The best dog carrier is safe, roomy for your dog but manageable for you, and durable enough for years of traveling. But different carriers meet different needs—a carrier you’d use to transport your dog to veterinarian isn’t one you’d want to take on a plane.
In our search for the best dog carriers we spoke with Leigh Siegfried, founder of Opportunity Barks Dog Behavior & Training for additional tips. She emphasized the importance of proper ventilation, and also urged people to select a carrier that includes a leash hook to ensure against escape.
Our favorite dog carrier is the EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier, which promotes fresh airflow with its mesh roof and sides, includes a leash strap, and several travel conveniences, such as a seat belt loop and a slot to attach the bag atop your wheeled luggage.
EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier
Mesh netting for excellent ventilation
Multiple ways to travel, including seatbelt loops, carry handles, and a slot for a luggage handle
Two sizes and six color options
Sturdy bottom for structure
Only appropriate for small breeds
This doggie tote is approved for air travel and has a built-in leash for extra security. The removable support board and fleece bed cover help maintain its shape while keeping your pet comfortable during both short and long trips. The stiff bottom provides solid footing for your dog, and structure for the bag, making it roomy enough for small breeds. It has duffle-style carrying handles and a padded shoulder strap, and when you’re in the car, you can strap a seatbelt to the exterior belt loops.
The EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier also has a side zipper, allowing you to quickly access your pooch, along with two accessory pockets. It comes in two sizes and is also available in six different colors. It’s notably lightweight and waterproof, while the mesh netting on the top and sides provide breathability and natural light for your pet. Plus, EliteField backs this carrier with a three-year warranty and a 100 percent money-back customer satisfaction guarantee.
Price at time of publish: $29
Petmate Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel
Two doors for top or front access
Lots of ventilation
Relatively lightweight design
Only suitable for dogs 15 pounds and under
Top latch doesn’t always line up properly on first try
The Petmate Two-Door Dog Kennel is our favorite dog carrier for short errands like car rides and veterinary appointments. In addition to the standard latched, wire front door, the Petmate Kennel has a top that also opens. This is especially useful for veterinary visits, since it will allow for your dog to be lifted out from the top. It also makes the Petmate carrier easy to access for cleaning.
While we have stress-tested the Petmate Two-Door Dog Kennel—pulling 33 pounds of force against the carrier’s door—and found it to be a durable traveler, it’s nevertheless only appropriate for small dog breeds. While the 24 by 17 inch footprint is relatively roomy, the carrier is only 14.5 inches high, which may not provide enough room to stand for even many small dogs. That makes this carrier best for temporary trips, rather than long travel times. Correspondingly, the well-ventilated plastic frame feels surprisingly lightweight and maneuverable for this type of carrier.
Price at time of publish: $45
Best for Public Transit
Roverlund Out-And-About Pet Tote
Larger size roomy enough for medium breeds
Neck scoop for your dog to enjoy the view
Big, padded straps
Built-in leash attachment clip
Structured bottom for stability
Reflective for nighttime
Storage pocket a little narrow
No ventilation aside from top opening
Roomy and lightweight, the Roverlund Commuter Pet Tote is made from sturdy, 1200-denier polyester, which is waterproof. The handles are made from climbing rope, and similarly beefy. This tote comes in two sizes, and the larger is appropriate for medium-sized dogs up to 30 pounds. It’s built tall, encouraging your dog to stand and stick their head out of the neck scoop opening in one side. It’s got a canvas-covered padded bottom, that’s suitable for lying down, but also provides enough structure for your dog to stand on it.
While the tote can be zippered shut across the top, it’s easy for a dog to push their head back against the zipper, opening it again. Instead, your dog is kept most secure by the deep design and the interior leash attachment clips. The tote also includes a zipper storage compartment on the outside, but it’s a little narrow and is unlikely to be an all-day storage solution for all of your pup’s gear.
The Roverlund Commuter Pet Tote has reflective trim for visibility. It’s available in two sizes and five color combinations.
Price at time of publish: $149
Best Commuter for Small Dogs
Béis The Everyday Pet Tote
Ventilated mesh top
Removable, washable fuzzy liner
Padded laptop sleeve
Removable cross-body strap
Only one size option
The Everyday Pet Tote by Béis is designed to let you not only transport your small dog in fleece-lined comfort, but bring along with you everything you might need for a work day. Despite its compact size, this pet tote includes a padded laptop sleeve, several pockets, and a key leash, in addition to the leash on the inside front for attaching to your dog’s collar. The removable, washable fleece liner is especially cozy, and rolls down when you open the zippered front to form a little pillow-like spot for your dog’s head.
Price at time of publish: $128
Wild One Travel Carrier
Three stylish color options
Cozy, padded interior
Super high-quality construction
Hand wash only
Another stunningly designed option, the Wildone Travel Carrier is made specifically for travel. It fits underneath most airline seats, and even features a slot for sliding it right onto the handle of your suitcase for super-easy transport.
This airline-compliant duffle-style pet carrier is incredibly stylish, making it a great option for gifting (either to yourself or to your friends with pets!). The carrier can accommodate dogs (or cats!) up to 16 pounds, making this a perfect pick for small to medium pets. It’s sized perfectly for most airlines, and features a convenient strap-to-leash feature which is handy for switching things up immediately once you’ve landed.
The duffle bag comes in three hues—we’re partial to an emerald green color called “Spruce.” The interior of this duffel is ultra-comfy, thanks to its plush, padded lining, which is reminiscent of a luxury foam-style mattress for humans. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you can unzip the duffle and fold out the front flap into a long, loungey space for your pup to stretch out or take a snooze. The materials are extremely high quality, making this an ultra-durable option that’s sure to last for many, many excursions to come. One of the few downsides: this carrier is hand-wash-only, and thus should not be thrown into the washing machine, which can prove pesky if your pet happens to have any accidents. However, it can be hand-washed, which allows for some flexibility.
Price at time of publish: $125
Cuby Dog Sling Carrier
Available in multiple colors
Wide shoulder strap
Breathable cotton liner
Many color choices
Only available in one size
Only suitable for dogs 12 pounds and under
Slings like the Cuby Dog Sling Carrier allow for hands-free carrying, but take a little getting used to compared to more traditional carriers. This papoose-style sling bag is super-soft, thanks to its polyester exterior and breathable cotton interior—or you can reverse it. The strap is wide and comfortable, while the sling also includes an easy-to-use safety belt to secure your dog.
The Cuby is available in a wide range of colors, but sadly only comes in one size, suitable for dogs 12 pounds and under.
Price at time of publish: $20
Best for Small Dog
Mark & Graham Buddy Pet Carrier
Complies with TSA sizing guidelines
Cozy polyester fleece lining
Limited to dogs weighing 16 pounds or less
Small to medium dog breeds fit perfectly in this gorgeous carrier, which is made with a durable nylon exterior and lined with a cozy faux shearling pad. Suitable for small breeds up to 16 pounds, this duffle is designed to be TSA-compliant, and fits smoothly under standard airplane seats. The shearling is part of an insert, which is removable and thus a breeze to wash if and when it gets grimy.
This bag comes in two colors: deep navy blue and creamy custard. To add even more aesthetic appeal, there’s brass hardward, and even optional monogramming (making the Mark & Graham carrier a great gift).
For your pup’s security, the bag features a super-secure attachment point for linking up a leash. The side panels flanking either end of the duffel are exceptionally well-ventilated, which allows your pup to breathe easy, so to speak, even during stressful travel days.
Price at time of publish: $179
Best for Large Dogs
SturdiBag Pro 2.0
14 different colors
Fully machine washable
Durable 600-denier polyester
XL is too large to be an airline carry-on
Constructed from durable, 600-denier polyester, the SturdiBag Pro 2.0 uses internal rods, like a tent, to form a semi-rigid structure. This combination of soft-sided and hard-sided elements make this a flexible travel option for dogs up to 40 pounds. While manufactured in five different sizes, major retailers like Amazon sell two sizes appropriate for large dogs.
In addition to the standard leash tether, the SturdiBag also features zipper-locking clips for extra security, allowing you to lock a mesh door zipper in position, for example. In addition to the big hand straps, the SturdiBag also comes with a removable and padded shoulder strap. It’s also got deep side pockets for storing accessories. The internal fleece pad is removable and fully machine washable.
Unfortunately, the XL is too large to be an airplane carry-on, but the large SturdiBag Pro 2.0—suitable for dogs up to 30 pounds—is ready for in-cabin airline travel.
Price at time of publish: $109
Best for Outdoors
K9 Sport Sack Kolossus
XXL size accommodates surprisingly large dogs
Waste bag dispenser built in to removable waist belt
Detachable sun and rain hood
Side cooling vent zippers
Some sizes are frequently out of stock
The K9 Sport Sack Kolossus is designed to let you carry a large dog out into the wilderness and have enough storage space left over for your hiking equipment. Since carrying a large dog isn’t a precise science, the Kolossus features multiple points of adjustment, including adjustable shoulder and torso sizes, weight distribution straps, and a modular support pack where you can keep a water bladder, snacks, and more.
It also includes a lot of features for your dog’s comfort, including side cool venting zippers, straps to adjustably support your dog’s lumbar, and a detachable hood for rain or sun.
The Kolossus is available in three different sizes (suitable for dogs up to 80 pounds!) and two different colors. If you’re looking for a backpacking dog carrier suitable for small to medium breeds, check out the K9 Sport Sack Knavigate instead.
Price at time of publish: $265
Best for Car Travel
Ibiyaya Eva 5-in-1 Pet Carrier
Fits snugly on a carseat
Not for large breeds
This nifty, 5-in-1 dog carrier can shapeshift depending on your preferences and the situation in which you’re using it. Ideal for small to medium dogs, it offers several ways to switch up your carrying style. From a suitcase-styler roller bag that accommodates dogs who like to feel the wind rushing by their faces, to a no-nonsense backpack, to a sporty stroller you can jog behind, to a compact car seat pod, this do-it-all dog carrier is perfect for virtually any scenario you and Fido may find yourselves in.
We’re particularly impressed by its carseat form: a compact, soft-shelled pod designed specifically to fit into standard vehicle seats, where it can be strapped securely by buckling up with your car’s existing seatbelt.
This car-friendly format ensures your furry friend is strapped in as safely as any two-legged, seatbelt-donning passenger, which can add peace of mind on road trips and in inclement weather. Moreover, it does so without the need to purchase additional accouterments to make your car a safe, strapped-in space for your dog.
When not in use, the soft exterior of the pod portion folds neatly in on itself, so it can be tucked away while commanding very little closet or shelf space.
Price at time of publish: $197
Our favorite dog carrier is the EliteField Soft Sided Pet Carrier, which is sturdy, but well-ventilated. It's available in two sizes and multiple colors, plus it comes with flexible straps that let you carry your dog in several different configurations. If you're looking less for an airlines or veterinary carrier, and instead need a tote for around the neighborhood (or on the bus!), check out the Roverlund Commuter Pet Tote instead. It's charmingly beefy and colorful, plus it's suitable for most medium-sized dogs.
What to Look for in Dog Carriers
Hard vs. Soft
Dog carriers come in either rigid or soft-sided styles, which are made from nylon fabric similar to duffle bags, usually with mesh windows to provide ventilation and visibility. Hard-sided carriers may be made of plastic or wire, or both. Some dog carriers are a hybrid of both styles, made of sturdy nylon with rigid sides. Some hard-sided carriers collapse and fold for easy storage. As you look at these materials, consider your travel needs and what will be best for your dog and family.
Naturally, you’ll want your pup to feel comfortable in their carrier. Thus, it’s crucial to take note of the dimensions of your dog carrier you intend to buy, and ensure there’s enough extra room for your dog to stretch out and curl up for sleeping purposes. Most dog carriers will also include size charts, list the dog breeds that do well within the particular carrier, or list the measurements of the ideal pup size for the carrier.
There are numerous styles for dog carriers, including totes, duffles, crates, and even backpacks designed specifically for carrying your pup around on the likes of hiking trips.
Duffle-style dog carriers are great for small to medium pups, though there are expandable options for larger dogs, too. One key benefit of a soft-sided dog carrier is the ability to fold the carriere away and tuck it neatly on a shelf or inside a closet once you’re finished using it. For plane travel, many duffle-style bags are within the size limits for many airlines, and can be stowed comfortably beneath the seat in front of you.
If you’re looking for a hands-free option for your dog carrier, a backpack-style dog carrier could be the way to go. Backpack carriers are designed to allow your pup to nestle comfortably within the carrier, which you can then hoist on your back. This style can accommodate large dogs in many instances, which makes it among the most versatile style of dog carriers there is.
Soft exterior dog carriers are typically best for airline travel, as they can easily be placed beneath the seat in front of you, as you would with a purse or personal item that has a soft exterior. It’s worth looking into your particular airline’s specifications in terms of what is allowed, size-wise for pet carriers prior to purchasing a dog carrier for travel. Also, it’s worth looking for travel carriers that have a specifically designed slot for sliding the carrier over the handle of your suitcase, so that you can give yourself all the more flexibility when you’re at the airport. For large dogs, a hard crate may be the best way to go, as larger pets are typically transported separately in the plane from their owners.
Totes can be a great way to travel with your pup on public transport and day-to-day errand-running. There are many options for dog totes that are both stylish and sturdy; just make sure there’s enough room for your dog by measuring the dimensions. Also important: a loop or clip built inside the bag where you can securely attach your dog’s leash. This allows for extra security and a safer mode of transport for your dog.
“Getting in touch with the airline to find out what their policies are is very important, because each airline has its own rules,” Paola Cuevas, a Veterinarian, MVZ, and Behaviorist with Petkeen.com, told The Spruce Pets.
“Some airlines allow small dogs to travel in the cabin inside a carrier,” she said, which makes a good opportunity for a soft carrier. “Other airlines require pets to go down in the cargo,” she adds, in which case, “a hard and sturdy carrier is best.”
Here are the pet travel guidelines for some of the top airlines:
- American Airlines Pets
- Delta Pet Travel
- Southwest Airlines: Flying with Pets
- United Airlines: Traveling with Pets
- Alaska Airlines Pet Travel
- JetBlue: Traveling with Pets
How big should a dog carrier be?
Dog carriers should be large enough for your dog to comfortably turn around in, as well as stand up with a bit of extra clearance in all directions, says Cuevas.
“The carrier should allow the dog to be comfortable inside, measuring its length from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail when standing,” from there, she advises “adding an extra 4-6 inches to the total carrier length.” As for the height, it’s “calculated by measuring the dog’s height from the head to the floor and adding 4 inches.”
Are dog carrier backpacks safe?
Yes! That said, it’s important to choose a dog carrier backpack that’s made specifically for dogs. In other words, you cannot simply put your pup in a backpack and call it a day! Dog carrier backpacks are specifically designed for utmost safety for both you and your pup; for you, many dog backpacks distribute your pup’s weight evenly enough for them to feel comfortable on your back without weighting you down too much. Also, a dog backpack should always have a leash attachment inside to ensure safe carrying and lessen the risk of escape.
Why Trust the Spruce
Sophie Wirt is a writer for The Spruce Pets. She is a cat mom of two, and a “dog aunt” to a mini Australian Shepard. Sophie chose the dog carriers listed in this article based on their safety, security, design, and value for money. Additionally, Sophie gleaned expert advice regarding how to choose the best dog carrier from Leigh Siegfried, CEO and Founder at Opportunity Barks, and Paola Cuevas, a Veterinarian, MVZ, and Behaviorist with Petkeen.com.