Whether you and your dog travel the world together or you just need a way to carry him to the vet, a dog carrier is a useful addition to your 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 one, here are some helpful guidelines to narrow down the selection.
Measure your dog
You need to know your dog’s height, length, and weight to select the correct size. The dog 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 the neck, where the collar sits, to the base of the tail. Then add a few inches to that measurement.
Measure shoulder height from the top of the 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. Manufacturers list size and weight limits for carriers, and if your dog is between sizes, choose the larger size.
Consider what you’re using the dog carrier for
If it’s only for car trips or to keep your pet contained when out and about with you, consider a carrier that’s 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 on board.
Choose a style
Dog carriers come in several basic styles, and you should select the type that suits your dog and your activities:
Standard hard-sided carriers 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.
Soft-sided carriers are the most popular style for transporting smaller dogs, and some brands 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. Some styles allow your dog to nestle inside or keep his head free to watch the world go by. Wearable carriers come in variety of configurations, include front packs and backpacks. They’re washable, lightweight, and some come with zippers for added security.
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.
Here are some of our choices for the best dog carriers:
Best dog carrier for hands-free travel
Not only is this one of the most handsome dog carriers on the market, but the many pockets also hold everything you need, so you’re virtually hands-free. The waxed canvas and leather exterior are water-resistant; the sherpa footpad is comfortable for your dog and can be machine washed; a tether keeps your dog safely secured; and the zipped interior and exterior pockets hold more than just the bare essentials. One happy customer says that “With the Django Dog Carry Bag, I can use the bag like a purse, putting my wallet and keys in the outside pockets. Another verified customer says that “The waxed canvas is gorgeous and it’s a very well crafted bag.” If there’s any downside, it’s that the bag is a bit heavier than other dog carriers. The bag comes in three colors and has a capacity of 30 pounds.
Best dog backpack for biking
If you’ve been wishing your dog could come along on short hikes and bike rides, this is the dog carrier for you. It’s breathable and lightweight. The pack has ventilated side panels, small adjustable side pockets, and moisture-wicking shoulder straps. Several customers noted that “this bag does not have any extra storage, except for the side pockets for a water bottle, or treats. It would be nice to have an additional zipper pouch to bring in some smaller items.” But other verified buyers find it has enough storage to stash keys, a leash, and a few essential items. The front-facing construction means your dog can enjoy the scenery and fresh air, and active owners like the sturdy construction, perfect for both cycling and walking, The backpack comes in three colors and holds up to 30 pounds. It’s available in other sizes as well.
Best hard-sided dog carrier
This sturdy dog carrier doubles as a crate for many dog owners. It has wire vents on all sides for ventilation and visibility; a latch you can open with one hand; easy assembly; and heavy-duty plastic and metal construction. With sizes that range to 90-pound capacity, it’s suitable for even large dogs. A verified buyer says, “My dog can’t destroy it. There is no way that he can get anything to break or pull.” Many customers warn to be careful when measuring and that you may have to go up a size; the stated measurements are exterior measurements and the interior is smaller by one to two inches.
Best airline dog carrier
With over 4700 reviews on Amazon, this may be the most popular dog carrier on the market for air travel. The small size is Guaranteed On Board ® for many airlines, meaning you won’t go through the stress of approval at the gate. Verified buyers say they have no trouble at all going through TSA and check-in.
Once you’re aboard, the dog carrier’s spring wire frame allows you to push down the ends or sides so it fits under the seat. Your dog will appreciate the mesh windows and the faux-sheepskin liner, which covers a rigid bottom so he has solid ground under him. Once off the plane, you’ll like the adjustable, padded carry strap. The company specifies that customers should choose the correct size based on the dog’s measurements, and then weight. The carrier is available in three sizes and the largest has a capacity of 22 pounds. It’s also offered in several colors.
Best lightweight dog carrier
Carrying a dog is a heavy enough task (even with a tiny pup) without adding a lot of extra weight for the carrier. The StrurdiBag’s lightweight construction is just one of the features customers love. They (and their dogs) also appreciate the retractable flaps on the mesh windows; the soft fleece pad on the bottom, covering a rigid base; and, most of all, the flexible height of the bag, which makes it ideal for air travel.
Several buyers note that the bag looks really large, but because of its unusual design, it compresses to fit under the seat. The one complaint we saw is that it’s somewhat difficult to insert and remove the arching support rods; it really takes some muscle. The bag comes in several sizes, although the XL and XXL are too large to use in the airline cabin. There all also fourteen colors to choose from!
Best versatile dog carrier
Carry your dog in front, on your back, over your shoulder, by the handles, and even strap the carrier in and use it as a car seat. That’s why we think it’s the most versatile carrier. Even better, it’s airline approved. Customers like the well-thought-out details, including the sturdy floor; multiple entrances; a zipper security lock; photo ID tag; inside leash; and removable straps.
They also appreciate the length of the bag; small dogs can easily lie down. A few customers note that the attachment clips can be hard to use and many wish it came in other colors, but that’s a small price to pay for versatility. The carrier is offered in four sizes and the company notes that it’s important to measure your dog and follow the sizing guidelines. The largest model holds a dog up to eighteen pounds.
Choosing the right dog carrier for your lifestyle (and your dog, of course) doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Your choices will be dictated by your dog’s size and weight, how you plan to use the carrier, your budget, and taste. You may have to spend some time getting your dog used to the carrier, but you can use some of the same tips you’d use for crate-training. Then, your canine pal will be ready to join you on any adventure.
The AKC independently selected each product featured in this article. If you purchase a product through this article, we may receive a portion of the sale. While we do our best to update links often, please note that prices and deals are subject to change.