Hip dysplasia is something you can’t avoid hearing about if you own a Labradoodle. Many dogs’ have had to be put down due to this terrible condition. But that also means that many people are so afraid of the disease, that they think if your dog even looks at a set of stairs, they will suddenly suffer from it, and that’s simply not the case.
So, when can Labradoodle puppies climb stairs? Labradoodle puppies can climb stairs at the age of 4 or 5 months old. At this point, the puppies are old enough to safely navigate stairs without falling. Going up and down stairs at this age won’t cause hip dysplasia. But climbing stairs too soon might exacerbate the condition if it’s already present.
For many years it has been accepted as the only truth, that dog’s shouldn’t climb stairs until they were around 12 months old because starting earlier would pretty much ensure that your dog would get hip dysplasia.
But there really isn’t any scientific research which supports that claim, and as stated by my own vet, hip dysplasia is a genetic disease, and going up and down stairs won’t lead to it affecting your dog.
When Should Labradoodle Puppies Be Introduced to the stairs?
Of course, that doesn’t mean that your 2 months old Labradoodle can just run up and down as much as it wants because that could get problematic.
There is obviously a place and a time when a puppy should start climbing and descending stairs.
But the reasons behind why people have gotten the idea that puppies should be kept away from stairs isn’t correct.
To begin with, your puppy’s size is one of the first things you have to consider.
Is your Doodle large enough to even climb the stairs?
Try and lie down on your stomach and take a look at the stairs from your Labradoodle puppy’s perspective. The stairs suddenly look a lot more intimidating from that point of view than what you’re used to.
For a small puppy, a set of stairs in a new home might as well be as looking at Mt. Everest for an adult, that would also be a bit daunting to us.
Another thing you should take into consideration is the energy level of your dog.
Is your dog patient enough to be able to take the stairs at a slow pace?
Some Labradoodle puppies aren’t really aware of the word called slow due to their enthusiasm, and running full speed is the only thing they know.
Your Labradoodle puppy should be allowed to go up and down the stairs when they are large enough and thoughtful enough to be able to follow your lead and do it slowly.
Stairs Won’t Cause Hip Dysplasia
I was curious to get a response to this claim from a professional, so I reached out to a veterinarian that I absolutely trust.
And she gave me this response:
“If they have it, they have it. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disease. Exercise will only make an already existing condition worse. Not doing the recommended exercising and activation won’t prevent the disease.”
If you’re the owner of a Labradoodle or Goldendoodle, you should already know enough about this disease and be able to avoid the rumors and hearsay that’s often heard around in Doodle circles and on Facebook.
I’ve also asked the question on a forum where the users are experienced with many different breeds of dogs, and especially breeds such as Retrievers that are the foundation of Doodles.
And pretty much every response agreed with me and my vet Dr. Nielsen. For the exact post, I specifically asked about a Labradoodle puppy at 4 months old.
And these were the most common responses:
- There’s absolutely nothing to worry about
- He’ll be just fine
- That is the age our Doodle got acclimated with stairs!
- If your dog seems really ready for it, everything will be fine
- Yes. Steps won’t be that big of an issue, as long as it’s not a huge amount of steps. Try to keep him from jumping up or down from anything.
- Yes. Just spend some time with him. If you are there to coach and guide him, he will be a pro at using the stairs in no time.
But there was also one interesting response that talked about the hips. This person said: “I never let my dogs use any of the stairs in my house until my dog was over a year old, and she has great hips.”
And it’s small comments such as that which is the reason for much of the misinformation that’s out there. Fortunately, the very next user commented with something that I fully agreed on: “Perhaps the breeding had more to do with the hips than the stairs.”
So, here is my conclusion after speaking with vets, professionals and other experienced dog trainers:
Climbing stairs won’t give a healthy dog hip dysplasia. But climbing stairs at a young age could make the hip dysplasia worse if it’s already present in the puppy.
How are Stairs Dangerous for Labradoodle Puppies?
Now that we have cleared the confusion about getting hip dysplasia from climbing on stairs if your dog doesn’t already have it there are a few other concerns to be aware of though.
One of the more common issues is that a puppy can take a serious fall down a set of stairs.
The main cause of this problem is that I’ve never met a Labradoodle puppy that didn’t feel like running at 100 mph constantly and only start to consider if it was a bad idea seconds before the impact of something that isn’t going to move when hit.
My dog Monty is exactly like that.
He will enter our house at full steam, only to suddenly realize that the floor tiles aren’t the greatest surface for a sudden stop, and he will crash into the nearest wall or perhaps any of us standing there waiting for him.
And this “full-steam-ahead” attitude can easily get a puppy into trouble on the stairs.
And this is also why I think that your puppy should be at a certain level of maturity before he/she starts to climb the stairs.
How to Teach a Labradoodle Puppy to Climb the Stairs
The best approach in this situation is, in my opinion, to teach your puppy to behave while using a leash.
Start by approaching the stairs and make him sit down at the bottom of the stairs.
You can quite easily get your puppy accustomed to sitting at the bottom and top of any stairs. If trained correctly, your puppy will wait for you to either command him to continue or sit and wait for you to tell him to go up or down before he/she proceeds.
The point of this is to get your puppy to either climb or descend the stairs at a slow and steady pace. Ideally, he/she will stay at the heel of you while going down or up the stairs.
The best way to get your puppy to sit at the bottom or top of any stairs is if you put him/her on a leash and have a handful of treats ready in your pocket.
Walk to the edge of the stairs with your puppy and use the SIT command. As soon as his behind is firmly planted on the floor, give him one of the treats or press the clicker if you’re using one.
Repeat this motion numerous times.
Now walk the stairs but without giving the command this time, just wait.
If your Doodle looks at you as he was asking what’s going on now, just wait. He will probably stare at you for a while before eventually sitting down. As soon as he sits down, you should give him a treat.
Try repeating this silent approach many times. It doesn’t take that long and your dog will eventually sit every time you come near the stairs.
Remember that you might have to repeat this process while you’re also at the top of the stairs just to make sure your dog understands that the plan is the same whenever you are at the top or the bottom of the stairs.
Things to Avoid for Your Puppy’s Health
When it comes to joint health in a large breed puppy, I have learned some really helpful information. And this is related to not only Labradoodle or Goldendoodles but also other big breed pups.
While slowly going down and up the stairs isn’t a problem for most Doodles at 4 months old (remember that they have to be both big and mature enough), you shouldn’t let them jump down from any large heights.
For example, jumping out of a truck won’t cause hip dysplasia but it can still lead to joint problems for your dog later on. This can cause joint pain later on in life and perhaps even require surgeries to repair the damage.
This can also be said for jumping off a tall balcony or flying himself down the last three stairs.
This is also why dogs are required to be one-year-old before being allowed to participate in most dog sports such as agility courses or dock jumping.
If you want to train your dog on agility courses, you should start the training process on other areas of the course, and stay away from the jumping portions until your dogs’ body has matured enough.
Having stronger joints allows them to endure the stress of constantly jumping better than developing and immature joints.
What About the Scientific Research That Supports the Misconception?
I have seen some of the studies that are used to support the idea that climbing stairs too soon will lead to hip dysplasia.
But there is an important difference between something that is directly causing hip dysplasia and something just being correlated with it.
All these studies only show a correlation and never causation.
But don’t be surprised that science is confused on this subject. After all, researchers can’t even decide if coffee is good for you or not, one week it’s the best, the next week it causes cancer…
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