If you and your dog are used to traveling the road together then you definitely need to find the best hitch step for dogs. If you haven’t heard of them before a hitch step is a great accessory that acts as a step between the floor and your car’s trunk, and it helps your dog reach the trunk easily without having to make such a large jump.
While a hitch is undeniably even more useful for small dogs, all dog owners can definitely make use of one. The fact is that while many dogs can probably make the jump on their own both up and down it doesn’t mean they should. Based on the height of your car the stress of the jump and fall can impact a dog’s joints, so it can be more harmful than it seems at first glance.
A hitch step adds an extra layer and ultimately reduces the height by up to half it’s height. Which makes the trip up easier, but first and foremost allows dogs to go back to the ground without risking injury, ensuring they get to ground level comfortably.
With that said as it tends to be with everything when it comes to dog accessories, there’s no shortage of options. If you are visiting your local pet shop or browsing online you’ll probably be swamped by options just like I was. So today to ensure the comfort and well-being of both you and your dog let’s take a look at some of the best hitch steps for dogs I found in my time as a dog owner. I’ll be conscious of all budgets of preferences too so there’s going to be one option which is just right for you. With that covered let’s start without further ado.
Best Hitch Step For Dogs
Best of the bunch: Heininger 3062 Portable Hitch Step
What makes it great?
- It swivels for storage. I cannot stress this enough, storage is incredibly simple and doesn’t require removal, which is far more uncommon than it should be.
- It’s really strong, it can take a large dog without issue and it doesn’t even mind me stepping on it. It’s just solid as a rock once put together.
- Really easy to put together, it only takes a few minutes and since you don’t have to take it apart for storage it’ll sit there comfortably. There’s also an added lock that is perfect for that extra layer of safety.
- It’s so small. The platform is large enough for any breed to use as a step, but as a whole, it barely occupies space, so you can reliably swing the step even on parking lots.
- It’s not the cheapest set in the market. While it’s by far the most practical step I’ve found, one can’t deny it’s also the most expensive at close to $300. I find the quality well worth it but of course, your mileage may vary.
The Heininger Twistep is the best hitch step for dogs for one simple reason; a simple reason that isn’t even about dogs. It’s all about that easy storage. As you’ll learn once we go down the list most steps in the market are designed to be plugged in and out. This means that you have to place the step back and remove it every time you want your dog to go into or out of your trunk.
This might not seem like such a huge deal, and I thought so at first too, but it does become a nuisance. First of all, it means more parts to potentially lose, and if you lose the step then the mount is as good as useless. I lost one step when I forgot to take the step out and back into the car and of course, it wasn’t there when I came back.
But even beyond that if you have an energetic dog like mine and left the step on the trunk with them chances are the moment you open the door… They’ll jump on their own well before you even grab the step. All in all nothing about having a removable step is a deal-breaker on its own, but it definitely adds up, and it sure did for me.
Beyond the lovely twist, the Heininger is just sturdy and made for heavy-duty. I have sat down on it to play with my dog and it didn’t even notice my weight. Officially the step is designed for 400 lbs and I tend to believe that number. There’s no such thing as a large enough breed or owner to make it even budge. And since the rotating mechanism has a locking pin it won’t swivel while you or a pet is stepping or sitting on it.
Ultimately the Heininger does everything a hitch step should, with an added level of comfort of durability that no other model offers. If you find that’s worth the investment then you’ll come head to head with the best hitch step for dogs in the market.
A reliable runner-up: PetSafe PupSTEP
Let’s hear the good stuff first:
- Unlike most other options the PupSTEP has two unique steps for dogs to use, and this is great for pups and smaller breeds. If your car is particularly tall then a single step might still be daunting for them, which makes this an even better deal.
- It’s really strong. Despite the “Pup” in the name, these steps are still fairly sturdy and won’t so much as budge under animal use. 200 lbs of support should be more than enough for any breed in general.
- Installation was a breeze. Since it takes to any hitch receiver there were no issues at all when using it, and since the main component is permanently attached there are no re-installation hassles either.
- The arm folds for easier storage which allows the 2 step design to work without needing removal every time. And overall with the steps removed the support arm folds very efficiently, being pretty much a non-issue when driving.
- Affordable. The PupSTEP is less than half the price of the Heininger and not that high in price compared to other “budget” models. The quality to price ratio is really good in general.
There’s a few issues though:
- While the PupSTEP is designed to allow you to drive with the steps attached I really, really wouldn’t recommend this. While the arm itself folds very nicely the length and size of the steps don’t really go anywhere. This means that the retracted steps are honestly really bulky and tend to get in the way of everything. Opening the trunk with the steps in became a problem, and even stored it had to compete with the spare tire for clearance.
- Unfolding isn’t exactly as easy as just swiveling. While none of the buttons are unintuitive per se there’s still a lot of stuff to do before your step is fully deployed. Which only doubles if you take off the steps off every time. It’s not complex, but it’s definitely not immediate either.
When it comes to the PupSTEP there’s far more good than my last complaints would lead you to believe. The 2 step design is just genius, they are large enough for a bigger breed to use both of them comfortably, but also the right size so any mini or pup can use it as well. It’s probably the most accessible step I’ve tested and that is a huge perk. While I don’t have small dogs I fully understand that steps are even more important for them and seeing a design that caters to all sizes is great.
On top of that, it really is built like a rock. While its weight resistance means it’s not quite sturdy enough for humans the design really isn’t appealing for humans to sit on or the like, at that point I’d rather sit at the border of my trunk. So this means that it fully aces what it needs to do; be a great step for any dog regardless of size.
And honestly, the folding isn’t even that bad, it just feels that way in comparison to the Heininger and due to my car. Being able to fold the arm easily is great, and having the option to leave the steps installed when driving is always good. Depending on your own ride then chances are you won’t have the same clearance issues I did, and that would really improve the value for this step.
The PupSTEP is perhaps not the best hitch step for dogs, but it is a reliable hitch step that works very well at what it does. The issue lies in the fact that its main feature, the double step, can be cumbersome to deal with for storage. There was no way to save more space when designing it and I understand it. But a lot of cars will run into problems if they want to keep the steps in place, which is unfortunate but will not be a deal-breaker for everybody.
So in short, research on your car measurements if you really need the full storage option. If not then there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, and this step will serve all your needs without issue.
An option for any Budget: Downtown Pet Hitch
Let’s hear the good stuff:
- Affordable. The downtown hitch has to be one of the most affordable options in the market. The hitch doesn’t break the one hundred dollar mark and that makes it a wonderful entry option for people who are interested but might not be fully convinced yet.
- Simplicity actually helps. At its core, the Downtown hitch is very simple, but that really ends up helping it. As there’s no trick to it beyond the anchor point and the step itself it can hold up to 250lbs on its own. That’s actually more than the PupSTEP which means this one is also as solid as they come.
- Simple installation. Probably the simplest of them all due to how few pieces are involved. It’s not any harder than Lego and that’s as simple as installation can get.
Let’s bring up the issues:
- You need to remove it every time, no two ways around it. While the photos might make you think it folds in half that’s just the padding. If you get this step you have to remove it every single use and there’s no going around that fact.
- No added perks. The Downtown Hitch is sold as you see it, there’s no extra tricks or benefits beyond being a really sturdy step. It’s a solid but basic purchase, nothing else and nothing less.
The ultimate budget option on our list at roughly 70 dollars. As we mentioned above the Downtown hitch is as simple as they come and this has both its perks and cons. So while it’s not our pick as the best hitch step for dogs, it quite a good bang for the buck.
This thing quite simply rocks. With no moving pieces and a quality build, it can take any dog without an issue. The instructions say it holds more weight than the PupSTEP and while that one never felt flimsy at all there’s no denying the straightforward design of the Downtown sells you on how solid it really is. Once it’s set in place you really will believe this thing is unmovable, and that’s the main safety concern any owner should have.
And while you have to remove it just to use it since it’s so basic there won’t be any troublesome hitch or arm left around. There’s no way you’ll have clearance issues because there are none to run into. Just plug and unplug every time and you are set.
Ultimately while it might not be fancy and the added comfort of the other foldable options was worth it for me. There’s really no inherent issue with the Downtown hitch. It does exactly what it needs to do in a simple and straightforward way and if you are okay with not getting any extra benefits then this one does everything you need a pet hitch to do.
it’s a budget pick, and that’s something that needs to be stressed. But in this case, the budget still means quality and if you aren’t 100% sure about how much you want to invest in a hitch, the Downtown is a great option that’s both affordable and reliable.
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