building boat ladder for dogs

I'm currently planning on building a boat ladder for my dogs (two dogs, ~80 lbs each) and was wondering if anyone has some suggestions. I was thinking about using PVC to build the ladder frame, and then strapping sheets of fiberglass or something water-friendly to the PVC frame. I figure some of you woodworkers (thus the post to rec.woodworking) might have some tips on design and/or materials, because obviously you can't just build everything out of wood all the time, right? :)
My current design would be a 2-step ladder, again with a frame built out of PVC. The frame would attach to the boat with a simple rope and hook assembly to the back of the boat. I would like the fiberglass sheets to be detachable from the frame fairly easily so that the design is friendly for storage. Another concern is that the bottom step needs to be submerged underwater, i.e. not floating. The PVC/fiberglass combo is the best I can come up with, but perhaps someone has a better suggestion?
Disclaimers:
(1) I know you can buy ladders like this, but from what I've seen, they're aren't many options, and they're typically very expensive. I think I can build something that suits my needs for considerably less money.
(2) I know some people have taught their dogs to climb up their foldout ladders. I don't see how this is possible with my dogs, the rungs on the ladder are way too narrow for their paws.
(3) I know I cross-posted this to rec.woodworking, but I also know the people in that newsgroup are pretty good with their hands and might have some tips on my assembly. If someone can recommend a better newsgroup for this post, please let me know, as my intent isn't to post this somewhere where it's frowned upon.
Thanks, Dustin
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One aquaintance of mine has a lab that can climb the standard three step boarding ladder on the swim step! My cousins weiner dog can also climb the boarding ladder, but only because it is small enough that it can swim up the first step (which is belly deep to it) and get its entire body on the step and then jump up to the next step.
An arrangement that I have seen that appears to work really well is a ramp. Hinged against the swim platform, weighted at the other so it sinks, held in position by floats on lines.
Rod
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Cabelas has a dog ramp for around $60. They have another for over $100 -the $60 one might be worth looking at if you don't want to spend a lot of bucks.
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On Mon, 7 Jun 2004 14:56:51 -0700, "Rod McInnis"

I was shown a trick for getting dogs up on platforms and docks that worked great but it won't allow the dog to get out unassisted. The dog won't require any training either. When the dog swims up, just support the back of her head with your hand and let her push back on your hand while climbing up. The dog will be out of the water in a flash and even with a big dog there is little effort on your part.
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Years ago now, I built a sloping platform out of scrap sq steel tubing and expanded metal that hooks over the gunwale and is just about waterlevel when the boat is at rest (14' Dura Craft, 25hp Johnson, I use for duck hunting). When my Lab (110#) comes up to it I can just go to that side, lean a little and the end may drop 6" under the water so he can climb up. The routine is: he hands me the duck first, then he shakes most (some) of the water off, then he can come in (to the forward seat, which is covered in the old "tire cord" door mat, for traction). I made it just wide enough so it stores upside-down over the front seat so the arms that hook over the gunwale face down toward the floor. This takes up almost no room. My "big" boat, a 20.5' Wellcraft w/200hp Merc has a swim platform on the back made out of P.E. I found that, when my lab comes up to it I can grab his collar and pull briefly and he's up! You can get some ideas or buy one, from a hunting catalog or on the internet, like Cabelas. LD

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Just wanted to say thanks everyone for the responses!
-Dustin
wrote:

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