Having a puppy is a lot like having a human toddler — you have to worry about him getting into things and either hurting yourself or your stuff.
Staircases are one of the scariest places in the house for parents of both pets and human babies. A fall down a staircase can cause serious injury, and even death. In the case of puppies, the staircase can also suffer some damage if the pup decides to use it as a chew toy.
Threats To Your Puppy
You can take a number of steps to protect your staircase (no pun intended). But first it’s important to know the dangers your staircase poses to your puppy.
Falling Down The Stairs
Tiny baby puppies are just learning how to use their motor facilities, and can be clumsy and awkward at times. A steep staircase can be too much for them to handle at a young age. Even older puppies may have trouble keeping their feet underneath them when negotiating a flight of stairs.
If your puppy falls down a flight of stairs, he may be seriously injured or even killed. That’s why it’s vital to keep him from negotiating the staircase until he’s old enough to handle it with aplomb.
What You Can Do: To keep your pup safe from harm around a staircase, use a baby gate – the kind designed to keep toddlers from falling down a fight of stairs. Set the baby gate up at the top of the stairs so your pup doesn’t slip and fall onto the steps. If you have a young puppy who wants to climb up the stairs, consider a baby gate at the bottom too. Make sure that the gates you buy are easy for you to open and close, because you’ll be using them a lot as a pass-through.
Squeezing Between The Rails
If your puppy is small enough to fit between the rails on your staircase, he’s in danger of squeezing through and toppling down to the floor below.
What You Can Do: You can prevent this by using a baby gate to block off the staircase completely. If you prefer not to wall off your pup’s access to the stairs but want to keep him from squeezing through the railing, consider buying nylon mesh fabric that you can affix to the bottom of the railing all along your staircase. Available in rolls at hardware stores, this type of material will keep your pup from being able to get in between the rails.
Be aware that your pup might decide all that fabric is great for biting and tearing. If he starts making short work of the barrier, you’ll have to resort to a baby gate to keep him off the stairs.
Protecting Your Stairs
Next, you’ll want to think about protecting your staircase from your puppy. Once your puppy is old enough to tackle the stairs – usually this happens by about 4 months, depending on the puppy – you’ll have to keep an eye out for destructive behavior that might take place on your staircase.
While chewing is a perfectly normal behavior for a puppy, uncontrolled gnawing can wreak havoc in your house. The wooden rails of a staircase can become a prime target for a pup that longs to chew on wood. If the steps of your staircase are made of wood, this is another potential target for your teething pup. The corners of the steps may be particularly attractive to him.
You have two options for protecting the wood on your staircase: you can keep your pup from accessing the stairs with a baby gate, or you can try treating the wood so your pup doesn’t like the way they taste. Bitter apple spray is effective in deterring most puppies, and is readily available at pet supply stores. You’ll need to spray your wooden surfaces daily with this product to keep your pup from gnawing. (You might also want to wear a dust mask when spraying bitter apple since the particles of this harmless yet yucky tasting liquid will becoming airborne when you spray it, and will land on your lips and go into your nose if your face is uncovered).
Safely Using The Stairs
When your puppy has reached the age where he can safely negotiate stairs – usually by around 4 months of age – let him have full access to your staircase. Not only is going up and down stairs good exercise for him, it’s also good socialization.
Dogs who are not exposed to stairs as babies can develop a fear of them as adults. Few things are as frustrating as trying to get your dog to go up a flight of stairs at a motel or friend’s house when he’s planted his feet and is refusing to move! By allowing him to go up and down the stairs, your pup will eventually feel like negotiating a staircase is as natural as walking across the lawn.