How to Choose a Dog Ramp & Stairs

For those with aged dogs suffering from arthritic, weight issues, or other restrictive ailments, it's time to start considering dog ramps or dog stairs. These incredibly useful devices help your canine companion stay safe while increasing their upward and downward mobility.

A ramp or stairs gives dogs a struggle-free way to get on and off furniture. And in and out of the car without either of you having to struggle. There are a ton of ramp and stair options available to suit any dog or situation. Below we provide all the info you'll need to start your search.

Why do I need a dog ramp or stairs for my dog?

Certain dogs are more prone to injury than others. Daily activity from jumping up on the couch to hopping down from the car can cause a multitude of injuries such as:

  • Leg sprains
  • Injury to foot pads
  • Slipping of kneecaps
  • Injuries to the spine
  • Breakage of toenails
  • Elbow trauma

But, as it turns out, dogs are not the only ones who benefit from dog ramps- people too! Getting a dog ramp can help the owners too, especially if they suffer from certain conditions e.g. back problems.

"Anyone with a bad back, shoulder or elbow problems, or whose hands don't grip on like they used to. A dog ramp can save you injury and pain, too! If your dog is squirmy or hates to be handled, if you have slippery and/or hard floors making landing extra dangerous -- dog ramps or stairs are a good idea for these issues as well."

Sarah Wilson, Dog Expert for Dog Beds

Dog ramps vs. dog stairs -- which is better?

While the primary goal of both dog ramps and dog stairs are the same – helping your dog get up and down – they are different in design and suitability for types of purposes. You should consider your dog before making a decision:

"Senior dogs may need ramps that don't have stairs and that instead allow them to get to their destinations at a slight angle but in a straight line. Small dogs may do better with stepping stairs, and other dogs may do fine with both."

Your Dog Advisor

Dog Ramps

Made to go from a low surface to a higher one (and vice versa) using a flat piece of material such as plastic, wood, or metal. These are ideal for dogs who experience trouble when using stairs or hopping up and down. Ramps work well for short-legged dogs such as Corgis, Dachshunds, and puppies.

Blue Classic Plastic Pet Ramp
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Dog Stairs

A short series of portable stairs designed to allow dogs to climb up and down. These are perfect for dogs used to maneuvering stairs and able to navigate the climb. Stairs for dogs take up much less space than a ramp so make an excellent choice for apartments and smaller houses.

Brown 4-Step Plastic Pet Stair
Brown 4 Step Fabric Pet Stair
Brown 4-Step Fabric Pet Stair

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Tucker Murphy Pet Orville Comfort Foam 3 Step Pet Stair Carpet in Brown, Size 15.0 H x 18.0 W x 15.0 D in | Wayfair

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Gray 6 Step Fabric Pet Stair
Gray 6-Step Fabric Pet Stair

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Archie & Oscar Grommit High Density Foam 4 Step Pet Stair Fabric in Gray, Size 16.0 H x 15.0 W x 21.0 D in | Wayfair

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Brown 4 Step Plastic Pet Stair
Brown 4-Step Plastic Pet Stair

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Petsafe Cozyup Folding Dog Stairs  Pet Stairs For Indooroutdoor At Home Or Travel  Dog Steps For High Beds Sofa With Siderails Nonslip Pads  Durable S

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How do I determine the best type and size ramp or stairs for my dog?

The best type of dog ramp will have a gentle incline and comfortably accommodate your dog's body width. The specific incline recommendations are as follows:

  • The rise of the ramp should incline to an angle of between 18 to 25 degrees. Small dog breeds need an incline angle of 18 to 20 degrees. Medium size dog breeds need an incline angle of 22 to 25 degrees. These angles may sound steep but dogs, as quadrupeds, have a low center of gravity. So, they can handle steeper inclines than a human in a wheelchair.
  • For a bed or couch that measures between 14 to 16 inches in height vertically, a ramp length of 3 feet will be needed to obtain the correct incline angle. Whereas, to load your pet to a vehicle that is 24-30 inches high, a ramp length of 5 to 6 feet will be needed.
  • Determine the appropriate width by the size of your dog. Make sure it is wider than the broadest measurement of their shoulder and hips. Narrow ramps work for small breeds while wide ramps are best for medium to large breeds. Specifically, toy and small breed dogs need a ramp width of 11-12 inches and medium size breeds a width of 22-24 inches.
  • The best type of dog stairs will have a rise (or stair height) that correlates to your dog's size. To determine the best stair riser height for your dog, measure your dog’s leg length. Then when shopping for dog stairs, make sure each step is no higher than the length of your dog’s legs plus 2 inches. This will allow your dog to comfortably reach from one step to the next. Many manufacturers make stairs in varying riser heights to suit the small, medium, and large size dogs.

  • Deep steps are a must for all size dogs with a recommended depth of 10 to 12 inches.

What materials are dog stairs and ramps made of?

Dog ramps and stairs both come in wood, plastic, and metal options. When deciding the most suitable for you and your pet, first consider if you will be moving the stairs and ramp from one spot to another or leaving in one place.

Plastic units tend to be lighter and easily moved around. Lighter plastic stairs are best for toy and small dog breeds as they will not last under the weight of large dogs. Some manufacturers do make heavier polypropylene stairs that hold up for medium size breeds though.

Metal and wood are best bought as fixed elements. Wood and metal stairs provide durable and long-lasting options for large, heavy breeds.

Is an anti-skid surface important?

No matter whether you choose stairs or a ramp, made from plastic, wood, or metal, be sure the product has an anti-skid surface. This will allow your dog proper traction and speed control when using to avoid injury. You’ll find both stairs and ramps with anti-skid surfaces such as rubber, carpet, grip tape, non-skid paint, and textured plastic.

What type of dogs are ramps and stairs helpful for?

"Of course, not every single dog needs a dog ramp, but many dogs do. In fact, you may be surprised at the number of dogs who could really benefit from a little extra help getting up and down around the house."

Your Dog Advisor

  • Older Dogs – their joints have taken a beating over the years and will benefit significantly from a ramp or stairs.
  • Dogs with Arthritis – due to their chronic and progressive pain, a ramp is the best choice for arthritic dogs as they have difficulty using stairs.
  • Dogs with Handicap or Post-Surgery – to prevent injury or tearing of sutures, these dogs should avoid stairs and use a ramp as it avoids unnecessary movement.
  • Overweight Dogs – with extra pounds comes extra effort and impact. Dogs with weight issues can benefit from stairs or a ramp when no other health issues are present.
  • Small Dog Breeds – these tiny leapers can jump numerous times a day. To help alleviate stress on their joints, both dog stairs and dog ramps are suitable.
  • Puppies – as with small dog breeds, puppies can benefit from the use of a ramp or stairs to alleviate extra stress on their joints and bones.
Gray 3 Step Foam Pet Stair
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Brown 3 Step Wooden Pet Stair
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Brown 2 Step Wooden Pet Stair

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a dog ramp or stairs by the bed?

Both dog ramps and dog stairs can be used to help your dog get onto the bed. Stairs provide more space-saving options for dogs that can use them easily. Ramps can be bought to collapse and fit under the bed when not in use.

Are dog ramps or dog stairs good for getting my pet into my vehicle?

Yes, a dog ramp and stairs are great for helping your dog get into your vehicle. For trucks, SUVs, and vans, stairs may provide the best option for dogs who can navigate them. However, both ramps and stairs can be used to help dogs enter and exit a vehicle of any kind.

Is there a dog ramp/stairs combination I can buy?

If you have space, a smart option for different dogs or the same dog is to buy a combination dog ramp/stairs unit. These dual functioning pieces provide the benefits of both ramps and stairs and can easily be found to purchase.

Do I need to train my dog to use ramps and stairs?

Some dogs may instinctively know how to use a ramp or stairs, while others will need training or coaxing. The American Kennel Club suggests using rewards and positive re-enforcement to train dogs to use these devices. Ultimately, your dog should feel confident and safe while using the stairs or ramp so they can use it with or without your presence.

Best Tips & Ideas for Dog Ramps & Dog Stairs

  • Dog ramps and stairs help with upward and downward mobility of older dogs and those with special conditions.
  • Many ramps and stair options are available to suit every type of dog.
  • Dog stairs are best for use in small spaces.
  • Small dog breeds can reduce joint stress from jumping furniture by using dog stairs.
  • Ramps and stairs are terrific for helping dogs get onto the bed.
  • Getting in and out of your vehicle can be made easier for your dog with a ramp or stairs.
  • Be sure to measure your dog's girth from shoulder to shoulder or hip to hip to determine the best ramp size.

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