Guys, it’s come to this: We’ve reached the end of the Internet, our TV and movie queues are dwindling, I’ve read several books, we’ve completely organized our garage and I’ve started to paint again. And since it’s been raining for 40 days and 40 nights—or more like 400—here in Tennessee, we’ve been doing all the indoor projects we can until things dry up. So when better to build a dog ramp for Ella than in the midst of a crisis forcing us to stay at home?
But why a dog ramp?
Why can’t she just use stairs, you may ask? Ella, while almost 10, has the pep in her step of a much more youthful pup, but she’s also been plagued with a shaky knee that slides in and out of socket for much of her adult life. Her vet regularly monitors it and said unless it seems to be hurting her, then we should just let it be. Though we do give her plenty of CBD treats, just in case.
We did get a second opinion via an orthopedic surgeon for dogs to whom our vet referred us, but she also recommend against surgery. I mean, have you seen Ella? She weighs less than seven pounds, and her bones are the size of a chicken’s. I can’t imagine someone operating on her fragile joints.
Still, Ella’s always been an athlete, but a couple times while living at the Victorian, her furry paws caused her take a tumble on our back stairs as she transitioned from the carpeted last stair to the unforgiving hardwood. This gave her a complex, a bit of stairs PTSD if you will, and made her no longer want to go up and down them, at least indoors. She’s fine darting up and down our back patio and garage stairs, go figure, but it’s likely just because she has slightly more traction beneath her.
Then, we moved to the Cedar House
I’m not going to lie: When we started looking at houses 18 months ago, one of the parameters was a ranch-style home. We wanted a single story both for our own ease, but also mainly for Ella’s. I mean, she’s our child and top priority—we’ve got to be looking out for her, right? So the Cedar House seemed like a perfect fit from every angle. Other than the front entrance and the patio and garage stairs, the only interior step is this one right here.
Only, here’s what we did not anticipate. That single stair that goes down to the great room we use for everything? Ella still won’t go down it. Which means, she’s constantly barking at SVV and me, her slaves, to put her up or take her back down. It’s exhausting, being subjected to the whims of a tiny, bossy dictator. So we decided quarantine was the time to fix that.
Materials for a dog ramp
SVV had been saying for the past year that we needed to build a dog ramp, then last week, we saw a friend on Facebook doing something similar for her senior dog and immediately dropped everything and followed suit. Given that we always have scrap wood laying around, and SVV is not lacking for tools, it just took one quick, no-contact run to Lowe’s for the remaining materials.
- Half sheet of plywood (4′ x 4′ x 3/4″)
- 2 oak strips (4′ x 1/4″ x 2″)
- 1 piece of brass carpet trim (it’s actually bronze-colored aluminum)
- 3 brass screws
- 2 rubber bushings
- Carpet samples or cork board for your cushioned surface
Total project cost: $23
We already had the plywood, so if you don’t have scraps laying around, estimate another $10 or so in material costs. We’re about to install carpet in both of our offices and the master bedroom, so the carpet scraps we used were the samples for that. You can get free carpet samples at your local supplier or online (ours are from Philadelphia Commercial).
You’ll also need to keep these tools handy:
- Tape measure
- Table saw (you can cut these pieces with a skill saw, but be sure to use guides for safety)
- Chop saw
- Sheet metal snips
How to make a dog ramp
Now that you’ve got your materials and your tools all laid out in your makeshift shop, here’s how we built our own dog ramp, no blueprint or prototype needed.
Step 1: Measure and cut the plywood
We used the sample carpet sizing to determine the exact width. Ours ended up being exactly 17 inches wide. The length was a best guess estimate once we cut the width and will vary depending on how many steps you’ve got. When making the saw cut for the length, set the saw bevel to about 25 degrees to get the top leading edge closer to the flooring and a clean look. Sand to remove splinters and sharp edges.
Step 2: Measure and cut the brass threshold
This will serve as the lip that anchors your ramp to the stair and keeps in in place. Again, sand down the edges of the aluminum to prevent snagging and injuries. The edges are razor sharp after they’ve been trimmed to fit.
Step 3: Measure and cut the side trim pieces, then nail them in place
SVV ripped the entire trim piece down to 3/4″ first, chopped it in half, then measured the final cuts directly on the plywood edge to match the bevel.
Step 4: Glue down the carpet and let dry
If you’re not a fan of using glue, it’s just as easy to staple the carpet to the ramp. We wound up gluing down two carpet samples in a line to create a train so Ella had some traction via the run-off that sits on the actual floor. This proved clutch to her actually using it. The thrust when she first jumps is where her problem lies since she spins out. That little bit of grip in the launch zone provides her with enough confidence to punch the gas pedal up the ramp.
Step 5: Attach the metal threshold, add rubber feet, and you’re done!
The angle of the brass trim, designed for smoothing transitions between various levels of flooring, proved a perfect fit for the angle of the ramp. It also serves as a latch to hold the top section on the ledge. The rubber feet, secured with super glue to the bottom, keep the entire contraption from slipping off the ledge and crashing down.
NOTE: this is not suitable for children or adults to use as a walking plank. A more secure fitting would be required for heavier creatures.
So, the real question: How does Ella like her dog ramp?
The first time we put it down for Ella to use, what did she do? Have the confidence to finally use that single stair, but of course! In fact, she acted as if she’d never had a problem with the stair in the first place. *face palm*
But now that it’s been there for a week and she’s gotten used to the concept, she’s a ramp regular and uses it on her own to go up and down that treacherous stair. The cats, being cats, sometimes decide to camp out on it so she can’t get by. Assholes.
What home renovation tasks are you tackling to keep yourself busy?
Haw! Haw! What a cute idea.
I love it!
I know what you mean about the lords and ladies of your lives. We have two cats and they are right little madams. They’re twins.
Yukiko is the smallest of the two and is a diva – the like you have never seen & who will jump through the window ‘cos she wants to be “free” & who demands your lap at all hours!
Lily is the size of a dog and a right greedy guts. She likes huge cuddles, doesn’t like to be alone, but will eat everything and anything!
Both of them want and get our attention, which includes sleeping on our chest or top of the head if available, tearing through the garden, sneaking into the bedrooms where they’re not allowed to go, and showing their gratefulness by bringing small birds to us, as “gifts!”
p.s. Re-home renovation tasks? I’m working remotely at the moment, but I’m due a 2-week “holiday” that should have been spent in Slovakia, Bosnia, Serbia & Hungary, but which I’ve decided to use for a huge Spring-Clean and re-arranging of the cellar / basement in the style of what-to-keep-or throw-out-thingy! A boring task but I’ll probably get in done in 2 or 3 days then settle on my real love & delight – the garden!
We’re all just servants for our creatures. I get looks from Ella that I imagine come straight from a Middle Ages queen! Garden is next-ish on our tasks. The southern United States has suddenly awoken to spring and I can’t wait 🙂
I live in Berlin. It actually snowed yesterday.
Berlin, Germany I lived there for 3 years in the military
The Insta story of Ella on the stairs made me laugh 🙂 My parents built all sorts of things for my little dog because she had arthritis. She would’ve really needed this dog ramp as well, luckily we didn’t have stairs in the house!
I have pinned it. We are renovating our home, and then we will definitely make this dog ramp for my lovely Ruchi and Maxy (my pet dogs) on the stairs. They are so adorable and active. So, I want them not to get injured while playing or running. Thanks for sharing!
We have (2) dachshunds who have never lived in a home with stairs; however, they are avid hikers so going up/down in/declines is not a problem for them (confidence-wise). It looks we’ll be moving to a rental and most likely it will have a deck with outdoor stairs, often over a 15-foot length. Any suggestions on how to build a safe distance of 15-feet using plywood and outdoor carpet? Is 15-feet a long down/up on a ramp? We won’t have any tools as they’ll be packed. Thank you for your suggestions.
Hi Jennifer! I love dachshunds they’re the sweetest.
I’d definitely say that 15 feet is a long dog ramp! My suggestion would be to buy a sheet of 8’x4′ 3/4″ plywood and ask the hardware store to rip it in half lengthwise (so you’ll have two 8’x2′ sections). The only way this will be safe is if you screw it down to the stairs from the top of the ramp on each step to the bottom and if the ramp is in contact with the edge of each stair. You’ll need a screw gun but other than that you could cover the plywood with carpet and voila!
I have 2 small elderly dogs who are having a hard time going up and down the stairs, do you have any recommendations in altering this DIY for longer carpet stairs ? They’re a bit high so the ramp may be a little steep (worried about failure to grip to the top step and it sliding down on them or shifting), but I’m open to any suggestions.
Thank you so much for your time and help into this !
Hi Eileen! To secure the top so that it doesn’t slide off we used 3M double sided sticky tape along the whole edge of the brass threshold piece. It did slide off when we first started Ella using it and scared her but the strong sticky tape has made it more permanent and it hasn’t moved since!
How many steps are your stairs? Is it carpeted on top?
I have an old Aussie that is in her last months/weeks. She is having trouble with the outside stairs to the porch (5 stairs). Any ideas? I need to use what materials I have, lots of pallets a couple 2×4 sheets plywood and lots of other make-do items on hand. Chicken wire for grip? Does not have to be pretty, just sturdy. Thanks! Lu
Thank you so much, I am researching how to make my stairs safe/usable for my little blind dog. Seems so many homes like to use half steps that are too steep. Do you have any advice for outdoor steps?
Depending on how blind your puppy is, you might consider putting bumpers on the sides, like a bowling alley :-). I’ve seen rubber “bumper strips” that are used for forklifts and the like that seem like they would be just enough of a physical cue to keep a blind pup from going off the side.
Hello, love your solution for a dog ramp! Can you share how the rubber stops were applied? Also, doesn’t the ramp scratch your beautiful wood floors especially at the top step where the brass threshold is attached? Our doggy needs one because of hip surgery and we have woid floors and 6 risers to deal with. Thank you, Scott
Thank you Scott! I super-glued the rubber stops to the plywood for the bottom and it’s working out fantastic (check the “special drawers” in the big box hardware stores to find stoppers that have flat bottoms). For the top of the stairs, we added double sided sticky tape so the whole assembly doesn’t move at all (no scratching of the hardwood). The 3M variety is almost bullet-proof and should keep everything stable, even on a steep six step like yours
So is the brass carpet trim (bronze-colored aluminum) nailed onto the top of the dog ramp, and also nailed onto the wooden steps of the house?
How is the brass carpet trim holding the dog ramp in place?
Hi Jennifer! I used flat brass screws to attach the brass trim to the top of the ramp. Then, I put strong double-sided sticky tape to hold it at the top of the stairs.
Adults and small children are forbidden to walk down the ramp but with a little more bracing and by permanently attaching it to the top of the stairs with screws into the floor it can be made stable
Thank-you very much for your reply and for posting the dog ramp instructions. 🙂
My Molly is getting old. Her joints hurt and she has cataracts. She sleeps with us. We have stairs for her to climb, but with her bad eyesight and stiff joints, it is hard for her to navigate. I think the best choice is a ramp. I’ve never worked to build anything, but this seems simple enough for an old 71 year old lady to build.
You’ve got this, Marti! Ella is now almost 12 and LOVEs her ramp still.
I have two small toy poodles. One is beginning to have hip issues. They are both eight years old. I was going to get steps but thought a ramp might make more sense. Like Marti in your comments above, this 66 year old will try and make a ramp. Thanks for this inspirational story.
You can do it, Lori! And how sweet—I love toy poodles. Let us know how it turns out!
Your instructions and ramp idea is simple and great for me. I want to think I can build things but we’ll enough to function.
I have an American Bulldog who is the light of my life. I got him from a shelter when I was on the mend and of course I had to walk him frequently to keep a satisfied monster. Lately he has been complaining with.his front chest or front legs. What is your suggestion for length to get him up on the bed and what would I use to stabilize is to attack h to bed top?
Love a bully! Our Maltese and both our cats still use this ramp daily 2.5 years after we built it.
Is your bed low to the ground already? If so, you could make the ramp about four feet long, and I would suggest putting large rubber feet (like three inches in diameter) on all four corners to grip not only the floor but also the edge of the comforter or bed. You’ll want to use plywood that is at least 3/4″ thick.
Unfortunately my bed is not low. I have one with a base that will lift head and feet because I had some serious medical issues. It is about 25 inches high. What are rubber feet? If I went to Lowe’s how do I look for them? I’ve not had a lot of exposure to diy but I’ve been here and there getting some things done. My Wyatt is going to be so happy!
My Cute Little Black & Tan Shiba Inu is getting old and sleeps with us. We have built this climb, for him and now it is really easy for him to get on the bed and also get off.
I would really like to Thanks You for such a precise guide