Functional Dog Ramps: The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps

Dog ramps are an indispensable tool for dogs with mobility issues as well as in the prevention of injuries and wear and tear on the joints.

Not all ramps, however, are created equal. There are considerations to keep in mind to ensure your dog’s ramp is safe and functional.

Thank you to my hubby for weighing in from a jack-of-all-trades perspective.

Functional Dog Ramps: The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps

Why consider a ramp for your dog

When you have an injured dog, a dog after surgery, or a dog suffering from a disease affecting mobility, you need to think about accessibility.

Getting in and out of the vehicle, in and out of the house, even up and down a couch, all these things can become a challenge.

After Jasmine’s knee injury, we tried towel support, but that didn’t go over well with her at all. That’s when she got her first ramp for getting in and out of the house. She took to that immediately, and it has served her well all the way to the end. It was big, wide, and heavy-duty. We didn’t have to worry about moving it.

Further reading: Canine Physical Therapy: Ramps!

Criteria to consider

For a ramp to serve its purpose, it needs to be safe, stable, and comfortable for the dog.

After her neck events, we took Jasmine to a local vet for intensive laser therapy. They also happened to have an underwater treadmill, so we took advantage of our visits by having Jasmine get some hydrotherapy too.

Their treadmill was a different brand from the one we had previously. A drain pipe protrudes a few inches from the door by which the dogs access the treadmill. Plus, there is the normal 12-14 inch jump up into the doorway.

In the video, 0.12 mins, notice the pipe as it’s sticking out and the height. The ramp was at the back; it made its way into the adjacent closet room.

That’s quite a jump for a dog needing the treadmill for therapy.

The dog ramp cock-up

The treadmill came with a ramp to allow easy and safe access. Good plan, right?  Most definitely.

The ramp looked quite spiffy, made of plastic (ABS or polyethylene), so it was light, easy to clean, and basically waterproof with indoor/outdoor carpeting well glued to it.

The ramp looked good, but there was a problem with it. 

It flexed easily. The vet technician could make it bend just by putting some pressure on it with their hand. Not good. A dog with an insecure stance won’t feel comfortable walking up a ramp that’s bending in all directions.

So, the ramp ended up in a closet and was collecting dust since the dogs didn’t like it.

They lifted smaller dogs in and out of the treadmill. Larger dogs had to jump while avoiding the pipe sticking out at the same time.

Dogs like ramps

From our own experience, we found that dogs like ramps. 

At least they like them much better than steps. But they won’t like a ramp that is too steep, too narrow, or slippery. They also don’t like it when they bend, fold, or sag in the middle.

DIY dog ramp for Jasmine

When, after Jasmine’s first neck event, we (read: Jana) wanted a ramp to get our dogs into our mini-bus, we (read: I) built one that was made from a piece of 5//8” plywood with 1.5 x 1.5 x 3/16” thick aluminum angle carriage bolted to the sides. I then covered the plywood with pickup box protective coating for traction.

The reason for the aluminum angle on the sides was to stiffen the plywood along its length.  The width was sufficiently rigid, but the plywood would bend along its length.

The thing to remember here is that thickness is much less beneficial than height. 

I could have used thicker plywood, but the ramp would have been much heavier and still flex. The aluminum gave me 1.5 inches of the height along the edges and was light. I could have easily had the same strength if the aluminum had been 1/8″ thick, but I didn’t have any readily available.

It worked well, and both of our dogs readily used it.

The ramp held 200 pounds of dogs, and it was stable.

Things to remember when building a ramp

There are a couple of things to remember about a ramp like this.

You need to be able to carry it, and it needs to fit in your vehicle. 

I could have built it a bit lighter, but it only weighed about 60 pounds which I could handle myself. We had the room in the mini-bus for it, which was good for us.

Fixing the vet hospital’s ramp

Getting back to the ramp at the vet’s, The technician showed it to us, and we (read: Jana again) offered to fix it. In other words, I got voluntold once again. Do you see a pattern here?

The design of the ramp is just simple bends with lots of flat, flexible plastic. Suppose it was formed plastic, not molded. If it had been molded, it could have had reinforcing ribs built into its bottom to add rigidity.

As it was, something needed to be added.

Functional Dog Ramps: The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps

Once again, weight and water resistance were a consideration. So I built a simple frame out of a 1” x 1” x 1/8” aluminum angle. Looking at the pictures, you can see how it was welded together. I then fastened this frame to the existing ramp using ¼” stainless steel carriage bolts.

Functional Dog Ramps: The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps

After bolting it all together, I gave it the “acid test” and stood on it myself. 

This proved that it would support a 100-pound dog. Okay, two 100 pound dogs. Alright, two 100 pound dogs and food for a month.

The dogs were using the modified ramp to access the treadmill comfortably. All for a few pounds of aluminum.

Whether you purchase a ramp for your dog or build it yourself, don’t forget it needs to be functional.

Ramp requirements from the dog’s perspective

  • comfortable width for your dog’s size
  • the angle that is not too steep
  • non-slip (don’t forget it needs to remain non-slippery even when wet)
  • stable (wobbly ramp does not a happy dog make)

Dog ramp requirements from your perspective

  • weight (unless it’s a ramp that stays put, you need to be able to carry it)
  • size (no point of having an awesome vehicle access ramp that doesn’t fit into a vehicle or other designated space)

Tip

To determine the desired length, run a measuring tape from the point your dog needs to access and pull it out to the ground until you get a proper angle for your dog. Then you’ll know how long your ramp should be. You may or may not need to opt for a design that folds.

Related articles:
Canine Physical Therapy: Ramps!

Further reading:
Do You Need a Dog Ramp?
The Best Dog Ramps (2020 Reviews)

Categories: Dog careRamps

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

15 Comments
  1. This is great information on dog ramps, and I’m super impressed w/ your DIY expertise! I love the key points you brought out that dogs won’t like a ramp that is too steep, too narrow, or slippery. And that they won’t like bending or sagging – my Husky would definitely not like that, she needs solid ground all the time.

  2. I love the idea of ramps but Layla will not use them so I pick her up on to the bed or put her off the bed if she wants, it has made life a lot easier for her and she is happy with that

    • Clearly, if you can pick the dog up, you don’t need a ramp. Harder to do with Rottweilers 🙂

      Why do you think she doesn’t like ramps? Could it be for any reasons I listed above?

  3. This is a fantastic solution to help aging dogs or those with injuries help maintain their mobility. You did a great job upgrading the ramp from the vet to make it more sturdy and functional. I also didn’t realize that hydro therapy existed for pets. That’s great to know there are more options for physical therapy for dogs.

  4. This is so useful – I often see dog ramps offered for sale but I did not consider how the weight might make them move and flex! Yikes. f course a dog is going to get nervous of the grund moves under them. I am just glad there are options to help support ramps, as you show. (OK I giggled about the dog, dogs and dog food weigh comparison too!!)

    You need to make this a printable for DIYers who want to do something positive for their dogs!!

  5. This is so useful – I often see dog ramps offered for sale but I did not consider how the weight might make them move and flex! Yikes. f course a dog is going to get nervous of the grund moves under them. I am just glad there are options to help support ramps, as you show. (OK I giggled about the dog, dogs and dog food weigh comparison too!!)

    You need to make this a printable for DIYers who want to do something positive for their dogs!!

  6. You did an awesome job creating/fixing these ramps! I can see how the vet really needed something more sturdy. I can’t blame the dogs – I wouldn’t want to walk up a ramp that was bending underneath me either. I’ve considered getting a ramp or steps for my 15 year old Manna kitty to get into our bed. She doesn’t jump up anymore, she climbs the side of the bed. I’ll have to keep your tips in mind, though it is a little different finding a ramp for 6 lb cat (okay 15 lbs because Dexter will probably use it too).

  7. This is great information! My mom’s house still has ramps from when she lived there and was in a wheelchair. Henry loves going down the ramps. I know they can be a challenge to have built correctly. The one you built looks absolutely primo!!! I think a small horse could use that ramp. I’ve had friends in the past ask about ramps for their dogs, which as you discovered is an art. I’m now going to send them to this article. Thanks for the details on how to build it correctly.

  8. Dog ramps are great. I’ve never made one, but we have a few around the house for my senior dog. He doesn’t have any mobility issues, but he’s small and I don’t like to let him jump on and off the furniture, if I can help it. I feel like I had it kind of easy – I’d imagine finding a ramp that works well for a small dog is a bit easier than a large dog. I didn’t have to worry too much about getting a super wide ramp, or one that could hold a lot of weight.

  9. While our dogs are small enough for us to lift, when Theo hurt his back a few years ago, he did not want to be picked up either. Since we have some stairs from the house to the yard, we built a separate (permanent) ramp for the dogs. They like it and I think it is better for their backs.

    • A decent ramp is always better than stairs. Unless you have stairs we built, which are really a set of shallow landings. I had my husband made the steps this way specifically for the dogs. So we only use a ramp for getting in and out of a vehicle.

  10. FiveSibesMom

    I’m a big fan of dog ramps…when our two Huskies had CCL surgeries, my husband built one off our deck, complete with non-skid strips. We left it up as Gibson had some weak hind end issues from his epilepsy meds, then they aged and the ramp was just easier on their arthritic joints. And yes, they sure did love it! They enjoyed racing each other up and down it, and it was very helpful in the winter. I also had one of the portable ones for Gibson. I bought it right after his seizures began so I could get him in and out of vehicle (and it also served as a stretcher if need be). Thank for the great review of all of these. Pinning to share this info.

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