Last week a friend told me that he would like to have a dog too. A black Labrador. However, he has a lot of stairs in his house and wonders if Labradors can climb stairs.
The subject of climbing stairs is often controversial. A Labrador is allowed to climb stairs. Slow stair climbing is even beneficial and builds important muscles. However, in the first few months, care should be taken that he does not climb the stairs to or from the 3rd floor several times a day. The bigger problem also tends to be the speed at which the stairs are climbed or descended.
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Are Labrador puppies allowed to climb stairs?
Whether Labrador puppies or similar sized dogs, can climb stairs basically cannot be answered with a clear yes or no.
According to experts and researchers, there is evidence that stair climbing can be harmful, but it is not certain.
Since bones grow the fastest in the first few months, it can’t hurt to let your Labrador climb stairs as little as possible during this time.
Bones that are growing are unstable and too much weight bearing can cause joint or bone damage.
But from the age of 3 or 4 months, you can start slowly and let the dog climb stairs. We have 3 steps leading down to the living room.
This was optimal to practice climbing stairs with our puppies (Broholmer and Cane Corso) and slowly get them used to it.
Is climbing stairs the reason for joint problems?
No, climbing stairs if done properly is rather beneficial to prevent joint problems. What? climbing stairs is good?
The hip of a dog consists on the one hand of the socket and on the other hand of the condyle, which sits in the socket. The whole thing is held in place by ligaments and muscles.
Muscles are therefore extremely important and provide stability for the hip and protect it from blows. You certainly know this yourselves.
Someone who exercises regularly and uses his muscles is less prone to all kinds of pain and problems. Muscles protect your skeleton and it is the same with dogs.
So if your dog doesn’t have enough muscle in this area, the condyle will bump against the socket when walking or running and will only be cushioned by a small layer of cartilage.
If this happens over a long period of time, the cartilage layer is eventually destroyed and arthrosis occurs. Osteoarthritis is caused by excessive stress on the joints.
Another reason for joint damage and arthrosis is overweight.
So make sure your dog is not too fat. If you have a big dog, like we do, you should let him grow up slim. Better a little too thin and healthy joints than too fat.
If your Labrador is too fat, climbing stairs is of course also harmful.
Strengthening and building hip muscles in dogs
The best way to build up the muscles in a dog are
- Long steady movements. So basically just walking straight ahead.
- Stair climbing is especially hard on the butt and thigh muscles. However, you should make sure that you lead your dog slowly up the stairs on a leash.
Your Labrador is allowed to climb stairs as long as he does not overdo it. So slow stair climbing is healthy as it builds important muscles and is not harmful to your dog.
Can climbing stairs still be bad for your Labrador?
Bad for your dog are abrupt stops or changes of direction from a fast movement.
Unfortunately, this is where the popular ball fetch comes into play. If you throw a ball away in a large meadow and your dog chases after it like a wild dog, stopping abruptly to catch it or change direction, this is harmful in the long run.
When you stop abruptly, your dog’s body is compressed by the momentum, which leads to joint damage in the long run.
You can compare that with soccer players. Which soccer player doesn’t have knee problems? Abrupt changes of direction or stops after a sprint can damage the knee and hip.
Going down stairs is no problem if your Labrador, or any dog for that matter, goes down the stairs slowly.
Now, of course, it can happen that your dog already knows what is going on when you take the leash and runs down the stairs full of joy to wait for you at the door.
When running down the stairs quickly, enormous forces act on the joints. Due to the quick touchdown of the paws, there is, similar to fetching the ball, a blow every time, because at the moment there is always a short stop.
Running down stairs quickly can also have a negative effect on your dog’s joints. You can also try this out for yourself.
How does it feel when you walk down the stairs slowly and with control and compare it to running down the stairs fast. If you run down the stairs fast, you will sit down much harder.
Climbing stairs with joint problems?
If your vet says that your dog is not allowed to climb stairs because of a strong HD or arthrosis you have to listen to him.
Then it is unfortunately already too late. Climbing stairs would only aggravate the situation with your Labrador.
CONCLUSION: Can a Labrador climb stairs?
Labradors can climb stairs. Climbing stairs is even a muscle building exercise. However, you have to take care that your dog does not run down the stairs quickly. Fast stair running can have a negative effect on the joints.
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