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Best Dog Carriers

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 29 Models Considered
  • 23 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 234 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best dog carriers

    Last Updated August 2018

    Whether you need to safely transport your dog in an airplane or car or just give her paws a break on a long day out, a quality dog carrier is indispensable.

    With so many dog carriers on the market, how do you find the best one for you and your precious pooch? There's a lot to think about, especially if you need to take the carrier on a plane or train where it must comply with certain guidelines.

    Don't despair, because you've come to the right place to get some help. Read on for our full guide to dog carriers. Then, when you're ready to make your purchase, check out our top picks.  

    Your chosen dog carrier should be stable and balanced, making it highly unlikely to tip over when your pet is inside.

    Why buy a dog carrier?

    A dog carrier can be an essential item for a pet parent. You may find one useful in a wide range of situations, including the following.

    • On vacation: If you want to take your canine companion on a plane or a train, he will likely need to be secured in a dog carrier.

    • In the car: Some people secure their dog in a carrier while traveling in the car as an alternative to a pet seat belt.

    • In public places: Certain types of dog carriers are designed to carry very small dogs. Using this type of carrier, you can take your mini pooch into stores or other public places.

    • At home: You can use your dog carrier at home as a crate, bed, or hideout for your pup.

    Types of dog carriers

    Hard dog carriers

    Hard dog carriers are usually made from rigid plastic and have wire doors.

    Pros:

    • Hard dog carriers are rugged and durable.

    • You'll find hard dog carriers very easy to clean – just wipe them down.

    • As long as you choose a model with a secure latch, hard dog carriers are difficult for dogs to learn to open.

    • Hard dog carriers offer more protection in the event of an accident.
       

    Cons:

    • Most hard dog carriers don't fold down, so they take up a lot of storage space when not in use.

    • Due to their weight, hard dog carriers can be challenging to carry around with your dog inside.


    Price: Hard dog carriers range in price from $10 to $200, depending on size and quality.

    If your dog has chewed his way through numerous shoes, couch cushions, comforters, and so on, a soft-sided carrier isn't a good choice.

    Soft dog carriers

    Soft dog carriers are made from padded fabric and are designed for carrying your pooch around town.

    Pros:

    • Soft dog carriers are lightweight, which makes transport easy for you and comfortable for your dog.

    • Many soft dog carriers have mesh panels that offer plenty of airflow and ventilation.

    • You can fold a soft dog carrier down when not in use, so it won't take up much storage space.

    • Soft dog carriers are usually more aesthetically pleasing than their plastic counterparts.
       

    Cons:

    • Destructive dogs can easily tear through a soft carrier.

    • Soft dog carriers tend to be more difficult to clean than plastic models.

    • Most soft dog carriers are designed for small dogs. If you have a huge hound, you may not be able to use one.
       

    Price: Most soft dog carriers cost between $20 and $100, but some designer options can cost up to $200.

    EXPERT TIP

    Choose a hard dog carrier for a dog who loves to take a bite out of soft furnishings, as she'd be likely to destroy a soft carrier.


    Considerations for selecting a dog carrier

    Size

    Make sure the dog carrier you pick is the right size for your dog. It should be large enough for your dog to sit, stand, lie, and turn around, with a few inches to spare. However, it shouldn't be much larger. The idea of a dog carrier is that it should securely hold your pet. If the carrier is too large, your furry friend could get thrown around inside while traveling.

    Some soft carriers have expandable sides, providing your dog a little extra wiggle room.

    Weight

    Think about the weight of any dog carrier you're considering, and remember to factor in the weight of your pet as well. You should be able to comfortably carry the entire load. If the combined weight of your four-legged friend and his carrier is too heavy for you, consider a model with wheels.

    Some soft dog carriers are completely machine washable.

    Style

    Hard dog carriers only really come in one style – a vented box with a door and a handle. They're practical and favor form over function, since they're generally only used for traveling or as a crate for home use.

    Some soft carriers are designed like a soft version of a hard carrier. These are the kind used for travel. However, you can find soft carriers in a range of other styles for recreational use. Some are similar to an oversized purse/shoulder bag; others are styled like a backpack or a sling.

    Blankets and toys can help keep your dog comfortable and entertained while she’s in her carrier, but they aren't recommended if your dog will be unsupervised, as they could pose a choking hazard.

    Material

    The majority of hard dog carriers are made from plastic on five sides and have a coated metal door. However, they can also be made from fiberglass, metal, and even wood.

    Soft dog carriers are made from strong fabrics such as heavy-duty nylon or PVC-backed polyester. They may have padding or a frame to provide structure.

    A note about air travel

    If you'll be using your dog's carrier for air travel, you'll need to make sure it meets the airline's stringent requirements. The information below will give you a rough idea what to expect, but you should always check the exact guidelines of your chosen airline, as policies vary.

    • If your dog is small enough to fit in a soft carrier that can be stowed under the seat in front of you, most airlines will allow you to travel with your dog in the cabin.

    • Larger dogs will need to travel in a hard crate in a temperature-controlled part of the hold.

    • Soft carriers for cabin use must have waterproof bottoms and at least two mesh sides. They must secure with a zipper and contain your whole dog. (His head should not be sticking out of the carrier.)

    • Hard carriers for hold use must be large enough for your dog to stand, lie, and turn around comfortably. They must have solid, leakproof floors and adequate ventilation on at least two sides for domestic flights and at least four sides for international flights.

    EXPERT TIP

    Make sure your chosen dog carrier is compliant with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) if you want to use it to transport your dog in an airplane.


    Tips

    • You can find dog carriers in a range of colors, but you usually get more variation with soft carriers than hard carriers.

    • Buy a carrier in a size suitable for your dog at her full adult size. If she's still growing, you can use a partition to make it safer and cozier for her.

    • Make sure your chosen carrier has a secure latch or other fastening. We recommend a metal latch for hard carriers and a zipper fastening for soft carriers.

    • Avoid spring-loaded doors, as they can pop open or slam shut, catching paws or tails.

    If you'll be traveling with a large dog, consider a carrier on wheels for easier maneuverability.

    FAQ

    Q. How can I help my dog feel comfortable with his new carrier?
    A.
    Allow your dog to slowly become accustomed to his carrier before you even consider taking him somewhere in it. Leave it out at home for him to investigate in his own time. Place high-value treats and favorite toys inside to make it seem like a fun place to hang out. Once he is happy to spend time in there with the door open, close the door for a short amount of time (preferably with a fun toy or something tasty to eat). Repeat this process, gradually increasing the amount of time he stays in there until he is happy enough to remain inside for a couple of hours at a time.

    Q. How can I tell if my chosen dog carrier has adequate ventilation?
    A.
    Dog carriers should have plenty of ventilation so your pup doesn't overheat. Hard dog carriers have vented sides, whereas soft dog carriers have mesh panels. We recommend a dog carrier with ventilation on at least two sides, but the more ventilation, the better – especially for long journeys.

    Q. Are dog carriers easy to clean?
    A.
    Hard carriers are the easiest to clean, since they can be wiped down with water or a pet-friendly cleaning fluid. Soft carriers aren't as easy to clean, but some have removable padding in the base which can be washed in a machine, and a few models are entirely machine washable.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Chris
      Chris
      Editor
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor