As we get older we notice our joints start to stiffen up and things that were once second nature become a little more challenging. The same applies to your aging dog and where they once were able to simply leap into the car you find that they are now a little apprehensive, maybe they aren’t able to do it at all. It’s at this point you should definitely consider a car dog ramp if they aren’t of the size where you can simply pick them up and carry them into the car.

Some larger breed dogs such as Labradors, German Shepherds and Mastiffs, to name just a few, are known to genetically be more prone to joint problems, particularly with their rear legs, in the form of Hip Dysplasia.

If you have one of these larger breed dogs it might be prudent to consider using a dog ramp from a very early age so as not to put any additional strain on their hips from jumping into the car. This is particularly essential if you have a modern SUV or other vehicle that is much higher off the ground than a more traditional, smaller car.

You should also consider a doggie ramp if your dog is recuperating from injury or illness. Making them jump high into the air could exacerbate any condition that they are already dealing with. This can easily be avoided with a simple ramp or steps to help them get in the car..

Like any product, there is a huge range of choice and not all car dog ramps are the same. In this article we look at the top things to look out for when considering purchasing a dog ramp for your car.

Be sure to also check out our article: – How to Train Your Dog to Use a Car Dog Ramp

1. What part of the car do they need to get into?

Some dogs ride in the luggage compartment and will therefore need to enter the rear of the vehicle. Some owners prefer their dog to ride in the main cabin space and so therefore need to enter via one of the doors. Keep this in mind when looking at the right solution for you. If entering via the door measure the gap to ensure a ramp will fit safely at a right angle to the car to allow the dog to enter the vehicle

Dog Ramp for side access to a car

There is limited room when using a ramp against a car door

Consider where you are able to park your car. Will you be able to regularly gain access to the side or rear of the vehicle to provide enough space to open the door / hatch and place the ramp?

Most models of dog ramp come in varying lengths or are adjustable, but they are all of a fixed width. Be sure to think through where the ramp will go before purchase, to establish the maximum width your car can cater to.

Any width will be fine for rear entry but for entry with a standard car door, depending on the vehicle model you may need a thinner ramp. The majority of the smaller ramps tend to be about 15″- 16″ wide. However, you do need to consider the size of your dog with the width of the ramp and whether the ramp will be wide enough, and your dog confident enough to walk up it.

2. The length of the ramp will affect the angle of the ramp

If you have a high car and a short ramp you are going to create a very steep ramp for your dog to climb, almost defeating the object of the ramp entirely and you may find your dog will not be happy to use it.

Consider carefully the height off the ground of your particular vehicle and therefore the minimum length you will need the ramp to be. The ideal dog ramp angle should be between 18 and 26 degrees, but let’s be honest, I can barely remember a thing from school so what does that actually look like? If you have a long piece of wood available, try offering this up to the car and using this to find the ideal length of ramp you will need to make a sensible angle.

Alternatively, after much head scratching, I remembered some trigonometry calculations and came up with this table which may help you if you want to get it exactly right:

Min Length of Ramp Needed
Height to landing18° Angle22° Angle26° Angle

Don’t just buy any dog ramp and assume it will be ok. Some are of a fixed length and therefore may only really be suitable for a smaller car. Others are fully adjustable to a good long length and so should be fine with much larger cars. Getting the angle right is important.

In short, do your measurements to ensure that the one you get will suit your vehicle and your dog. Also consider that you will need space behind your vehicle to extend a ramp. If you are parked tightly on the street you aren’t going to be able to extend a dog ramp 7ft behind the car so keep this in mind.

3. How large is your dog? / How large will they get?

Dog ramps for cars come in varying materials and some are stronger than others. Most of the ramps I looked at state a maximum loading weight. To be safe, I would add 20% on to your dog’s weight when checking suitability. You don’t want to be pushing the product to it limits, so keep in mind the current and future weight of your dog. Remember that as dogs become more senior they tend to bulk out and can put on a lot of pounds in their later years.

On average, the car dog ramps I have looked at generally supported up to 135lbs (60kgs) , but there are many that are for much larger dogs and support up to 400lbs (180kg), suitable for even the largest giant breed dog.

4. Do you need Portability?

The construction material of the dog ramp will affect the weight. Most of the cheaper ones are moulded plastic. The ramps with a higher maximum load weight tend to be made from light aluminium.

When it comes to portability, the designs vary greatly. Some will fold into two or three, and others use a telescopic approach where the ramp extends with one section overlapping the next. With steps some are folding, but there are also many on the market that are fixed, so not really portable at all.

To have the ramp at the best angle for your dog, it could easily be 8ft long or even more, so how small it compacts to when not is use is very important

Most have a carry handle on the side and some come with a protection cover for when not in use.

In short,  take a note of the collapsed size of the ramp and consider if this will easily go into your luggage compartment during the journey, allowing for the fact that your dog may well be in there too.

5. Is Your Dog More Likely to Hurt Itself?

It may seem a silly suggestion, but some dog owners have found that their dog has actually fallen from the dog ramp because the design they were using did not have a lipped edge. You know your dog, so consider if the lipped type would be better suited for them rather than the flat board type. If your dog is elderly and easily confused, or has some visual impairment issues then the lipped style may be a better choice for you. Think about this before purchase.

Also consider the materiel the ramp is covered in. The cheaper plastic ramps tend just to use a ribbed moulding to make them anti slip. In practice it is possible that this design doesn’t entirely stop dog’s paws from slipping, especially if the dog’s paws are wet. Other dog ramps tend to use a type of impregnated sandpaper and owners have commented that their dog didn’t like this gritted surface. Some of the more luxury ramps on the market use a kind of carpet or astro turf which is both non slip and soft on the paws. A good example is this is the Pet Gear Ramp with supertraX surface (Amazon link)


If you want to protect your fur baby’s joints then a car pet ramp is a great idea. However, your car, your dog, your space and your budget all come into play when making a product decision. Hopefully this article will have provided you some key areas to consider before making your purchase. Happy travelling!

Image Credits
boncer-ramp by rharrison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0