Bad back? The stubborn 100-lb dog who refuses to jump for you? Add in your typical higher-sitting sport utility vehicle (SUV) and you have a recipe for the one really frustrating (or painful!) occasion. You need to find the best dog ramp for SUV owners and make life a whole lot easier.
Why get an SUV dog ramp?
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A few years back I was reaching down to pick up my dog’s droppings and I felt something in my back shift. I’m still not 100 percent sure what it was, but I was in excruciating pain for the next week.
This happened to coincide with my dog’s bi-annual veterinarian visit. When it was time to get the 32-lb beagle in the car, he sensed something was up and refused to jump in. Long story short, it took a lot of muttered threats and expletives and some very careful maneuvering – along with the surety at one point that I was going to drop him – for me to pick him up and get him in.
I’m typically a lucky person with no health issues, and my dog is a medium-sized guy. I imagine people with any type of ongoing mobility setbacks, plus any size dog, would benefit from having a ramp to get their pup into the higher seats or rear space of an SUV.
Older dogs, especially those with arthritis, will appreciate the lessened stress on their joints, bones and muscles.
What’s more, you don’t necessarily have to wait for old age to creep up. Dogs sometimes experience mobility issues later in life because of continuous stress on their bodies in younger years. Larger breeds tend to experience pain in their joints as they age, and you can reduce that inevitability by lessening how much they jump overall.
Big or small, all-size dogs can benefit from a ramp. Little guys like Chihuahuas get a boost, while XL dogs who are big scaredy cats about jumping need no longer fret.
Owners with overweight or obese dogs, who have difficulty jumping in the first place, let alone into the seat of an SUV, will find a ramp particularly useful as well.
What to consider when buying a ramp for an SUV
Take these points into consideration when shopping for an SUV-friendly ramp:
Size, weight and health of dog
Your dog’s size helps determines what type of ramp you should get.
For example, many ramps come with weight limits, though owners with small-to-medium sized dogs don’t need to be quite as concerned.
Owners with dogs who are older or less mobile will have to consider if their pup has trouble going up and down stairs indoors, it makes sense that they would steer clear of the step style of ramp.
Style of ramp
Which brings us to those two most common ramp styles: slopes and steps.
Slopes are long, straight rectangles that connect the seat, bumper or surface of the trunk to the ground, forming an angle upon which your dog can safely enter and exit the vehicle. If you have ever rented a moving truck, you probably used an affixed sloping ramp to carry your boxes in and out (ad nauseum).
Step ramps are just what they sound like: a set of steps that starts on the ground and gradually elevates to connect your vehicle. This is an especially good type of ramp for SUV owners, as some ramps might be too short and would end up creating a dangerously steep angle for any dog.
For both slope and step ramps there are two typical variations: fixed and folding. Fixed types, as the name suggests, are comprised of one single piece with no bending or folding mechanism. If the slope length given is five feet long, it stays five feet long. For fixed steps, the ramp remains “as is,” with no flexing or give.
By contrast, folding ramps do bend at joints to become more compact for storage and mobility.
Slope ramps may have a third variation, a telescopic feature where the connected panels of the product slide over/under each other, extending and contracting like a pirate’s telescope (ahoy!).
Material, weight & size of ramp
Ramps are typically made from three materials: plastic, which can actually be quite heavy; metal, typically lightweight aluminum; and wood, which is usually the heaviest and bulkiest, since wooden ramps cannot fold or otherwise contract.
The material of the ramp also determines how easy it will be to clean. Plastic can be sprayed down with a hose, no problem, but aluminum ramps usually have fabric components that can trap dirt and smells.
Wood won’t last quite as long if it is constantly being sprayed with water, and if you don’t have a moist rag on hand to wipe it down right after use, you’re putting a potentially muddy and awkward chunk of wood in your clean SUV.
Ramps come in differing lengths and widths as well, with some as narrow as a foot and others as wide as two feet, plus anything in between. Pay special attention to the dimensions, including how high the ramp can reach, so that it aligns with your vehicle’s seats, bumper or trunk floor.
Surface and angle of ramp
You will be able to judge best what angle is right for your dog’s needs, but it follows that the older or less jump-capable your pup, the smaller the angle, or the height of the steps, they will require. That means you will need a longer ramp or shorter steps.
Mind the surface of the ramp or steps as well. Most ramps come with a rubbery textured anti-slip surface, but they can also come topped with something like Astroturf. Steps are often made of a heavy-duty cloth, and some are then covered further with anti-slip pads.
Budget – should you pay for a more expensive ramp?
Last, and certainly not least, I leave you to consider what you can afford. For most of us, budget is the deciding factor. Ramps can cost anywhere from $50 or $60 on the inexpensive end to hundreds of dollars, on the pricier side.
Should you splurge on the expensive ramp if you can afford it? As you will see, not all ramps are created equal, and more money paid might not necessarily guarantee a superior product.
WeatherTech is best known for their interior vehicle products (floor mats, phone cup holders, etc.), but they have expanded with a line of pet products, like dish holders and this heavy-duty dog ramp that seems made for SUVs and trucks.
· Rate of incline no more than 20 degrees for most vehicles
· Low incline especially good for older dogs
· Supports up to 300 lbs. – great for larger breeds, like Great Danes, Mastiffs
· Sturdy design can take years of hard use
· Extra long – 94 inches (almost eight feet)
· All three components (two ramps and central stool) weigh only 21 lbs. together
· Individual components weigh no more than eight lbs. each
· Ramp pieces are interchangeable – no need to worry about which piece goes where
· Comfortable non-slip rubber surface
· Grippy “teeth” ends of ramp pieces stay put on the ground and the vehicle
· Ramp pieces long enough to be used over short flights of stairs
· Surface won’t become slick even in rain
· Easy set-up and tear down
· Central stool adds reassuring stability – hardly any “bounce”
· Central stool also has grippy feet to hold steady
· Easy to clean (can be hosed down, so great in the summer)
· Material won’t rust
· WeatherTech is a well-known, trusted brand
· Pricier than other models
· Takes up a lot of storage room, even in a large SUV
· Takes up a lot of space when in use
· Only 15” wide – might not seem wide enough for bigger dogs
· Assembly might be difficult for owners with mobility issues
The Heeyoo Nonslip Car Dog Steps are an affordable option for the pet owner who values portability and convenience, but who does not have an extra-large dog breed. Steps are adjustable and sturdy but may be too tall for short-legged pups.
· Very lightweight – only 10 lbs. total
· Adjustable height and length
· Three colors options
· Two step/height amount options (four or five steps = 20” high/40” high)
· Only about 10 inches thick folded up – takes up minimal space in trunk
· Stays stable on a variety of surfaces (concrete, grass, etc.)
· Oxford fabric steps remain very taut, without a lot of “give”
· Folds and unfolds very easily – perfect for low-mobility pet owners
· Only 40 inches long – could also be used inside at bedside
· Build-in carry straps for easy portability – can be worn
· An affordable option if you’re on a budget
· Steps have rubber coating and texture to help dog’s paws grip
· Provided carabiner locks steps to vehicle
· Only 15 inches wide, might not seem wide enough for bigger dogs
· Max weight of 150, so no enormous dogs or multiple large dogs at once
· Shortest step height (5.2 inches) might be too tall for short-legged small dogs (dachshunds, corgis) or puppies
· Steel and Oxford fabric design higher maintenance to keep clean
With their wider, more square step size, the Luffwell Portable Dog Stairs are an excellent choice for those whose dogs prefer stairs but might have trouble with steeper steps. This offering from Luffwell is affordable and conveniently unfussy to use, but owners with multiple big dogs should ensure they go one at a time.
· Can hold up to 200 lbs., 150 lbs for
· Larger step surface area reduces risk of pet slipping/tripping and increases stability
· Also gentler on dog’s joints
· Nice 17-inch width – not as narrow as other options
· Strong aluminum frame
· Carpeted, nonslip steps
· Lightweight – only 10 lbs. total, for easy portability
· Accordion-like fold-up is so easy to do
· Fits easily in trunk, leaves plenty of space for other things
· No-fuss fold/unfolding means you don’t have to do much bending to put stairs in place
· Comes with padded shoulder/hand straps to carry wherever you’re going, comfortably
· Stability strap connects to tailgate latch for added security
· Steps can be adjusted between 22 inches and 28 inches to fit most vehicles
· Usually minimal training needed to acclimate dogs to steps
· Middle-range price point
· Weight limit is pretty fixed – I would not go much over it, just to be safe
The go-to pet ramp for dog owners for years, the PetSTEP Original has stood the test of time, and for good reason. Durable and strong, it was made for big animals and has been designed to take a beating. Still, its price point might place it out of some owners’ budgets.
· Really sturdy – can hold up to 500 lbs. (but it’s just for animals!)
· Opens and closes on a hinge, ready to use in mere seconds
· Folds up to be more compact and easy to store
· Made of fiberglass and plastic, so need to worry about corrosion or rust
· Materials are also easy to clean, and it can be hosed down when dirty
· Nonslip textured surface is both reliably reassuring and gentle on your pup’s paws
· Surface remains “grippy” even in the rain
· Length of 70 inches when opened ensures an easy slope for all dogs
· 17-inch width is nicer for bigger (or clumsier) pups
· At 18.5 lbs. this ramp is heavier than some of the aluminum step models
· It’s a somewhat bulkier model, 35 inches long still when folded up
· Because of its longer length when opened, you need more room around your vehicle to use it
· For its excellent weight capacity, the ramp could be slightly wider still for XL dogs
Relatively compact and light, the Pet Trex Titan Telescoping Pet Ramp not only has a cool name, it looks cool and unique from other ramps. Thanks to the aluminum frame it’s lighter than the PetSTEP model and can still handle a pretty big dog. There are some design drawbacks, however.
· Only 12 lbs, so it’s lightweight if you’re not a heavy lifter
· Middle-range price point, so it’s relatively affordable
· The three panels slide in and out easily in a matter of moments
· The panels contract so the ramp measures about 28 inches in length when closed up
· Comes with a handle on the side for ease-of-toting
· Very durable aluminum and plastic materials which resist rust
· Grooves in the plastic surface of the ramp help prevent slipping
· Versatile-sized ramp can also be used indoors
· At only 62 inches long when extended, the ramp creates an angle too sharp for some dogs
· Dogs with arthritis, joint pain or limited mobility might find ramp too steep
· Telescopic design means the ramp is not flat, which could be uncomfortable to some pets
Of these five, I’m going to give the edge to the Luffwell Portable Dog Stairs. Its design is solid, the shorter steps accommodate even little legs that need to climb into a tall vehicle and it’s just an all-around sturdy ramp that has improved the existing step models.
The one thing I really like about it is how easy it is to use and how light it is – thinking of when my back was hurt and I had to get my beagle to the vet, this would have been so handy for my CR-V.
I place the Luffwell above the also-excellent PetSTEP because it’s less expensive and far, far lighter. The more people who can easily use it, the merrier!