Physically, young or healthy dogs have the ability to jump and reach high places such as the inside of a car, truck or RV. 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 issue of getting their dog into their car. Luckily, there are different options available on the market to help with this. When selecting which option is best for your pooch, it’s important to figure out which one best fits your pet and situation.
Here, we’re going to go over the pros and cons of some of the most popular tools to make it easier for you to help your dog into a vehicle.
Pros – One of the main pros to using any sort of ramp is the fact that the gentle incline will reduce the pressure on their hips and knees. Unlike when using stairs, your dog won’t have to work as hard lifting its 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 the ramp is needed 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 a ton of weight onto one point on the ramp, causing the pressure to be more evenly distributed across the surface and increasing stability.
A pro that benefits the owner more than the dog is that folding ramps can be stowed away and deployed with ease. Most have one fold to maximize their strength and stability, while others can have two or three folds to minimize their stowed footprint.
Setup of a folding ramp is as simple as it can get and takes seconds. You unfold the ramp and place the top edge on a solid surface in the car. To put the ramp away, all you need to do is fold it back up.
Cons – While it’s a simple device, ramps 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, 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, and over time, the weight can add up and cause structural damage.
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. 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 active use. Think about one of the sliding drawers in your kitchen. The metal door slides aren’t up to the task of withstanding a lot of weight when the drawer is fully extended. You’ve got the same problem with telescoping ramps.
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’s not the biggest hassle, but it’s a bigger one than folding ramps have for setup.
To go along with that, the movement on 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 will still need to be trained.
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 isn’t just one sharp incline, though hip issues still make this a poor choice. The angle of the incline can sometimes be set as well.
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 room.
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 get up each step. Further, some dogs have a tendency to run up stairs, which adds to the pressure placed on hips and joints.
Folding stairs are not always stable, especially the cheaper ones. 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 two kinds of ramps, folding stairs have dozens of hinges all over that have to be unfolded and set up. Anyone who has dealt with something like that understands how it can get stuck in one part or just not open well, causing a hassle.
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 a car.