Ageing is an inevitable fact for all of us, and watching our beloved pets get older is both a privilege and heartbreaking. It might be a challenging process for your dog to come to terms with, as their body gets weaker, and some develop mobility problems. To help them adjust and to keep enjoying an active life, you will have to make a few lifestyle changes. One of these important changes is introducing a ramp or steps, to help them up onto a bed or couch, and importantly into the back of your car.
In this article, we will outline a step by step guide to teaching your dog to use a dog ramp and some helpful items/tips to make the process as smooth as possible for you both.
Your dog may no longer be able to climb up on the couch or bed for those warm snuggles, but with a small investment of your time to teach them some new tricks a dog ramp will help him climb up and down from higher surfaces and in and out of the car with ease, and making sure you still have plenty of adventures and cuddles yet!
Items to help teach your dog to use your new dog ramp
You will need the following items:
- Your new ramp
- Plenty of treats
- A clicker (only if you have used it for training before)
- A Leash and collar
Step by step guide to teach your dog to use a dog ramp
The process of training a dog to do anything is always gradual. Now that you have got all the items you need for training, where do you start?
Before we can list the step-by-step guide, understand that you must encourage your pup. He is most likely going to be cautious or anxious about the introduction of this new item into his space. Therefore, focus on creating a positive association between your dog and the ramp first.
Allow him to sniff it and walk around it. A fearful dog can be challenging to train. You must, therefore, let your dog interact with the dog ramp ahead of time to create familiarity. Set the ramp up in your home where you plan to use it most and leave it there for a day or two so your dog can sniff it and become familiar with its presence. Set aside a small amount of time to train your dog every day. Shorter, more regular training sessions are better than one big long exhausting session. Be patient, it could take some time before he can confidently use the dog ramp but he will eventually learn.
5 steps to teach your dog to use a dog ramp
- Introducing the ramp to your dog
- Use treats to reinforce training
- Introducing an incline
- Eliminating the treats
- Practicing on a car/truck
Step 1: Introduce the ramp to your dog
As we have mentioned above, dogs are skeptical about new items around them. And with a dog ramp, it is no different. The first step involves allowing your dog to become comfortable around the ramp. If he seems anxious or fearful about it, encourage him to approach the ramp using rewards.
Use a treat to guide him to the ramp, placing one or two on the surface to encourage your dog to get closer. You will notice him sniffing and even walking around it. Please do not use a leash and collar to force him to the ramp
At this point, ensure the ramp is stable and secure on a flat surface, the last thing we want is for it to move, thus scaring your dog with the sudden movement.
Step 2: Use a clicker or treat to reinforce positive behaviour
Now, hold the treat across the ramp. Your dog will follow the treat, meaning he will have to walk on the dog ramp. Reward him with the treat once he puts one paw on the ramp. If you have used a clicker before, use it instead of a treat.
Hold out another treat further to encourage him to put his second paw on the ramp.
Once again, use a clicker or treat to encourage him. Move the treat further and let him follow. Once he has all his four paws on the ramp, offer him a treat.
You will need to repeat this step several times a day. Allow intervals between these training sessions.
If your dog does not use a clicker, stick to treats rewarding him when he associates with the ramp.
Step 3: Introduce an incline
Now that your dog is comfortable being around the ramp, what next? Now we can gently introduce a gradual incline, as this will be the most unfamiliar stage for your dog. Start with a small slope, and increase gradually. Depending on your dog’s personality, this could take more time than you anticipate.
Place your dog at the base of the incline. Now, standing beside the ramp, hold out a treat. He will climb up the ramp to reach for the treat. Once he starts walking up the pet ramp, move the treat further. This should encourage him to keep following the treat. Reward him once he steps up.
If your dog is anxious, or uncertain, go back to repeat Step 2, encouraging him to get on the ramp once again. Repeat until he is confident enough to go up the ramp, and start with a lower incline to begin again.
If your dog refuses to follow your lead, there is another way. You can arrange several pieces of the treat along the ramp. He will climb up as he eats the treats. However, this should only be for some of the time.
Use verbal praises and more treats to reinforce the training once he is up the ramp.
This training will work for any of our best selling dog ramps.
Step 4: Eliminating the treats
For how long should you use the treats to reinforce training? Different dogs will need different training periods. However, at some point, you will have to eliminate the use of treats. You don’t want him to be entirely dependent on the treats to use the dog ramp.
Start by reducing the number of times you reward him. For instance, stop rewarding him for just getting on the ramp. Instead, encourage and support him up the ramp and only reward him when he uses it to get to the couch/bed.
Remember to teach him how to walk down the ramp. Use boxes on the side of the ramp to cushion him if he jumps or falls over the ramp. Note that senior dogs find it easier to use flat dog ramps than stair ramps. Use rewards and verbal praises to encourage him to walk down the ramp.
While purchasing a ramp, go for a wider one. Your dog will be more comfortable and confident to walk on it, and it will make it easy for you to train him.
Step 5: Practice on a car/truck
Your canine friend is now using the dog ramp confidently, isn’t that awesome? One of the reasons most dog owners purchase a ramp is to assist their pups in and out of a car. It is going to be a lot easier to teach him how to use it on a vehicle if they are already comfortable using it inside on the couch. Do not forget to reward your dog each time he uses the ramp into and out of the vehicle.
Use the above training steps to encourage your dog to use his ramp. Do not allow your dog to jump or carry him into the vehicle, as this will undo your hard work training and confuse your dog. Instead, make him use the dog ramp every time you take him for a ride. Use treats for positive reinforcement.
Click here to see our dog ramps specifically for cars.
Remember to be patient when teaching your dog to use a dog ramp. As mentioned above, this is going to be a gradual process. Do not force or carry your dog to the ramp. Instead, allow him to approach it naturally. Focus on making the training process as friendly as possible. The last thing you want is to scare him off. If your dog accidentally slides and falls off the ramp, it creates a negative association. As a result, he will be afraid of dog ramp until you re-train him.
Introduce verbal cues to command your dog to use the ramp. For instance, you can use “ramp” to instruct him to get on the ramp. You might need to practice obedience training for this.
The most important thing is to associate the use of a dog ramp with a fun and favourable outcome, ie cuddles on the couch, or going in the car for an adventure!