The Ultimate Dog Carrier Buying Guide

The Ultimate Dog Carrier Buying Guide

For small and medium dogs (and even some of the smaller large breeds), a dog carrier is an essential accessory to have while traveling. When in a car, plane, or other vehicle, you will need the carrier in order to keep your dog safely out of danger and prevent them from getting in the way.

Dog on a womans back

When going for hikes or even a run through the neighborhood, a dog carrier is an important item to have because your dog does not have the same endurance that you do for long distances (especially if they are small). With their 4 legs, they are built for shorter bursts of speed, not for longer slower paces.

So if you don’t want to cut your hike or your run short, you need the right dog carrier to let your dog rest comfortably while you keep going. If you’ve seen the huge variety of different kinds of dog carriers that exist, you might be feeling a little clueless as to where to start.

Happy Shiba Inu in a Travel Bag

If that sounds like you, this buying guide is exactly the right place! You’ll start with a few tips for how to figure out which dog carrier is the right one for you. Then, you’ll get a brief rundown of 10 of our favorite dog carriers on the market right now! This should help to demystify the shopping process so that you can make a smart decision and get the perfect dog carrier!

Tips For Buying And Using A Dog Carrier

Before you look at any product in particular, you should have a general idea of how to shop for a dog carrier. There are specific things that you need to consider to make sure you don’t just get any carrier that seems good but get the exact carrier that meets your unique needs and wants.

So check out these 3 tips and keep them in mind while you read the reviews later on and while you are shopping:

Get The Right Size

Size is very important when it comes to dog carriers. A small dog carrier should only be used for a small dog. A medium dog carrier should only be used for medium dogs. If the dog carrier is too small for your dog, they will not be able to sit in it comfortably. It will pinch and constrain them too much.

Dog Carreir Backpack

On the other hand, if it is too large, it won’t provide enough security. They will have too much room to slide around in. So you need to be careful about what size you choose.

In most cases, a product will tell you what size dog it is appropriate for but it usually gives this information in terms of pounds. That is, a small dog carrier might state that it is suited for dogs up to 8 pounds.

But this is not necessarily the best measure to judge from. Some dogs can be very leanly built so that they don’t weigh much but they are still longer or taller. For dogs like this, even if they are 8 pounds, a small carrier might be too small for them.

Size of travel Bag

So while the weight capacity can give you some sense of how much the dog carrier can handle, you also need to look at the actual dimensions of the dog carrier and make sure that it has the right amount of space to accommodate your dog.

That means that you should take a minute to measure your dog’s length and height. You should also have an up to date measure of their weight as well. With these 3 measurements, you’ll be better prepared to find the perfect fit for your dog.

Get The Right Material And Design

The material and design that you need depend on what you are using it for. For example, you definitely want a soft sided dog carrier if you’re going to be taking it in the cabin of an airplane. By contrast, you would be better off with a hard sided dog carrier if you’re planning to mount it on a motorcycle or bicycle.

The Right Material Bag

And if you want something a little more fashionable that can complement your outfit while also carrying your dog comfortably, you could consider looking for a nice leather dog carrier. The important thing is that it has the right material for the purpose it is supposed to serve and that it is well-built for that purpose.

A heavily padded, waterproof dog carrier with lots of storage space is great if you are going to be hiking. But if you just want to bring your pooch with you to the store or a restaurant, it will be too bulky. A smaller, lightweight cotton tote design would be more practical in this case.

Choose Additional Features And Functions Based On Your Needs

Just as you need to get the size that fits your dog and choose materials and design that suit your priorities, you also have to think about the features and functions in terms of what you need.

A dog carrier with wheels is great for the airport, for example. But it’s not as practical for everyday use on the street or for hiking. And a dog harness carrier is a nice option for hiking if you need something that can mount to your chest instead of your back or if you need something that allows you to easily grab your dog in case of danger.

Whatever your needs are, there is a dog carrier out there that can meet them. You just need to make sure you aren’t wasting your money on a carrier that doesn’t do what you need it to do and does do things you don’t need it to do!

Best Dog Carriers Under $20

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The following 5 dog carriers are extremely budget friendly. And despite their low cost, they still manage to provide a surprising level of quality and dependability. Each one is designed to serve a specific purpose whether that’s fashionable everyday practicality or comfortable hiking. So you don’t just want to go with whatever is cheapest. You need to make sure it’s designed for the purpose that you need it for.

#1 i'Pet® Hands-Free Carrier Bag Travel

This is a great little tote style pet carrier that slings over your shoulder like a regular bag. It’s a clean, simple design that’s perfect if you need a small dog carrier for a dog up to 12 pounds.


  • 18 ½ inches long, 9 inches wide, and 8 inches tall
  • A cotton and polyester blend fabric
  • ​Reversible for 2 different patterns and looks
  • ​Hands-free strap to sling over your shoulder.
  • Security clasps to prevent your dog from jumping out.

The fabric is totally machine washable so you can throw it in with the rest of your laundry and not worry about it. The reversible design lets you coordinate the bag to your different looks which is definitely an added perk.

It’s a great dog carrier purse for your everyday needs. If you’re running to the store or going out to meet friends and want to bring your pooch along with you, this dog carrier bag is perfect.

However, if you’re planning a longer trip or even an all-day outing, you may need something that does a little more. This carrier doesn’t really have much storage space and it’s not intended to be used as an extended dog travel carrier.

But if you are just looking for a nice simple, everyday bag, this is a great option because of the fact that it doesn’t have all those extra features. A dog carrier for longer trips tend to be on the bulkier side because they are meant to let you store all the supplies you need. But you don’t need or want that bulkiness if you’re just trying to run errands during the day.

So it’s not enough for an extended trip but for your everyday needs, it’s the perfect balance of function and simplicity.

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#2 Red Pet Sling Carrier Pet Carrier

This is a super convenient and easy to use little pet carrier that works great for everyday needs. And, for well trained dogs, it could also be used as a bicycle dog carrier. Check out the key specs below:


  • Dimensions: 10.2 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 1.5 inches tall
  • Durable oxford cloth
  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • Hands-free design
  • Additional pocket for storing supplies.
  • Leash clasp inside to prevent escape.

This is a great carrier for dogs under 10 pounds. They will fit comfortably inside and feel secure since the pouch rests against your stomach.

Earlier, we mentioned using it as a bicycle dog carrier. And if your dog can sit calmly inside it, it is definitely a nice, easy option to have. However, we wouldn’t take this on a motorcycle or anything much faster than a bike.

The adjustable strap wraps over your shoulder and around your back. And with the pouch on the front, it’s easy for you to check on your dog and access the extra storage pocket. The oxford cloth that this bag is made out of also makes for an extremely durable carrier that will last you a long time. Plus, it makes it super easy to wash since you can just toss it in the machine.

It’s a bit too simple to be used on longer trips but it’s definitely a wonderful and very affordable everyday dog carrier.

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#3 Outward Hound Kyjen PoochPouch

This backpack style dog carrier is perfect for small to medium sized dogs. It can be used as an everyday dog carrier but it also makes a wonderful hiking dog carrier. It’s padded and compact but still manages to include some storage space.


  • 2 sizes options for dogs up to 15 pounds
  • 2 color options
  • Nylon fabric
  • Safety harness
  • Drawstring top
  • Mesh sides for ventilations

The mesh sides allow you to safely and comfortably keep your dog contained inside with the top closed. They will still be able to breathe and even look around if they want to. And the water resistant material means you can take it out in any weather and your dog will stay dry and happy.

One important note: while it is makes a great hiking carrier, it is really only practical on its own for day hikes. If you’re going on longer trips, you’ll either need an additional bag to carry the other supplies your dog needs or you’ll need to leave this at home and get a carrier with more storage.

With that said, if you do just need it for a nice, spontaneous day hike, this is a very convenient dog carrier to have on hand as it is comfortable to wear, comfortable for your dog to sit in, and offers enough storage for a few basic supplies.

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#4 Cosmos Colorful Strip Pattern Carrier Bag

This dog carrier comes in a variety of sizes and is super easy to use and comfortable to wear. It’s a great everyday carrier and can be used on hikes since it is worn on the chest so you’ll still be able to carry a backpack with supplies.


  • Dimensions (for large size): 15 inches long, 9.8 inches wide, and 7 inches tall
  • 3 sizes for dogs up to 15 pounds.
  • Convenient and comfortable harness design
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Fun, colorful striped pattern
  • Tail hole in the back for added comfort
  • Compliant with most airline regulations

This carrier has a very simple but intuitive design. Your dog sits upright inside of it with their legs coming out of separate holes (there’s also a hole for the tail as well). You then wear it on your chest, strapping it to your shoulders with the adjustable shoulder straps.

It’s also very easy to put your dog inside. The front flap comes down so that you can slide it over each of your dog’s legs and then you clip the part that is on your dog to the pack piece and then just attach the carrier to your chest. This is great for stubborn dogs who don’t tend to sit still inside of other carriers.

This is a very convenient little carrier to have. As mentioned, you can use it for hiking but it would also be good for biking since it keeps your dog still and securely strapped to your chest. It can also be used for airplane travel. We just wouldn’t recommend it using while driving a car or a motorcycle.

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#5 Petmate Soft-Sided Kennel Cab Pet Carrier

This duffle bag style dog carrier is ideal for air travel. It’s got just about everything you need to be a super convenient and comfortable travel dog carrier for taking in the cabin with you on an airplane.


  • Dimensions of the smaller size: 17 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 10 inches tall
  • 2 size options
  • Mesh ventilation panels on both sides
  • Carrying handles
  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • ​Durable soft sided carrier with PVC backing
  • A spacious pocket for your dog’s supplies.
  • Compliant with most airline regulations

This is a great dog carrier for the airport. It would also be convenient for car travel as well. It’s comfortable, well-built, and fits easily underneath most airplane seats. The only thing you might want to add is a bed liner to make it a little more comfortable for longer trips. However, you can also just put in blankets from home.

Overall, it’s a great travel dog carrier that can also be used for short trips to the vet. And, for being under $20, it is surprisingly durable and well built.

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Final Word

These 5 dog carriers do a good job of representing the kind of range you will see. Some are more geared toward everyday use, others are better suited to travelling on the planes, and still others are better for hiking. You’ll see a similar kind of variety in the next 5 products below.

Best Dog Carriers Over $20

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Below, you’ll find 5 more dog carriers that are a little higher end then the ones you read about above. While they are high end, they are still very reasonably priced. They are each still below $50 so you can get higher quality and still avoid breaking the bank!

#1 AmazonBasics Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carrier

This convenient dog carrier from Amazon’s line of basic needs is fantastic. It comes in 3 different sizes with the large dog carrier allowing for as much as 22 pounds. And it’s built with durable, high quality materials. Take a look at the key specs below:


  • 19.7 inches long, 10.2 inches wide, and 11.2 inches tall (for the large dog carrier)
  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • Carrying handles
  • Removable fleece pet bed inside
  • Mesh ventilation panels on all 4 sides
  • ​Removable insert to create a solid base
  • Inside clasp to prevent pet from bolting

Overall, this is a great airline dog carrier. It conforms to the size regulations for most airlines so you can fit it under the seat and keep your pooch with you in the cabin during the flight.

One of the best things about this soft sided dog carrier is that you are getting high quality and security at a surprisingly low price. This runs pretty cheap considering how well-built it is and how much it includes.

The removable fleece bed not only provides a comfortable place for your dog to rest while travelling, it is also somewhat absorbent so that if your pup has an accident, they won’t be sitting in their own mess. And if you do need to clean it, it’s machine washable so it’s not a hassle at all.

The rest of the carrier is not machine washable but if it gets dirty you can simply spot clean it with a damp rag.

We also really appreciate the mesh panels. They provide some visibility so your dog can look around if they want to. But, more importantly, they create plenty of airflow so your dog can breathe comfortably.

While this does make an excellent airplane dog carrier, we wouldn’t recommend it as a motorcycle dog carrier or even a dog carrier for car. For both cars and motorcycles, it’s usually better to get something with hard sides because, in the event of an accident, those hard sides will provide more protection than the soft sides of this carrier.

As a dog carrier for plane, it’s great though. The only thing that you might feel is missing are wheels. But if your dog is on the smaller side, it’s not so inconvenient to just carry them. Overall, you are getting a great dog carrier for your money when you buy this one.

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#2 MG Collection Stylish Hand Bag

For the fashion conscious and the stylish dog owners out there, this could be the best dog carrier for you. It’s a smaller dog carrier with the look and feel of a stylish purse. Take a look at the key specs below:


  • Dimensions: 16 inches long, 7 ½ inches wide, 11 ¾ inches tall.
  • Quilted 2-tone exterior design.
  • 10 inch handles
  • A dual flap along the top—one with the same quilted design and another with mesh fabric.
  • 8 grommet reinforced ventilation holes
  • ​2 parallel zippers along the mesh flap
  • ​Hard studs on the bottom
  • 2 large pockets on either side for storing supplies
  • Keychain charm

This is a very well built carrier that happens to also be beautifully designed. So if you’re looking for an everyday carrier that adds some flare to your outfit, this will do it for you.

It can also be used as an airplane dog carrier. It is small enough and it does have some pockets for storing at least the essentials that you will need in flight. However, for longer trips, you probably won’t be able to fit all of your dog’s supplies inside this one bag. So if you’re looking for something that can fit everything you need for your dog during the trip, you’ll need something that offers more storage.

That said, you probably also wouldn’t want to take this one camping. Not only is it less practical as a dog carrier for hiking, it’s also not something you’d want to get dirty. It is easy to clean but it’s not machine washable.

Overall, it’s a great little portable dog carrier with a beautiful design and some nice functionality even if it’s not an all-in-one carrier that would fit everything you need.

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#3 Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carriers

This duffle bag style dog carrier is extremely versatile and well made. It comes in 3 different sizes and boasts 6 different color options so you have quite a bit of power to customize this to your exact needs and tastes.


  • 3 different sizes to accommodate pets as much as 22 pounds.
  • 6 different color options
  • ​Reversible for 2 different patterns and looks
  • Lockable zippers
  • Both top and side entry options
  • ​Mesh panels for ventilation
  • Adjustable shoulder strap with a no slip grip
  • ​Removable stability board
  • ​Removable faux lambskin bed liner
  • Seatbelt/luggage strap for securing to a car seat or luggage

The versatility here is impressive. In addition to the size and color options, you also have the option to use either the top loading entry or the side loading entry. And you can choose to either carry it by the sewn on handles or use the adjustable shoulder strap.

Ad to continue adding to the surprising range of options that all come in this single dog carrier, you’ve got a removable stability board and a removable bed liner. The stability board gives your dog a stronger foundation to stay balanced and comfortable. And the bed liner is perfect for long flights when your pooch needs somewhere cozy and soft to rest.

But it’s not just great for airplanes. It is also well designed for use in a car. On the back side, you’ve got an extra strap sewn on that you can easily slip a seatbelt through so that you can secure this carrier to the car seat for extra security.

Overall, this is one of the best all-around dog carriers that you can find. Because it is soft-sided, we wouldn’t recommend it for motorcycles. And it’s not particularly practical for bicycles. But for cars and airplanes, it is one of the best ones you could get.

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#4 FurryFido Reversible Pet Sling Carrier

This sling dog carrier is extremely well built and made with great material. It’s the perfect everyday bag that can also be used for air travel.


  • Dimensions: 9 inches long, 4.3 inches wide, 7.8 inches tall
  • Suitable for dogs up to 16 pounds.
  • Machine washable and reversible jersey material
  • 3 different color options
  • Sling design is comfortable and easy to use
  • ​Safety belt and latches
  • ​Compliant with most airline regulations

This is one of our favorite sling style dog carriers. It has a wide and super comfortable strap and it sits perfectly so that your dog is resting on your hip. That keeps your hands free to do whatever you need to do.

While it can be a good option for the airport you might want to adopt for a closed carrier that has room for bedding material so that you don’t have to keep your dog strapped to your chest for the entire flight.

However, for shorter flights this won’t be a problem. And for your everyday needs, this carrier is absolutely perfect. And at just over $20, it is also super affordable!

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#5 Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture Sling Carrier

This is an adorable and super comfy sling style carrier made from comfy fabric and including just the right amount of padding.


  • Dimensions: 10.4 inches long, 9.2 inches wide, and 2.4 inches tall
  • Suitable for dogs up to 12 pounds
  • Safety strap that latches onto dog collar
  • Machine washable and
  • Hands free sling design
  • 5 different colors to choose from

This is definitely a great choice for everyday use. Whether you want to take your dog with you to run errands or you need to go to the vet for a checkup, this bag will serve you wonderfully. And with the ability to choose between 5 colors (not to mention the fact that it is reversible so you can choose between 2 styles on the same bag), you’ll be able to coordinate with your wardrobe easily.

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Final Word

As you can see from this second set of dog carriers, you can get a pretty amazing product without spending a whole lot of money. But all dog carriers have their limits and it’s better to get one that is specialized to be used for one specific purpose. For example, don’t get a fashionable everyday tote if you are going to be mostly using the dog carrier to go camping. Because even if that tote is high quality and well designed, it’s going to feel extremely impractical when you’re trekking through the wilderness.

Dog in a Bag


Hopefully the tips in this buying guide were helpful and the brief reviews of some of our favorite products could inspire you to decide exactly what kind of dog carrier you need. Now that you have a pretty good sense of the kind of products that are available and what sort of features and functions you can expect to find, you are ready to get out and buy the perfect dog carrier to suit you and your dog!

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