The Best Dog Travel Carrier for Unmatched Comfort and Fun Trips

When the time for traveling comes, pet lovers transform into the most creative people in the world, doing anything to bring their buddies along.

What I find fantastic is the connection and generosity in the pet lovers' community.

Everyone is selflessly sharing their creative ideas, patented devices, and newly discovered products so that our little friends stay satisfied even when traveling.

My way to contribute to the community is with this article. Here I'll talk about the best dog travel carrier you can find on Amazon, why they're a good option or not, and what is essential to know before using any of them.

Stay tuned.

Dog Travel 101

Before using a travel carrier, we should ask ourselves: Do our dogs really like traveling?

In reality, what dogs enjoy the most is walking. This is also the healthiest option for our pets because they need to exercise their muscles to stay healthy and active. With that in mind, avoid carrying your dogs whenever you can, instead let them walk, run and play most of the time, and use the carrier only when necessary.

Let's discuss what means of transport you can use when traveling with your dog. Basically, there are so many different products, specifically designed for convenient traveling with pets, that you can use to travel by bike, car, or airplane without any problems. Well, in most cases.

Confined space is a dog's worst enemy. Most pets become anxious when they are closed in a small, confined space with limited air circulation. So how can we conquer anxiety?

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The first thing before using any dog carrier is to give them time to get used to it. Practice with them, let them explore the carrier you will be using. Dogs are natural explorers, they need time to inspect everything you let them interact with, so you should always apply this principle.

The next big thing is to start with short sessions and observe how your dog feels in a carrier, and only when you're 100% sure they're comfortable with it can you use it for a longer trip.

The third and most important thing is knowing your dog. A good pet owner knows his/her pet's temper, feelings, and tendencies. If your dog is prone to anxiety, fearful, and uncomfortable in unfamiliar environments, you should think twice before bringing him along. After all, it's better to find someone to take care of your dog while you're on vacation than traumatize them.

Here is an instructional video with vet's tips to help your dog travel anxious-free, which I highly recommend watching.

The Types of Best Dog Carriers

There are six basic types of dog travel carriers:

  • Bike Baskets
  • Bike Trailers
  • Dog Strollers
  • Dog Slings
  • Dog Purses
  • Dog Backpacks

As you can see, the first two kinds of dog carriers are for cycling, the bottom four for walking. Slings and purses can also be used in buses, while backpacks are most frequently used for hiking.

Let's look into each category.

Cycling Accessories

1. Bike Baskets

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Dog bike baskets are pretty much the standard bike baskets with additional pads and extra pockets that make traveling more convenient for your dogs. This pet travel carrier is the best for small dogs since the average weight capacity of these pet carriers is around 20 pounds.

We attach them to the steering wheel, and the installation is pretty straightforward. Some models need screws and mounts, while others come with straps with buckles. These carriers are made of a wide variety of materials, from wicker to nylon and canvas. 

What I love about them is the freedom that dogs have when they are placed inside. There's no roof, so they can freely explore the environment and enjoy the fresh air. On the other hand, this can be a disadvantage in winter, but I guess not many people ride bikes in winter.

Some models come with rain covers and sunshades, so you can protect your dog from the elements. Additionally, on the inside of the basket, a safety strap should be attached. You use it to restrict your dog's movement and prevent injuries.

I would use them only for small dogs and short trips since they can be very insecure for long-distance traveling.

Here are some basic advantages and drawbacks of dog bike baskets

  • Easy to install
  • Excellent air ventilation
  • No roof
  • Padded on the inside
  • Wide variety of materials
  • Come with a safety strap
  • Not that stable
  • Not very practical in winter

Tips for the Buyers

Choose a basket with sturdy construction yet plush inside panels. Never buy baskets that are flimsy and unstable or the models without safety straps. To guard your dog against the elements, buy rain covers or sun shades, and always, always keep them restrained.

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2. Bike Trailers

As much as it sounds incredible, there are dog bike trailers available on the market. They look like small tents with mesh windows, either a spring wire frame or solid construction, and wheels.

Now, you're probably wondering: How do we install a trailer to a bike?

Well, the trailers come with a hitch that we need to attach to the rear axle of the bike. Don't worry; it doesn't interfere with your regular riding. Then we extend and lock the tow arm of the trailer and attach it to the hitch of the bike. And that's all the wisdom to it.

Trailers are more stable than baskets, so they are often used for long-distance traveling. Yet, they are more enclosed as well; hence if your dog is prone to anxiety, you might want to choose some other carrier.

Unlike dog bike baskets, bike trailers can withstand up to 100-120 pounds, so they are also pretty convenient for larger breeds.

What I don't like about them is the temperature regulation. These tents usually include mesh windows, yet when you're traveling for a long time, the air circulation can either cause drafts, or if there are no windows, it can get too hot. 

Another negative aspect is that your dog is behind you all the time, which significantly limits your control of the situation.

Here are the positive and negative features of the bike trailers

  • Sturdier than bike baskets
  • Excellent weight capacity
  • Great for long-distance cycling
  • Stable
  • Spacious
  • Poor temperature regulation
  • You can’t watch your dog as you travel

Tips for the Buyers

Look for trailers with a solid construction, excellent ventilation, and a durable hitch. With these carriers, it is of crucial importance to install them properly so that there's no chance for the trailer to fall off during your trips.

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Walking Accessories

1. Dog Strollers

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Strollers are the most secure and the sturdiest dog carriers one pet owner can buy.

They have the highest weight capacity, up to 150 pounds, being thus great for larger breeds. These pet strollers are also fully enclosed, so dogs generally don't like them. I do find them quite useful for injured pets and smaller breeds that often get tired and need to be carried. However, larger breeds are often very energetic, so they might feel anxious inside.

This travel carrier is very adjustable, with a heavy-duty structure; hence the price corresponds to the quality. The pads inside are usually soft and comfy, so your fur baby can snuggle up conveniently.

There are many additional pockets for your items, water, or whatever accessories you need for your strolls. Some models allow you to detach the seat and use it as a car seat for your pet.

Here are the positive and negative features of the dog strollers

  • Sturdy
  • Reliable
  • Easy to maneuver with
  • High weight capacity
  • Safe
  • It can be used as a car seat
  • Expensive
  • Enclosed

Tips for the Buyers

Choose multi-functional dog strollers that allow you to detach the seat and use it either as a carrier or as a car seat. Also, pay attention to whether you can partly lower the roof, so you can help your dog feel freer and whether the canopy is weather-resistant.

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2. Dog Slings

Dog slings are the simplest and the most convenient dog carriers for small dogs. They are soft-sided, well-ventilated, and easy to use. Essentially, dog slings are small bags with a shoulder strap and either a fully open roof or a specially designed opening for your dog's head.

These pet carriers are made from either mesh or canvas, and they can support only the smallest breeds up to five pounds in weight.

What I love about these carriers is the simplicity. Pet owners don't need to deal with complicated installation or adjustments. You simply adjust the shoulder strap to fit your shoulder height, put your little friend in, and you're good to go.

This soft-sided carrier is usually machine-washable, so you can keep it clean at all times, and there are even reversible models that save you time and money you'd spend on frequent washing.

One negative feature is durability. They are not sturdy at all and really can support only the smallest dog breeds. Also, most models have a zipper opening that could catch your dogs' hair and hurt them.

Check out the pros and cons of this pet carrier

  • Soft-sided
  • Best for small dogs
  • Machine-washable
  • Excellent ventilation
  • Easy to use
  • Convenient for dog owners
  • Not at all sturdy
  • Zipper opening can catch dog’s fur

Tips for the Buyers

Opt for natural materials, breathable and soft. Also, check if the shoulder strap is adjustable and padded so that your shoulders don't get hurt after a long day of carrying your pet. Check if there's a safety zipper canvas protecting your dog's hair from getting caught.

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3. Dog Purses

Dog purses are the most fashionable dog carriers on the market, hence often bought by female pet owners. They do not have a large weight capacity, so they can only support the smaller breeds. However, they are sturdier than pet slings, so you can also use them for car rides to keep your dog safely restrained.

Basically, this pet carrier looks like a large tote bag with a reinforced bottom and side pockets. Usually, there's a zipper, allowing you to open up the roof or one sidewall. There are mesh panels, ensuring high ventilation and breathability.

Also, some bags come with a fleece pad or sherpa insulation, which is fantastic for the winter, and they are often removable and machine-washable.

On the other hand, the weight capacity is around 30 pounds at best, so when compared to others, this pet travel carrier is not that strong. Also, you need to carry it in your hands since the shoulder straps are not at all long, which can be tiring.

Let's look at the positive and negative features

  • Fashionable pet travel carrier
  • Mesh panels for ventilation
  • Sherpa insulation
  • Top zipper for more freedom
  • Sturdier than a sling
  • Short handles
  • No shoulder strap

Tips for the Buyers

When buying a purse, make sure it has a removable bottom pad so that you can regulate the temperature, and also wash the pad once it gets dirty. Also, make sure it has many mesh models for high ventilation.

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Hiking Accessories

1. Backpacks

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Backpacks are the best dog carriers for hiking. They are sturdy enough to provide the support your dog needs, still soft enough for them to feel comfortable. These backpacks look like ordinary hiking backpacks, just with mesh panels so that your dog can properly breathe.

There are also expandable models with a transparent wall and mesh tent in behind. So, once you reach a desirable destination, you can expand the back and provide a small tent for your dog to enjoy.

These are the best dog carriers for small to medium-size breeds, yet they are honestly convenient for carrying and more durable than soft-sided slings and purses. It's debatable how breathable these backpacks actually are, yet the more mesh panels they have, the better air circulation will be. I wouldn't recommend using them when the weather is super-hot or for some challenging hiking adventures.

Here are the positive and negative features

  • The most convenient for carrying
  • Can have sherpa insulation
  • Many different models available
  • Great for hiking
  • Can be expandable
  • Not the highest breathability
  • Small breeds only

Tips for the Buyers

If you're buying a backpack for your dog, make sure it's well-ventilated and comfortable. If it's not a soft-sided carrier, check if there's padding or sherpa insulation for winter. Don't forget to check the shoulder strap adjustability so that you can carry your friend conveniently.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose a carrier for my dog?

First of all, choose an appropriate pet carrier for your dog's size. If your dog is heavier than ten pounds, forget about slings and most purses.

Next off, choose a soft-sided pet carrier, either with padding or removable mats, for more comfort. Pet travel in winter demands insulated pet carriers with either fleece or sherpa insulation.

Now, the most important of all features when choosing a pet carrier is breathability. Both for car trips, cycling, or walking, you need to provide adequate air circulation for your dog, so opt for breathable materials with mesh panels and windows.

What size dog carrier can I take on a plane?

If you're planning on taking your furry buddy to the airplane cabin, according to United Airlines, the airline-approved kennel must be 17.5 x 12 x 7.5 inches(44 x 30 x 19 cm) is hard-sided, or 18 x 11 x 11 inches high (46 x28 x28 cm) for a soft-sided pet carrier.

For crates that go to the cargo hold, the requirements imply that the crate must be spacious enough for your buddy to stand up and turn around comfortably.

Can I buy a seat for my dog on an airplane?

YES and NO.

You can't really buy airplane seats for dogs, but you can bring along your pet in an airline-approved kennel to the cabin for a $125 service charge. This is the policy of United Airlines, so it can differ from one airline to another.

Different rules apply to service dogs. Namely, service dogs can either be in an airline-approved kennel, or they can sit in the floor space in front of your assigned airline seat or within the personal space, you paid for when you bought a ticket.

Even though service animals are airline-approved, you need to keep your dog away from the other passengers and the airplane aisle.

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Can I put my dog in a regular backpack?

A regular backpack is not a good pet carrier.

First of all, it is not ventilated enough, so you'd have to open up the zipper to allow your dog to breathe. Since there is no safety strap, your dog could easily jump out and get hurt.

Next off, regular backpacks are soft-sided with no support board in the bottom, so your little friend could be uncomfortable, not being able to find a suitable position.

Finally, with so many best dog carriers on the market, why would you improvise with a backpack that's not really a pet carrier?

How can I take my dog on a bike ride?

You can either use a bike basket or bike trailer.

Some people even use a pet carrier backpack since it's a hands-free pet carrier, but I wouldn't recommend it. It adds extra weight to your body, putting you at risk of tipping over or losing the balance, so it's not the best solution.

My recommendation is to install a bike basket for short-distance travel or a bike trailer for long-distance trips. Don't forget to bring water, check the carrier to make sure your dog is comfortable, and check the temperature inside the carrier from time to time.

How do you ride a bike with a small dog?

You simply put your dog in a basket or a trailer, make sure they are restrained with a strap, and comfortably seated. Ride your bike, as usual, making occasional stops to check if your dog is fine and comfortable.

Can you use a baby sling for a dog?

It is not recommendable to use a baby sling for a dog or any other pet.

Baby slings are too soft-sided, and they do not conform to pets' anatomy. There are important differences between a baby and a dog to take into account. For example, the natural position of dogs is standing on all fours, while babies spend most of their early life curled up, and a baby sling conforms to this position.

A sling tightly restricts mobility, which can be extremely uncomfortable for dogs and could hurt them.

Lastly, these carriers are not made with dogs in mind, so they shouldn't be used for them.

Final Thoughts

So, how do you feel now, pet lovers? Are you motivated to get the best dog travel carrier and travel the world with your buddy? I know I am.

Whether you decide to air travel, cycle, or hike with your furry friend, don't forget to check how they feel about it first, get them used to the carrier you will be using and be there for them throughout the entire trip.

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here