DIY Homemade Dock and Boat Ramp / Ladder for Dogs Tutorial

DIY Dock & Boat Ramp for Dogs

As I said last week, I have been lucky enough to score a few weeks off this summer while I am between jobs. Dallas and I kicked off this extended vacation with twelve days at my parents’ lake house in New Brunswick. Lucky us. We couldn’t have been happier about tons of outdoor time, which for Dallas included many hours spent doing the doggy paddle while she chases sticks in the lake.

That girl loves to swim. So when my parents got a new boat, no one was more excited than Dallas. She couldn’t wait to jump off the boat into the water. But while it was easy to get her off of the boat, getting her back on to the boat was a bit of a problem.

Enter my clever dad. After doing some online research, he decided to make a floating ramp-like device that Dallas could use to climb out of the water and on to the boat (or dock). It was so easy, and worked so well (after a few modifications), that I couldn’t wait to share this idea with all of you. Plus it only cost about $30 to make. Score.

Here is what we came up with…


  • 5 pool noodles (We used 2 thick blue ones and 3 skinny ones – 1 yellow and 2 blue. You’ll notice that we’ve already cut three of them – 2 thick ones and 1 skinny one – in half. You should also do this, using a hand saw or even a bread knife. You may also notice that 3 of the noodles have ridges in them from our first (failed) attempt at making this ramp. You can ignore that.)
  • 2 rubber anti-fatigue floor mats (We used one 3 ft x 3 ft mat and one 3 ft x 2 ft mat, for a total ramp size of 3 ft x 5 ft)
  • 42 plastic zip ties
  • 2 large carabiners
  • About 6 feet of rope (not pictured)
  • 1. Place the mats face-up. Note: When you’re done attaching the pool noodles to the top side of the mats, you’ll flip the whole thing over so that the bottom of the mats become the top surface of the ramp. This is intentional because it means that the “grippiest” side, i.e. the bottom of the mats, is on top.

    2. Using 8 zip ties, attach the mats together along the long edges. You can attach the zip ties however you like, but we recommend putting 2 on each side, 2 in the middle, and 1 in between the middle and each side (see below). You will end up with a large surface that is 3′ x 5′. Note: Always trim the ends of the zip ties with scissors.

    3. Using more zip ties, attach the 2 uncut skinny pool noodles to the long edges of the ramp. We used 6 zip ties for each pool noodle. Leave a space of about 6 inches from the bottom end (the water end) of the ramp. This allows the end of the ramp to sink down into the water a bit, making it easier for your dog to climb up. Make sure to also leave a space of about 1 foot from the top end of the ramp (you’ll understand why later on). If necessary, trim the pool noodles to fit.

    Note: These 2 side noodles are a modification from our first failed attempt at making the ramp. Without these reinforcements on each side, the bottom half of the ramp will flip under the top half.

    4. Attach the 4 thick pool noodle pieces to the inside of the ramp, in between and perpendicular to the side noodles. Keep them evenly spaced and towards the top end of the ramp.

    5. Attach the two skinny pool noodle pieces towards the bottom end of the ramp.

    6. Measure the width of your dock or boat ladder, and using a box cutter, trim the top end of the ramp so that it will fit in between the rails of the ladder.

    7. Here’s how we originally attached our carabiners to the top of the ramp:

    We do not recommend doing it this way. When Dallas used the ramp, the carabiners quickly started to tear through the rubber mat. Hence the addition of rope. On each side of the ramp, weave the rope in between the holes in the mat, and attach the carabiners to the rope instead of the mat (see below). This worked much better. And by using carabiners instead of simply tying the ramp to the ladder, the ramp can be easily moved in and out of place, from the dock to the boat and back again.

    So after some trial and error, we ended up with an inexpensive, easy-to-make and easy-to-install dock and boat ramp… but does it work?! I’ll leave it to Dallas to show you…

    Thanks, Dad!


    37 thoughts on “DIY Dock & Boat Ramp for Dogs

    1. yakie55 says:

      Thanks for the great idea! I’m a triathlon/swim coach and want to build something similar for the juniors I coach. There may be times when more than one kid will be exiting the water, so the ramp may need to hold 2 or more people. Any ideas? Drop from top of dock to water surface can be anywhere from 18 to 24” Would I (obviously) add more noodles, etc?
      Thank you very much!


    2. yakie55 says:

      Thanks so much for putting this on the web!
      I’m a triathlon/swim coach and would like to build one for the juniors I coach. As we sometimes do some race simulations, more than one kid would be coming out of the water at one time. It’s about an 18 to 24” drop from dock to water. Any recommendations on maybe making this bigger? Perhaps more flotation? Thanks so much!


    3. SINGER Jr says:

      Used a 3 X 5 mat and 4 floaties and used nylon braided rope to weave thru the top end that i secured to the dock it works fantastically, and was fun to put together took about 30 minutes total just tested with our lab and it is perfect. Can not thank you enough for saving me so much $$$$


    4. She’ll says:

      Oh what fun. Vern is our lab/pit mix swimming buddy and we are trying to teach him to climb the stairs but he struggles! I am in my way yo the store to get this stuff to help him out!!! That’s an awesome idea, thanks for posting!


    5. Gwen Curry says:

      I have the supplies to build a ramp for my in ground pool. We have a 6 pound poodle. Wonderful idea! They are too expensive to buy. Definitely a market for an affordable dog ramp!
      The mat we bought looks just like yours. It’s very heavy and stinks like a tire. I hope I got the right thing; it seems like it may be too heavy.
      We are going to hook it to the ladder with spring links and rope and attach a solar light for night time. He’s not a big swimmer, but he knows how. I just want to make sure he is safe.


    6. Andrea Levy says:

      This is great !! I fashioned a similar one to this using the 3×3 mats from Home Depot, zip ties and pool noodles. My dog is reluctant to go in the pool after jumping in and getting spooked a while back ( we only have ladders in the pool) so I am hoping I can get her used to using this and she can enjoy the pool this summer !!


    7. Carol says:

      How do you think this will work on a boat dock in saltwater? I have a 55 lb. Aussie who loves jumping off the dock and swimming. Hard to get her back out of the water and avoiding oyster beds which could cut her paws.



    8. Rebecca says:

      Love your dog ramp idea! I am the new owner of an old…ahem, I mean classic sailboat and I need my first mate! We will be sailing in your backyard, navigating the great Lake Ontario! I do have a concern because my matey is missing a peg leg….so with 3, I want to ensure it’s an easy hop up into the boat!
      Thanks for the idea and inpiration! Keep up the doggone good work!


      • Stephen Lee Phillips says:

        I just completed building this floating ramp (with modifications) for my five rescued companion – a number of whom are aged, infirm, and maimed (missing limbs).
        We anchor the pontoon mid-lake, and – equipped with canine flotation vests – they all take turns funning of the deck and leaping into the water.
        In order to maintain the use of our ladder, I elected to mount my anchor points on the foredeck – and added additional large noodles under the mats (two 3’x 3″), adding 1/2 of a short noodle to the top, as a visual cue for them to approach the boat.
        I wove a 15′ mooring line down each side and across the mats (midway), to distribute the stress throughout the ramp… and added surface mounted “cups” with cleats for anchors… employing 76 zip ties in all.
        With materials purchased at Menard’s (two 3X3 mats, noodles, mooring line, carabiners), stainless steel mounting hardware, and using my own substantial supply of zip ties… the total came to @ $90.00… WELL under the $400+ the closest commercial alternative would cost!


    9. Nancy says:

      Love your idea.. trying to find where to purchase the anti-fatigue mats, only finding online and they are very expensive, $51.00 each


    10. Claudia says:

      Love your idea and thanks for sharing. We have 90 lb black lab. We take your suggestion and add extra flotation. We will have to adapt as it’s for a bayliner boat, not a pontoon. Any suggestions ?


    11. Stacy Nethercoat says:

      Thank you! I found your design after being discouraged by the cost of doggie ramps. We built it in about an hour. Super easy. Still working on training our goldendoodle to use it but he is so happy we let him on the dock to jump in the water.


    12. Tony Nelson says:

      This rocks! I have been searching the internet for a cost effective ramp for our dog and am so glad we came across this. Thanks for posting!


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