Teach Your Senior Dog to Use a Ramp or Stairs

Susan Norwood / Alamy

It's important to practice obedience work and tricks with senior pets, but it is also essential to train your canine to cope with the aging process. This involves both lifestyle changes and the use of portable stairs and ramps, which help geriatric pets get on and off elevated areas safely and easily.

Stairs are useful when placed next to stationary resting areas, such as the bed or couch. Ramps are portable and can fold up, which makes them ideal for getting in and out of the car. Choose ramps and stairs with an anti-skid surface, which gives your dog’s paws something to grip and makes him less likely to slip or jump off the edge.

Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog to use a ramp or stairs; this will make the experience more enjoyable for your pet and will make him more likely to use these tools with confidence even when you are not around.

Ramp Training

Ramps can be adjusted for height depending on the object they are resting on, which makes it easy for them to be used at a more gradual incline when first training. During initial training, practice by laying the ramp on a stable, flat area where it won’t slide, such as in the grass or on carpet. Teach your dog to follow a treat as you lure him across the flat ramp.

Treat him initially for putting one paw up on the ramp. Next, treat him for placing two paws up on the ramp. Progressively move the treat toward the middle of the ramp. As soon as all four paws are up, reward your dog with treats as he follows your hand across the ramp to the other end. The goal is to have your pet follow the treat in your hand from one end of the ramp to the other.

If your dog jumps off the ramp, move him back to the beginning of the ramp and restart at an easier level, such as treating him for sniffing the ramp or putting up one paw.

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