As a dog's age, their joints and muscles get stiff,
and they can't run and play like they did when they were puppies. Especially difficult are stair steps, and if your dog is one that likes to climb the stairs to go to bed with you at night, it may be difficult for him to make his way up each night and back down the next morning. As a dog's age, they have a tendency to fall downstairs also. Their knees will buckle and they will fall.
Sometimes older dogs have difficulty going outside and down the porch steps.
It's the bending of the knees and ankles that cause difficulty, just like in their human counterparts. To help them, you need to build them a ramp.
There are many sizes of ramps to be built, with different degrees of slant. The easiest to build is an outdoor ramp off your back porch or landing. To build it, you will need a board longer than the length of the height of the top step to the ground.
First, you need to measure a straight line, beginning at the top of the area where the dog is stepping off (your porch floor, for example) down to the ground. If the steps are short and shallow, you could cut your board that length. If they are steep, however, and the degree of slant will be great, you will want to cut the board a little longer, having it extend past the bottom step and out further into the lawn.
Depending on the size of the dog, your ramp board should be two to three feet wide. If it's too narrow, the dog will be scared of the drop-off from the board to the steps directly next to it. Collies should have a wider board. Tiny terriers should have the narrower one. Tiny dogs could even use a 12-inch-wide board.
Plan your ramp for where there is the least amount of human traffic. If you have a porch, you've probably noticed that one side is used a lot and the other gets hardly any wear. That's the side you want the dog ramp, so as not to inconvenience humans.
Nail or screw the top of the ramp board to the top of the porch, landing, or wherever you plan the dog to step off from. Anchor it at each step with a nail or screw through the middle of the board down into the step. When you are finished, cover the board with indoor-outdoor carpeting to keep the dog from slipping off. Tack it down with carpet tacks or short shingle nails along the outer edge.
This can also be done inside the home if the dog has trouble going up your steps from the first floor to the second floor. Of course, inside the house, you can't put a wide board on the stairway. If you did, you'd have no way to go up to them yourself. In that case, use a 12-inch board, beginning it at the floor and installing it on the opposite side of the stairway as the railing. Screw or nail into each step for support. You will probably need two longboards butted together in the middle of the stairs, as this length will be over ten feet.
A stairway ramp can be very dangerous for adults and children. Make sure the top board is cut even with the floor. If it sticks up even a slight bit, a person could trip and fall down the stairs. Also, children will love this ramp and want to use it as a slide. They probably would not get hurt, but they will wear the nap off the carpeting and the dog will slide down much too fast as well.
If you build a stairwell ramp for the dog, it will take him a while to get used to it.
Take his collar and lead him up slowly. His feet will not slide on a good carpet. Going back down, if the dog hesitates, pull him slowly and walk down with him. It may take several times for him to loosen up, and not slide down in a cramped up-fit of anxiety, but once he gets the hang of it, he won't mind the slope of the ramp, and his legs will be better for it. If the dog goes down by himself, you'll want to put a large pillow or cushion at the bottom, so the dog has a soft landing and doesn't injure his legs once he's landed.
If you have to overlap the carpeting, make sure the higher piece of carpet overlaps the lower piece, or when the dog comes down his toenails will get caught in the carpet jutting out, and he could break a toenail.
Some folks put small lathe boards the size of wooden paint stirrers down the length of the ramp, exactly the width of the ramp board. This is a trick of horse people whose horses must climb steep ramps at shows and race tracks. If the foot slides a little, the lathe board will stop the dog's descent, and he won't slide fast.
Always remember human safety when building a ramp. Picture some bad scenarios and plan accordingly so they won't happen.