If you are not able to physically pick up and carry your dog when going on a trip in the car then you may need to consider a car dog ramp. This is especially essential if your dog is aging, recuperating from injury or illness, or is a large breed that is known for joint problems such as bad hips.
When you make the decision to get a dog ramp for the car there are many things to consider, so do check out our other article- 5 Things To Consider When Buying a Dog Ramp for Your Car , before making your purchase.
Some dogs have no trouble with a ramp, but others can find them very intimidating and scary and will refuse to use them, so this article sets out to how to train your dog to both comfortably and safely, use your new ramp.
You can do the steps below over a series of sessions or days. Don’t try to cram and do it all at once. Build your dog’s confidence over time. When you start a session with a new step, consider first going back to a previous step just to reinforce what has already been learned before moving on to the new one.
1. Positive Reinforcement is the key to all training
Reward based training works!.. it’s as simple as that, and you will get much better results with positive reinforcement as opposed to punishing your dog when they don’t perform as you are expecting.
It can seem a bit daunting to train a dog who has never been particularly agile, to walk up a ramp, but as with training for other areas, using the ramp is just a simple task the dog needs to learn. If you make the experience a positive one with treats and praise it will be lot easier for you and your dog.
2. Start With a Flat Ramp
Introduce your dog to the ramp. Let them have a sniff and a general look over it to familiarise themselves with it. Let them sit on it if they wish.
With the dog on a leash at first, position your dog so that they can walk across the ramp from one end to the other on flat ground. On each pass give them some praise and a treat (plus a click if you use a clicker in your training). If they are not keen to enter the ramp use a treat and a hand as a lure to entice them on to the ramp and let them have it once on.
If you have needed to use a lure, continue with this process until they will enter the ramp without a lure or needing your hand. Remember to praise and treat on each pass.
Once this walking back and forth is simple for them try it without the leash and walk alongside them, giving encouragement as they walk along the ramp.
You may find removing the leash will see them get more excited and then stop responding to the training. It’s important to keep going and get them under your control and responding to commands and treats when not on the leash.
Things to consider:
- Don’t make this into a game.
- The aim is to get them to walk or trot (not run) along the ramp.
- Make sure they stay on the ramp. If they come off the sides, go again. They need to learn to go along and not over the ramp. A ramp with defined edges can help with this.
3. Raise The Ramp a Small Amount
Now we start to simulate how the car ramp will be used by propping it up on something sturdy. It’s important the ramp isn’t wobbling as that will most certainly put your dog off.
The best place you could put the ramp is up an existing small step so that the dog is exiting the ramp onto a flat surface. If you only raise the dog ramp using bricks the dog will need to step down at the other end which may deter them. As this is only a very small incline at this stage, it will be ok, but a step is definitely the best solution if you can find a way to do that.
As before, you now want to make multiple passes with positive reinforcement on every pass. Ideally this is without the leash, but if that is proving difficult continue to use the leash as you need to. You can sometimes find that the ‘fold’ in the ramp can make your dog nervous. Use your hand and a treat as a lure as necessary to get your dog over any joints in the design of the dog car ramp.
Things to consider:
- Go slow and steady.
- Continually reward and praise.
- Approach the ramp face on and exit at the same angle.
- Don’t let your dog jump from the sides. If they do, start again at the beginning.
4. Raise The Ramp Some More
For this stage you need to find an appropriate position to locate the ramp. Into the door of your property, a porch or decking can often be ideal. A flat surface at the top of the ramp is important.
The goal of this stage is to increase the incline of the ramp sufficiently to train your dog not to be scared of it. Often at this stage the dog will become apprehensive so adopt the same techniques as before with treat lures and using the leash where needed.
As with the previous steps continual positive reinforcement is required and you must ensure your dog enters and exits the ramp face on for their safety.
Things to consider:
- This is often the most difficult stage so don’t be discouraged.
- DO NOT pull or push your dog up the ramp.
- Rinse and repeat over multiple sessions to completely familiarise your dog with the ramp and incline.
5. Move The Ramp to The Car
Now it’s time to put all that training to good use. Move the ramp to your vehicle and do exactly as you have done before.
If you have an SUV, Jeep, Truck or other vehicle with a high landing then the incline is potentially quite steep. Hopefully you have already considered this and will have purchased a dog ramp of an appropriate length to keep the incline under the recommended maximum of 26 degrees. Again, see our article 5 Things To Consider When Buying a Dog Ramp for Your Car to check the length of ramp you will need for your particular vehicle landing height.
Practice going up and down the ramp using the lure and reward system as necessary. Hopefully you should find this last step is fairly easy as the hard work has been done on the previous steps.
Things to consider:
- Keep the incline safe. Purchase the right length dog ramp for your car.
- Do lots of repetitions.
- DO NOT pull them up the ramp. If they are not happy, try again. If necessary go back a stage and master that before moving back to the car stage.
- DO NOT let them bypass the ramp and jump straight into the vehicle which they may have been doing for years. If they do, get them down and try again. The goal is you want them to always use the ramp which they will have learned through the positive reinforcement training.
This excellent informative video covers everything we have just mentioned showing the process and the iterative steps taken to go from first introducing the ramp to having your dog comfortably using the ramp.
This second video shows what not to do. The whole point of the ramp is to alleviate the added strain on your dog’s joints. As this large breed Newfoundland has not had adequate training they are simply leaping into the car and therefore defeating the object of the car ramp completely and thereby putting the strain on their back hips – a big issue in this breed.
Don’t expect your dog to just instinctively know immediately what they need to do. Using a ramp or steps is new to them and they need time to learn that the ramp is nothing to be feared. By adopting these quick and easy training tips you will have your dog going back and forth into the car in no time.
Good luck and happy travelling!