How to Build DIY Dog Stairs

Building your own set of dog stairs is a great DIY project for any pet owner. Custom-built stairs allow your dog easy access to beds, couches, and other elevated surfaces. With some basic carpentry skills and the right materials, you can create sturdy, attractive stairs suited to your dog’s size and your home’s decor.

Choose the Right Height and Width

When embarking on a DIY dog stairs project, the first considerations are the height and width of the stairs. It’s important to build the stairs at an incline angle that is not too steep for your dog. Here are some tips for choosing the right dimensions:

  • Measure Your Dog’s Height. The total height of the stairs should be no more than 1.5 times your dog’s shoulder height. For example, if your dog is 20 inches at the shoulder, the stairs should be no more than 30 inches high.
  • Consider Width Based on Dog’s Size. For small to medium dogs, make each stair step around 16-18 inches wide. For large breed dogs, make the steps 20-24 inches wide.
  • Account for Thickness of Materials. Remember that the height includes the thickness of the tread material on top of the risers. Plan riser height accordingly.
  • Aim for a 20-30 Degree Incline. Cut stringers so that the stairs are not too steep. Shoot for an incline of 20-30 degrees, with 30 degrees being steeper.
  • Measure Landing Area Carefully. Be sure to account for the landing space needed at the top and bottom of the stairs. The landing should be as wide as the stairs and 12-18 inches deep.

Spending time on the measurements will ensure your DIY dog stairs are easy for your pet to use. Consider having a helper take measurements while your dog is standing, marking the perfect step height.

Choose Durable, Non-Slip Materials

Durability and traction are key when selecting materials for DIY pet stairs. Avoid flimsy wood or slick surfaces. Here are some ideal options:

  • Plywood or Oak for Stringers. Opt for 3⁄4 inch plywood or red oak boards to construct the strong base and stringers. These materials will stand up to repeated daily use.
  • Carpeted Treads. Cut treads out of furniture-grade plywood, and cover them in low-pile carpeting for grip. Staple the carpet firmly into place on the underside of each tread.
  • Rough Sanded Plywood. For stain-grade stairs without carpet, use 60 grit sandpaper to create texture. Sealed and varnished plywood becomes slick, so sand treads to maintain traction.
  • Outdoor Stair Treads. For outdoor stairs, utilize textured rubber or composite stair treads designed for patios and decks. They resist weather and provide traction.
  • No-Slip Pads. Apply peel-and-stick no-slip pads to wooden treads to help avoid slips and falls. Look for pads made for stairs.

Choosing the right materials will provide sturdy support and prevent injuries. Inspect materials for sharp edges, splinters, or other hazards before use.

Construct the Base

The base of your DIY dog stairs provides stability and serves as the foundation for the entire structure. Here is how to construct a strong base:

  • Cut two equal size boards from 3⁄4 inch plywood, red oak, or a suitable hardwood. Cut each board so it is as wide as your planned stairs. The length depends on desired layout.
  • Join the Base Boards Together. Place the boards parallel, side-by-side to create a wide base. Use wood glue and 2-inch wood screws to secure them together. Allow the glue to fully dry.
  • Attach Cleats for Support. Cut wooden cleats equal to the height of the base boards. Glue and screw cleats at the bottom front and back edges of the joined base to reinforce it.
  • Add Non-Slip Pads. For carpeting, attach rug gripper pads to the bottom of the base. For hard floors, use non-slip furniture pads. This prevents sliding.

The sturdy double base provides maximum support and stability so the stairs do not shift while in use. Constructing it carefully is time well spent.

Calculate and Cut Stringers

Stringers are the sloped supports that hold the stair treads in place at the proper incline. To cut stringers:

  • Determine Total Stringer Height. Measure from the floor to the desired landing height. Add the thickness of a tread. This is the full height needed.
  • Mark Stringer Length. Lay a straight board on the base, aligned with the edges. Mark the base board lengths on the stringer boards.
  • Plot and Mark Riser Height. Decide on a riser height between 5-7 inches. Mark this distance along the stringer board multiple times from bottom to top.
  • Draw Slope Lines. Connect the riser marks to create stringer slope lines.Aim for a 20-30 degree incline slope.
  • Cut Stringers with Jigsaw. Use a jigsaw to cut along the slope lines. Make small cutouts where treads will fit. Sand thoroughly when done.
  • Attach to Base. Spread wood glue on stringers and base. Attach stringers to the outside edges of the base with 2-inch screws.

The stringers support the stair treads and dictate the overall stair angle and ease of use. Take time to calculate rise and run to achieve the right amount of incline.

Cut Treads and Attach to Stringers

With the stringers installed on the base, you’re ready to cut and attach the stair treads:

  • Measure Tread Depth. Measure distance from stringer to stringer, subtracting 1-2 inches for side overhang. This equals tread width. For depth, allow 12 inches.
  • Cut Treads. Cut rectangular treads from plywood or other materials per those measurements. A circular saw works best for straight cuts.
  • Cover Treads in Carpet(optional). For carpeted stairs, wrap carpet over the underside of each tread. Staple it firmly in place with a carpet staple gun.
  • Attach Treads to Stringers. Place each tread into the notches cut into the stringers. Attach with wood glue and 2-inch screws driven into the stringers. Do not attach treads to each other.

Take care to cut treads to consistent depth and attach them squarely. The treads should not move or shift when weight is placed on them. Adding carpet tread covers provides grip.

Build Landings

Every set of stairs needs a solid top and bottom landing for safe access. Here’s how to build sturdy DIY dog stair landings:

  • Cut Landing Tops and Bottom. Use 3⁄4 inch plywood. Cut to the same width as the stairs and at least 12 inches deep. Keep landing depth consistent top and bottom.
  • Attach Top Landing. Place the top landing so it overhangs the top stair tread slightly. Attach by driving screws through the landing into the top stringers and tread.
  • Attach Bottom Landing. The bottom landing attaches to the base. Use wood glue and screws driven through the landing ply into base boards.
  • Cover Landings in Carpet (optional). For carpeted stairs, wrap carpet over the landings. Staple on underside.

The flat landings provide stable footing for your dog when getting on and off the stairs. Carpeting them matches the treads.

Add Side Supports and Railings

For safety and visual appeal, include side supports and railings on your DIY pet stairs.

  • Cut Support Boards. Cut 2×4 boards to match the total height of the stairs when assembled. These attach vertically at the sides.
  • Attach Support Boards. Place a support board at each side of the stairs. Attach to the base and tread edges using wood glue and 2-3 inch screws.
  • Build Railings (optional). Construct railings between the upper support posts. Include mid-rail supports. Attach with screws and glue.
  • Wrap Railings in Carpet (optional). For a coordinated look, wrap carpet around railing posts and mid-rail supports.

The side supports prevent swaying or shifting. Carpeted railing gives your pet something secure to grip when climbing the stairs for added stability.

Add Non-Slip Pads to All Surfaces

Once construction is complete, add non-slip adhesive pads to any exposed wooden surfaces.

  • Peel and Stick Pads. Look for tapered, non-slip adhesive pads made for stairs and furniture. Peel off backing and firmly press onto treads, landings, and supports.
  • Pads for Slippery Floors. Use soft gel pads if stairs will be placed on hard floors. They grip better and prevent sliding.
  • Outdoor Stair Treads. For outdoor stairs placed on grass or dirt, secure textured rubber treads with landscape adhesive or screws.

Adding pads prevents slips and falls, especially when stairs are placed on slick hard floors or outdoors. Take this important final step to complete the stairs.

Train Your Dog to Use New Stairs

The final step is introducing your dog to its new stairway. Here are some training tips:

  • Treats and Praise. Have tasty treats ready to reward your dog for using the stairs. Offer treats and upbeat praise each time your dog uses the new stairs.
  • Lead Onto Stairs. Walk your dog over to the stairs and lead it onto the bottom step. Encourage it walk up a few steps, then back down for the treat reward.
  • Never Force. If your dog seems unsure, go slow and gently coax it onto the steps. Never pick up your dog and place it on the stairs. This may create fear.
  • Add Treat Trail. Place treats on each step to lure your dog onto the stairs and up to the landing for the jackpot reward treat!
  • Be Patient. It may take days or weeks for your dog to adjust to the new access stairs. Allow it to become fully comfortable before expecting full stair use.

With positive reinforcement training techniques, your dog will soon be happily climbing its new stairs! Custom built stairs make it easier for dogs of all ages to reach beds, couches and more.

Safety Tips

When building and using DIY pet stairs, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Choose sturdy construction materials to support your dog’s weight and stand up to repeated use.
  • Avoid excessively steep slopes. Stick to a 20-30 degree stair incline for best results.
  • Inspect stairs regularly for damage or wear. Look for loose treads, unstable supports, and frayed carpeting.
  • Place stairs on level, non-slip surfaces. Add non-skid pads beneath for stability.
  • Monitor your dog when first introducing stairs to ensure safe use. Provide assistance if needed.
  • Do not allow small children to climb on pet stairs unsupervised. They are designed for animal use.
  • Check your dog’s health before introducing stairs. Elderly arthritic dogs may require alternative access methods.

With proper construction and training, DIY dog stairs provide safe and easy access. Be mindful of good safety practices when designing and using your stairs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Building DIY Dog Stairs

Building your own dog stairs is an easy project with big payoff for your pet. Here are answers to some common questions about constructing and using custom doggie stairs:

What are the best materials for dog stairs?

Opt for wood like plywood or oak for durability. Cover treads in low-pile carpet for traction. Use non-slip pads on any exposed wood. For outdoor stairs, utilize textured rubber or composite stair treads.

Should DIY dog stairs have railings?

Railings provide helpful stability if your dog leans against them when climbing. They also add a nice finished look. Include carpeted railings for easy gripping. Railings are optional but recommended.

What tools do I need to build dog stairs?

You’ll need a circular saw, jigsaw, drill, carpentry staple gun, tape measure, carpenter’s square, pencil, wood glue, sandpaper, and safety gear like goggles. A miter saw also helps for precise cuts.

How steep should the incline be on dog stairs?

Aim for a 20-30 degree incline, with 30 degrees being steeper. Measure your dog’s height and length between landing areas to calculate proper rise and run. Gentler slopes are easier for dogs to climb.

Should I put a landing at the top and bottom?

Yes, landings provide important transition areas at the top and bottom of the stairs. They allow your dog secure footing when getting on and off the steps. Size landings at least as wide as the stairs and 12 inches deep.

How do I get my dog to use pet stairs I built?

Use treats, praise, and patience! Gently lead and lure your dog to use the stairs, rewarding each small success. Introduce the stairs slowly over days or weeks. Never force a dog onto the stairs. Make it a fun, positive experience.

With the right approach and techniques, building DIY pet stairs can be an incredibly rewarding project. Your dog will love having custom-made stairs that make beds, couches and more easily accessible.


Constructing your own set of dog stairs is a satisfying DIY project that pays off in convenience and safety for your pet. Your dog will benefit from stairs designed for just its size and your home’s layout. Custom-built stairs also look more attractive than generic pet store options. By following the techniques described here for measuring, building, carpeting, and training, you can create high-quality stairs tailored to your dog’s needs. The improved access to beds, sofas, and other elevated surfaces will help preserve your dog’s mobility as it ages. Building custom DIY dog stairs takes time and effort upfront, but the rewards for both you and your furry friend make it well worth the investment.