From famous adventures to cruises, dogs often joined us on the high seas. Even the WWII Coast Guard ship Campbell had decorated mixed-breed, Sinbad, onboard!
I definitely have a canine first mate! If you do too, we’ve rounded up the 5 best dog ramps for boats, to help your pup safely board and unboard.
Benefits to Having a Dog Ramp for Your Boat
Exercise, Freedom, and Bonding
A boat ramp gives your dog the freedom to hop in and out the water. They’ll enjoy swimming all the much more for it.
Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular workout for dogs that also strengthens muscles. For younger pups, it’s a great activity to burn off extra energy. For senior pooches, it’s gentle on their joints since 90% of their body weight is supported by water.
For both you and your dog, it’s a great bonding exercise because you both have equal, leashless freedom.
Protecting Senior Dog Joints
A ramp allows senior dogs to get in and out of your boat without hurting themselves
Before I got my ramp, my twelve year-old Labrador, who still thinks he’s a young buck, leaped off my boat onto the dock (there was a barbecue nearby).
This isn’t great for their hips or their joints -and carrying him in and out of your boat isn’t great on your joints either!
Lifeline and Less Risk of Injury
Heaven forbid your dog falls off the boat when you aren’t looking, having a ramp out allows him or her to easily get back onboard.
This is particularly helpful for our short-legged friends who aren’t great swimmers. I love basset hounds, dachshunds, and pekingese dogs, but they’re not exactly the Michael Phelpses of the dog world.
If you have one of these breeds, I’d even recommend popping a doggie life vest on them.
Another danger for our jumpers is that they may misjudge the distance between the boat and the dock. This is true of canine daredevils of any age.
Things to Consider Before Buying Your Dog Ramp
What’s it Made of?
Certain materials are more comfortable than others. Other materials are stronger than some.
Aluminum, especially aircraft aluminum, is strong and lightweight. However, moisture can cause it to corrode. If you opt for an aluminum dog ramp, make sure its been given a corrosion-resistant treatment.
Any other metal would be too heavy and inconvenient, so we didn’t include any in this roundup!
Plastic is naturally rust- and corrosion- resistant. It’s also strong and flexible. Sturdier built ramps are more durable and have a higher weight-capacity.
Thinner ramps are more flexible, lightweight, and transportable, but will likely only hold small to medium breeds.
Mesh platforms are comfortable for doggy paws, lightweight, and can stay still and submerged even in the face of waves. However, they can rip if caught on sharp objects.
Carpet and textured platforms have excellent traction. Depending on your dog though, it might be a bit uncomfortable. Some even have a sandpaper texture.
Rubber platforms have good traction and good comfort.
Often, dog ramps feature a combination of different materials to balance durability and comfort. Since we chose the ramps in this roundup specifically for boats, they are all corrosion and rust resistant.
Dock to Boat vs Water to Boat Needs
A good slant and stable middle are important qualities in a ramp when your dog is climbing up from the dock.
If your boat is tall, a slimmer ramp might wobble as he or she approaches the midpoint. All of the ramps in our roundup feature first-rate locking features, but the shakiness might make your furry friend insecure, especially when first using the ramp.
A perpendicular platform style can be more fun for the pup when he’s out on the lake or river. It can serve as a seat when he wants to take a quick break from swimming, but isn’t ready to call it a day yet!
For both situations, making sure there’s a stable locking mechanism is important. In the water, it ensures waves or strong currents won’t turn it into ocean waste. At the dock, it ensures that it doesn’t slip off your boat as poochie bounces up it.
How much does your dog weigh? All dog ramps will likely hold small to medium dogs fine, but it’s important to consider the ramp’s capacity if you have a large breed.
Sure, that 150lb-capacity ramp may have carried your 200lb mastiff just fine the first two or even 10 times. But if you’ll be using it frequently, you must buy a ramp that’s built for regularly placed pressure. Otherwise, anytime can be the time the ramp gives out!
How tall is your boat? Make sure the ramp can comfortably extend from your boat to the dock.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can make decisions about the ramp’s size.
Length: Remember, the longer the ramp is, the lower the incline, and the less difficult it’ll be for your dog to climb up.
Weight: Often, the sturdier the ramp, the heavier and more difficult it is to move around. There should be a good balance of transportability, sturdiness, and durability.
Width: I’ve met great danes with wider shoulders than I have. If you have a big dog, make sure there’s a good four inches on each side of him when he stands at the center of the ramp.
Telescoping vs Folding
Telescoping dog ramps have a sliding design that controls the size of the ramp. You can slide the bottom half out from under the top half then lock it in place.
This allows for more refined, specific sizes and slopes. It’s also easier to use out of the box.
Folding dog ramps can be folded once over or twice over to minimize their size when they’re not in use.
There is a potential for folding ramps to become smaller in its dormant form which is great for storage. However, unlike the gradual sizing of the telescoping ramp, the folding dog ramp can only be its folded size and its unfolded size.
Transportation and Maintenance
Many of the prior considerations contribute to the ramp’s transportability: Size, weight, and minimizing style.
Naturally, you must make sure that your dog ramp fits comfortably in your boat. Even if it does fit in your boat, you don’t want it taking up all of the storage space. And unless you lock it onto your boat, it’s best not to keep it hanging off the side after you’ve berthed.
Consider boat ramps with carrying handles, especially for heavier ramps. Bonus points for comfortable, padded handles or ones that are ergonomically designed.
Besides, depending on how your boat is positioned, you may want to quickly move your ramp elsewhere!
Just as with anything you subject to the forces of nature, you should clean your ramp.
A good rule of thumb is to clean it as often as you clean your hull, so roughly every 2-4 weeks, or whenever it gets especially dirty. Make sure to use pet-friendly detergent!
Our Choice 5 Best Dog Ramps for Boats
PetSTEP Original Folding Pet Ramp
This ramp can be used on dry land and on the high seas. PetSTEP typically makes dog ramps for cars, but the Original Folding Pet Ramp is fully boated adaptable for three reasons:
First, the rubberized walking surface is slip-resistant and great for paw grip even when it’s wet.
Second, the ramp is equipped with hooks, holes, and slots that can be used to attach it to your boat.
And finally, its advanced composite plastic construction won’t rust or corrode. This plastic also provides the flexibility and strength to hold up to 500lbs (150lbs more than the world’s heaviest English Mastiff).
Spec-wise, this ramp is 18lbs and 70” long. It folds to half its size, so you can even make space for it in a day boat. Overall, the PetSTEP Original is the most versatile ramp on the list.
Pros and Cons
- The rubber surface prevents slipping in wet or dry situations, and is softer on paws than textured material or carpet.
- It’s easily and quickly folded, extra hardware isn’t required, and molded ergonomic handles are featured on both sides.
- The holding capacity is 500lbs, so it can support any dog breed.
- There’s an unsteady bounce in the middle of the ramp that your dog will have to get used to. If your dog has trouble getting over it, you can secure the ramp with a piece of wood on the bottom decking.
Great Day Load-A-Pup LP500
This Great Day LP500 is for the adventurous pup. It’s a platform that attaches to your boat’s boarding ladder, making it easy for your dog to get back onboard from the water. The ramp doesn’t slant much though, making it unideal for dock-to-boat boarding.
It’s made out of durable aircraft aluminum and is treated to prevent rust and corrosion. Spec-wise, it’s 14”x 20” and fits perfectly onto standard ladder rungs on pontoon boats anywhere from 16’-25’.
It weighs an easy 7lbs, yet features a 200lb holding capacity, which is the size of a large great dane. This ramp also folds up flat and can be stored when it’s not in use.
The gripping ridges on the platform provide traction without discomfort. Additionally, dogs can sit on the platform when they want to take a swimming break but don’t want to get back on board yet.
Attach the ramp to higher steps of the ladder if your pup has joint issues. While water does indeed lessen joint pressure, conditions like arthritis often make going down a step more difficult than going up.
Pros and Cons
- The aircraft aluminum construction provides a lightness in weight and ease of use, without compromising its 200lb holding capacity.
- The straight and perpendicular platform is like a boat doggy door, providing an easy in and out, as well as a resting place if he or she wants to sit in the water.
- The ramp is quickly and easily hooked onto your boat’s boarding ladder.
- Gripping ridges make your dog’s climb more secure.
- The perpendicular platform and lack of steps sometimes makes it difficult for dogs to find the ramp with their back feet.
Beavertail Aluminum Folding Dog Ladder
Beavertail is designed for dogs of outdoor sportsmen and sportswomen. It’s even a stealth olive color so that your catch of the day, whether they’re fish or waterfowl, won’t see you guys coming.
It’s made of aluminium and stainless steel, measures 24”x13”x6”, and weighs 9.9lbs. The arms are rubber, which means they won’t scratch up your boat’s hull.
This dog ramp is also two-way adjustable. I love that you can fold it in while it’s mounted to the boat. This makes it easier for me and my birddog to make a quick escape into a new hunting spot!
Unlike the Great Day, this ramp can also be used on the dock, as well as the water. You just need to ensure that the nuts are well tightened. Beavertail doesn’t specify its weight capacity, but it’s safe to say they’ve designed it to hold the average hunting dog. Male Labradors clock in at 64-79lbs on average and Irish Setters are 60-71lbs, as quick examples.
Pros and Cons
- This ramp can be used on the ocean or lake, on the dock, and in the pool.
- It’s a two-way adjustable that you can fold in while still mounted to your duck boat for a speedy getaway.
- Its olive color helps it blend into the water, making it great for outdoor sports like hunting and fishing.
- It’s able to go as far as 10” into the water, but isn’t long, wide, or strong enough for dogs over 200lbs or dogs with an unsteady gait.
Drifter Marine Dog Boat Boarding Ladder
This safety-first dog ramp is perfect for ocean-goers.
It features a 16″x35″ mesh platform that your dog can comfortably climb to get in and out of your boat. The mesh’s porousness allows water to mostly travel through it. This way, the water’s movement won’t knock it around, and the ramp stays in place, and submerged, even when waves hit.
The structure holding the mesh platform together is made out of anodized aluminium, which means it was treated with an electrolytic process to make it corrosion-resistant. And of course, the hooks are rubber-guarded to protect your boat from dings and scratches.
The mesh and aluminium combination make this ramp more than sufficient to support small to medium sized dogs.
Feel free to use this for your dog pool too -just find a spot to mount or drill it in!
Pros and Cons
- The mesh construction allows it to stay put in the face of waves, which makes it perfect for the ocean.
- The combination of anodized aluminum and mesh netting make this dog ramp exceedingly lightweight.
- Its hooks fit over most boat walls making installation fast and easy.
- Mesh netting provides a stable, safe, and comfortable climb for your sea dog, but it’s not as strong as plastic or aluminum and can tear if caught on anything too sharp.
Solvit PetSafe Happy Ride Deluxe Telescoping Pet Ramp
Similar to the PetSTEP Original, the PetSafe Happy Ride is versatile and can be used for boats as well as SUVs.
This ramp is 13lbs and features adjustable sizing, which means you can customize it to different boat heights or different dock drops. Using its special telescoping design, you can size this ramp from 39” to 72”.
The combination aluminum and plastic is strong, allowing this ramp to support over 400lbs with absolutely zero bending. If wobbling and bending makes your pup too insecure to scuttle up and down a ramp, this PetSafe is for you.
PetSafe also has a stellar reputation for customer service. They have product experts available to answer questions Monday through Saturday via phone and email.
Pros and Cons
- The telescoping design allows you to adjust the length from 39” to 72” and any size in between.
- It supports up to 400lbs and is completely bend-resistant.
- PetSafe has product experts available for any inquiries you may have.
- The gritty surface is excellent for traction, but some dogs find it uncomfortable.
What is the Best Dog Ramp for Boats?
A dog ramp for a boat should be easy to transport, should safely hold your dog’s weight even when constantly used, and should be comfortable and durable.
All of the boat ramps in this roundup excel in specific features and for specific reasons: Hunters will likely prefer the Beavertail’s stealth and ease, while wave riders will enjoy the Marine Drifter’s stability.
However, the PetSTEP Original Folding Ramp scores high marks on every front. Among several strengths, it’s durable, versatile, comfortable, and reasonably priced.
We hope you were able to find the right boat ramp for your canine first mate!