Building a dog ramp

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Old 02-02-16, 03:55 PM
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Building a dog ramp

Hi,

One of our dogs has suddenly developed sight problems and is almost blind. The problem is that she's totally freaked out by our front steps and keeps trying to jump from the top down to the driveway. She's already hurt herself and I'm worried that she might break a leg (our dogs are greyhounds - so skinny legs). For now we're forcing her to take one step at a time, but she panics and locks up, so it's not an easy process.

The only apparent option (at least that my wife will agree to) is to build a "quick and dirty" outdoor ramp to get us through the winter. The plan would then be to build a "real" ramp (I assume there are code requirements for footers, posts, slope, length...) once we're past the majority of the snow (this is Maine, so you're never really sure, even in July :-).

Our front steps are 39" high and currently have a landing at the top (at the door) which is 34"x50". The first step appears to have an 8" rise while most of the others are 7 1/2" with the final step being 6 1/2"...the run appears to be 12" for the most part...

My thinking was to get a couple of 2x12x8' pressure treated boards and essentially cut the top to match the first step and notch out a piece for any part of the second step that may be in the way. Then put in some 21" 2x4 cross braces (making the total width 24") and add a support for the bottom step to ensure some stability along the length of the ramp. For now I'm just planning on using spruce decking and adding some non-skid tape. I don't want to use a solid surface, e.g. plywood, because I think it would be best to have spaces to allow for snow melt, rain, whatever to run down through the openings between the decking.

Again, this only supposed to be temporary until I can find out what the code requirements are and plan a bigger project in the Spring to do it "right". My concern there is that an official wheel chair ramp may require a wider door and larger landing which may mean having to completely re-do our front porch...sigh.

So here are my questions: What's the best way to determine the cut-out for the top step to make sure the angles are right? And how do I best determine the cut-off at the bottom so that the ramp will lie flat on the driveway? The driveway isn't completely level, so I may need to do some shimming, but...

Thanks for the help,

Rob
 
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Old 02-02-16, 04:27 PM
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Hi Rob,
I'll be short. I'm on my second mostly blind dog and both have wanted to jump over the rail I have on the side. Mine have short legs so moving the rail up a bit has solved that problem. In your case you may need a 4' wall on each side .

Training is probably the most important step, plus any visual guides if they have any sight left. My porch light is the guide at night and if she has trouble I turn on a high intensity light and she turn immediately towards it.

If the front yard is not fenced in, it needs to be as when they get spooked they are in deep trouble. If we eventually get more snow, not hoping for it, then I shovel paths she can follow.

Decide on the slope you need and then lay the 2x? where it will eventually be, supported on each end to the eventual height plus an equal distance, say 6". Then use a level to mark the bottom and the cut for the top. Easier to do than explain.

Bud
 
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Old 02-02-16, 04:37 PM
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IF you will be using this ramp not only for the dog, but for human ingress/egress, you should adhere to ADA compliance from the get-go if possible. Ramp incline will be limited to 1:12 ratio, so at 39" your ramp may be as long as 12 -15', making a return necessary. Having the ramp as steep as your steps may be difficult, if not impossible. to navigate.
 
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Old 02-02-16, 05:23 PM
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I'd suggest trying to take your dog somewhere with a similar ramp to see if she is willing to walk on it. When one of our Goldens lost was no longer able to go up steps, we bought one of those folding ramps designed for getting dogs in and out of SUV's. It was only 2 steps into the house, so we only needed a little ramp. But she wouldn't go near the thing, and despite repeated patient attempts to get her used to it, she never learned to use it.

Hate for you to go to a lot of time and effort and run into something similar.

Problem is, if you just rig some rickety thing up as a test, it may spook her if it moves or jostles. But if you build something really solid and she won't use it....

Good luck with your dog and ramp.
 
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Old 02-02-16, 06:39 PM
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Good suggestion CT and there are lots of ramps not in use on Sundays.

Does your puppy have any vision at all? If yes, then bold markers that she can identify. I'm not a pro at training, but I'm thinking of a similar walking path flat on the ground with side rails so she can get used to what is under foot and perhaps the unfamiliar side rails, whatever you use.

Do you walk her on a leash?

Bud
 
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Old 02-02-16, 10:47 PM
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Hi,

Thanks for all the helpful advice. We live in the middle of a golf course at a summer resort. The resort is, obviously, closed for the season at the moment, but there are several ramps around here we can try her on.

The vets don't know what's causing the problems with her vision. She seems to still have some, but we're not sure how much. All of the tests they ran came back negative so they've added prednisone (steroids) to the mix to see if it will help to reduce the inflammation and either stop the sight loss and/or, what we hope, possibly restore some of her sight (assuming that part of the loss of sight is due to inflammation).

The initial goal for a ramp is "dog only" so I'm not worried about ADA guidelines right now. It will be twice as long as the current stairs, so the slope will be half of what it is currently and without steps. She seems to manage going up steps OK, she can find them with her nose, but doing down steps is too freaky. Also, it appears that for residential the ADA guidelines are just that, i.e. guidelines, and not requirements. I've sent an email to the town code enforcement officer to ask if the town has any requirements. Certainly if we do end up building a real ramp I would try to make it as useable as possible.

The current ADA guidelines say one foot of ramp for every inch of rise, so that would mean (if we adhere to them) a 39 foot ramp. It also requires a 5'x5' platform at the top (the current platform is way too small) and bottom as well as 5'x5' turn platforms (my plan was to have a least one turn partway down the ramp). The bottom line is that adhering strictly to the ADA guidelines would require a LOT of work. So I'll wait to hear what the town says and see if it would be possible to get a workable ramp without going as far as the ADA.

Of course the best outcome in all of this would be that the treatments work and she regains enough of her sight that all of this becomes unnecessary. But if not then I feel it would be my responsibility to do something to make it easier for her. She's a very sweet dog and this is really a bummer.

She does do well on a leash even though I think she still has some "trust issues". This is all new to her, and us, and it's been a struggle. Using a mock-up to help with training (flat on the ground with markers, etc.) is a great idea. Thanks Bud.

Again thanks for all the help,

Rob
 
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Old 02-03-16, 12:38 AM
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Our current troubled puppy is a dachshund so I can't imagine how scary going down steps is for your giant. When ours goes to the water bowl, if it is near empty she starts licking near the top, 2" above the water and slowly works her way down until she finds the surface, no contrast. But, if I drop some food, she finds it quickly on the light colored kitchen floor.

If you picked up some of the black and yellow safety tape and tried some on the edge of the steps it might give her a reference. Blue and yellow might be best if you are going to improvise. Or yellow on the steps and blue for the side rails to train her one is good the other is not. I'm struggling.

I wish you the best with the treatments, but if they fail, she will adapt I'm sure. My girls serve as my hearing dogs at night when I lose what little sound one aide can provide, so helping then through their senior years is the least I can do.

Bud
 
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Old 02-06-16, 11:37 AM
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The current ADA guidelines say one foot of ramp for every inch of rise, so that would mean (if we adhere to them) a 39 foot ramp. It also requires a 5'x5' platform at the top (the current platform is way too small) and bottom as well as 5'x5' turn platforms (my plan was to have a least one turn partway down the ramp). The bottom line is that adhering strictly to the ADA guidelines would require a LOT of work. So I'll wait to hear what the town says and see if it would be possible to get a workable ramp without going as far as the ADA.
Another requirement if you end up building a true ADA compliant ramp is that for every foot of drop you need a landing so that you don't have to take the entire ramp and one motion. The landings are level so you can rest there before proceeding to the next section. Obviously this doesn't apply in your case but may if the town has strict building codes.
 
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Old 02-15-16, 01:35 PM
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Hi,

Just an update...we finished a course of antibiotics and started on a course of steroids (prednisone) and it seems that our dog has regained some of her vision. At this point it appears that a ramp won't be necessary, but we'll need to keep an eye on her since it's still unclear what caused the problems.

Thanks for all the helpful advice,

Rob
 
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