not bad for healthy adult or senior Golden Retrievers

Safety Tips for Stairs

However, stairs can still pose falling issues even to healthy Golden Retrievers. To ensure stairs are as safe as possible for your Golden Retriever, consider the following tips: 

  • Clean up any dirt or spills, as they have the potential for the dog to slip. Water can be incredibly slippery on hardwood floors for your dog, so make sure its paws are dry and any water on stairs is cleaned up. 
  • Add stair runners or carpet to hardwood stairs for extra traction.
  • Ensure the stairs are well lit. Dark stairs or poorly lighted stairs increase the chance of a misstep. 
  • Remove items off the stairs to prevent tripping hazards. 
  • If your dog is old or has, severe mobility issues consider installing a dog ramp. 
  • If stair railings have wide openings, be careful of small puppies falling through or getting their heads stuck (choking hazard). Block them off until the puppy is large enough and can no longer fit through railings.
  • Consider installing baby gates (or any blockade) to prevent access to stairs for puppies when you are not around or able to supervise them.

Watch for Wet Paws and Spills 

Hardwood can be slippery and especially when it is wet. While most people understand spills on stairs are a potential for an accident to both human and dog, many pet owners forget to dry off a dog’s paws. 

If your dog has wet paws, hardwood becomes slippery to them.

So, it’s essential to clean their paws off before entering the house. Moreover, wet feet can transfer water to stairs increasing the likelihood of a fall for all household members (not just the dog). 

Add Traction

Carpeting stairs add traction, but if that is not feasible, consider adding light-colored stair runners. They are relatively inexpensive, but they add traction and increase visibility. 

You could also consider adding toe grips. While most Golden Retrievers won’t tolerate booties, toe grips go over the toenails and add traction.

Some dogs may accept them, others not, but it’s worth trying if carpeting or stair runners are not an option. 

Ensure Stairs Are Well Lit 

Also, consider adding good lighting to poorly lighted stairs. Well-lit stairs are safer for your Golden Retriever and you as well. 

Some dogs have poor eyesight, and their vision can worsen with age. So, having good visibility on stairs helps reduce missteps and potential falls. 

Often you can find inexpensive lighting options that are battery operated and attach to walls, negating the need for extensive electrical wiring or hiring an electrician. 

Consider Dog Ramps For Smaller Stairs

For shorter staircases, consider adding a dog ramp. Dog ramps work well for small flights of stairs such as two to three stairs only and make it much easier for senior dogs or dogs with mobility issues to go up. 

Just make sure you select a dog ramp with good traction. 

Don’t Overlook Stair Railings.

Do not overlook stair railings. Small puppies can and have fallen through the space between stair railings. At the top of high stairs, such falls can cause severe injuries and even death. 

Even if the puppy is too big to fall through, it may try to stick its head through the railings. If its head gets stuck, this could become a choking hazard. 

Puppies can fall through or get stuck and choke in stair railings. Be careful.

A temporary solution that works well is cutting strips of cardboard and attaching them across the bottom of the railing so the puppy cannot fall through. Once your dog is big enough to no longer fit, remove the cardboard. 

Old Amazon boxes, cereal boxes, or pretty much any old cardboard will do, and it is inexpensive. Sure, your stairs may look goofy for a few weeks, but it’s a small cost to protect your puppy. 

We had an issue with the railings when my curious Golden Retriever Bailey was a puppy. As the above picture shows, Bailey could squeeze through the railings, so we ran pieces of cardboard along the bottom to prevent access and falls. 

Block Stairs 

Additionally, consider gates to block stairs if there is a potential for falls when you are not home, or the puppy is out of sight. 

The images below illustrate a gate we placed on the stairs to the basement, just off the TV room. It was too easy of an opportunity for Bailey to get to the stairs, and it was dark, so we blocked it off (plus the cat sleeps down there). 

Our homemade gate to prevent Bailey from accessing stairs

For the staircase going upstairs, we just rolled his feeder container and a chair in front. It was enough to just block him and cost us nothing. I’m sure you can find homemade obstacles if on a budget. 

The Benefits of Climbing Stairs for Golden Retrievers? 

As a precaution, Golden Retrievers should wait to climb stairs until they are eight months of age or older. Doing so helps mitigate any potential for stairs aggravating the normal growth of joints. 

Once the Golden Retriever is of an appropriate age, stairs are fine and present little issues. In fact, climbing stairs can actually provide some benefits.  

Some benefits of stairs include: 

  • Stairs can build strength in legs, back muscles, shoulders, and hips.
  • Climbing stairs can increase the range of motion, including in those dogs with arthritis. 
  • Stairs can increase a dog’s muscle and tendon strength, which helps prevent injuries and maintain healthy joint movement. 

Obviously, access to hills is much better than stairs for the benefits listed. Hills provide the same resistance with less stress on joints. As well, the gradual grade of hills makes falls less likely. 

However, for a healthy Golden Retriever taking the stairs at home provides minor issues for an appropriate aged Golden Retriever. Additionally, stairs also help strengthen muscles and improve coordination. 

The incline/decline of stairs provides resistance from gravity, and walking up and down stairs throughout the day helps build strength in your dog’s legs, back, shoulders and hips. 

In turn, increasing muscle strength helps build coordination and keeps tendons strong, which helps preserve healthy joint movement. [Source]

Stairs can even be beneficial for dogs suffering from arthritis. According to Canine Arthritis Resources and Education (CARE):

Stairs aren’t always a bad thing for dogs with arthritis. In fact, walking UP stairs can be a great way to help improve active range of motion, muscle strength, and proprioception (the awareness of the position and movement of the body). 

Source

However, CARE cautions that walking downwards on stairs is problematic due to the increased force on the front legs and the need for more control to go down slowly. 

If your Golden Retriever is arthritic, consider hills with gentle inclines and declines (hills are less stress-inducing than stairs). At home, consider using dog ramps

CARE also suggests adding carpeting or runners on stairs and using a harness to support an arthritic dog to help it feel more secure when navigating stairs. 

So, while stairs can be an excellent supplement for Golden Retrievers, they should not be the primary source of exercise. Instead, take your dog for a long walk, and if there are some soft hills included, all the better. 

Adequate amounts of walking, even on flat surfaces, will benefit your Golden Retriever more – both for the development of muscle and tendons and its heart.  Swimming is also a great activity for dogs with arthritis or joint issues.

Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, most healthy Golden Retriever adults will have no issue with stairs. However, stairs should be avoided for ALL puppies under 12 weeks.

If you have concerns about hip or elbow dysplasia or other joint problems, keep your Golden Retriever off the stairs until 8 months old, at a minimum. 

After 8 months of age, your Golden Retriever should have no issues running up and downstairs. However, make sure stairs are not overly slippery and are well-lighted and clear of obstructions. 

Lastly, start your puppy off on smaller staircases so they can learn in a safer and less intimidating environment. Avoid large staircases where your puppy might become fearful of looking down such a long distance. 

In addition, consider that a puppy is more likely to be injured if it falls down 12 stairs versus two or three, so start them slowly. 

Not only is this intimidating to a puppy but its potentially harmful if it falls.

Most Golden Retrievers learn to climb stairs very quickly as puppies. The key is to not allow them on large staircases that have a greater risk of them becoming fearful or injured. 

Instead, start them on small staircases, and when they are old enough, you can let them climb stairs as their heart desires.

Hold Up. Do you need a dog training program for your Golden Retriever? I bought and compared some of the most popular online dog training programs to determine the best ones. You can read my review and recommendations here: Online Dog Training Programs: These Are The Ones To Buy

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