Can Shih Tzu Climb Stairs?

APRIL 21,2019 | WRITTEN BY MOLLY

Shih Tzu laying on the stairs with mouth wide open

We tend to go up and down stairs without giving it a second thought, but to a Shih Tzu these same stairs can seem like climbing a mountain. 

For a Shih Tzu, climbing stairs can be difficult to maneuver due to their short legs, yet not impossible.  However, if they are reluctant to either climb up or down them, there may be a good reason.

You may have noticed your Shih Tzu struggling to get up the stairs.  

They may either do step by step, or get a head start and run up the steps, barely touching them until they reach the top.

For my own Shih Tzu, Max, he gets a running start going up the stairs, but always takes it step by step going down.

Stairs can be dangerous for these small dogs if care is not taken.

Stairs and Small Dogs

We all know that stairs can be a very dangerous place for humans. They are also dangerous for a small dog, like the Shih Tzu.

When a Shih Tzu descends the stairs, they will use their body weight to propel them forward.  They need to do this because their legs are short and won't easily reach the next step.

They are at risk of toppling down the flight of stairs if they try to go too quickly.

This is especially true in dogs with limited mobility.  Where hard, uncarpeted flooring may become too slippery for them.


Check out this video about dogs.  It gives you an idea of the difficulties dogs can have on stairs.  Some will make you smile, and some are absolutely cringe worthy. 

Is Your Shih Tzu Trying to Tell Your Something?

Have you noticed your Shih Tzu hesitating when they going up or down the stairs? 

They never used to do that, but you find they are doing it more and more.

You may feel like you have to drag them, but they dig in their paws and refuse to go any further. 

But since you may think they are just being stubborn, you force them to move.

Please Stop...don't do this.

They are not being lazy, or stubborn.  They are trying to tell you something.

Reasons why your Shih Tzu is hesitating on stairs may be due aging, or a more severe affliction.

As a dog ages, their ability to go up and down the stairs decline. 

Their previous youthful sprint up the stairs becomes a distant memory, as they feel more aches and pains.

Joint and back problems are more prone in bigger dogs, but even a small Shih Tzu can suffer from these issues too. 

And although this condition is more common in an older Shih Tzu, it’s not unheard of for a young Shih Tzu to have some of the same afflictions or injuries.

The most common reason for a dogs unwillingness to use the stairs is a back injury.

Spinal disk slips or ruptures are not very common in a Shih Tzu, but it does happen. 

If you see him walking with a wobbly gait, or heard him yelp when he jumped from the stairs or another high spot and he is refusing to move, this is not good. 

In fact it now becomes an emergency situation and you need to get him to the vet immediately. 

Without immediate treatments, your Shih Tzu may suffer from permanent damage and paralysis.

Other Reasons Shih Tzu Won't Use Stairs

A luxating patella or hip dysplasia may also be the cause of their reluctance to use the stairs.  And unfortunately, both are common in Shih Tzu.

A Luxating patella is where the kneecap slips out of place.   This is more likely to occur in their hind legs.

When this happens, your Shih Tzu will not walk on the impaired leg, instead they will hold it up off the ground while hopping on their other legs.  

Some dogs have a mild case of this and have figured out how they can pop it back in place by stretching, or just by taking a few steps. 

But when it becomes too severe, and they are unable to walk on it at all due to not being able to pop it back into place, or they appear to be in a lot of pain, corrective surgery is available. 

You should definitely have your vet give him a check up if you suspect a luxating patella.  They will usually be able to tell just by manipulating the Shih Tzus leg and feeling the slip.

Catching it early can make all the difference in preventing further injury.

Hip Dysplasia is a degenerative disease where the bone doesn’t fit snug in the hip socket and over the years the friction causes arthritis and pain. 

At some point the pain of climbing stairs becomes too much, and they will try to avoid it. 

Climbing stairs puts all their weight on their back legs and can worsen the condition.

Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements may help slow down the progression of this degenerative disease.

Of course, there may be other reasons why your dog won’t use the stairs which are less severe than those issues mentioned above.

He may have a strained muscle or has vision problems.

Or it could be caused by a negative experience linked to the stairs, like in a previous fall.

However, as with any medical issue, you should always consult with a professional veterinarian for a diagnosis rather than trying to resolve it on your own.

Bottom line is if your Shih Tzu is refusing to use the stairs, don’t assume he is just being stubborn and force him. 

The better solution is to take him to the vet instead.

Keeping Your Shih Tzu Safe on Stairs

If you have ever seen a dog fall down a flight of stairs it is very horrifying, not only for your dog, but for you as well. 

It could also lead to serious injuries.

Keeping your Shih Tzu away from the stairs will help keep him safe from injuries he may sustain.

An older Shih may have difficulty climbing stairs for the same reason. 

They are not as steady on their feet as they once were, and if they have hip dysplasia or a slipped disc, climbing stairs may cause even more damage to their already fragile body.

Tan and white Shih Tzu sitting down waiting for a treat from a human hand

Using a gate so he doesn’t get the urge to follow you down the stairs will keep him from toppling down.

Train your Shih Tzu to go slow when using the stairs, and never try to rush him up or down.

Final Thoughts

Always supervise a puppy on the stairs, they are still in their awkward stage and their bones are still growing.  If they fall, this could do some serious damage on their growth plates.

Very small dogs, or dogs with limited mobility should avoid using stairs if possible. 

Keep an eye out for any of the conditions listen above.  And if your Shih Tzus behavior changes when approaching the stairs, talk to your vet about your concerns.  

One of the perks of having a small dog is they can be easily picked up and carried when it's needed.

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