Physically, young or healthy dogs have a better ability to jump and reach high places such as the inside of a car, truck, or SUV. However, as dogs age or develop health problems like hip dysplasia, our furry friends require some assistance getting into our vehicles.
Whether it be because your dog is old, has health concerns, or is just plain short, many dog owners face the hassle of getting their dog into their vehicle. Luckily, there are different options available on the market to help your dog safely enter and exit your car, van, truck, or SUV. When selecting which option is best for your pooch, it’s important to figure out which one best fits your pet and situation.
Below, we outline the pros and cons of some of the most popular solutions that help your dog in and out of your vehicle.
Pros – One of the main advantages of using any sort of ramp is that the gentle incline reduces the pressure on your dog’s hips and joints. Unlike when using stairs, your dog won’t have to work as hard to lift their legs, causing less pressure on their joints. Many larger and older dogs (breeds like German shepherds, golden retrievers, Rottweilers, and more) suffer from conditions like hip dysplasia, which is typically the reason many dog owners seek a ramp in the first place.
Folding ramps also work great for large dogs because they are capable of carrying heavy loads. Unlike steps, dogs won’t be putting the majority of their weight onto one point on the ramp, meaning the pressure is more evenly distributed across the surface and increases stability.
Another pro is that folding ramps can be stowed away and deployed with ease, making them easy for dog owners to set up and use. Most have one fold to maximize their strength and stability, while others can have two or three folds to minimize their stowed footprint.
The setup of a folding ramp takes only seconds. Simply unfold the ramp and place the top edge on a solid surface in the car, truck, SUV, or van. To put the ramp away, all you need to do is fold it back up. The ramp can easily be stored in the back of your vehicle or trunk for convenient on-the-go usage.
Cons – While it’s a simple device, ramps, in general, aren’t for every dog or dog owner. Some dogs aren’t used to ramps like they are stairs. A lot of dogs are raised in homes where there are stairs inside or outside on a porch or deck, but it’s rare that they’ll come across ramps very often. It’s usually a simple training exercise, but something an owner needs to take into account.
Even though folding ramps easily fold for storage, it doesn’t make them the easiest to find a place for. Folding ramps are a fixed length, so if you’ve got a small sedan or crossover, a folding ramp can take up cargo space.
Quality folding ramps can last a user a very long time, even a lifetime, but cheaper models won’t. Most users of folding ramps will likely have a larger dog, and while good folding ramps made of quality material can support these dogs easily, the cheaper ones aren’t reinforced well at the hinges. This can cause structural damage to the ramp over time.
Pros – Telescoping ramps carry the same general advantage as a folding ramp, being a gentle incline and better for larger dogs and easier on their hips and joints. However, there are differences between the two that may or may not be an advantage, depending upon the ramp and your situation.
Instead of folding out, a telescoping ramp, which typically has 3 nested pieces, slides out to increase the length of the ramp. This means that when stowed, a telescoping ramp takes the least amount of space in a car.
Cons – The biggest con for telescoping ramps is that they aren’t as stable as stairs or folding ramps under heavy weights or continuous use. Think about one of the sliding drawers in your kitchen. The metal door slides aren’t up to the task of withstanding a large amount of weight when the drawer is fully extended. Telescoping ramps function similarly.
While folding ramps are simple to use, telescoping ramps require more work to set up. Different mechanisms are in place to both open the ramp and secure it. It is important to ensure that each section is extended fully and locked in place, or else the ramp could falter. It’s not the biggest hassle, but it’s a bit more effort than folding ramps require for setup.
Additionally, the movement of the ramp can be jammed by dirt or debris. If you’re moving your dog into your car, the ramp is going to have to be outside. Plus, if you take your dog to places like the woods or the beach, there’s more debris that can get lodged in the ramp.
Pros – One of the biggest perks to stairs, folding stairs included, is that dogs who are accustomed to stairs generally won’t have any problems using them. Dogs who aren’t, however, will still need to be trained to use them.
Folding stairs can be the best in terms of reaching different heights. Extra steps can be added and taken off of the most expensive folding stair models. For higher places, stairs will be easier for a dog to use than a ramp because it won’t be just one steep incline, but stairs can still be a poor choice for dogs with hip and joint issues.
Folding stairs are also the easiest of the three kinds mentioned here to store. They fold down so each step becomes stacked on top of each other, taking up a lot less space.
Cons – The biggest downside to using any kind of stairs is that they put strain on dogs with hip and joint issues. Unlike ramps, dogs will have to put extra pressure on their hips and joints to maneuver up each step. Furthermore, some dogs have a learned tendency to run up stairs, which adds to the pressure placed on hips and joints.
Folding stairs are not always stable, especially cheaper models. There are a lot of moving pieces to folding dog steps and that makes them less stable, especially for larger dogs.
Lastly, folding stairs require by far the most amount of work to deploy and use. Unlike the folding or telescoping ramps, folding stairs have dozens of hinges that have to be unfolded and set up for every use. Not only can this take a long time to set up and take down, but the multiple moving parts also leave room for potential damage that can severely impact the function of the stairs.
Selecting the Right Ramp or Folding Steps For Your Dog
In the end, selecting the right ramp or folding step comes down to priorities. If you’ve got a large dog, or one that’s getting a bit older, a single-fold ramp makes the most sense. If you want the strongest, most stable solution, again the folding ramp is the right choice.
However, if you want to minimize the amount of space a ramp takes in your vehicle, then a telescoping ramp or folding stairs might be the better choice.
So there you have it! Feel free to share your thoughts on what you think the best tool is to get your dog into and out of your car.