As your dog gets older, you’ll need to practice patience and compassion for your senior pet. It may be difficult for him to accept that as he ages, he’ll need to make some lifestyle changes in order to make his life easier. It’s not unusual for older pets to use portable steps and ramp ways to make their way around the house and to get in and out of the car. However, they must be taught how to use these devices. To keep your dog safe and mobile, we recommend these tips when teaching your dog to use dog stairs or ramp.
Why use a ramp or stairs?
If your senior dog is slow or has difficulty getting up on to things, stairs and ramps can be quite useful. Stairs can be placed next to stationary resting areas, like a bed or couch. Ramps are portable, can fold up, and be taken places; these are ideal for getting in and out of the car. It’s important to choose a ramp or stairs with an anti-skid surface, giving your dog a place to grip his paws and making it less likely for him to slip or jump off the edge. Positive reinforcement should always be used when teaching your dog how to use the ramp or steps. This reinforcement will make the experience more enjoyable for your dog, and make him more likely to use these devices with confidence even if you aren’t present.
5 Steps Teach your dog to use dog stairs
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√ Let Your Dog Get Used to the Steps. If you have a fearful dog like Felix, the arrival of new furniture isn’t always a good thing. The first thing we did was set up the stairs. (ie. Open the box and fold out the legs. Seriously, you guys, that easy.) Felix wouldn’t go anywhere near them, so I decided to leave the stairs out for a few days, placing them near Fe’s spot on the couch, and let Fe get used to them.
√ Bait the steps with treats. Once Felix stopped flinching every time he saw the steps, we took it one step further, placing a treat on each step and waiting. I nearly chortled with glee when he would tentatively creep over and snatch the treat off the bottom step. Whenever he would snatch up a treat, I would replace it with a new treat until Fe was reliably taking snacks off the bottom step. Once he was consistently taking treats off the steps, I stopped making it easy on him. If he wanted treats, he had to put his feet ON the stairs.
√ Practice makes perfect. For a few minutes, a couple times a day, we would work on climbing the stairs. I would grab my tastiest, smelliest treats and use them to lure Felix up the stairs. Continue practicing until your dog is going up and down the stairs easily. At this stage, if you want to add a command, go ahead and do it. We used “stairs” to remind Felix what we wanted. (I don’t know what it is about “down” stairs, but it’s apparently scary and awkward. Make sure you practice going down the stairs, not just up or you’ll end up with a dog like mine who climbs the stairs to get his treat and then jumps down
√ Make the stairs the only access point. I swiftly learned that getting Felix to use the stairs and getting Felix to use the stairs every time, even when you weren’t luring him with goodies, were two very different ideas. He’s stubborn that boy! I’m stubborn too though. To restrict access to the couch, I propped up our baby gate against it. The gate ensured that the stairs were the only way to get on or off the couch.
√ Be patient! This process isn’t going to happen overnight. We worked on it every single day and it took Felix a month to start using the steps. Even now, I have to remind him to “take the stairs” and redirect him when it looks like he’s going to jump down.
Having an aging dog can require more attention, patience, and compassion. Just like people, dogs can develop conditions that make it hard for them to get around and participate in their daily activities. To make your life, and your senior dog’s easier, teaching him to use a dog stairs or ramp will help. After they learn these skills they will be able to get around the house and into the car successfully once again.