If you have ever owned an aging dog, you will start to notice that as they get older, there are many physical activities that they will start to struggle with. Going up stairs, getting into vehicles and getting on your bed or couch are just a few of the things that your dog could struggle with.
Ramps for dogs is a great way to help your dog get where they want to go. There are many things to consider when getting your dog a ramp. I am going to discuss how to get your dog to use a ramp, how the dog ramp benefits your dog, and what you need to look for in a ramp.
How A Dog Ramp Benefits Your Dog
A dog ramp especially benefits larger dogs, overweight dogs and older dogs, but can be beneficial to smaller dogs as well. Jumping out of a vehicle or off a bed puts a lot of stress on your dogs joints. What once seemed easy for them when they were young starts to be painful after all the years of extra stress on their joints.
I know when I was younger, I had no problem jumping out of a tree, but there is no way my body would appreciate me doing a crazy move like that any longer. This is the same for our dogs.
Breeds of dogs that have a tendency for hip dysplasia, can especially benefit from the use of a ramp. Starting your dog using a ramp while they are young can help prevent genetic based injuries. The dog ramp will substantially reduce the amount of stress that is put on your dog’s joints.
Large dogs and overweight dogs already are putting added stress on their joints just by the amount of extra weight that they carry, and older dogs have pounded their joints for years and their joints are no longer as limber as they once were.
Training Your Dog To Use A Ramp
It is best to start training your dog to use a ramp at a very young age. You know the saying, “can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I will tell you from experience, I have had several large older dogs that didn’t use a ramp when they were young, and when it came time that they needed to use the ramp, they refused to even try to use the ramp.
It is harder to get older dogs to even try the ramp most times because they already aren’t as steady with their legs that they once were. This makes even trying the ramp a scary adventure for them.
Starting you dog with the ramp when they are young will help undo stress on your dog’s joints, but it will also be much easier to get your dog to try the ramp.
When you get a ramp, lay the ramp flat on the ground, fully extended. Put your dog on a leash, and have them walk the ramp while the ramp is flat. The leash will help you guide your dog. This exercise will not be as intimidating for them to walk across. Repeat this process often, before actually setting up the ramp at an angle. Reward your dog with positive reinforcement and with treats. This will make sure your dog sees the ramp as a positive experience.
When you get to the point that your dog is comfortable walking on the flat ramp, put the ramp up at an angle for wherever you want your dog to use the ramp. If they are unsure of using the ramp, use your positive reinforcement and reward with treats. Stick with the training, it might take some time.
Start using the ramp whenever possible now that they are trained, to help reduce years of unnecessary stress on your dog’s joints.
What You Need To Look For With A Ramp
There are several things that you need to look for when deciding on a dog ramp for your dog. There are many differences between ramps. The most important factor is making sure you are choosing a ramp that is safe for your dog. Here is my list of must haves or things to consider before purchasing any ramp.
- The adult weight of your dog. All dog ramps will have weight limits listed. Make sure your are figuring the maximum weight your dog could reach as they get older. This will help you to only have to purchase one ramp and that your ramp will be sturdy enough for your dog.
- Get a ramp that either has carpeting or some type of nonslip material on the ramp. This will make your dog feel more secure when they are walking on the ramp.
- Length of ramp. It is very important to consider what you are using the ramp on. Will you be using the ramp to go up to an SUV? Are you going to be using it to help your dog go up a short flight of stairs? You want to make sure that the ramp extends long enough that you aren’t making a steep incline. Your dog will have a harder time going up a steep incline and will be more afraid. You want your ramp to be able to stretch out long enough that your dog has a gradual slope and this will also be easier on their joints.
- The width of the ramp. The sizes of this will also vary, and if you have a larger dog, you will need a wider size.
- Ease of storage. If you are planning on using the ramp for your vehicle, you are going to want a ramp that either slides together of folds to a size that will fit in your vehicle so you can take it along with you when your dog is traveling with you.
- Make sure they have some type of nonslip pads on the bottom. You don’t want your dog to be walking up the ramp and it slides off your bumper because it doesn’t have something to prevent it from sliding.
Click here to read my review on Solvit Dog Ramp – The ramp I recommend for large dogs.
Stairs vs Ramps For Dogs
Many dog owners choose to use stairs instead of ramps, especially if they have smaller dogs. This will give them the freedom to get up in a bed and ramps are hard to use in a bedroom, because of the amount of room that they take when extended.
I do recommend for large dogs that you stay away from stairs for getting into vehicles. The stairs will become difficult for older dogs to use. If you have stairs in your home, you will start to notice your older large dog avoiding the stairs when possible, as they will be painful on their joints.
Very similar to ramps, you want to make sure they are carpeted or have some protection against slipping. I also recommend that you get closed stairs because some dogs are afraid of walking on open stairs.
If your bed doesn’t have a foot board, another option that works well is an over sized footstool. I have used these for my dogs and it works well at the end of the bed. Generally, for a large dog, there will just be one step up onto the stool and then one step up to the bed. You can also use the footstool to sit and put on socks and shoes, so it has a double benefit.
Protecting your dog’s joints is important for helping your dog stay healthier longer. Using ramps for dogs can greatly improve the amount of stress that is put on your dog’s joints and body.
Start your dog out young using the ramps to help keep your dog’s joints stress free and make it easier when your dog really needs to use a ramp to get up stairs or into your vehicle. An older dog that is already unstable on their legs isn’t going to feel comfortable enough to walk up a ramp if they haven’t already been doing it since they were young.
Make sure to pick a ramp that accommodates your dog’s weight and a ramp that extends long enough to keep the ramp from getting too steep.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Also, if you have ramps that have worked great for you, share that information to help others out getting a good ramp.
Great article on the use of Dog Ramps! I have encountered this situation of aging large breed dogs not being able to do the same activities that they did when they were young…examples jumping up into the back of my truck, jumping on and off the bed, going up and down the stairs to my deck. Thanks for the idea of introducing ramps at a younger age. I will try this with my next dog and see how it goes.
Tom, I glad you found the article informative and helpful. I strongly recommend to start training on the ramps when they are young. It is almost impossible to get them to use it when they get older and unstable on their legs. Good luck with your next dog.
What a great idea with a ramp and a very good advise to get it in time so they can get comfortable with it.
I’m a bit confused over that car makers doesent focus more on animal friendly cars. At least I got some ads about a Nissan X-trail that was focusing on dogs so maybe it will come more and more…
Is there any cars that fits better with ramps or doesn’t it matter?
Ps! What a cute picture of the German Shepherd resting…my favourite dog 🙂
Jan, thanks for reading my article, and I’m glad that your found it of value. You have a great idea. You would think that car manufacturers would start adding some features that would make it easier for dogs to get in the vehicle and have a safe place to sit.
Most of the ramps seem to work a bit better if you are putting them in the back of the vehicle, but several ramp manufactures have accessories that you can purchase additional that will help to work on a side entrance for your dog. It is best to look for this if your are loading your dog on the side of your vehicle.