LIFESTYLE

How to Build Dog Stairs: A Fun And Useful DIY Project

How to Build Dog Stairs
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Knowing how to build dog stairs becomes an important skill when you have to help your pet up to your house or your bed. Dog stairs are necessary if your pet is still a young pup and cannot make the right strides to reach each step or if they are too old that they are experiencing joint problems and need stairs with lower rises. This will not only help them reach higher areas without much difficulty but it will also protect their body from further damage.

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There a variety of options for the materials that you can use for dog stairs depending on your building skills and so it is not that difficult to create one. If you are not that skilled in carpentry, you can opt for foam boards which you would only need to “cut” to shape and glue until it sets.

Dog stairs steps

For more ambitious and skilled individuals however, you can always choose the traditional wooden stairs. Although this takes more planning and materials to accomplish, it is also sturdier and will last longer. So depending on your skills, you can take on an easier or harder path to creating your own dog stairs.

The planning phase

 The first step in creating your dog stairs is to lay out a plan. This helps to avoid mistakes during the actual construction and in the purchasing of materials. When you have a plan, you will know the right size of planks to buy, the number of nails and screws that you would need, and avoid buying excess materials.

DIY one step stair

This way, you will be saving not only on your time but on your budget as well. It would even be better if you can find the materials at home or recycle them from old pieces of furniture. So what you need to know are the following:

  • The total height of the stairs – Measure the height or elevation from the floor to the desired level, such as the height of your bed, in order to get the right measurements for the stairs. You can also use a lower measurement especially if the bed has a wooden siding which can act as an additional “rise” for the stairs.
  • The width that would complement the size of your dog – It is important to get the right width for the stairs so your dog can climb up or down easily without having to fear about falling or slipping from the stairs. If it is too narrow, your dog may fall over if they try to sit and on one of the flights of stairs. Aside from that, if you have multiple dogs in the house, one of them may get pushed over the edge. It would also be a good idea to design a wide staircase if one of them is quite dominant and would not allow the others to pass through.
  • The right measurement of the rise and run of each step – The recommended height for the rise of the stairs ranges from four to seven inches depending on the size of your dog. If you have a smaller dog, you should go for 4 to 5 inches whereas larger dogs can go for six to seven inches. The best way to determine this however, is by measuring the height with which your dog can reach a level without having to extend their bodies. The height should never exceed the total leg length of your dog.
    The run of the stairs should be about a foot wide so that they can comfortably sit down or “take a break” when they want to. You will get the number of steps for your stairs by dividing the total height by the measurement of the rise.
  • Materials to use – This, as we have mentioned above, will depend upon your building skills. If you choose the easy route, you can try the foam boards whereas if you are more skilled, then you can make use of your carpentry expertise. For the foam board project, you will need at least a half-inch thick of these boards and as for the size you can select the proper widths that would suit your dog. You will also need an adequate amount of glue which can mean a lot since you will be gluing all of the pieces together.
  • For the wooden stairs, you will need 2×2 posts, a 1×2 for the brace, wooden boards, nails, plywood and screws. You will need two pieces of posts for each flight of stairs. You will also need two pieces that will run on the base that will serve as a brace along the sides of the stairs. The wooden boards will serve as the rise and run of your stairs whereas the posts will serve as inner reinforcements for the structure. The plywood will serve as the siding for the stairs.

Building your dog stairs

Before you proceed with the project, make sure that you have the correct measurements for your stairs. You will need the overall height, rise, run, and width of the stairs before proceeding to purchase your materials.

Make stairs for your dog

For option A or the foam board stairs, these will be the steps to follow. First, stack up the foam boards until it reaches the total height for the stairs with the wider part running along the side of the bed. Starting at the top, measure about 1 foot from the side that touches the bed and start cutting downwards. The height of this downward cut should be equivalent to the desired rise for each step. After this, remove the foam boards that have been cut off. Repeat the steps until you reach the base of the foam boards.

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When you have reached the base of the stack, take a sufficient amount of craft glue or superglue to hold all the pieces together. To finish off, you can try covering it with carpet or by making a fabric cover for it. You can also check this tutorial out if you are looking for an easy plywood project:

For option B or for dog stairs made of wood, you will have to do the following. First, cut out pieces of wood that will be used as side boards for the stairs. For each step, measure wood pieces that have the corresponding height and width. For example, if the first step is about four inches high by a foot wide then cut out a piece of that size. You can combine several pieces together to make it a foot wide. Then for the next one, you will need eight by one foot and so on.  Next, cut out pieces of wood that will be as long as the width of the stairs and as wide as the rise.

Cut out a length of the 1×2 which corresponds to the total width of the side of the stairs. Put the wood pieces side-by-side and align the edges. Nail the brace (1×2) along the edges of the wood pieces to hold them together. You will need to create another set of these woods to go for the other side of the stairs. Nail or screw a piece of wood that will serve as the first rise at the bottom of the two sides of the stairs.

Wood dog stairs

Cut up your posts by determining the height of the various steps. You will need two pieces for each step. For example, you will need two pieces of four-inch high posts, then eight inch, and then twelve inches. Put the posts on the inside corners made by the side and rise and screw them to the planks of wood. This will serve as reinforcements to hold the weight of your dog as well as platforms where you can nail the succeeding boards. Nail a 2×2 horizontally at the base of the other end as well to help hold the frame together.

Next, cut out pieces of wood that will be as wide as the width of the stairs. If your wood is wide enough, you can use a single piece that will serve as the size of the run as well. But if you have a larger dog, you will need to combine several pieces together to make a one foot wide step. Then, lay the pieces flat on top of the first rise and nail it to the sides and the along the width. After this, nail another piece of wood for the rise of the steps. Do this simultaneously until you reach the top of the stairs. Then at the back portion, put a piece of plywood to cover up the whole area.

In finishing, you can put wooden trims along the edges of the stairs to serve as a foothold for your dog when they are climbing. You can also choose to cover it with carpeting or paint it with anti-slip paint for greater resistance. Here is a sample of how to do this type of stairs:

Benefits of dog stairs

Now that you have finished your project, you will be ready to use it but what purpose would it actually serve? What are the circumstances in which you will need it? Well there are plenty of reasons why you should have a set of dog stairs at home whether you will be using it for your dog to reach your bed or for them to climb up a higher area. They are extremely important for dogs that have joint problems and you also need them for dogs which are afraid of the regular stairs that you have at home.

A lot of puppies and old dogs often find it uncomfortable to take the regular stairs either through the physical discomfort that it provides or other reasons such as senility.

Dog going down the stairs

One of the benefits that you can get out of dog stairs is that it helps to lessen the stress on your pet’s joints. This is true for young puppies as well as for old dogs. These age brackets are the phases where a dog’s bones are very susceptible to damage as the cushions between the plates are either not yet fully developed or have been so eroded that they don’t serve their purpose at all. Jumping from a higher to a lower area can damage their bones or dislocate them so having a set of stairs is really an advantage.

The other reason is that there are pets which are terrified of “human” stairs. It could either be too steep or it just may not be to their liking. Creating a less steep slope as well as a wider one can definitely make it easier for them to come up or down of the stairs.

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If you find your dog complaining or refusing to come up the regular stairs or are unable to reach you in bed, if you allow them to sleep beside you, then making a dog stair can be the solution. We know just how difficult it could be to purchase one on the market that will suit your dog’s specific needs. Some of them are made out of poor materials and the more durable ones are often very expensive.

A lot of those which are commercially available are either unreliable or simply not cut out for your dog. The steps may be too narrow or they could be too steep for your dog to use. It could also be that the stairs cannot hold up the weight of your dog due to its flimsy construction.

Benefits of dog stairs

When you create your own stairs however, you will be assured of its quality and durability. Since you will be the one purchasing the materials and cutting them out to your dog’s specifications, you can easily customize it to the exact measurements that you need.

Aside from that, you also will be able to have fun exercising your creative talents during the process. You don’t have to worry if you think that you don’t have the skills to create one. There is an easy way to make them and you will not even need any hardware to build it. What is important is that you can create something that will help ease your dog’s problem in climbing up and down from one place to another.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Liz Fraser

    This is a really great guide. But for the wooden stairs, I think a rougher surface rather than the smooth wood would be better so that the dogs won’t have difficulty in finding purchase in their customized stairs. Just my two cents!

    • John Walton

      I agree with the textured surface, Liz. It adds traction and reduces the chances of slippage. While it is a bit harder to clean compared to the smooth-surfaced stairs, it will save you from the trouble of potential injuries.

  • Emily Parks

    This is a good DIY project. Beats buying when you’re on a tight budget. The beauty of it is you can customize to your pet’s size and breed. Great padding idea for the stairs so your pets stay protected.

    • John Walton

      What’s more, DIY stairs can give you the freedom to customize your stairs anyway you like it. In addition, I would have to agree with you about the padding because this is very important to prevent injuries.

  • Jamey Bronn

    I guess this can be great for small dog breeds, but my dog always finds himself in my bed without any help :p

    • John Walton

      This project is good for small dog breeds and puppies that are getting more active. Your dog must be a medium to large one if it can get on your bed with ease.

  • Jason Wright

    John, this is a great article and was very helpful for me. I have a 12yo American bulldog that’s 130lbs and can’t jump on the bed anymore. So I wanted to build him steps but needed some direction. Thanks!!!
    The only thing i would recommend adding, is the depth of the steps or the ‘tread depth’. I didn’t see that noted anywhere so maybe you could add that for future users. But overall, five stars!!!
    Thanks again from me and Carter!?

  • John Walton

    That is a very nice thing to know, Jason. I am glad that you enjoyed reading this article and how Carter enjoys having his own set of stairs. Thank you, and we do hope we can help you more in your pet parenthood journey.

  • buddhistgirl69

    My 11.5 year old long haired Akita is still trying to look young, but I can see the struggle of stepping up into the car, ascending stairs, and generally keeping up with his 4 year old pal, Otis. I love your stairs and plan to customize them to suit my bedroom decor. Thank You!

    • John Walton

      You are very welcome! Kindly let us know if you need more assistance. I hope you and your Akita are well.

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