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Whether you and your dog travel the world together or you just need something to carry him in to the vet, a dog carrier is a useful addition to canine supplies: it keeps him safe while traveling in the car and makes it possible for you to take him on planes. There are so many types of dog carriers on the market that you no longer need to use his heavy, bulky crate to transport him. But before you choose a dog carrier, here are some helpful guidelines to narrow down the selection.

Measure Your Dog!

You need to know your dog’s height and length to select the correct carrier size. The carrier should be large enough for him to turn around easily and to curl up or stretch out when lying down. Measure his back from his neck, where the collar sits, to the base of his tail. Then add a few inches to that measurement.

Measure his shoulder height from the top of his shoulders to the ground. For soft-sided carriers, add two-to-three inches to shoulder height. For hard-sided carriers, add three-to-five inches. Wearable carriers, like backpacks and slings, are meant to be snug and cozy; the dog is supported against your body, not by the carrier itself. The dog’s weight is another factor to consider. Manufacturers list size and weight limits for carriers, and if your dog is between sizes, choose the larger size.

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What Are You Using the Dog Carrier For?

If a dog carrier is only for car trips or to keep him contained when he goes out and about with you, you’ll want something lightweight, easy to carry, easy to pack, and comfortable for your dog.

If you plan to fly, airlines have stringent regulations for pet carriers, and you should check with the airline. There are size and construction requirements, and you don’t want to get to the gate only to discover that the airline won’t allow the carrier you brought on board.

Choose a Style

Dog carriers come in several basic styles, and you’ll want to select the type that suits your dog and your activities.

Standard hard-sided carriers — These are sometimes preferred for their durability and rugged construction. The hard shell offers a bit more protection for your dog and is easy to clean. If you’re traveling by air and your dog is too large for an under-the-seat carrier, some hard-shell carriers are approved by the airlines. You may prefer a top-loading carrier that allows you to lift your dog and place him inside.


Soft-sided carriers are the most popular style for transporting smaller dogs, and some brands, like Sherpa Pet Carriers are approved by airlines to go under your seat. These are typically designed to be light and portable, and they fold up for easy storage. Check the size and weight specifications from the manufacturer; many owners say they need to go a size larger.

Wearable dog carriers, mimicking the trend in baby carriers, have become increasingly popular. They keep your hands free and make it easy to take your dog almost anywhere. Of course, they’re only practical for little dogs. Shoulder-sling carriers allow your dog to nestle inside or keep his head free to watch the world go by. They’re washable, lightweight, and some come with zippers for added security.

Front packs or backpacks are another wearable option. Some styles can be used either as a front pack or backpack, with adjustable straps and holes for his legs.

Wheeled carriers Even a small dog can start feeling heavy when carried long distances. Wheeled carriers have the advantage of being easy on you while they also keep your dog from being jostled around. Although not recommended for use during rugged hiking, they’re a good option for city walking and in airports. If you plan to use a wheeled carrier for plane travel, make sure to check the airline’s requirements first.

Dog carriers aren’t just for the tiniest of Toy Poodles or little, short-legged Dachshunds. Whether you need to take your dog on an airplane or have an older or infirm dog that still enjoys taking walks with you, the right dog carrier is an easy, convenient way to take your canine friend along.
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