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Can Shih Tzus Climb Stairs? (Important Safety Info)

Can Shih Tzus climb stairs? It’s a common question among Shih Tzu owners, and for good reason!

Stairs can be quite challenging for our little friends, but there’s a lot to consider when it comes to letting your Shih Tzu tackle those steps.

In this comprehensive guide, I will cover everything you need to know about Shih Tzus and stairs, from their physical abilities to potential health issues.

So, let’s dive in and learn how to keep your Shih Tzu safe and happy on their four-legged adventures!

can shih tzus climb stairs

Can Shih Tzus Physically Climb Stairs?

As a breed, Shih Tzus are small, sturdy, and well-built. They have short legs and a compact body, making them seem like they might struggle to climb stairs.

However, despite their size, they are quite capable of climbing stairs when they are physically healthy.

Here are some key physical attributes of Shih Tzus that play a role in their stair-climbing abilities:

  • Short legs: Although their legs are short, they are strong enough to support their body weight and propel them upwards.
  • Compact body: Their small, compact body allows them to maintain balance while navigating stairs.
  • Determination: Shih Tzus are known for their tenacity and determination, which can help them tackle new challenges like stairs.

Age and Stair-Climbing Abilities

Age plays a significant role in your Shih Tzu’s ability to climb stairs. As they grow and develop, their stair-climbing skills will change. Here’s a quick breakdown of how age affects their abilities:

  • Puppies: Young puppies are still developing their muscles and coordination, so they may struggle to climb stairs. It’s best to avoid letting puppies under six months old climb stairs to prevent injury.
  • Adults: Adult Shih Tzus have the strength and coordination to climb stairs, provided they are physically healthy. Make sure to monitor them closely and be prepared to assist if needed.
  • Seniors: As Shih Tzus age, they may develop health issues that affect their ability to climb stairs. Be extra cautious with senior dogs and consider alternative options, such as ramps, to help them navigate your home.

Potential Health Risks of Climbing Stairs

There are several health risks associated with Shih Tzus climbing stairs. Some of the most common health issues include:

  • Joint problems: Shih Tzus are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, and arthritis. Climbing stairs can exacerbate these issues, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Back problems: Shih Tzus can suffer from intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), which can be aggravated by climbing stairs. This condition affects the spinal discs and can lead to severe pain, mobility issues, or even paralysis.
  • Overexertion: Climbing stairs can be quite strenuous for your Shih Tzu, especially if they are not used to the activity. Overexertion can lead to injuries, such as sprains or strains, or cause them to become fatigued and unable to climb back down.

Signs Your Shih Tzu Shouldn’t Climb Stairs

As an owner, it’s essential to recognize the signs that your Shih Tzu may be struggling with stairs or experiencing pain. If you notice any of the following, it’s time to reconsider letting them climb stairs:

  • Limping or favoring one leg: This can indicate joint pain or an injury, making stair climbing difficult and painful for your Shih Tzu.
  • Reluctance to climb or descend stairs: If your Shih Tzu hesitates or refuses to climb stairs, it may be because they’re experiencing discomfort or fear.
  • Visible signs of pain or discomfort: Whining, yelping, or showing other signs of pain while climbing stairs is a clear indication that your Shih Tzu is struggling and needs your assistance.
  • Difficulty moving or getting up: If your Shih Tzu has trouble moving around or getting up from a lying position, climbing stairs could be risky and lead to further injury.

How to Help Your Shih Tzu Climb Stairs Safely

Proper training and conditioning can help your Shih Tzu navigate stairs confidently and safely. Here are some tips for training your Shih Tzu to climb stairs:

  • Start slow: Introduce your Shih Tzu to stairs gradually, starting with just one or two steps. Use positive reinforcement and treats to encourage them to climb.
  • Build confidence: As your Shih Tzu becomes more comfortable with stairs, slowly increase the number of steps they need to climb. Always be patient and encouraging during this process.
  • Provide support: Initially, you may need to support your Shih Tzu while they climb by placing your hand under their belly or using a harness with a handle.

Safety Precautions

Taking some basic safety precautions can help ensure your Shih Tzu’s stair-climbing adventures are as safe as possible:

  • Non-slip surfaces: Install non-slip treads or carpet on your stairs to provide better traction and prevent slips.
  • Stair gates: Use stair gates to prevent your Shih Tzu from accessing stairs when you’re not around to supervise.
  • Lighting: Ensure your stairs are well-lit, so your Shih Tzu can see where they’re stepping.
  • Assistance: Always be nearby to offer assistance or catch your Shih Tzu if they slip or lose their balance.

Alternatives to Stairs

If your Shih Tzu struggles with stairs or has health issues that make stair climbing risky, consider these alternatives:

  • Ramps: Portable or permanent ramps can be installed to help your Shih Tzu navigate your home without the need to climb stairs.
  • Carrying: For short distances or occasional trips up and down the stairs, you can safely carry your Shih Tzu in your arms or use a pet carrier.
  • Stairlifts: In some cases, you may consider installing a pet stairlift to help your Shih Tzu move between floors without any physical strain.

Last thoughts

In conclusion, while Shih Tzus can climb stairs, it’s essential to consider their age, health, and physical abilities.

Proper training, safety precautions, and knowing when to seek alternatives can help ensure your Shih Tzu navigates your home safely and comfortably.

As a responsible owner, always be attentive to your Shih Tzu’s needs and well-being, and they’ll be sure to reward you with their love and companionship.

Extra resources for more info:

  1. American Kennel Club (AKC) –
  2. The Humane Society of the United States –
  3. PetMD –


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.