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How to Lift a Large Dog into a Car Safely

Are you wondering how to lift a large dog into a car? 

Whether it’s a trip to the park or an epic road trip, getting a large dog into a vehicle can be a challenge. While small dogs are not usually a problem, larger dogs can often be a hassle to get into the car. 

I travel everywhere with my 70lb golden retriever, Theo, and I know how difficult it can be to get him into the car. Sometimes, Theo is lazy, and I have to lift him into the vehicle myself so we can get going. 

A dog might need help getting into a car for many reasons. Knowing the best way to assist them can save you time, frustration, and possibly injury. Fortunately, there are options to help make the process easier.

Here are some tips and tools that will help you how to lift a large dog into a car for a safe transition so you can go about your day together hassle-free.

🐾 Use Petsafe Happy Ride dog ramp to effortlessly help your dog step into your car

Risks of Dogs Jumping In and Out of the Car

As dog owners, we want to think about the health and well-being of our pups. This includes preventing them from getting hurt and thinking about future problems like arthritis.

Jumping from large vehicles such as SUVs and 4x4s can increase the risk of leg injury and joint pain in dogs. Veterinary studies have shown that the force from jumping down from a 4×4 vehicle is 4 times more impactful than a dog’s average step. 

A 4×4 dog ramp can reduce the risk of injury for larger dogs.

How to Get a Dog into a Car

Some dogs love a good car ride, but others are hesitant. Understanding why your dog is reluctant to get in the car can help you choose the right method to help them. 

If your dog refuses to get into a car, check to see if there is any underlying physical condition, like arthritis, that might be causing the concern. Negative experiences with cars or motion sickness might also be an underlying reason.

woman wearing a jacket helps a brown and white dog wearing an orange vest climb up a green ramp showing how to lift a large dog into a car

If you don’t have the use of ramps or stairs, you will need to physically help your dog into a car. It’s best to train your dog to get into the car on their own, but if you have a potentially lazy or stubborn dog (like my dog, Theo), you can use the Support and Lift Method.

Training Your Dog To Jump Into The Car

The least physical method to get your dog into a car is to train him. Training your dog saves you the risk of possible injury while trying to lift your pet into the car.

The incremental process of training your dog through gradual steps is called “shaping.” 

Start by using a blanket and clicker (whistle or another training tool). Place the blanket on the floor and click or praise when your dog goes on it. 

Next, place books or boards under the blanket, click, and praise when your dog walks on or over it. Place the blanket over a bench. Encourage your dog to “come up,” click, and praise. 

Finally, put the blanket on the car floor. Use the “come up” command with a click and praise. Practice these steps until your dog feels comfortable getting into a car on their own.

Using Treats To Get Your Dog Into The Car

Treats are a great motivator to help get pups into a car. They are a great way to help your dog learn commands, especially if he is motivated by food or toys. 

Training with treats can be a gradual process. Start training your dog to jump into a car during a time when you are not rushed and reward him for small advances like putting a paw on the door. 

It’s important to create a positive experience with cars for your dog, and treats can help him feel calm or distracted in the vehicle.

Using Treats To Get Your Dog Into The Car

If you need to help your large dog into a car, there is a 3 step process that can keep you and your dog from strain. 

Start by placing your pup’s two front paws onto the floorboard of your car. Next, use one arm to scoop up his hind end. 

Finally, lift his back legs and hind end, and move him into the car. Avoid putting pressure on his abdomen and steady him so his back stays straight.

Tools and Dog Aids for Getting into a Car

If lifting your dogs on your own–especially large breeds–is not physically possible, using aids to assist you is the next best option. There are various tools that can help your dog get into the car without having to lift them yourself.


A support harness goes around your pet’s chest and back legs. The back harness circles around the dog’s abdomen and has straps around the dog’s back legs. Using the handles, you can lift your pup’s back legs up and into the car.

Harnesses often come in a variety of color options. A full-body harness can be a good option for older pets who need assistance walking, but using it all the time is not recommended.


Slings are similar to harnesses and are a great option to help your dog into a car. You can easily slide a sling under your pet’s belly after putting his paws on the floor of the vehicle and help lift him up. 

If your dog is recovering from surgery or has hip dysplasia, using a sling will give him the extra support he needs.


If your dog is injured, incapacitated, and needs to get to the vet, having a portable stretcher on hand could be a lifesaver. Stretchers help move large dogs who cannot walk but often requires more than one person to lift. It is best if 2 or more people lift the stretcher into the car carefully. 

DIY Options

A towel, sheet, or blanket works well as makeshift slings or stretchers for dogs. You can use a long piece of fabric under your dog’s belly to help lift and support their back end into a car.

hand with red bracelet pets a white dog

Ramps, Stairs, and Lifts for Dogs

Portable ramps and stairs allow your pet to enter and exit a vehicle easily without the strain that jumping puts on their body. Stairs and ramps for dogs to get into trucks are recommended for vehicles with high entrance points. 


Ramps are perfect for helping dogs with disabilities or injuries. They are also a worthwhile investment for younger dogs. Preventing joint pain and arthritis early on can help larger dogs, like golden retrievers, live a longer and more enjoyable life. 

The length of the ramp will determine the incline angle. The Petsafe Happy Ride telescoping dog ramps for trucks are a great option, and they also have ramps suitable for SUVs. Choosing a sturdy ramp that has a high weight tolerance will be important for safety, and non-skid material will help dogs with traction while using the ramp.


Portable dog stairs are a great option that pet owners can keep in the car. These collapsable stairs fold up easily and allow your dog to walk into the car or onto the seat. 

When choosing steps for dogs to get in the car, make sure to align the height of the stairs to the height of the floorboard or seat. Check the weight restrictions and choose stairs with a non-skid surface. 

Hitch Steps are another stair option that allows large dogs to step into the back of a car or SUV easily. The steel platform attached to a hitch can hold 400 lbs (180kg) and can twist under the vehicle when not in use. There are also two-step options available for truck tailgates. 


Most car lifts are for humans with wheelchairs or scooters, but you can also use them to help larger dogs get into the car. Pet owners who need a lift for their dogs can invest in a mobile hydraulic table cart

Although a hydraulic dog lift for a car may seem like the most luxurious option, the lifting motion might frighten your pup.

How to Make a Dog Ramp for Car

A homemade dog ramp doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. You can build a relatively inexpensive one to keep in your garage to help your pup in and out of the car. 

There are many different ways to construct a dog ramp. Here are a few things to consider when building a ramp for your dog. 

  • Consider your dog’s weight and ensure the ramp can support his weight.
  • Measure the height and width of your car’s floorboard or seat to know how long to make the ramp.
  • 18 and 26 degrees is the best angle for a dog to walk up the ramp.
  • Use non-skid materials (carpet or astroturf are good options) to help your pup have good traction on the ramp.

This ramp tutorial uses shelving, carpet, and zip-ties. It requires no power tools and is lightweight, but it might not be sturdy enough to hold very heavy dogs.

Choose this tutorial from This Old House for a sturdy, well-built ramp. It has folding legs and durable wood construction.

A dog peering out the car window, unaffected by motion sickness.


How Do You Get a Large Dog in the Car that Can’t Walk?

If you need to know how to move a large dog that can’t walk, using a stretcher is the most effective way. Stretchers are good to use if the dog is unconscious or incapacitated. Otherwise, they will feel scared and might struggle. If your dog is conscious but unable to walk, a harness is a good option for lifting a dog into a car.

Is a Ramp or Steps Better for a Dog?

A ramp is the best choice for a dog because they cause a lower impact on joints than steps. Ramps allow dogs to take varying step lengths to reach the top. With stairs, dogs must lift each paw higher than an average dog normally steps.

Where is the Safest Place for a Dog to Ride in the Car?

Like babies and children, the backseat is the best place for a dog to ride in the car. The cargo area of a vehicle is likely to receive less damage from impact collisions than the front or back. Securing your dog in a seatbelt harness, pet car seat, or crate in the backseat will provide extra protection for them in a vehicle.

Is Riding in the Car Stressful on Dogs?

Riding in a car can be stressful for some dogs. Many reasons can cause car anxiety in dogs, including motion sickness, overstimulation, or negative associations. To reduce your dog’s car anxiety, train him to connect the car with a positive experience so that you can have a happy ride. Treats and toys provide a distraction that can ease anxiety. 

How Do I Get My Dog Used to Being in the Car?

Introducing your dog to the car at a young age helps them acclimate to car rides. Training your dog with positive experiences for short periods will help them get used to being in the car. One way to do this is by placing treats in the car to make your dog interested in the vehicle.

How Often Should You Stop on a Road Trip with a Dog?

Veterinarians at Kansas State University recommend stopping for breaks on road trips with your dog every 2-4 hours for 15-30 minutes. Puppies and elderly dogs will need more breaks than adults. Rest stops, parks, and gas stations are all good places for potty breaks and exercise. When you stop for a pick-me-up, treat your pup at Starbucks with a puppucino!

What Do Dogs Think in Car Rides?

Dogs think many different things while driving in a car, which varies depending on their experiences. If your dog is excited and engaged in the car ride experience, behaviorists believe it’s because dogs feel like they are hunting. Dogs may also see the car as an extension of the home, especially if their owner is with them. Some dogs will have anxiety brought on by overstimulation, while others will be lulled to sleep by the car’s motion.

How to Get a Large Dog in a Truck Bed?

Using a dog ramp for a pickup truck is the best way to lower the impact force on dogs jumping from truck beds. Helping your dog in and out of a truck bed will reduce the risk of injury. If your dog must travel in a truck bed, secure them safely in a crate or have them tethered only for short distances.

dog with colar sits at the back of a moving pick up truck


When taking your dog on a car ride, knowing how to lift your dog into a car can save you both strain and pain. 

Training with treats is a great method for pups that are physically able to get into a car by themselves. 

If a dog needs extra assistance, the safest way to lift the dog into the car is by using the Support and Lift Method. There are also extra aids that you can try, such as ramps or stairs, depending on your needs.

Now you will never have to leave your dog behind on a road trip! 

If you are planning a road trip, don’t forget to pack for your pup. My dog travel checklist helps me ensure I have everything I need for my buddy, Theo. Make sure to check it out before your next adventure.

🐾 Use Petsafe Happy Ride dog ramp to effortlessly help your dog step into your car

Dog Travel Planning Guide

🐶 How do you travel with a dog?

You can road trip, go camping, fly (depending on your dog’s size), go for day trips, and even live in an RV or motorhome with your dog! I’ve done all of the above with my dog, Theo.

✈️ How to travel with a dog by plane?

Check the airline requirements, if you’re flying with a large dog you’ll need to book far ahead, get a travel crate or carrier, and make sure your pet is up to date on their vaccinations. And don’t forget to bring along a leash, collapsible dish, and plenty of treats! (Read more)

🚗 How to travel with a dog in a car?

Get a seatbelt or car-friendly crate, a seat protector, and a few toys to keep your pet safe and comfortable. Bring along items like a leash, pee pads, treats, collapsible bowl, and some calming treats for anxious dogs. Take frequent potty breaks (I recommend every 2 hours minimum).

🧳 What should I pack in my dog travel bag?

I always pack a collapsible bowl, back up leash, 50ft long leash, Toppl food toy, plenty of dog food, and a few toys for my pup when we go on our travels. It’s important to have all the essentials packed before you leave home since it can be difficult to find pet-friendly stores in some locations. (Read more)

📝 What paperwork do I need to travel with a dog?

The paperwork you need will depend on where you’re going. You will always need your dog’s veterinary records and their vaccine status. You may also need an international health certificate, titre test, and even a spay/neuter certificate.

🐾 What is the best travel dog crate?

This collapsible crate is great for local travel and road trips. For plane travel, I recommend this hard crate for large breeds and this carrier for small breeds.

📍What is the best way to travel with a dog?

It depends! The best way to travel will depend on you and your dog. Small dogs will have an easier time with plane travel. Large breeds are better for long term trips to minimize plane time, or road trips.

🛌 Best dog travel mat?

This non-slip, water-proof, easy to wash travel mat is my go to!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy cheap flights?

To find cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🏨 What’s the best site to find cheap hotels?

To find cheap hotels, I recommend

Or stay for free with Trusted Housesitters!

🚗 What’s the best site to rent cars abroad?

To find cheap rental cars, I recommend Discover Cars.

🚗 What’s the best site to find tours?

To find epic tours, I recommend Viator.

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