English bulldogs are a short and adorably chubby breed known for many things. Being athletic isn’t one of them. The questions surrounding their ability to get up and downstairs is a big one for anyone in a split-level home or a walkup apartment on a high floor.
Can English bulldogs go up and down the stairs? English bulldogs can climb and descend stairs. It is harder because of their short legs and body type, but it is possible for them. You will want to train them when they are young and monitor them closely while they learn. English bulldogs are also prone to hip dysplasia and breathing issues which can make it more difficult as well.
Knowing what your English bulldog is capable of and where they may struggle is going to be important to their health and your relationship with them. They’re loyal and love their humans, so make sure you return that by helping them master the staircase.
Can Bulldogs Go Up and Down Stairs?
Lazy—that’s a word people often use when describing English bulldogs. But if they refuse to climb the stairs is it laziness or an underlying issue? No one is too keen on the idea of carrying their dog up and down the stairs every day. Although, your bulldog is probably quite keen on that idea.
Your bulldog can make it up the stairs, but he may be a bit stubborn about it. With their shorter legs, it is harder. So, while a golden retriever may bound up the stairs effortlessly and not even think about it, your bulldog may be a bit more hesitant.
And let’s be honest…they are adorably goofy to watch going up and down. So, who knows? Maybe they’re just self-conscious?
Every bulldog will be different but if they have no outstanding health issues, they should be fully capable. And some may even love the challenge. But be aware if your bulldog experiences any pain or trouble breathing as they climb and consult your vet if you notice this.
Why It’s Hard for English Bulldogs to Handle Stairs
Just like any breed, English bulldogs have their own set of health issues that they are prone to. Some of them directly relate to exercise such as going up and down stairs.
Before getting into some of the medical issues, an obvious reason English bulldogs have a hard time doing stairs because of their structure. Their bodies are centered towards the ground and they are wide and muscular with short legs. All of this makes it awkward for movements such as climbing.
If you happen to have an older bulldog, getting up and down the stairs could be more difficult for them. In that case, check out this guide for caring for senior bulldogs.
They are determined little pups and will do what they can to compensate for their bulky structure. But sometimes it proves difficult.
One of the main medical concerns that can affect climbing is because bulldogs are a brachycephalic breed. This means they are prone to breathing issues. Their nostrils are narrow, they have a short snout, and their windpipes are not shaped the same way other dogs are.
So, any type of extreme exercise can be hard for a bulldog to keep up with. When we, as humans, walk up a large flight of stairs we can even get a little winded. For a dog known for breathing issues and short legs, this can be a rough journey. Therefore, they will often take their time. They’ll make up to the top, but they may need an extra minute so they don’t overheat or overexert themselves.
Another medical reason that climbing stairs can be difficult is hip dysplasia. This is another commonality in English bulldogs. If your dog develops it, it can be hard to tackle those steps. A dog relies heavily on its hind legs for climbing stairs. But the inflammation from this ailment can cause it to be painful and won’t give them the power needed to project upwards.
PetMD is a great resource for more information on the brachycephalic breed and hip dysplasia.
Do I Need to Help My Bulldog with Stairs?
If your bulldog is unable to climb because of a medical issue, you should always help them. You should also consider purchasing gates like this Easy Step Walk Through Gate on Amazon. When no one is around you will want to have all stairways blocked off to prevent them from hurting themselves.
Otherwise, the only help you should have to provide is training. You want to help them be comfortable and confident on the stairs. The prime time in a dog’s life to learn new things is when they are a puppy. But hey, old dogs can learn new tricks too.
If they are a puppy just make sure those little legs are big enough to reach the steps and then get to work with them. And use a gate to block stairways until they are big enough and properly trained.
Here are some training tips:
- When you are at the bottom of the stairs, place
a treat on the first stair and get their attention.
- If your dog gives you a “Nice try” face and doesn’t go after the treat, pick them up and place them on the stair yourself.
- Let them get comfortable while they are on the stair and sit with them, showing them it is a safe space.
- Continue working your way up each stair with them and stay by their side. Stay low to the ground with them so they feel supported and see you climb up with them.
- Once they have gotten used to that process, try going ahead of them on the stairs to encourage them to follow you up.
- Use lots of positive reinforcement every step of the way (literally).
- Make this a daily habit until they master the stairs.
- Continue to monitor them as they use the stairs until they look fully confident.
Some Additional Tips for Bulldogs on Stairs
Clicker training is another great technique to pair alongside treats and positive reinforcement. The clicking sound that comes from the clicker is something we cannot replicate and is specific to dogs. They like the sound and it encourages them, knowing they have done something right.
It also makes learning new tricks easy once they understand the meaning of the clicker. You can teach your English bulldog to go up the stairs with this and once they master that, utilize it again when going down.
Using a Harness Leash
As you train them, it may also be beneficial to have them on a leash. You will be able to help guide them easier and it provides additional support, so they are less likely to fall.
Stairs = Scary
Remember that this is a scary thing for dogs to learn. Think about the size of those stairs compared to the size of your bulldog. That’s a heck of a climb, especially for a puppy. Give them time and be patient with them as they learn. It’s scary enough, so be kind and gentle as you help motivate and encourage.
Consider the Material of Your Stairs
A carpeted stairway will be any bulldog’s best friend. It is easier on their joints, they won’t slip, and it’s a soft landing if they fall. If you have hardwood or any type of slippery surface make sure they take their time and consider getting anti-slip carpet pads for your stairs if it seems to be a real issue for them.
Your English bulldog should be able to fully master the dreaded stairway even if it doesn’t come naturally. Some bulldogs may jump right in, excited for the new challenge. Others may need a little extra encouragement and training from you. So, make sure you provide the support they need and get them feeling confident.
Make sure your bulldog is up to the task and be aware of the medical conditions that can cause issues with stair climbing.
If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.