Dog Ramps vs Dog Steps: Which Is Better For Older Pets?

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Your older dog has been by your side through thick and thin. Whether you are watching TV or on a car trip, your senior dog is right there next to you. When climbing out of the car is no longer an easy feat for them, a dog ramp is a simple solution.

Dog ramps are a good idea for older dogs with mobility issues who can no longer jump up and down the couch or climb in and out of the car with ease. A dog ramp will prevent injury to your dog’s joints and keep your back safe.

Find out why your older dog needs a ramp, the pros, and cons of both dog ramps and stairs, and learn how to train them to use it.

Why Does An Older Dog Need a Ramp?

Are dog ramps good for older dogs?

Your dog is considered senior at different ages depending on the breed’s size. Larger dogs are considered older when they are about seven years old, while smaller canines become seniors around 10 or 11. 

An older dog needs a ramp because they experience age-related problems with mobility, arthritis and other joint diseases, injury, or loss of muscle tone.

Some dogs need a ramp as they get older because their breed is predisposed to developing intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). This degenerative disease affects your dog’s spinal cord and causes intense pain when moving.

There are three types of IVDD: cervical, thoracolumbar, and lumbosacral IVDD. They affect your dog’s neck, back, and lower back, causing weakness in the hind legs, muscle spasms, and inability to stand and support their own weight. 

Your senior dog will also need a ramp if you are not able to carry them up and down the stairs because of their size or if you experience your own mobility challenges.

Are Steps Or Ramps Better For Older Dogs?

When your senior dog faces mobility issues, it’s time to consider using dog steps or ramps. Let’s find out their respective pros and cons. 

Pros and Cons of Steps for Older Dogs

Steps vs ramps for dogs

Steps are a good choice if your older dog is still agile and can use regular household stairs. 

They’re also easy to move around to use where your dog needs them the most. 

Your dog will prefer deep steps for maneuverability, so the larger the breed, the more space the dog steps will require. 

Dog steps are usually not fixed in place and may slip when your senior dog climbs them, causing further injury.

Climbing down the steps may also prove an issue for older dogs that experience reduced vision and balance. 

Pros and Cons of Ramps for Older Dogs

Ramps are a more suitable option for older dogs with limited mobility and loss of muscle tone because of IVDD, for example. 

Dog ramps are generally designed to be stored easily, portable, foldable, and sturdy. Ramps offer your older dog a better grip than steps, reducing the risk of further injury.

You can customize the incline of the dog ramp to fit the requirements of your dog: smaller breeds need a slope of 18 to 20 degrees, while larger dogs are comfortable climbing a ramp laid between 22 and 25 degrees.

If the ramp is too steep or made of hard material, your dog may experience joint stress and pain.

The Verdict: Ramps Are Better for Older Dogs

Dog ramps are better than dog steps because older dogs of all ages and sizes can use them, and they do not require great agility. They are easy to climb up and down from surfaces and can be stored away easily.

When choosing a dog ramp, keep in mind your dog’s size, where the ramp will be in use, how simple it is to set up, and whether it has an easy-to-clean non-slip surface.

The PetSafe CozyUp ramp from is a free-standing wooden ramp that your older dog can use to climb into the car or onto your bed with ease. The carpeted surface provides traction, and it folds flat for easy storage. 

How To Train Your Older Dog To Use A Ramp

Training your older dog to use a ramp is a fun opportunity to bond with your furry friend. Grab your dog’s favorite treats and follow these simple steps:

  1. Set up the ramp and introduce your dog to it. Allow your furry friend to sniff the ramp to their heart’s content and become comfortable around it.
  2. Use your dog’s favorite treats to guide them up the ramp gently. Let them take their time and do not force them to use the ramp.
  3. When your senior dog has made it to the top of the ramp, reward them with a treat and praise them.Praise is an additional form of positive reinforcement for your dog.
  4. Lure your dog down the ramp with another treat. Repeat these steps until they are comfortable climbing up and down the ramp. 

You’ll know training is a success when your dog uses the ramp, even when you are not around.

What To Do If Your Older Dog Won’t Use a Ramp

If your older dog won’t use a ramp, try using a clicker as an additional tool for positive reinforcement. Verbal reinforcement is just as effective if you don’t want to use a clicker. 

Take it back to basics, and lay the ramp flat on the ground. Praise and reward your dog for each paw they place on the ramp. Then again, when all four paws are on the ramp. 

When your dog walks off the ramp, reward and praise them once more. Repeat this process until they are comfortable, then set up the ramp against the desired piece of furniture and proceed with steps 1 to 4 above.

Adrienne Farricelli provides a clear demonstration of this training process in this short video:

You might find that the surface of the ramp is still too hard for your dog’s sensitive paws. Try covering the ramp with some soft non-slip padding. 

If a store-bought ramp is still too steep, you might try building a ramp explicitly designed for your furry friend. This short video by the Family Handyman channel provides instructions for a simple collapsible model.

Dog Ramps Are An Effective Mobility Aid

As your dog gets older, they may develop a range of mobility issues that prevent them from joining you on the couch or climbing out of the car at the park. 

Consider using a ramp to give your older pup easier access to their favorite spots. A dog ramp will reduce the stress on your dog’s joints and provide you with peace of mind when your dog is home alone.

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