An Easy Way to Train a Dog to Use a Dog Ramp to Get into the Car

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 25, 2023

Rocky - An Easy Way to Train a Dog to Use a Dog Ramp to Get into the Car

For this West Hills dog training session we worked with 7 month-old German Shepherd pup Rocky, sharing tips on how to teach a dog to use a dog ramp.

We started out the session by going over a number of dog behavior fundamentals; how and when to use marker words, hand targeting, when to introduce cues, the importance of celebrating desired behaviors, some tips on exercise and mental stimulation and most importantly how to read dog body language and consent.

Because of a birth defect to his hind leg, Rocky’s guardians hired a personal trainer to work with him as a yound pup instead of setting him up for puppy classes. As a result, he didn’t develop bite inhibition which is a lesson all dogs need to learn before they turn five months of age. Dogs who dont get to play with other pups before they turn 5 months often struggle to learn this important life skill.

I went over a couple of soft mouth exercises, by hand and using a fork, which the guardians should practice 2-4 times daily (in 1 minute practice sessions). Its important they work on this daily as he is alredy a few months older than 5 months. He likely wont ever have the best bite inhibition, but if they practice a few times a day for a week or three, they can make a big difference.

While developing a soft mouth is important, after discussing things with the guardians, I think many of the mouthing and biting problems stemmed from the humans missing Rocky’s non verbal communication.

Rocky’s guardians were unaware of what his cut off signals were and this resulted in a lot of frustration on both sides. The frustration often manifested into Rocky mouthing or biting at his humans when he felt uncomfortable or disagreed with their approach; putting on his sock (to aide his walking), putting on his harness, attaching his leash, picking him up to put him in the car, taking things away, etc.

I showed the guardians how to use a desensitization exercise to help Rocky feel comfortable about having a collar put on. I also showed them a nail trim conditioning exercise that is a version of our body handling exercise from our puppy classes.

By going slow, at the dog’s pace and reading their body language watching for cut off signals, we were able to put Rocky’s collar on without any mouthing or biting. I suggested the guardians make a game out of this activity and spend a minute or two practicing a couple of times a day until Rocky wants to have his humans put on a collar or harness. The same technique will allow them to put on the sock booty that will give him additional traction on his bad leg.

I also recommend the guardians contact a couple of carpet stores and see if they can find a couple pieces of carpet to make runners for the floor. I noticed he was doing quite a bit of frogger walking, moving from carpeted area to carpet section. His home has beautiful floors but they are slick and due to his birth defect, Rocky is slippig and sliding and occassionaly falling. Some extra strips of carpet will reduce his slipping and shoudl also help him feel more secure.

How to teach a dog to use a dog ramp

Another issue the guardians wanted help with was getting the dog in and out of the car. Because of his rear leg issue, he’s not able to jump up into the car as most dogs can. Rocky also dislikes being picked up, but since that was the only way to get him in or out, this activity led to some mouthing and biting.

I had the guardian grab the dog ramp and bring it into the living room so we could work on that. A lot of people try to train a dog to use a dog ramp while it is attached to the car. But this is the hardest way to use it. As a result, that can often causes a lot of stress, anxiety and result in failure because we’re making it too difficult and combining too many things together all at once.

I pulled out my camera and handed it to the guardian so that they could fill me sharing tips to help the dog learn to use a dog ramp. If you have a dog with a mobility issue and want to learn how to train a dog to use a doggy ramp, you should check out the free positive dog training video below.

This is a great way to teach a dog to use a ramp to get into the car. By introducing the ramp on a flat level inside the home, Rockies guardians will be able to get him accustomed to walking across this unusual surface. Teaching a dog to use a ramp first requests the dog feeling comfortable walking on it. Once that’s the case, then they can go to the next step outlined in the video; gradually making it more and more realistic. Once Rocky is able to navigate the ramp up and down from the couch, they should then repeat the entire process outside.

While this is an easy way to teach a dog to use a ramp, its crucial you are going at the dog’s pace and using a lot of positive reinforcement. I recommended the guardians practice this exercise five or more times a day in 1-2 minute practice sessions each time. Because of their dedication and Rocky’s intelligence, I don’t anticipate it taking longer than a week or two of practice before they can train their dog to go up and down the ramp into the car.

We wrapped up the session by talking about setting Rocky up for success at vet visits and a groomer by doing a dry run; just to get used to locations and buildings. A little easy practice now makes the real deal a snap later.

I really enjoyed this session as I know that the dog behavior tips that I shared are going to have a profound impact on both Rocky and his human counterparts.

To help the family remember all of the dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home West Hills dog training session, we found a roadmap to success summary video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr