You can almost hear this yelp from some dogs when they are faced with the dreaded stairs! Stairs sure can be a formidable challenge for senior dogs, all breeds of puppies, and some toy breeds.
Dogs in their Senior Years
I know a lot of you will relate to the day your beloved dog lets you know the years are getting the best of him or her. Stairs are the problem. Not so long ago, the dog bounded up those stairs, racing ahead of you, tail wagging, glad to be home. Nowadays, the dog stands in the hall, looking up the stairs, wondering if he or she can make it up them without falling. You put on your high, happy voice, chatting to the dog; taking his or her collar at the same time and both of you go up together. It works for a long while like this. You two can do anything together whatever the challenge might be. Eventually the day comes when the dog is reluctant to go down the stairs, and when it’s time to go back up, your high happy voice doesn’t work anymore.
I experienced this with my black Labrador retriever. His name was Hector.
Now Hector was a very sneaky dog. If you turned your back for a second, he was gone. He came back reluctantly when I recalled him.
Hector was an amazing hunter. We don’t hunt, but this didn’t stop our dog from doing what his breed demanded of him. He considered hunting was his calling. We always took off his leash when we went for walks in the fields and ahunting he would go! When Hector brought us live pheasants with a sparkle in his eyes and his tail erect, you can imagine the looks of reproach we got when we released the poor squawking birds. We thanked him for his gifts, and even apologized, but Hector was not happy.
Some hunting dogs have such a gentle mouth. Hector was one of them. When my daughter’s hamster escaped his cage, and she was sure he was lost forever, Hector would turn up, waging his tail, and placing the small creature right into her outstretched hands.
Whenever any of the family came home, he grabbed a shoe from the closet to present as a gift. His tail and whole body was wagging with joy. He was always so pleased to see his people. We told the kids to thank him for his present, even when it was a smelly old sneaker. Yuck, they said.
Most retrievers will do this if the owners understand it is part of their breed traits. When they can’t please by retrieving game, they will grab a substitute.
Years Go by so Quickly
Of course we took Hector for granted. The children adored him and he went with us in the car for many adventures. Grey hairs appeared on his muzzle and he moved to action, not leaped. Our vibrant, active dog was suddenly becoming old. We acknowledged it, but were in total denial until he could no longer come up the stairs. He whimpered at the bottom of the stairs of our split level. My husband, Pete, had to carry him up. Then the day came when he couldn’t go down the stairs. Our back yard is down one long flight and then a short flight to the patio. We had a doggie door, mid level, but there is a step, and Hector could no longer use it. Pete carried him just like he did when Hector was a little pup up and down those stairs. Tears filled my eyes. They flowed down my cheeks as Hector’s bladder weakened, and I watched him being carried down the stairs and back up more often.
Time to let go
It was when Hector could not get to his feet anymore; we decided for his sake that it was time to let him go. Of course we had taken him to the vet and were told he had arthritis and lumbar problems and this was to be expected at his age. No, Mr. Vet, it was not expected. It wasn’t supposed to happen. This was Hector!
Eventually we had to relieve him of the pain he was in. The medications the vet prescribed worked at first and then they didn’t help anymore. We made our last visit to the vet with Hector and came home without him. I thought I would die, too, that day, I hurt so much.
They make ramps of any length nowadays. Hector was our first dog, and that was a very long time ago. Pet supplies now cover almost anything your dog may need. We would have installed ramps on both sets of stairs had they been available. Tonight, we built a ramp for Sammi to get in and out of the car more easily. She still manages the stairs, but falls getting into the backseat of the car. Recently, I noticed that her face has so much white in it. I look into her sweet face, talk to her gently, and feel the sadness I never want to come. She wags her stump of a tail.
Will Sammi use the ramp? Well, it was dark by the time we built it, so we thought we should introduce it to her in the daylight. Cataracts give her poor vision. I’ll let you know how it goes. We bought the ramp from Amazon.
There are several gates and ramps available on Amazon. I will attach a link to help you explore the range.
If you have a new puppy and there are stairs in your house, you have to get a baby gate. Think of your pup as a toddler and install gates.
Going Up and Down Stairs
Of course, you are going to have to carry pups up and down the stairs initially. It is not long before they learn to go up and down all by themselves They are so proud of their new skill that some pups run up and down again and again just for the fun of it.
Most of these little dogs can leap on chairs and couches with ease. They are agile and light. Some will leap onto your lap without warning. Yet, some of them do not like stairs. It’s usually okay if your stairs are carpeted, but so many stairs nowadays are polished wood. Sally took her time accepting stairs, but my stairs have carpet on them and it wasn’t long before she raced up and down them. We took her to a friend’s house and we went down the wooden stairs to the basement to watch the kids play a Wii game. We heard Sally crying and found her at the top of the stairs. I called her, but she wouldn’t come down those wooden stairs.
Toy breeds are smart little cookies. Those wooden stairs do not feel safe to them Could be they have slipped on wooden floors and remember the experience. Carrying them up and down for their wonderful long lives is not something you would want to do. Besides, they follow you everywhere and will be most upset if you are upstairs and they can’t be with you. You can carpet those stairs. You could add treads to them just for the little dog. But if you don’t want the expense of doing either of these options, an inexpensive solution was implemented by a friend of ours for her toy breed.
Java is a Papillon Chihuahua mix. When her owners moved into a new home, Java took one look at the flight of wooden stairs and decided she didn’t like them. Her owners understood she was afraid to use them and carried the little dog up and down. However, this became tiresome, especially when they were carrying other stuff. Java doesn’t like being left at the bottom of the stairs. True to her breed traits, she wants to be with them all the time.
After several months, Java and her fear of using the wooden stairs became a problem they had to solve. They bought some rubber welcome mats and cut them into squares. They put a rubber square on each step. Yay! It worked. Java can now access the upstairs all by herself.
For those of you who live in a ranch style home, you probably never think of the problems some owners with dogs have with stairs. Stairs can be a serious problem when the dogs become seniors, when they are pups, or when the stairs are wood and too slippery for little feet.
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Once again, it was fun chatting with you. Thanks for visiting my blog. Please come back soon for more tips and tails. 🙂