Ideas for DIY Dog Steps

Make pet steps to help your dogs & cats get higher up!

Steps made out of cardboard boxes and covered with a doggie fabric that is removable.
Cute fabric covers up the cardboard and duct tape.

Our heartfelt thanks to Elena from California for this photo of how to make pet steps for a smaller dog like her Papillon mix. 

We also appreciate her detailed instructions for Steps for Pup.

STURDY pet steps

A friend offered my husband and me an opportunity to open our home and hearts to a puppy who had yet to be born. We were told the puppies were a Chihuahua mix and expected him to always be quite small. I knew his little legs needed help to reach us. After pricing pet steps, I knew I could make quality steps at a fraction of the retail price.

I didn’t have a pattern, but I envisioned key features: Three STRONG, identical boxes, fabric to make a lined, removable cover (to launder, if necessary), strong cardboard, duct tape, contact paper, two-wire clothes hangers, and a sturdy plastic bag filled with river rocks or something similar to add weight on the bottom.

I used “photo storage boxes” reinforced throughout with pieces of wire clothes hangers, cut to fit. You can glue or duct tape the wire pieces throughout the boxes.

After securing the wire, place the boxes on the cardboard in a staggered position. Trace the staggered boxes onto two pieces of cardboard to make the left and right sides.

Duct tape the staggered boxes together; then cover them with large side pieces of cardboard.

Fill the top step with a lightweight filling of your choice. I think I used plastic grocery bags.

The bottom and widest part of the steps is for the large plastic bag filled with small pieces of river rock. This bag should be kept sealed with the rocks spread evenly.

Seal the bottom step with cardboard cut to size. If you prefer a smooth even surface on the steps, cover them neatly and completely with contact paper. The steps should now be somewhat waterproof. A lined, removable cover is optional.

Interesting footnote, our precious boy was not a Chihuahua after all, but he is primarily a Papillon with a little bit Chihuahua. At 15 months, he’s an attractive eleven pounds and if character and personality were measurable, we’d have to add another hundred lbs.

This precious dog has turned a happy, loving home into a happier, loving home on steroids!! So blessed that he owns us!!

Thanks Elena!

Unlike the outdoor steps we built out of wood for Comet, who was a much heavier dog than Elena’s, she used cardboard boxes and coat hanger wire

However, just like we advocate, she used recyclable materials and ingenuity to save herself a bundle.

Materials for Dog Steps

I was able to make these out of scrap lumber, used plywood, and discarded carpet, all found in the RV park where we were staying one winter. Basically, the only thing I spent money on was staples for the carpet.

Our german shepard posing on the stairs we made for him getting into the RV.

Comet climbing into our RV  using stairs built entirely out of scrounged materials

German Shepard using the homemade steps to get into RV

Even if you buy new materials, when you make steps yourself it can cost much less than a manufactured set since you don’t have to pay labor and shipping.

Note: These steps can work just as well for cats, ferrets, rabbits, etc., especially the mini style version. However, since this site is geared primarily to dogs, I’ll be referring to them as dog or doggie stairs or steps.

Tools Needed

Basic woodworking skills and tools are all I used: 

  • a hand crosscut saw
  • a straight edge
  • an electric drill that also drives screws* and 
  • a manual phillips head screwdriver

*You could use a manual drill or a cordless power drill instead.

Make Pet Steps Instructions

For the three-part instructions for these stairs, go to:

1) Part 1: Build Doggie Steps
2) Part 2: Build Doggie Stairs 
3) Part 3: Homemade Doggie Steps

Our neighbors at the RV park liked them so much, I modified them to fit in the narrrow space next to their bed so their cute Westie, CG, could come to snuggle in the mornings. These are the mini style steps mentioned above.


Covering the Stairs with Carpet

As you can see from the photos, dog steps can be covered with carpeting to match your home’s interior. (I discovered carpeting is great for hiding construction flaws or other imperfections!)

If possible, choose a type of carpet that provides good traction. For outside stairs, outdoor or indoor/outdoor carpeting can be used.


Other Non-Slip Materials for Covering

Instead of carpeting, doggie steps can be covered with non-skid coatings and still look attractive, such as these options:

  • Pigment can be added to provide the color you want
  • Add a non-skid product called SkidTex to any paint you wish to use
  • First paint the stairs in the color you want, then apply a non-skid coating that is clear

You can also create other types of non-slip surfaces for dog stairs by stapling strips of rubber matting in place. Often you can get used rubber mats at vehicle salvage yards.


More Ways to Build Pet Steps

If you’re feeling ambitious, think about making doggie stairs out of other geometric shapes, for example triangles, hexagons, circles, trapezoids etc. 

Dalmatian puppy climbing steps.

For circular steps, metal rods or dowels could be used for supports.

You may also want to create some in a wedge shape to fit in a corner.

Here’s an idea we found for a set of light steps made of foam board that can be covered with either vinyl or astroturf:
Inexpensive Dog Step 

Whatever you choose to build, we hope the dog ramp or doggie stairs you make suits your dog to a T!

Build Doggie Stairs: Part 2

Below are instructions to build doggie stairs for any size dog.

If you build from scrap materials, like I did, the cost is minimal – I spent less than 2 dollars for the entire thing! A bonus is that you can practice your woodworking skills without worrying about mistakes!

If you’re a skilled woodworker and cost is not an object, you can use elements of our design to make a classy set of stairs to match your home’s decor.

Building Instructions

CUTTING OUT THE SIDES

  • Clamp your two pieces of plywood together with the best (least damaged) areas on top of one another. (The jagged parts in the picture will be discarded.)
  • Mark the pattern of steps on the top piece: e.g., 6 inches up, 12 inches over, or whatever you decided to go with in either inches or mm.
  • Saw along the lines: remember to use eye protection and watch your fingers!
  • Once you’ve cut along the dotted line, you should have two pieces that are exactly the same.*

*Note: If you measure carefully and have a large enough piece of unbroken plywood, you may be able to saw along the line and end up with two identical pieces (one will be upside down).

ADDING THE SUPPORTS

The next part when you build doggie stairs is to add the underpinnings or supports.

  • Take the pieces and lay them back-to-back.
  • Lay out your pre-cut 2x2s along the top inside part of each step. Make sure the edges do not stick out.
  • Flip the pieces over; then attach the 2x2s, using three screws in a shallow triangle pattern along the length of each one. 

The back of my original plywood piece was painted white. The side showing in the above photo will end up on the inside. The other piece will be covered with carpet, so this will not affect the finished look.

Screw the step support 2×2’s flush with the bottom, perpendicular to the above 2x2s (per photo at right).

ADDING THE FINAL PIECES OF PLYWOOD

  • Prop the two sides against chairs or other supports
  • Put your pre-cut boards on the supports to make your steps
  • Screw in place as squarely as possible

Photo shows boards screwed on to make the treads.

  • Screw the narrower piece along the bottom front step, flush with the floor (sides too, if you can)
  • Screw the larger piece (we used two 15 x 9 pieces) to the back step, flush with the floor (and sides, if possible)

Your doggie steps should not wobble. If they do, check the bottom edges for unevenness. Unscrew and saw or sand off protruding edges as necessary

Build Doggie Stairs: 
Adding Finishing Materials

CARPETING

See Homemade Doggie Steps: Adding Carpet


ALTERNATIVE COATING MATERIALS

  • If you elect to paintvarnish or add non-skid coatings to the steps instead of carpet, prepare the surfaces as recommended on the containers and follow directions for application.
  • Remember to use these chemicals in a well ventilated areaand protect your eyes and skin.

You’ve learned how to build doggie stairs, and we hope you’re pleased with the result. However, there’s one more thing to do and that’s seeing how well it goes over with your dog!


TRYOUT TIME

Your dog may or may not get the point of the steps right away. If he or she does, you’re home free.

If not, a little help may be needed:

  • Make sure the steps aren’t wobbling due to something (like a dog toy) being underneath.
  • Coax your dog onto the first step with a treatPraise!
  • Repeat with each step,
  • Use the same process to persuade a timid dog to go down the steps.