Are you a new, or soon-to-be proud pet parent of a Dachshund? Or do you have a dachshund now, and are looking for more information about them? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’ve probably also asked yourself the question, “can my dachshund climb stairs?”
Dachshunds should be kept away from stairs whenever possible. Climbing stairs can be stressful on your Dachshund’s back, as their spine has to bend inwards in order to successfully jump from one step to another. This can cause physical damage to your pup’s spine over time and potentially lead to IVDD.
Dachshund Physique And Spine Problems
Dachshunds are known for their distinct features, most notably their long bodies. You’ve likely heard the term “wiener dog” before, which is an affectionate term given to them because of their long backs and torsos, like a hotdog.
Unfortunately, given how long they are already, they can develop back problems. Think about semi-tractor-trailer trucks. They have 18 wheels throughout the length of the truck and trailer, to hold up the entire vehicle and its contents. Without the wheels in the middle, the trailer would sag.
It’s the same concept for dachshunds, except they don’t have the middle wheels to hold up their torsos. If dachshunds are not exercised regularly to keep up the strength in their legs and muscles in their backs, or if they are overweight, they can develop spine problems.
Evolution of Dachshunds
Historically, dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers and other small animals. Hunting grounds are normally flat surfaces, or hillsides where having a long torso would not be an issue. They were not usually around many or any staircases that they would need to climb, and so were not bred to be able to climb them.
Dachshunds were bred to be able to use their short but powerful legs to dig into burrows and chase prey out of hiding. This was their primary purpose, and they are still really good at doing this, even if sometimes the ‘burrows’ are really the flowers in your flower beds, and the prey is actually a bug.
Why Shouldn’t Dachshunds Climb Stairs?
Even dachshunds in the peak of their health can have back problems. If they jump off the couch incorrectly, or if they climb stairs and even if they’re held incorrectly, a disc in their back can slip or burst, leaving them in severe pain.
This is called Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD). It’s not always permanent in dogs, but it does hurt them. Going up stairs creates tension in their backs as individual stairs are normally shorter (both in width and height) than they are, and so the middle of their backs will bend inward to get up them.
Just like with humans, if a dachshund’s back is bent incorrectly too often, they will develop back pain. Unlike humans, they aren’t able to articulate this until a greater problem, such as IVDD, arises.
IVDD in Dachshunds
Unfortunately, IVDD is most prominent in dachshunds. While almost any breed of dog can suffer from IVDD, between 20-25% of dachshunds will be affected by it. IVDD happens when your dog’s intervertebral disks move or burst, which can result in anything from pain, to incontinency, to paralysis.
It’s not always a lifelong illness for your pup, it could go away on its own if it’s not too severe, but there are times when surgery and a subsequent rehab are needed. This surgery can be quite expensive, depending on the region it can be around $5000, and though you may be willing to spend this on your pup, prevention is better.
How Can I Prevent My Dachshund From Climbing Stairs?
When possible, it’s best to welcome a dachshund into a home with few steps, if any at all. That being said, not everyone who has a dachshund is in this kind of position, so if you’re in a situation where you can’t live in a home with little or no steps, there are some precautions you can take to protect your fur baby.
Blocking access to the stairs is the easiest way to prevent your dog from going up or down stairs when you can’t watch them. The best solution is a doggy gate or a baby gate. If you have young children in your home already, consider keeping the gates up even after your child no longer needs them to prevent your dog from going places he shouldn’t.
Another barrier alternative, one my roommates and I used to use for their dachshund, is to pile coats and bags on the bottom couple of steps. They typically get confused by this, and won’t try to go around the coats to climb the steps.
A line of soda cans, stuffed animals, or anything else that you have that can help block stair access is also preferred over nothing. Get as creative as you need to be, to protect the health of your pet. It can also create some good photo opportunities, to post to your pet’s Instagram later (we all have one, there’s nothing to be ashamed about).
Location of Necessities
Your next greatest prevention is to keep all your dachshund’s food, water, bed, and toys on one floor. How often do you choose to do stairs if you don’t need anything at the other end? The same goes for your dachshund. If there’s nothing to go up or down stairs for, your dachshund is less likely to want to wander.
Bring Them with You
Keep in mind that your dachshund thinks you are worth being around and will try to follow you up the stairs, even if you’re just going up for a minute. As someone who has rescued a stranded dachshund from the middle of a staircase after going to grab a phone charger, trust me when I say sometimes it’s just easier to bring them with you.
Even if they are asleep when you change rooms, if no one else is around to watch your pup, consider bringing them (and their bed), if you’re changing floors. It saves them the stress of waking up without you and saves their back the stress of climbing the stairs to find you.
Quelling Your Fears
While dachshunds shouldn’t climb steps, they are likely to do so at some point during their life. They can surprise you and climb all the way up after you, even if you think you’re going to be quick, and sometimes they just prefer sleeping upstairs over downstairs.
Every once in a while, this is fine. A single step or staircase should not be the deciding factor in your pup’s spinal health. Keep an eye on them if you’re worried, but 75-80% of dachshunds won’t be affected by IVDD in their lifetimes. So long as jumping off of couches and running up and down stairs are not part of your pup’s everyday routine, they should be alright.