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Find the Best Carriers for Your Dog

Updated on July 9, 2017
carolynkaye profile image

I'm a freelance writer and lifelong animal lover who's owned cats, dogs, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits.

Here's everything you need to know about choosing the best size, style and brand of carrier for your dog.
Here's everything you need to know about choosing the best size, style and brand of carrier for your dog. | Source

Are you looking for the best dog carriers? Almost every dog owner will need to purchase a dog carrier at some point, whether for trips to the vet or groomer, car or airline travel or while housebreaking a new puppy.

With so many types and styles to choose from, it’s not always easy to know which is the best for your dog.To make your search easier, I’ve compiled an up-to-date list of the best dog carriers for just about every size dog and budget.

As a long time dog owner of both small and large breed dogs, I've learned what features make a dog carrier comfortable, durable, and practical for different uses. Along with detailed information, you'll also find the dimensions, weight limits, and key features to help you decide whether a particular carrier will work for your dog.

Before Buying a Dog Carrier

How to Measure Your Dog for a Carrier

To make sure you’re purchasing the right size carrier, you’ll first need to know your dog’s current weight, height, length and width.

The chart below demonstrates how to measure his height and length for most carriers. In some dog carriers, the dog’s height should be measured from the nape of his neck down to his toe, so I’ve noted those carriers in the listings.

It's important to know your dog's height and length to choose the correct size dog carrier.
It's important to know your dog's height and length to choose the correct size dog carrier. | Source

What Size Should I Buy?

Choosing the Right Size Dog Carrier

When choosing a dog carrier, consider both the carrier’s dimension and weight limit to ensure your dog will fit comfortably. The ideal size carrier will give your dog enough space to stand up and turn around if he needs to.

Here are some general guidelines for choosing the correct size:

  • Select a carrier by dimensions first and weight second. Just because a dog is below the carrier’s maximum weight limit doesn’t mean he’ll fit inside.
  • For dogs with a wider than average body type, be sure to consider the width measurement as well.
  • For dogs in between sizes, it’s better to go up a size rather than buy a carrier that’s too small.
  • For pups that are still growing, choose a carrier suited for his current size and buy another carrier once he reaches his full adult size.

Soft-Sided vs. Hard-Sided Dog Carriers

Main Benefits of Carrier Types

Soft-Sided Carriers
Hard-Sided Carriers
Good for small and small-medium size dogs
Sizes to fit small through extra large dogs
Lighter in weight
Durable for strong/active dogs
Have a ‘cozy’ feel for the dog
Easy to clean and sanitize
Many fit beneath airline seats
Many accepted for shipping dogs
There are advantages to both types of carriers, so you’ll need to consider what’s best for your dog and how you plan to use the carrier.

Soft-Sided Dog Carriers

Soft-sided carriers tend to be easier to tote around. Most have padded shoulder straps and can be carried as easily as a gym bag. They’re typically cozier for the dog and lighter in weight than hard-sided carriers. They’re a great choice for toy, small or small-medium size dogs.

Avoid soft-sided carriers if your dog is extremely active or hyper inside a carrier or tries to dig, chew or claw his way out. This type of behavior can damage even the best quality soft-sided carriers. If he’s really aggressive about trying to get out, it’s possible he could break through.

If your dog frequently has accidents inside his carrier, consider buying a hard-sided carrier because they’re generally easier to clean and sanitize.

If you’d still prefer a soft-sided carrier, choose one with a machine washable or replaceable liner. Another option is to add a disposable liner or pad for long trips.

I’ve found DryFur Pet Carrier Insert Pads to work well with many carrier sizes. They’re available in Petite, Small, Medium and Large.

Soft-Sided Dog Carriers make it easy to bring your furry friend on the plane with you. They’re comfortable to carry through the airport, and as long as you choose one that’s airline approved, it will fit beneath your seat.

All of the soft-sided dog carriers listed in this article are approved for in-cabin airline travel, but it’s always best to check with your specific airline prior to your trip to make sure the carrier is allowed and will fit.

A few of the carriers listed are adjustable height carriers that will flex to fit under most airline seats. See each carrier listing for specifics.

Hard-Sided Dog Carriers

Hard-sided dog carriers are available in sizes that will fit the smallest of dogs to the largest. They’re strong, easy to clean and are the best choice for medium, large and giant size dogs.

They’re also ideal for boisterous dogs that try to break out of their carrier or puppies or dogs that have frequent accidents.

If you purchase a hard-sided dog carrier that’s roomy enough, it can also be used in your home as a place for your dog to nap or to help with the process of housebreaking a pup.

To make a hard-sided carrier more comfortable, line the bottom with a clean towel or blanket. Alternatively, you can also purchase a dog carrier liner or pads.

A very small hard-sided carrier may fit beneath an airline seat, but generally people who buy hard-sided carriers for air travel, ship the dog in the cargo section of the plane.

In either case, it's important that the dog carrier is airline approved, which means it meets certain requirements designed with the dog's safety and comfort in mind.

If you plan to ship your dog, here is a PDF of Container Requirements from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to give you an idea about what makes a dog carrier airline-approved.

I mention which dog carriers are airline-approved in this article, but as with any carrier, it's best to check with your airline directly before you travel.

Dog Carrier Poll

What do you use your carrier for most?

See results

Tips for Choosing the Best Dog Carrier

  • Look for safety features like strong doors, high-quality zippers and seat belt straps to secure the dog carrier in your car.
  • Choose a carrier with plenty of ventilation so your dog doesn’t get overheated.
  • Consider the weight of the carrier alone, especially for a soft-sided carrier that you plan to carry around with a shoulder strap.
  • If your dog is difficult to get in and out of a carrier, opt for one with a top-loading door in addition to the door in front.
  • Look for additional features you want, like food or water holders or removable liners. If your favorite carrier doesn’t include these, don’t forget to buy them separately.
  • If you plan to travel by air, purchase a carrier or kennel that’s airline approved.
  • If reviews are available online for the carrier you’re considering, browse through them for tips and information from other customers who own the carrier. It’s almost impossible to find a product that has 100% positive reviews, so try to look for carriers where the vast majority of customers are happy with their purchase.
  • Know the manufacturer’s warranty in case you have any issues.

Best Soft-Sided Dog Carriers

1. SturdiBag Large Pet Carrier

SturdiBag Pet Carriers are available in Small, Large, XL and XXL, but ‘Large’ is the biggest size that will fit under most airline seats because of its flexible height design.

Ultra-lightweight yet super strong, the SturdiBag is very easy to carry with either a leather grip handle or a padded shoulder strap. The structured base is lined with a removable, machine-washable comfort pad.

This carrier provides plenty of ventilation from mesh windows with privacy flaps that can be open or closed.

The Small and Large size models are approved as in-cabin carriers for most airlines.

According to SturdiBag, here are some examples of dog breeds that should fit into the SturdiBag Large: Larger Toy Breeds, King Charles, Yorkies, Pugs, Jack Russells, Westies, etc.

This super light, super strong and easy-to-handle carrier is a top pick and one I use for my own dog.
This super light, super strong and easy-to-handle carrier is a top pick and one I use for my own dog. | Source

Dimensions:

12” High x 12” Wide x 18” Long (Flexible Height Carrier)

Weight of Carrier: 3.1 pounds

Holds: Dogs up to 50 pounds

Features

  • Made with super lightweight but durable 600 denier polyester
  • Adjustable height, so it’s easy to fit beneath airline seats
  • Adjustable 4-point padded shoulder strap
  • Retractable privacy flaps on all mesh windows provide excellent ventilation
  • Seat belt safety straps
  • Removable interior fleece padding for comfort
  • An exterior storage pocket in the rear of the carrier
  • Top and front entry doors for easy access
  • Structured base board keeps bottom from sagging

SturdiBag Pet Carriers also come in these sizes: Small, Large, XL and XXL.

Examples of Dogs for the SturdiBag Small: Smaller Puppies, Toy Breeds, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians

Examples of Dogs for the SturdiBag XL: Mini Schnauzers, Beagles, etc.

Colors: Available in an assortment of colors.

Warranty: SturdiBag offers a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.

Approximate Price of the Large: $69 to $95 US

Company Website: SturdiProducts.com

2. Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

The Sherpa Original Deluxe is a well-made carrier with premium features. It keeps your dog comfortable, while making it easy for you to carry. It’s available in Small, Medium and Large.

The Small and Medium are included in Sherpa’s Guaranteed On-Board Program. The details of this program can be found at www.flygob.com.

The Small is currently guaranteed as an in-cabin carrier on American Airlines, AirTran, Aloha Airlines, Southwest, US Airways, United, Air Canada and WestJet.

The Medium is currently guaranteed for in-cabin air travel on American Airlines, United and Air Canada.

The Sherpa Original Deluxe is usually accepted on other airlines beside the ones listed, but please check with your airline directly to be sure.

Please Note: For this carrier, take your dog’s height measurement from the nape of his neck down to his toe.

This lightweight premium pet carrier from Sherpa is comfortable and provides plenty of ventilation for your dog.
This lightweight premium pet carrier from Sherpa is comfortable and provides plenty of ventilation for your dog. | Source

Dimensions and Weight

(Small) For Dogs up to 8 pounds

  • 15” Long x 10” Wide x 8.5” High (Carrier weighs 3.4 pounds)

(Medium) For dogs up to 16 pounds

  • 17” Long x 11” Wide x 10.5” High (Carrier weighs 4.2 pounds)

(Large) For dogs up to 22 pounds

  • 19” Long x 11.75” Wide x 11.5” High (Carrier weighs 4.7 pounds)

Measuring for the Small, Medium & Large Sherpa Original Deluxe Carriers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Measuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in SmallMeasuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in MediumMeasuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in Large
Measuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in Small
Measuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in Small | Source
Measuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in Medium
Measuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in Medium | Source
Measuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in Large
Measuring for the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier in Large | Source

Below are a few examples of breeds that will fit in each model according to the manufacturer. Please keep in mind that dogs even of the same breed can vary in size, so refer to the dimensions before deciding on a carrier size.

Small: Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Chihuahua, Papillon

Medium: Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Pinscher, Bichon Frise

Large: Boston Terrier, Pug, Dachshund, Jack Russell Terrier

Features

  • Padded hand carrying straps
  • No-slip adjustable shoulder strap
  • Top and side entry
  • Mesh panels for ventilation
  • Patented seat belt/luggage strap
  • Machine-washable faux lambskin liner
  • Replacement liners are sold separately

Colors: Available in assorted colors

Warranty: 1-Year Limited Warranty against manufacturing defects.

Approximate Prices: Small $40 to $50 US, Medium $40 to $60 US, Large $50 to $60 US

Company Website: SherpaPet.com

3. Argo by Teafco Petagon Airline Approved Pet Carrier

This fun, well-made carrier lets you carry your dog with style. It’s best for very small dogs up to 15 pounds and is approved as an in-cabin carrier on most airlines.

According to the manufacturer, some of the breeds that will fit into this carrier are: Affenpinscher, Bichon Frise, Bolognese, Brussels Griffon, Cairn Terrier, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, Mini Dachshund, English Toy Spaniel, Havanese, Japanese Chin, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Mini Pinscher, Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Papillon, Pekingese, Pomerania, Silky Terrier and Yorkies.

These breeds may fit, but only if they're under 15 pounds: Boston Terrier, Standard Dachshund, Toy Poodle, Pug, Schipperke.

Please also check your dog's size/weight since dogs of the same breed can vary in size.

Dimensions

17.75” Long x 9.5” Wide x 11” High

Weight of Carrier: 2.2 pounds

Holds: Dogs up to 15 pounds

Features

  • Very lightweight design
  • Plush diamond quilting material exterior
  • 5 external zippered pockets for storage
  • Smart strap for securing to a car seatbelt
  • Top loading mesh door with triple closure
  • Removable water-resistant cool padding

Colors: Tokyo Pink, Maldives Blue and Black

Warranty: One year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. Save receipt as proof of purchase.

Approximate Price: $70 to $80 US

Company Website: ArgoCarrier.com

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This carrier is a stylish, lightweight option for small dogs.Argo Petagon Airline Approved Carrier in Tokyo Pink.
This carrier is a stylish, lightweight option for small dogs.
This carrier is a stylish, lightweight option for small dogs. | Source
Argo Petagon Airline Approved Carrier in Tokyo Pink.
Argo Petagon Airline Approved Carrier in Tokyo Pink. | Source

4. Sleepypod Air Pet Carrier

The Sleepypod Air Pet Carrier lets you spoil your small dog, no matter where you take him. This carrier’s patent-pending folding system allows it to easily fit beneath airline seats while keeping your dog comfortable with Ultra Plush padding.

It’s approved as an in-cabin carrier for most airlines.

It also features a pass through pocket that lets you attach the carrier to the telescoping handle of your carry-on luggage.

Dimensions

Compresses from 22” Long x 10.5” Wide x 10.5” High down to 16” Long x 10.5” Wide x 8” High

Weight of Carrier: 4.5 pounds

Holds: Dogs up to 15 pounds

Features

  • Mobile pet bed, in-cabin airline carrier suited for small dogs up to 15 pounds
  • Open air mesh windows on top ends for ventilation
  • Whole top unzips for easy access
  • Ballistic nylon exterior with washable plush padding inside
  • Padded shoulder strap
  • Passed 30mph baby seat crash testing

Colors: Available in assorted colors

Warranty: 1-Year Limited Warranty.

Approximate Price: $140 to $160 US

Company Website: SleepyPod.com

The Sleepypod Air Pet Carrier
The Sleepypod Air Pet Carrier | Source

Best Hard-Sided Dog Carriers

5. Petmate 2 Door Top Load Kennel 19”

The durable and affordable hard-sided 19” Petmate 2 Door Top Load Kennel holds dogs up to 10 pounds. Since this carrier has both front and top entry doors, it's easy to get your dog in and out.

It’s a nice option for car trips to the vet or groomer, or anytime you need to keep your pooch in his carrier.

As far as air travel, you’ll need to check with the individual airline about whether it’s accepted. Some airlines don't accept carriers with a door on top.

It’s best for small dogs less than 7” tall and less than 15” in length.

This carrier is also sold in a 24” size which is listed next.

Dimensions

Exterior Dimensions: 19.4” Long x 12.8” Wide x 10” High

Interior Dimensions: 16.5” Long x 10.5” Wide x 9” High

Carrier Weight: 3.8 pounds

Holds: Dogs up to 10 pounds

Features

  • Made with steel and plastic for safety, strength and durability
  • Excellent ventilation
  • Ergonomic design, comfort carry handle
  • Secure door latches
  • Eco-friendly
  • Made in the USA

Colors: Available in several color combinations

Warranty: 1-Year Limited Warranty

Approximate Price: $26 to $45 US

Company Website: Petmate.com

The Petmate 2 Door Top Load Kennel makes it easy to get your dog in and out of his carrier. This carrier is available in 19" and 24" models.
The Petmate 2 Door Top Load Kennel makes it easy to get your dog in and out of his carrier. This carrier is available in 19" and 24" models. | Source

6. Petmate 2 Door Top Load Kennel 24”

The Petmate 2 Door Top Load Kennel in the 24” size has the same features as the 19” model listed above, but will fit dogs up to 15 pounds.

As mentioned with the 19” version, this carrier may or may not be airline approved due to the top door, so please check with your specific airline if you plan to travel with your dog.

Dimensions

Exterior Dimensions: 24.05" Long X 16.75" Wide X 14.5" High

Interior Dimensions: 21" Long x 14.75" Wide x 13.25" High

Weight of Carrier: 6.43 Pounds

Holds: Dogs up 15 pounds

Colors: Available in several color combinations

Detachable food/water cups sold separately.

Warranty: 1-Year Limited Warranty.

Approximate Price: $35 to $60 US

7. Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel

The Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel comes in four different sizes to fit medium and larger dogs. Whether you need a dog carrier for car travel, crate training or airline travel, this versatile hard-sided carrier is a great choice.

It meets USDA and IATA requirements for shipping live animals.

The Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel is available in sizes to fit medium to larger size dogs. I've used this carrier when my dog had to be shipped and was very happy with the quality.
The Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel is available in sizes to fit medium to larger size dogs. I've used this carrier when my dog had to be shipped and was very happy with the quality. | Source

Dimensions and Carrier Weight

For Dogs 25 - 30 pounds

  • 28” Long x 20.5” Wide x 21.5” High (Carrier weighs 12.33 pounds)

For Dogs 30 to 50 pounds

  • 32” Long x 22.5” Wide x 24” High (Carrier weighs 16.2 pounds)

For Dogs 50 to 70 pounds

  • 36” Long x 25” Wide x 27” High (Carrier weighs 19 pounds)

For Dogs 70 to 90 pounds

  • 40” Long x 27” Wide x 30” High (Carrier weighs 31 pounds)

Features

  • Great for travel as well as crate training
  • Durable construction
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Easy-open squeeze latch on door
  • Interior moat to keep the dog dry during travel
  • Easy assembly
  • Made in the USA

Colors: Available in Taupe & Black Combo

Warranty: 1-Year Limited Warranty

Approximate Prices:

28”: $60 to $80 US, 32”: $80 US, 36”: $150 US, 40”: $130 US

Dog Carrier for Large and Extra Large Dogs

8. Petmate Sky Kennel

The Petmate Sky Kennel Extra Large and Giant are solid choices if you have a large or giant breed dog. Built with strong materials and safety features like an extra tough steel wire door and secure door latches, they can handle even strong dogs.

They’re approved for air travel with most airlines, though always check with your airline prior to travel.

The Petmate Sky Kennel is an airline-approved carrier that comes in sizes large enough to hold large and giant breed dogs.
The Petmate Sky Kennel is an airline-approved carrier that comes in sizes large enough to hold large and giant breed dogs. | Source

Dimensions and Carrier Weight

(Extra Large Size) For Dogs 70 to 90 Pounds

  • 39” Long x 26” Wide x 30” High (Carrier weighs 30.48 pounds)

(Giant Size) For Dogs 90 - 125 Pounds

  • 48” Long x 32” Wide x 35” High (Carrier weighs 51.5 pounds)

Features

  • Sturdy plastic construction
  • Extra tough steel wire door
  • Secure door latches
  • Four way ventilation
  • Includes ‘Live Animal’ Stickers and food and water cups.
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Made in the USA

Colors: Dark Gray

Warranty: 1-Year Limited Warranty

Approximate Prices: Extra Large $150 to $180 US, Giant $330 to $345 US

Choosing the right dog carrier makes travel more pleasant for both you and your dog.
Choosing the right dog carrier makes travel more pleasant for both you and your dog. | Source

I hope this article has helped you find the best dog carrier so you can enjoy traveling with your best friend.

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