How-To Guide

How to Train Your Dog to Use a Pet Ramp

 Posted on: January 19th, 2021

THow to Train Your Dog to Use a Pet Ramp
Golden retriever making his way up the Lucky Dog Extra Wide Folding Dog Ramp

It may become necessary at some point in your time as a dog owner to teach your dog how to use ramps to get up and down stairs or from cars or furniture. This is an especially common issue for older dogs that have become arthritic or lost their agility, or younger dogs that have had accidents or orthopedic problems that can make jumping up and down difficult or painful.

The common saying goes that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but you’d be surprised at how untrue this is. There are plenty of dogs who adjust to the use of pet ramps later in life—it just takes a bit of patience and training from you to get them comfortable.

Here’s a quick overview of the steps you should take to train your dog to use a pet ramp.

Prepare your training area

Before you introduce your dog to the ramp, it’s important to gather everything you need and set up a training area in a place that will be quiet, without any major distractions, and where the dog is comfortable.

Set the ramp up level in the middle of the floor, which will make it look less intimidating when the dog first enters. Consider putting boxes or chairs on both sides to encourage the dog to walk the length of the ramp without stepping off. Make sure you’ve purchased a good-quality ramp with a gripping surface for more secure footing, and a ramp that’s on the wider side to make your dog more confident.

Be ready with a clicker and some high-value treats.

Rewarding with high value treat
Rewarding with some high-value treats

Introduction

The first thing you should do when you bring the dog into the room is get them comfortable with the idea of the ramp. Click and treat your dog simply for looking at the ramp and sniffing the ramp. The idea is to build a positive association with the ramp.

You’ll want to see some progression here—looking at the ramp should progress to sniffing, and once the dog has begun sniffing, you should stop clicking and treating just for looking unless the dog completely loses interest.

Stepping on

Now you can begin to ask for more from your dog beyond looking and sniffing. At this point, only click and treat when the dog actually puts paws on the ramp, starting with one, then two, then three and finally all four paws. Once the dog gets all four paws on the ramp, reward the pup with multiple treats at once and a lot of praise. Let that behavior repeat several times to help the dog understand that standing and walking on the ramp is something that will get them rewarded.

Walking

Progress from stepping on the ramp to walking across it. Now, you’ll want to lure the dog across the ramp. You can do this by holding out a treat and walking along the ramp, encouraging the dog to follow after on the ramp. Give the dog the treat once he’s made it across.

Start fading out food

You don’t want the dog’s ramp use to be dependent on treats forever, so once the dog is reliably walking across the ramp while it’s flat on the floor, you can start to give out treads more sporadically, fading out the food reward over time. Continue to offer praise and clicks, just start to ditch the treats.

Add verbal cues

As the dog gets more comfortable walking across the ramp, you can add in verbal cues, such as “ramp” or “up,” along with an accompanying hand gesture. You can treat the dog’s behavior when they listen to the verbal cues as you give them.

Slight incline on Dog Ramp
PVI Extra Long Folding Pet Ramp on a slight incline

Add a slight incline

At this point, you’re finally ready to introduce a bit of an incline. Just make sure you do so very gradually. Continue using the same verbal cues and hand gestures. If your dog is tentative with climbing the incline, you might need to go back to treating and clicking the dog for putting individual paws on the ramp before progressing to walking up.

Practicing with Dog on Ramp
Practicing with Lucky Dog Extra Wide Folding Dog Ramp

Practice with where the ramp will be used

Finally, once the dog has shown a degree of comfort with slight inclines, you can begin practicing with the ramp leading up to a car or truck, up a set of stairs or up to a couch. Have a helper on hand the first time you do this, as this will be the largest incline your dog has traversed yet, and make sure to offer plenty of rewards for successful climbs!