How to Build a Dog Ramp for an SUV

SUVs are the quintessential vehicle for pet parents, especially those with dogs!

how to build a dog ramp for an suv
How to Build a Dog Ramp for an SUV

The spaciousness and durability of the vehicle perfectly suit the needs of any breed – but just how accessible is your SUV if your dog can hardly get into it?

If your dog struggles with getting into your SUV due to old age, physical disabilities, or anything similar, a dog ramp is often a perfect solution!

How do you build a dog ramp for an SUV? The steps to building your dog ramp for an SUV are as follows:

  • Construct the base of your ramp by either using a standard 4×4 piece of plywood or cutting one down to 3-5ft in length. Adding railing using beams is optional.  
  • Add traction to the ramp by attaching equidistant steps and gluing outdoor carpeting or AstroTurf to the surface.
  • Finally, make the ramp waterproof by applying a layer of water-based polyurethane. And there you have it, your DIY dog ramp!

There are many details to consider when preparing to build your dog a ramp for your SUV.

You must take into consideration your dog’s weight, body size, height, and any possible complications that may arise due to health conditions (arthritis, for example).

In this post, we’ll break down for you exactly what you need to create the perfect dog ramp for your SUV.

Related Reading: Ramp Training For Dogs Made Easy

Dog standing in the center of an SUV dog ramp
Dog standing in the center of an SUV dog ramp

How to Build a Dog Ramp For an SUV

Before you begin the construction of the ramp, you’ll need to take your dog’s measurements.

This will guide you in determining the dimensions of your ramp. Record your dog’s weight and measure its height and determine whether it needs a small, medium, or large ramp based on its overall body size. 

Taking care to complete this step first will prevent you from:

  • Wasting any material
  • Purchasing too much
  • Buying the wrong size of plywood

For example, a small dog will need a tall ramp to get into the SUV on its own, but not nearly the thickness and durability necessary for large breeds. Additionally, if your dog is generally strong and able-bodied, you may not need to add as much cushioning. 

The materials and tools you are going to need when building a ramp for your pup are as follows:

  • Power drill
  • Handsaw
  • Staple gun with staples (1/4”)
  • A sheet of carpet or AstroTurf (optional, this addition is for comfort and/or aesthetic purposes)
  • Polyurethane (for waterproofing and cushioning)
  • Wood screws
  • 2 Beams (120in long, will be cut into individual pieces)

One last detail to consider before you build your dog ramp is whether you are going to be using the ramp for one or multiple dogs. If you are using the ramp for multiple dogs, you will certainly need to ramp up its durability and strength. There will be times you can’t control how many dogs are on the ramp at once and you want it to withstand such occasions. Consider maximizing the thickness of the plywood and adding a railing for greater safety. This way if there are multiple dogs on the ramp at once, they’ll be safe.

Now that you’ve gathered all your materials and realized how big your dog actually is, you’re ready to start. If your dog simply needs a bit of assistance getting up into the SUV due to height, and no medical or physical issues are of concern, then the simplest option is a ramp without stairs.

Step 1: Cut the Base of Your Dog Ramp

Using your hand- or power saw, cut the plywood into a comfortable length, ideally about 3 to 5 feet long – that is if you are not using standard 4×4’ plywood. Not only is this length ideal for taking the ramp in and out of the SUV frequently, but it will also not be too steep of a climb for your pup. (If your ramp is for purposes other than simply entering the SUV, you can adjust the length as necessary.)

Strengthen the base of your ramp by attaching one-half of a 120” wooden beam on either side of the plywood. The side on which you attached the beam will be back and will reduce any bowing of the wood underneath the weight of your dog.

Now it’s time to add the railings: Do this by cutting two 12” x [your chosen length, between 3-5 feet] x 3/4” planks and aligning the plywood accordingly. Attach the pieces to the outermost, lateral surface of the beams you’ve just screwed into place using 2.5” wood screws. 

Step 2: Add Traction

Next, you will need to add traction. This is another point at which you will take your dog’s medical and/or physical needs into consideration. Dogs who struggle with arthritis and other such conditions will need more assistance with traction than others. Determine how much assistance they will need in maintaining grip and proceed accordingly.

You can choose to complete this step before or after adding the carpet or AstroTurf: Cut the wooden beam into as many pieces (3 for a standard 4×4) that will fit on the chosen length of your ramp at 10” apart, each 24” in length. Screw the beams into place horizontally along the centerline of the plywood using 2.5” wood screws. 

Step 3: Waterproofing and Cushioning Your Dog Ramp

Apply polyurethane to every part of the ramp, back, and front for the best protection against water damage. You will not need to use an oil-based polyurethane for this ramp, so stick to a water-based product. For added convenience, use a spray-on polyurethane rather than a wipe-on! Let the polyurethane dry for 24-48 hours. 

If you’ve chosen to attach the carpet or AstroTurf after the beams, cut the material into pieces that will fit in between the spaces created by the traction beams. Staple them into place, one staple per corner for the best security. 

And voila! You’ve got a brand-new DIY dog ramp!

You can also check out this video for a fairly comprehensive guide on building a legit dog ramp:

More Ideas for an Inexpensive DIY Dog Ramp

There are many more ways to design the perfect dog ramp for your SUV. If the simple ramp without stairs is not quite what you need, simply use another sheet of plywood and/or more beams in order to create a suitable base and stairs. You can opt to make the ramp narrower to reduce the amount of wood you need to purchase for the project.

There are also designs that include a foldable base as a hinged attachment to the ramp itself, adding to the stability of the overall design when in use. Despite the obvious structural advantage of that design, it may not be the most suitable option for taking in and out of the SUV when your dog is ready to enter and exit. 

You can also choose to be a little bit artsier about your materials. Rather than using plywood, you could repurpose an old pallet or even some unused wire shelving. Building a DIY dog ramp for your doggie is a process that takes more than just a few slabs of wood and some screws.

You need to consider the health of your doggie and many other physical attributes that may affect comfort and ease of use.

Finally, you should also consider your comfort as well! Don’t make the dog ramp too heavy, as it will be difficult to take out of the SUV when your dog needs a lift.

This will only work against the convenience you were trying to create, to begin with! Striking the perfect balance of convenience and comfort for both you and your pup is key to making the perfect DIY dog ramp for your SUV.

Here’s a video with a simpler approach to building a dog ramp:

Best Dog Ramps for SUV, Buyer’s Guide

Perhaps, after reading this post, you don’t want to commit the time to making your own dog ramp or your confidence in your ability to do so is low. No problem, Amazon has many great options available at reasonable prices.

PetSafe Happy Ride Extra Long Telescoping Dog Ramp

This is probably the best all-round dog ramp to use in various settings. The PetSafe dog ramp is extra-long and can extend to just over 7 ft. It’s almost 2 ft. wide so it will accommodate most dogs (well, that depends on their overall balance and coordination).

It’s made out of aluminum materials which is great for constant contact with a pontoon boat. It can also support up to 300 lbs., but we would recommend keeping this ramp for dog use only.

Surprisingly, this ramp still weighs just under 20 lbs., which makes storage and travel easy (it actually slides up into what looks like a suitcase).

It also has a high-traction surface to prevent slipping, and if your doggie likes to be in and out of the water, this is a great addition as they’ll be bringing water onto the ramp.

Cons: Some of the downsides to this ramp, according to other pet parents, is that it wears out kind of quickly. This is likely

So if you’re looking for an easy-to-use and fairly inexpensive ramp that will likely get the job done for your doggie getting onto and off of a pontoon boat then consider this ramp.

Pet Gear Travel Lite Ramp with supertraX Surface

This is an excellent ramp for pet parents worried about their dogs slipping when boarding or leaving their pontoon boat. We know the picture shows an SUV, but a dog is far more likely to be wet when using it for pontoon boat access.

The mat surface on this mat acts to protect your doggie’s paws and can be removed easily for cleaning (although, if you boating, you could probably get away with dunking it to minimize more intense future cleaning).

The mat is also pressure activated and will sink in a bit when your doggie takes each step. This will allow your dog to grip the ramp and increase their confidence when using it. If you do get one for your pontoon boat, We would recommend going with the largest size: 71″ L x 19.5″ W.

Con: As you can see in the picture, the surface does not extend completely to the edges. Some pet parents have found that their dog will sometimes catch these edges and slip, which is an even bigger issue when using it with boating.

This dog ramp works well with pontoon boats. It can allow dogs to board from the shore or the dock, although to the shore will likely be a bit steeper. What we like about it is the convenience. Since it folds in half, it can be stored easily on a pontoon boat and will only take a few seconds each time your dog is boarding or getting off.

TOBBI Bi-fold Portable Dog Ramp for Large

If your ramp is going to be used exclusively for large dogs but you want the convenience and space-saving attributes of an easy to fold ramp then this one may work for you.

Although it is foldable in the middle (which compromises its stability) it’s equipped with rubber grippers across the bottom of the ramp to provide extra grip on any slippery services.

This ramp is also really light coming in at 10 lbs. Despite its lightweight, it’s designed to hold up to 200 lbs., although personally, we would reduce that number just to ensure safety for your doggie.

Con: SUV trunks are higher off the ground and since this ramp is a little on the shorter side it may create a steep angle. Some pet parents have complained that the surface isn’t “grippy” enough to assist their dogs in staying stable on such a steep angle.

What we love about this ramp is that it is delivered already put together. It’s a fairly inexpensive and quick solution to help out your doggie that is having trouble getting into your SUV.

Dog Training Tips for Using a Ramp

Don’t expect your dog to obediently use a ramp as soon as you set it up on your pontoon boat. Some dogs are a bit nervous or skeptical when approaching a ramp for the first time, so it’s a good idea to get them used to it beforehand.

Here are some tips for warming your doggie up to a ramp for your pontoon boat:

  • Start with the ramp on flat ground in a familiar area like your backyard or dog park
  • Have treats on hand and use them to reward behaviour like the first time their paw touches the ramp
  • Place treats on the ramp to incentivize your dog to progress further onto the ramp
  • If your dog jumps off the ramp at any time, move them back to the beginning to start over
  • Consider having your dog on its leash during this process as you walk beside them
  • Practice patience and don’t expect this to be a quick and easy process
  • Once your dog gains a bit of confidence, practice consistently. This is a good time to block off alternative routes of the ramp and call them to come to you
  • Repeat this process with the ramp attached to your pontoon boat. It may be worthwhile having a few sessions of this to really cement the behaviour
dog using ramp for suv

Final Thoughts

Dog ramps are an excellent way to ensure your doggie’s joints don’t endure any unnecessary wear and tear. If you like DIY yourself projects and have a bit of creativity in you, building your own ramp for an SUV is fairly straightforward.

The only issue with building your own is making it compact. This will likely take a bit of extra handy work skills.

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.