Thursday, July 18, 2019

Paws and Pals Dog Ramp Review

Finn's New Dog Ramp
As I approach the second anniversary of bringing Finn, my special needs/strengths dog, home from the animal shelter, I find myself reflecting on his extraordinary capacity for achieving things he wasn't supposed to be able to do.  Finn has grown well beyond the initial confines of his physical disability, which compels me to provide him with more and more opportunities to do as much as possible through his own initiative and power.  Yesterday, I bought Finn a portable dog ramp that will provide him with more freedom to access his world.  This review shares our first impressions and experiences with the Paws and Pals ramp.

Finn, like all of us, has his own way of approaching new challenges.  I've gotten better at understanding his learning style and anticipating Finn's insecurities (before they kick in), which helps me to be a more effective trainer.  A good starting point today was to take Finn to his favorite park for the first lesson in using a ramp.  I wanted Finn to be relaxed, and for him to associate good things with the pet ramp.

Step One - Explore the Ramp Flat on the Grass
First, to allow Finn to discover the scent, texture, and sound of being on the ramp, I laid it flat on the grass.  This was a very nonthreatening way for him to check it out.  I brought a high-value treat to reward Finn's every success (cheese works magic).  By strategically placing three cubes of cheese on the ramp, it was very easy to entice Finn to take his first steps up onto and across the ramp.  From his second crossing on, I could tell by reading Finn's body language that he was already feeling confident, and even enthusiastic, about this new game.  After the third ramp crossing, I didn't even have to offer a treat.


Having mastered the low-risk, no fear element of ramp exploration, I decided Finn was ready to take it to the next level.  I found a broad tree stump with a height a few inches above ground level.  Because I thought the surface of the plastic ramp might be a little slippery when elevated, and because Finn is very sensitive about his footing, I covered the ramp with some inexpensive rubberized shelf liner.  The new ramps come with sheets of grip tape, but the gently used model I bought did not have that option.  My solution worked perfectly.  Finn climbed the gentle slope with no hesitation.

Nonslip Liner on Ramp
Since Finn appeared to be having fun with our lesson, was having complete success, and didn't appear mentally or physically fatigued, we forged on.  Had that not been the case, I would have spread these ramp lessons over several sessions on different days.

Next, I used a park bench to elevate one end of the ramp about 14 inches off the ground.  We were now approaching the level Finn would need to master to use the ramp for getting into a low vehicle, or for getting up on furniture.  One great thing about this dog ramp is that it can be used indoors or outdoors.

Park Bench Height Ramp Elevation
I lured Finn up the elevated ramp by leading him with a piece of cheese.  It was important to keep him on a short leash and to walk alongside him on this first climb up a steeper angle.  I didn't want Finn to be tempted to jump off the side of the ramp.  We took it slow and he had no problems making it up onto the bench.  At that point, I felt Finn had done enough for day one.  As always, Finn accomplished even more than I had planned for him, and he laid to rest any concerns I had about whether or not a dog with only partial use of his rear legs could balance on, and ascend, a fairly narrow elevated ramp (it's thirteen and a half inches wide between the rims).

Finn will mostly use his Paws and Pals ramp inside the house.  My vehicle is not really conducive to having Finn load himself, although I won't rule it out until I let him give it a try.  He's sure to surprise me.  A car, van, or hatchback vehicle would be more ideal for the use of this ramp (nothing requiring too steep an incline).  I mainly want Finn to be able to get up and down off the bed for starters.  From there, we'll work on graduating to ever greater challenges worthy of Finn's capabilities.

Light, Compact, Easy to Carry and Store
Given such fast success with the ramp, especially for a cautious dog, Finn and I are giving it a Four Paws Up rating.  I really like all of the main features:

  • Folds up compact for storage (15.5" wide x 10" long x 16.5" high).
  • Lightweight (just eight pounds).
  • Made of a durable, easy to clean plastic.
  • Easy to carry with the attached handle.
  • Simple to use (no assembly required).
  • Long enough for typical uses without being too bulky to handle (60" when fully extended).
  • Strength rated for up to a 110-lb. dog.
  • Multiple applications for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Good value and quality for the price (least expensive ramp I found).
Who could benefit from a pet ramp?  Senior dogs, puppies, injured dogs, disabled dogs, small dogs, convalescing pets, and any weak dog or cat.  It is also a major help to those who care for animals (especially those who are physically unable to carry or load a large, heavy dog).  Even totally healthy animals enjoy using ramps.  It's good, stimulating exercise for a pet to try new ways of balancing and climbing.  

We'll keep you posted and continue to add photos as Finn becomes the master of his domain.  I'm sure he will continue to push the boundaries and to constantly redefine what it means to be a special strengths dog who just happens to have been born with legs that work differently.  Finn acts as though he has no limitations.  I feel it is my responsibility to give him as much rein as possible and to not do for Finn the things he can do for himself.  We're learning together how to be the best versions of ourselves in ways that elevate one another.



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12 comments:

  1. Well, there are wheelchair ramps to aid people; why not a dog ramp for similarly restricted animals. So pleased to hear how Finn is mastering his environment with a few helpful aids and a little help (and a lot of love) from his 'Mama'.

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    1. Dogs, like people, appreciate being able to make their own choices, and to be able to do for themselves. I see Finn getting bolder and bolder as he has the option of making decisions regarding where he wants to go. I look forward to the day when he has all of the tools he needs to live with as much freedom as possible. I'm always grateful to find one more way of clearing the path so that Finn can have more options to live less constrained.

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  2. As you know, Merlin weighs in at approx. 85 lbs. Clearly, that is too heavy for me to lift from the ground into the back of an SUV. We purchased a ramp several years ago to help me with our pups. Right now, he can still leap like a deer, but that is not always a good thing. As he ages, I worry that he will not be able to easily make those leaps, or that he will get hurt in the process. I really like your ramp better than ours since yours will fold up and is light weight. Ours is not collapsible and is a bit unwieldy. I see a Paws & Pals Dog Ramp in our near future. Thanks for the review!

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    1. My favorite features of this ramp mirror what you like about it. It is small enough to leave in your SUV all of the time. I really like that it folds up so compact and that it is lightweight. The thing about dogs like your Merlin is that they can overdo it very easily due to their excitement, their energy, and their boundless enthusiasm. My Toby can be a real klutz when he gets excited about loading up into or out of our vehicle. This is when a dog can be easily injured. At some point Toby will need a ramp, but at age seven he is still incredibly robust.

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  3. Oh, I also meant to comment on your ingenious way of taking baby steps while training Finn to use his ramp. I really like the idea of using slight inclines and working up to taller areas. Most excellent!

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    1. Thank you for affirming my training methods. A dog like Finn, who was a previous shut-in, is easily frightened by things never before encountered. Things that might seem simple to us can feel very unsafe to a rescue animal with such a limited background. Also, a dog with uneven balance, and a body that is somewhat crouched, is more hesitant to be put in a precarious position. Finn always pauses to carefully consider any new kind of surface before stepping on or over it (like those nubs on sidewalk handicap ramps or those grates built into walkways for water drainage). Truly, any kind of dog training is best done with baby steps (or in bite-sized pieces) even for well-adjusted dogs with vast experience in the world.

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  4. Not only is this a terrific review of an extremely useful product, it's also a fabulous lesson in how to train a dog or other pet using not only positive incentives, such as treats, but also a favorite environment that creates a positive association with the new skill. You and Finn both are just remarkable, and incredibly lucky to have one another. It warms my heart to bear witness to how you work together not only productively but also joyfully!

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    1. I so appreciate your thoughtful response to my review and training methods. I have learned a great deal from the courses I have taken through the Karen Pryor Academy and also from the classes that were a part of our Pet Partners therapy dog team preparation. Of course, as an educator for over 30 years, I am fascinated by how both people and animals learn. Finn is giving me the chance to apply a lifetime of learning in ways that are completely joyous and beyond fulfilling. He teaches me so much every single day. I do not kid myself about teaching Finn what he needs to know. Together he and I figure out how to unlock and unleash the potential within both of us in mutually beneficial ways. He is stretching me in all the right ways. It's a beautiful thing.

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  5. I had no doubt Finn would be "all in" with the proper guidance! Wow, they have come along way with ramps, I recall years ago looking for one and the choices were about nil. I ended up on ebay where a carpenter was making wood ramps (heavy!), but worked great. I lined the ramp with a strip of artificial grass which worked wonderfully. Will bookmark this portable ramp, thanks for the review!

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    1. You are so right about the great advances in ramp technology. That means there are a lot of animal lovers out there who have advocated for their beloved pets (and who have had the kind of innovative ideas needed to come up with personalized mobility solutions for their four-legged friends). It seems like every day now I come across new products designed to increase the quality of life for animals with disabilities, etc. I love that there are engineers out there who put their talents to use for the good of both people and animals who need supportive products like ramps, slings, carts, etc. My kind of people!

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  6. Wow Diana, this sounds like it was made for Finn and he for it. No wonder he mastered it so quickly. He aims to please his every loving Momma by showing her how much he appreciates any assistance that he gets. He is after all the "Wonder Dog" and so lovely too!

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    1. So true about Finn's desire to please me. He is always willing to try anything I ask him to do. Such a good-hearted boy. And yes... the kind of appreciation that rescue animals seem to best exude. They really excel at it. Thank you for seeing the wonder and beauty that is Finn.

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