Back to School: Teaching Your Dog How to Use a Ramp

By Cathryn Fields, LVT

Benefits to Using a Ramp

Nemaramp

Nema is learning to walk down the ramp from a platform as part of her rehabilitation.

As our dogs age or recover from injury, getting into and out of vehicles can be difficult for them.  Ramps and stairs are a great way to help our dogs without the impact and stress on their joints associated with jumping.  They also prevent us from putting strain on our backs as we try to assist our dogs, especially our large breed friends, into and out of cars.

Points to Consider

Introduce the Ramp to Young Dogs 

It is never too young to teach a dog to use a ramp!  Younger dogs do not suffer from the age related vision and arthritic changes that an older dog may experience; therefore they are more confident in their footing.  Early introduction allows your dog to have the skills and experience to use the ramp when they will benefit the most from it.   

 Remember:

  • Find a ramp that has a traction surface, or cover your ramp with a yoga mat to help with grip.
  • Always use positive training!
  • Keep sessions light and fun, you want your dog to enjoy using their ramp.

Teaching your dog to use a ramp:

  • Begin teaching your dog how to use a ramp by laying it flat on the ground. By allowing your dog to walk over it flat, it gives them a chance to acclimate to the texture and feel of the ramp without the difficulty of height.
  • Next, use food to lure your dog onto the ramp and reward when he gets one foot, two feet, etc. onto the ramp. When all four feet are on, lure across the ramp rewarding along the way.
  • If your pet jumps off, just go back to the end of the ramp and try again. When successful, celebrate the success with your dog!
  • If your pet is hesitant of the ramp, spend some time justallowing them to explore it. Treat any interaction with the ramp, even investigating the ramp, to teach your dog that the ramp is a rewarding place to be.
  • After a few successful repetitions, begin to wean off the treats by rewarding only at the far end of the ramp.

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    Locke is learning how to walk across the ramp while the ramp is flat on the ground.

  • Next, add height to one end of the ramp. This makes it more difficult for your dog, if your pet struggles lure and reward as you did when the ramp was on the ground.
  • Gradually add more height to the end of the ramp until the end of the ramp is the same height as your vehicle. If at any time you dog struggles with a height increase, just lower the height to where your dog was successful.  Build more confidence at that height before increasing the difficulty again.

Have fun teaching your dog how to use their ramp!