Simply buying a dog ramp is only the first step in helping your dog scale different heights safely and easily. Most senior dogs or dogs with mobility problems will balk at the sight of this metal or plastic monstrosity and wonder what you expect them to do.
Sometimes, a dog may just scale up naturally but in general they will need some training and guidance to make use of the product you’ve just parted with your cash for. This article will help you train your dog to use the dog ramp.
Why would dogs be apprehensive?
Dogs like to be on solid ground. It’s stable and it’s what they used to. Dogs are not born daredevils and are afraid of what they don’t know. For senior dogs and those with mobility problems just the act of moving can be uncomfortable so the thought of scaling a ramp isn’t something they’re going to be overly excited about.
That’s why it’s important to teach them that using the dog ramp helps them achieve something that IS desirable such as getting in the car or getting to a comfortable spot at the end of the ramp. It’s a means to an end and that is exactly what we want the dogs to know.
Let them see it without having to use it
We recommend letting your dog see the ramp without having to use it as soon as possible. Don’t throw them in the deep end. Let them see it, smell it and touch it and become acclimated so that this new product is normal and will be sticking around.
You use it first
Next, set up the ramp in a safe place (make sure your dog is around like in step 1) and use it yourself repeatedly. Go up and down in a safe and calm way and be sure to carry treats with you. If your dog watches at this point and wants to join in be ready to reward them if they make it onto the ramp.
They may not want to follow you at this point but if they do it can make the following points a lot easier and maybe even redundant.
Start with a low incline/decline
Start by placing the ramp securely at a low incline/decline so that it is easy to go up and down. As they make progress increase the incline slowly so that they don’t notice the change as much. Eventually you’ll be able to get them to practice with the incline as it should be.
A good example would be to place the ramp on grass or carpet so that it doesn’t slide and use wooden beams or breeze blocks so add the incline. Be extra careful to use something heavy and strong that won’t move easily to increase the incline.
Using the ramp on a sofa is another great idea as it’s wide and pretty secure.
Walk them up it on a lead
With treats still on hand, put on their lead and try and walk them up the ramp. Don’t force them up, just gently direct them towards it. If they make any kind of progress at all then give them loads of praise and treats.
If they end up getting to the top, that’s amazing! At this point we’d recommend actually taking them somewhere as a treat so that they begin to think “If I get to the top of the ramp that means good things!”.
Guide them down the ramp
Heading down the ramp is arguably more daunting than going up it because it’s easier to fall down than it is up. Get their lead on and be prepared for a long and patient session. Always have your treats on hand to reward them for any progress made.
Let them follow you
If you’ve had a lot of luck with the above steps it’s time to get them to follow you up the ramp with a treat unaided. You can do this with a lower incline if you wish.
Don’t stop using treats even if they’ve done it perfectly once. You should try to give them a treat every time they use the ramp successfully.