Teach Your Senior Dog to Use a Ramp or Stairs

Once your dog is following your treat-filled hand across the entire ramp, wean him off the treats by leading him with an empty hand. Reward your dog for any movement to follow your empty hand across the ramp. Once your pooch readily starts to follow your empty hand, reward him when he reaches the end of the ramp. If he only follows if you have a treat in your hand, keep the treat there, but reward with a treat from the other hand.

When your dog gets to the end of the ramp, have him turn around and return to where he started. Add a verbal command, such as “up” or “out,” a couple of seconds before you begin to direct him with your hand. Treat your dog for any movement on the verbal cue.

Once your pet has mastered the ramp on flat ground, add a slight incline. Only raise the ramp a little at a time; if the incline is raised too fast, your dog may panic and jump off the edge or refuse to get on at all. Use your empty hand as a target for your dog to follow; this gives him something to focus on. With enough practice, you should be able to get your pet to follow your hand up and down the ramp, with the occasional treat at the end for reinforcement.

Stair Training

When you’re training your dog to use stairs, be patient and go at his pace. Create a trail of treats from the base of the stairs to the top and onto your couch or bed. As your dog investigates the treats, stand next to him and, with gentle praise, drop treats on the next stair or two. You can also use a lure held slightly out in front of your dog’s nose and reward him for following it.Some pets may be comfortable going up the stairs but more cautious going back down, so it’s essential to practice both.

Once your dog starts to use the stairs with ease, fade the treats or food lure. Do this by adding a verbal cue, such as “climb,” and toss a treat, or use an empty hand as a target to lead the dog up or down the stairs. Next, say your verbal cue and pretend to toss a treat.If your dog moves up or down the stairs, immediately reward him with a treat placed at the top or bottom of the stairs. Keep your dog motivated by rewarding him with praise, petting and the occasional treat.

With practice, your senior pet will be able to use his senior-specific equipment with ease, which will make the aging process less stressful for him.


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