Can French Bulldogs Go Up and Down Stairs? + Training Tips for Steps


can french bulldogs climb stairs

We have a nightly routine with our Frenchie. At around 8pm every night we let him come upstairs with us so he can watch TV on the bed with my wife and me. When we’re ready to go to sleep I will take him back downstairs again to his own bed… with his snoring there’s no way we’d get any sleep if he stayed upstairs with us!

But, how easy does he find it climbing stairs, both up and down? Here’s our personal experience and a video.

Can French Bulldogs climb stairs? Yes, French Bulldogs can go up and down stairs, however some smaller Frenchies might find it a struggle, and there is a slight risk that it could lead to hip dysplasia or patellar luxation in older dogs. Going downstairs is trickier for them based on our personal experience.

In my guide below you can find out whether stairs are bad for French Bulldogs, watch a video of our Frenchie using the stairs, and get some training tips.

Can French bulldogs go up and down stairs by themselves?

With Claude, our own Frenchie, he has never had any problems climbing stairs and was doing it himself from the age of around 5 months. In fact, you can see a video of him going up and down the stairs in our house that I shot on my iPhone below in more recent times.

You will notice that our Frenchie has no problems climbing stairs at all.

He has to climb stairs on a daily basis, because we live in a split-level home on a hill, and the only way to get into our kitchen after a walk is to climb some stairs up to the first floor of our home.

However, if you watch the video you will see as he’s coming back down there is a little struggle. Notice how he exhibits some swaying and shifting of weight on his hind legs and bottom (a lot of the time I will carry him back down).

That’s a sign that Frenchies probably do find it harder to come down stairs than they do going up them.

However, our own personal experiences should not be viewed as a general answer, as not all Frenchies are the same.

For example, we had Claude’s Frenchie friend Lola come visit us recently. She was scared about climbing the stairs in our house and she had to be carried up and down.

We’ve had other French Bulldogs visit us who bounded up and down the stairs in our house with no concerns of anxiety at all.

Are stairs bad for French Bulldogs?

What could the risks be for a Frenchie climbing stairs? Are they bad for their health?

Are stairs bad for French Bulldogs? In my personal opinion, as your Frenchie gets older, he might become prone to health problems concerning his spine, hips, and kneecaps. These health issues could become exacerbated by stair climbing. Your Frenchie could also tip and fall when coming down the steps.

lola stairs
One of our Frenchie friends, Lola, tried to start climbing the stairs at just 14 weeks.

The French Bulldog breed is notorious for having extensive health problems (you can read them all here), and stair climbing could end up making the following issues worse:

  • Hip dysplasia: this is a canine genetic condition which commonly occurs in older Frenchies. It happens when a displacement occurs between the hip joint and thigh and will lead to walking difficulties and pain.
  • Patellar luxation: this is the medical name for a kneecap dislocation and is another common health issues in French Bulldogs. It can occur due to knee trauma, as degenerative arthritis, or due to a genetic malformation.
  • Intervertebral disc disease: this is a degeneration of the disc in your Frenchie’s spine. It is an age-related condition in most cases, but can still occur in younger dogs, in particular the French Bulldog breed.

My advice to any French Bulldog owner, or someone considering buying a puppy for a home where you have lots of flights of stairs is to think very carefully.

For example, if you live in a high-rise block of flats and apartments where your Frenchie will need to climb up and down numerous stairs on a daily basis, this might not be the right dog for you.

However, if it’s a house over two floors, I wouldn’t let stairs put you off from getting a French Bulldog.

In our personal experience, our French Bulldog can go up and down stairs with relative ease, but he’s still only 3 years old so old age hasn’t become a factor yet.

But we are going to keep an eye on him as he gets older and will be checking for any warning signals of the health issues I highlighted above.

Coming down stairs is harder for a French Bulldog

As you saw in my video, Claude found it far easier to climb up our stairs than coming back down. The stairs in our home are quite steep so if he’s tired, I will carry him down.

I’ve also noticed that if he’s in a hurry to go back downstairs by himself, he will often look like he’s in danger of tipping forwards and falling.

I think this is probably due to where he’s top heavy at the front of his body. With those short legs, muscular shoulders and chests, a Frenchie will be a little unbalanced when coming down stairs at an angle – it could lead to them falling.

Handy hint: When Claude is going down stairs without being carried, I will always place my palm over the back half of his body just as precautionary measure in case he topples forward.

Having spoken to other Frenchie owners they have said the same; going up is easier than going down.

Based on that, I would take it easy, and recommend that you carry your French Bulldogs down the stairs if they are on a steep incline.

What can you expect?

I had a look on some Frenchie Facebook groups to see what other owner’s experiences were with French Bulldog stair climbing. Here’s a sample of the responses I found.

“Ours won’t go down more than two or three steps by herself, like one front porch. We actually have to carry her down the staircase in the house.”

“My Frenchie won’t even go up or down the stairs. I have to carry him each and every time which isn’t’ getting easier as he gets older and bigger!”

“I have two French Bulldogs and mine only walk up the stairs and will never come down. They each get carried down, every single morning…”

“One of Frenchies won’t even go down the stairs on his own! I have no idea why? I have to put my hands behind his bum on the way up as well, or he won’t climb up at all!”

“We have a 7-month Frenchie who won’t go down stairs either. Compare that to our other Frenchie puppy we had first, and he had no problems going up at down them t 8 weeks old. Strange!”

“It took my Frenchie a year and a half to master coming and up down the stairs in our house. We had to carry her down at first, but it’s only now that she has got the confidence to climb up the stairs to our top floor by herself.”

“It took a while for us. Our Frenchie was happy to go upstairs with no problem, but we have steep stairs so was very reluctant to go back down again. However, it just clicked one day and now he’s happy up and down with no anxiety.”

How to train a French Bulldog to climb up and down stairs

We never had to encourage or train Claude to use the stairs, but the method detailed below were successfully used by a friend of ours with their own Frenchie.

I would recommend having one person in front, and one person behind your Frenchie if possible. It gives that extra peace of mind in case there’s a little fall.

are stairs bad for a french bulldog
When Claude was 10 weeks old he was too young to start stairs climbing. I would recommend waiting until they are around 5 months.

And don’t be think you have to get the entire flight of stairs cracked in one go. For dogs who are really anxious, it might be small steps with just a few each day until he gets braver.

1. Clear the steps of any obstacles 

Your Frenchie could fall, so make it as easy as possible for him by making sure there is nothing on the steps that he could trip over.

A fall or stumble could create a mental block with the dog, making it even harder to get them to navigate stairs in the future.

2. Distract your pup with playful actions

Obviously you don’t want to distract him so much that he stumbles. But it can help to adopt a playful tone of voice or by patting your legs in the classic “here boy” fashion.

3. Use treats as a reward

Place some tasty doggy snacks on every other step. That gives your dog a reward for climbing the stairs and makes them work a little bit harder to get the next treat.

4. Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a great way to train your Frenchie to use the stairs and revolves around using nothing but praise and encouragement.

By rewarding your Frenchie with praise when he tries to climb the stairs it can lead to long-lasting results.

What other owners say about step training

Here are some more comments from other people who successfully trained their Frenchies to use the stairs in their house. Here’s what they had to say:

“We had success with frozen blueberries as treat as his toys didn’t work. We gave him one each time he got closer to the stairs. Then really encouraged him with lots of positive reinforcement when he would get close to doing it, and after that he just went for it.”

“It took a couple of weeks for our Frenchie to get used to the stairs. He was initially terrified, but I spoke to him and an encouraging tone of voice and praised him with every step. I tried to make it sound like I was having so much fun doing it myself. Now I have to tell him to slow down because he takes them so fast!”

“When our dog Bertie was younger he would run up the stairs in our home with no help from me at all. It was the coming back down the stairs which presented a problem. It’s almost like he was scared of heights or was frightened he was going to fall. He would stay at the top of the stairs whining until I picked him up and carried him down. This lasted for about 6 months, until I got him trained using treats and some positive reinforcement.”

You can see a few common themes appearing in those comments; positive reinforcement.

Conclusion

As you can see from my video and comments from Frenchie owners on Facebook, no one dog is the same. You might be lucky and have a French Bulldog who loves to climb stairs with no issues, you might have one who can only go up and not come down, or you might get one who point blank refuses.

Each Frenchie will have his or her own character.

But if there’s one thing I would say it’s that there seems be a common theme from owners regarding French Bulldogs finding harder to come down stairs instead of up.

This has to be due to the weight distribution in their body, and you can see that in the video I placed higher up the page.

To conclude, I don’t think having stairs in your home should stop you buying a French Bulldog, unless perhaps you live in apartments where there are multiple flights of stairs that need climbing.

With the health concerns I outlined, these are things that you should think about as your Frenchie gets older and have regular health checks with the vet.

The general consensus seems to be that if you do have a problem encouraging them, most of the time it will be with the coming down the stairs rather than going up.

Marc Aaron

We are the proud parents of Claude the French Bulldog. This is our website where we share everything we've learned about Frenchies and the adventures we've had.

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