You may not think twice about letting your dog hop up onto the couch or the bed for snuggle time or into the back of your SUV for a road trip, but did you know that jumping can put extra stress and strain on your pet’s joints?
Even if your dog is healthy and spry, repetitive, high-impact activities can increase his risk for joint problems like osteoarthritis. On the other hand, if your dog used to get around easily and you’ve recently noticed him hesitating to jump or climb stairs, he may already be experiencing joint pain.
Whether you have a dog with mobility issues or you want to take proactive steps to support your pet’s joint health, a well-designed dog ramp may be worth investing in. It can give you peace of mind knowing your pet is getting around more easily and safely. We’ve rounded up some of the best dog ramps for cars, couches, beds and beyond. Your dog (and his joints) will thank you.
Benefits of Using a Dog Ramp or Stairs
While certain dogs are prime candidates for ramps or stairs, such as aging pets with health issues or pets suffering from chronic pain, the fact is all dogs can benefit from learning how to use them.
“The most important reason to teach a dog how to use ramps and/or steps to enter and exit vehicles, and to ‘mount’ and ‘dismount’ beds and furniture is that at some point they will need to use those tools,” Dr. Robin Downing, a certified veterinary pain practitioner and founder of the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management, says.
According to some estimates, about 25 percent of dogs across all ages suffer from painful osteoarthritis (1). “Because most dogs are good at hiding their discomfort, we often don’t even realize they are having issues until their condition is quite advanced,” Downing says. “That alone should motivate us to help them learn early on how to use these tools—before they need them.”
When dogs jump up forcefully onto furniture or into vehicles, it can cause them to hyperextend their knees and spines, Downing says. Repetitive concussive forces from jumping down can lead to joint injuries in a dog’s front legs, as well as micro-traumas to the joints of the spine, she adds. Using dog ramps or stairs helps minimize these forces.
As with anything new and unfamiliar, your dog may be hesitant to use a ramp at first. It’s important to take it slow and be patient when teaching your dog to walk up and down a ramp.
If possible, try placing the ramp flat on the ground first and luring your dog across with treats. Once your pet feels more comfortable with the ramp, you can set it upright against your vehicle, couch, or bed and have him practice walking back and forth. Again, you’ll need to have some treats on hand to reward him for a job well done.
“Once they know how to enter and exit a vehicle, or mount and dismount furniture, they will remember how to do it, so it can be reintroduced once they are older and it really counts,” Downing says.
Shopping for a Dog Ramp: What to Look For
When shopping for a dog ramp or stairs, you’ll notice that they come in a variety of sizes, materials, and styles and range significantly in price. A large dog ramp may be geared toward helping pets into vehicles while a small dog ramp or stairs may be more suitable for climbing onto furniture.
“Choosing between a ramp and stairs depends on the physical build of the dog,” Downing says. “For instance, a long dog like a Dachshund will do better with a ramp so that they do not have to arch their back to move from step to step. Very large dogs often have an easier time with a ramp rather than stairs because they are big enough that it is awkward for them to shorten their strides enough to use steps. Also, dogs with weakness in the rear legs, no matter their size, do better with a ramp so that they do not have to step up, but rather can simply walk along an incline.”
Here are some other factors to consider when shopping for a dog ramp:
Dimensions and weight limits are important considerations when choosing a dog ramp. A gentle incline is ideal to ensure your pet can walk up and down comfortably. If your dog will be climbing into a pickup truck, you might need a longer ramp than you would for climbing up onto your bed or sofa.
You’ll also want to take your dog’s size and weight into account when choosing a ramp. It should be wide enough to accommodate your pet and sturdy enough to hold him.
“It is important for the ramp not to be too narrow, and also for it not to be flimsy—these are features that will surely frighten the dog and make ramp use impossible,” Downing says.
The last thing you want is for your dog to slip and slide down a ramp that is supposed to help him get where he needs to go. Pay attention to the type of tread material used on the ramp, or the surface he will be walking on. Some have rougher surfaces like sandpaper while others have ribbed carpet or ridged rubber.
Even if the product claims to be “non-slip,” some pets may still have trouble getting a good grip. In those cases, minor modifications, like adding extra anti-slip strips or tape, may help. A good ramp will also have rubber feet or grippers to ensure stability while in use.
Some dog ramps are foldable or retractable so they can be stowed away more easily, whether that’s in a trunk, a closet, or under the bed. Others have fixed dimensions. If you intend to take a ramp out on the road, you’ll want to choose one that is easy to carry and pack. With a heavy or bulky ramp, you may run the risk of injuring your back. If you plan to keep the ramp by the couch or the bed at all times, then a fixed ramp may work fine for your needs.
Downing warns against telescoping ramps that slide in and out. While an adjustable dog ramp may be appealing to accommodate varying heights and angles, you run the risk of pinching or crushing your fingers.
We took a closer look at various dog ramps on the market to help you make the best choice for your dog. Time to ramp up your knowledge!
Best Overall Dog Ramp
Our pick: PetStep Original Folding Dog Ramp
This ramp from PetStep has everything you need in a quality dog ramp. It is long enough but not too heavy, folds in half for easy transport and storage, non-slip, and durable. At 17 inches wide, even large-breed dogs should feel comfortable using it. The type of tread material used on pet ramps and stairs is a real sticking point for many pet parents. But you won’t find any rough sandpaper or slippery carpet here—this ramp features a soft rubber surface with ridges. It even gets the seal of approval from Downing (who has no financial interest in this product whatsoever). “I have one of these that has been in use for over 20 years and is still in excellent shape,” she says. “All of my dogs over the years, from 13 pounds to 130 pounds, have used it.”
- Made of advanced composite plastic and fiberglass.
- Weighs 18.5 pounds and measures 70 in. L x 17 in. W x 2.5 in. H.
- Designed for heights up to 32 inches.
- Holds up to 500 pounds.
- Non-slip rubber walking surface for traction.
- Rubber grips at each end to keep ramp in place during use.
- Built-in carry handles on both ends.
- Folds in half for storage (36 inches long folded).
- Latch keeps ramp closed when not in use.
- Comes assembled.
- Washable with soap and water.
- Available in two colors (gray/graphite and beige/khaki).
Things to Consider
- Some pet owners have found the ramp a bit heavy or unwieldy, but most appreciate that it’s strong and sturdy.
- It’s on the pricey side but should stand up to rigorous use and comes with a 5-year warranty.
Best Lightweight Dog Ramp for Small Dogs
Our pick: PetSafe Happy Ride Folding Dog Ramp
If you like the idea of a folding ramp but want something ultra lightweight, this one from PetSafe may be worth considering. It’s only 10 pounds, so it’s easy to carry, open, and close. The tradeoff is that larger dogs may not be comfortable using it, as it may feel too narrow or not supportive enough. While it is designed to hold up to 150 pounds, it likely performs best as a ramp for small dogs and medium dogs. If your dog will be entering through a side door as opposed to a cargo area, you may also want to get PetSafe’s side door ramp adapter for added stability. While it would be even better if the adapter was included, the price of the ramp and adapter together is still lower than the other foldable ramps on our list.
- All-plastic construction.
- Weighs only 10 pounds and measures 62 in. L x 16 in. W x 4 in. H.
- High-traction walking surface and built-in side rails.
- Four rubber feet for stability.
- Locks in place with safety latch when folded.
- Replacement felt fabric covers and high-traction treads available.
- Easy to clean with mild detergent or hose off with water.
Things to Consider
- Side door ramp adapter sold separately.
- Many reviewers found the traction tread to be too rough, like sandpaper.
- Designed to support dogs up to 150 pounds, but some reviewers noted sagging issues with larger dogs.
- Incline may be too steep, depending on the height of your vehicle.
Best Dog Ramp for a Truck or SUV
Our pick: Gen7 Natural Step Dog Ramp for Vehicles
If your vehicle is higher up off the ground, you will need a longer ramp so your pet can comfortably climb up and down. This one from Gen7Pets is 72 inches long, making it ideal for SUVs and trucks. It features a safety tether that attaches to the cargo area anchor for extra security. It’s a little on the heavy side at 18 pounds but is still easy to fold and carry. Plus, it features artificial turf tread that is softer underfoot.
- Made of steel and plastic.
- Weighs 18 pounds and measures 72 in. L x 16 in. W x 1.5 in. H.
- Suitable for dogs up to 250 pounds.
- Poly-grass surface for grip.
- Rubber grippers on both ends of ramp for stability.
- Safety tether for added security.
- Automatically locks with clip when folded up.
- Rubber-grip handle for easy toting.
What to Consider
- Carry handle is on the lower portion of the ramp instead of the upper half, which may make it a little cumbersome to open.
- May be too narrow for some dogs.
Best Dog Ramp for Bed
Our pick: PetSafe CozyUp Bed Ramp for Dogs
If your dog loves your bed more than his own, a bedside ramp may be worth investing in—especially if he jumps on and off numerous times a day. While some ramps would be an eyesore in your sleep sanctuary, this one from PetSafe feels right at home. Made of real wood with a cherry finish, it should fit nicely alongside the bed, even if you have a nightstand.
- Made of real wood.
- Measures 70 in. L x 16 in. W x 25 in. H.
- Designed to support pets up to 120 pounds.
- Gentle climbing angle.
- Ribbed carpet walking surface.
- Ample room on landing area at top.
What to Consider
- Assembly required.
- Some reviewers find carpet too slippery and have modified with other materials to provide extra grip (e.g., anti-slip tape, yoga mat).
- Measure before ordering to ensure it fits your space.
- Clean with wood polish and carpet cleaner for treads.
Best Dog Ramp for the Couch
Our pick: PetGear Stair and Ramp Combination
A stair-ramp combo may make more sense by the couch or in smaller rooms where a full-length ramp isn’t practical. The one from Pet Gear has a gentle slope and removable carpet tread that is machine washable. The plastic pieces also snap together for easy assembly.
- Heavy duty plastic.
- Lightweight at 8.7 pounds, easy to move to other rooms.
- Measures 28 in. L x 16 in. W x 16 in. H.
- Designed for pets up to 150 pounds.
- Gentle slope.
- Removable carpet tread is machine washable.
- Rubber grips on bottom to keep ramp in place.
- Pieces snap together (no tools required).
Things to Consider
- The tread is made of loofah-like material that some users find too slippery, so some modifications may be needed.
- There is a small lip to get up on the ramp (it doesn’t meet the ground), so some smaller dogs may have trouble on the initial ascent.
- During assembly, a little dish soap can be applied on the plastic pegs to make it snap together easier.
Best Budget Dog Stairs
Our pick: PetGear Easy Step II Pet Stairs
This isn’t technically a ramp, but in some cases, pet stairs may be a better option for your dog. These budget-friendly stairs from PetGear are wide and deep with a slight incline, so your pet only needs to climb two steps. They also offer models with a single step or three or four steps, so you can choose what fits your dog’s individual needs.
- Made of plastic.
- Measures 22 in. L x 16 in. W x 16 in. H.
- Steps are 6 inches high (top step 12.25 inches deep, second step 11.5 inches deep).
- Suitable for dogs up to 150 pounds.
- Snaps together (no tools required).
- Rubber grippers on bottom to keep secure.
- Removable carpet treads are machine washable.
- Available in multiple colors.
What to Consider
- Some reviewers found the stairs to be a little slippery on hardwood floors.
- Steps may be a bit wobbly for larger dogs.
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