So you want to buy a dog ramp for your boat? First, ask yourself a few simple questions to make sure you end up with the best boat ramp for your situation.
Buy A Ramp Or DIY?
Both have their benefits.
Obviously, it’s easier to order a ramp online from a pet supply company. But most dog ramps are made for helping pups onto furniture or in and out of cars. So they’re not necessarily ideal for boats.
In fact, one type of ramp is easy to DIY.
Where Will You Use The Ramp?
Do you know exactly how you wish to use the boat–inside the boat, outside the boat, both? Or in the water?
If the size works, many ramps can be used for interior and exterior access. You’ll just want to be sure you keep it clean enough so that you’re not bringing salt water, rust, or dirt into your living areas.
But a ramp to get your dog in and out of the water? That’s a whole different species.
Halifax Dogventures has a tutorial for a clever ramp to get your dog out of the water. For the right boat, it could work as well or better than most commercial water ramps.
Links below may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
How Much Weight Can You Lift Easily?
On a windy day, would you rather handle a 50-pound ramp or a 15-pound ramp over the water?
DIY ramps may not be as light as one you buy from a manufacturer. So it’s worth thinking about this early.
You want to be sure that every human on board could manage a ramp if you needed to leave the boat with your dog quickly.
Our old telescoping dog ramp (Amazon) weighed about 18 pounds. Made of aluminum, it even floated–for a little while.
Will Humans Also Use The Ramp?
Just a heads-up—the packaging for every dog ramp I’ve ever seen makes a special point of stating that the ramp is not to be used by humans.
Yeah, I know it’s just the lawyers making sure the company doesn’t end up in legal trouble. But if you intend from the outset to use a ramp for dogs and people, just keep it in mind.
How Wide Are Your Boat Openings?
We can use the same ramp to get our dog on and off the boat as well as onto the v-berth. But it’s too wide to fit our companionway.
Before you spend money, take a few measurements to be sure the ramp you’re considering will fit where you plan to use it.
Can Your Dog Walk A Ramp?
Not every dog finds it easy to walk up or down a ramp. Don’t assume yours will take to it easily.
However, if you and your pup have been competing in agility trials for years, the only thing you’ll have to do is paint a yellow contact stripe at the bottom for your dog to hit.
Do Your Dog’s Nails Click On The Ground?
If the answer is yes you have two options:
Clip their nails until their pads make full contact with the ground.
Or, buy a ramp with a surface your pup can grip easily no matter how long their nails.
Most pet ramps have a sandpaper-type surface for gripping. And if you’re using the ramp to help your pup into your Subaru, they’ll do fine. But during an extreme tide, the ramp could be extremely steep. And your dog will scramble to get up that “grippy” surface.
But a ramp with a fake grass surface is easier for dogs to grip (Amazon)—no matter what their nails look like.
Where Will You Store The Ramp?
Do you know where you’ll keep the boat on board?
Where you plan to store a ramp will help you decide if it has to hold up to outdoor conditions every day. Or the form it takes when it’s not being used.
While at a dock, we rest our ramp in the aisle. (The one time we kept it out between the boat and the dock it disappeared never to be seen again.)
While underway, we either tie it to the stanchions or lay it on the v-berth.
Do You Want A Telescoping Or Folding Ramp?
A telescoping ramp (Amazon) gives you greater length, allowing you to have a less steep surface. A folding ramp gives you flexibility in a wide range of conditions.
Oh, and folding ramps (Amazon) take up less room to store.
Finally, ask yourself the million dollar question.
How Much Can You Afford?
Yep, put the words “marine” in front of darn near anything to raise the price a hundred-fold. Dog ramps are the same.
Most sturdy ramps for dogs will cost a little more than $100. But they’re not meant to stand up to the marine environment. So be prepared to address corrosion. And cover it to avoid solar and salt water damage.
Oh, and yeah, no matter what you do, you’ll probably need to replace your dog ramp every 2-4 years.
But if you can afford it and have the room, you can buy steel stringer stairs or boarding platforms that should last the life of your vessel. How much? Expect to spend thousands of dollars.
To see examples, check out the options at MarQuipt marine equipment.
Buying A Dog Ramp For Your Boat
Once you have answered these questions for yourself, it’s time to start shopping.
Every ramp has its pros and cons. Not one will be perfect for everyone. But choosing the right dog ramp for your boat will make live onboard much easier for your pup.
I’ll dig into choosing a ramp in a future post. Subscribe if you don’t want to miss out.
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