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The Very Best Dog Carriers

Dog carriers for flying, driving, and running errands around town.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

A dog carrier is required to take your pup on planes, trains, even the New York City subway — but there are many other circumstances where having a comfortable bag to carry your dog makes good sense. Not only is a carrier often the safest place for dogs, it can also be the coziest and most peaceful place for them too. You might have to do a little convincing at first (treats and lots of positive reinforcement help), but the right dog carrier will soon become a place of rest and refuge.

To help you narrow down the very crowded field, we talked to 17 veterinarians, trainers, and dog owners — and tested several of these carriers with our own dogs — to find the best dog carriers you can buy online.

What we’re looking for


Dog carriers range in style (and price) from soft-sided duffel-bag-shaped carriers that will fit under an airplane seat, to backpacks that let you carry your pup hands-free, to casual canvas tote bags. Many dog owners, especially those whose dogs are small, end up buying different carriers to use in different situations. But for each carrier you buy, you should think about its function first. If you and your Yorkie are newly bicoastal, you’ll need something that conforms to airline size requirements, preferably with a strap that secures it to your rolling suitcase. If you are planning a road trip with your Cavalier King Charles, you will need a carrier that’s crash-tested to keep them safe. If you’re looking for something to bring your dog along during everyday activities like riding the subway or riding a bike, you might consider something more casual, like a tote bag or a backpack-style carrier. And if your dog loves going for long walks but doesn’t actually like walking for very long, that’s exactly what dog strollers are for.

According to Parisa Fowles-Pazdro, the founder and owner of luxury dog-gear store Maxbone, the type of carrier that most of her customers seek is a “super-simple bag that fits into their everyday lifestyle, like a dog tote. They want it to hold their dog safely, but they also want something stylish so they won’t be embarrassed to be seen holding it.” While tote-bag-style dog carriers tend to be more stylish in general, we took aesthetics into consideration when choosing every carrier on this list, with several carriers recommended in large part because of how nice they look.


Short legs and a long body, brawny chest and thick thighs, skin and bones but covered in voluminous fur — these are just a few of the potential size and shape combinations dog carriers must accommodate. Not all carriers come in multiple sizes, especially those designed to meet airline size specifications, but they should all have easy-to-find dimensions and weight limits listed online. To find one that fits your particular dog, start by measuring your pup from nose to tail and around their widest part. Knowing their current weight will also help ensure you pick the best carrier for their size.


A comfortable carrier is more likely to keep your dog calm and seated while you drive, bike, or carry them around town. Once you’ve found the right size carrier, look for padded interiors, plush bedding, plenty of ventilation, and a sturdy base to help them feel at home. You’ll also want the carrier to be comfortable for you. Padded shoulder straps, lightweight materials, and an ergonomic design will make toting your best friend fun and convenient.


Carriers can be expensive, so you’ll want to make sure the one you buy is going to last. It should be made of durable materials like heavy-duty canvas or nylon, but it should also be easy to clean, with removable, machine-washable bedding and a water-resistant interior lining in case of accidents.

Best dog carrier overall

Style: Soft-sided with mesh panels | Size: Three sizes for weights up to 22 lbs | Comfort: Padded cross-body strap and handles | Materials: Machine-washable sherpa bedding, water-resistant lining and exterior

Over the last few years, Sherpa’s Original Deluxe pet carrier has been recommended to us more than any other pet carrier. It is a favorite of veterinarians, cool dog owners, and at least four Strategist staffers — myself included. I have the small Sherpa carrier, which I have used on several cross-country flights between New York and Los Angeles. It is comfortable to carry, easily fits under the seat in front of me, and is cozy enough to keep my dog Uli calm. The soft faux-sheepskin bed insert is easy to clean, and when I’m not using the carrier, the whole thing folds down to save space. Veterinarian John Iovino, who contributes to the Wildest, has flown with the Sherpa too and appreciates how the top and front openings make it easy to get your dog in and out. He also likes that the mesh-paneled carrier provides good ventilation and offers “a chance for you to see your pet to make sure everything is okay.” Alison Waszmer, the director of Dogtown, a sanctuary for homeless dogs at Best Friends Animal Society’s Utah headquarters, is also a fan, and describes the carrier as well constructed and comfortable.

While it doesn’t have a ton of extra features, it does come in multiple sizes to fit dogs that weigh up to 22 pounds. The one I have was given to me by a friend who had used it for her cat for several years; I’ve had it for over five years now, and it still looks pretty much brand-new. I also love how lightweight it is and that it has a side strap, which you can slip over a rolling-suitcase handle or use to secure the carrier with a seat belt in the car. The carrier is not only crash-tested, but Sherpa partners with several major airlines (including Southwest, United, and Delta) through a program called Guaranteed on Board, a sort of insurance program for pet owners traveling with their dogs and cats. “The small and medium sizes of the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier are included in Guaranteed on Board, so you can rest assured that your pet travels will go by without a hitch,” says Samantha Schwab, the former resident pet expert at Chewy.

Mia Leimkuhler, the Strategist’s former senior manager of audience engagement, says her dog, Reggie, loves his Sherpa carrier so much that it is now his everyday bed and a place he goes when he’s feeling overwhelmed. “It’s become Reggie’s little safe space, sort of how a crate functions for other dogs, so we leave it unzipped under our bed and that’s where he falls asleep every night,” she says.

Best backpack-style dog carrier

Style: Backpack with mesh panels | Size: Four sizes for weights up to 30 lbs | Comfort: Padded interior and support strap | Materials: Padded shoulder straps, water-resistant

For avid cyclists and hikers (or for dogs who are unable to keep up on long adventures), a backpack-style dog carrier is super-convenient. But not all dog backpacks are created equal. In fact, the K9 Sport Sack is the only backpack carrier that has ever been recommended to us by owners for its ergonomic design that’s suitable for a range of activities and dog breeds. Peter Liu, the co-founder of Rifruf; Risa Miyamoto, a makeup artist and the owner of a Pomeranian; and Candy Godoy, the owner of Boogie, a pug with over 28,000 followers on Instagram, all own the K9 Sport Sack and use it to walk, hike, or bike with their pets.

Liu says he prefers it to tote-style carriers because his dog fits inside the backpack more comfortably (for both pet and owner). It’s much less tiring to carry his French bulldog, Caesar — who’s “a pretty dense ball of mass,” Liu says — thanks to a lumbar-support strap plus a padded base that helps the pup stay upright and evenly distributes the load on Liu’s back. Miyamoto says she has the K9 Sport Sack in black to carry her dog, Mokutan, on long trails in hot weather; meanwhile, Godoy, who travels regularly and is very active, says she uses it when she needs to be truly hands-free. It’s also the style Logan Mikhly, owner of dog café Boris and Horton, speaks to customers about the most because it’s kind of striking, with slots for the dog’s front paws up top. “It looks really cute, like the dog is giving its owner a hug from behind, with its head on the owner’s shoulders,” Mikhly says.

The brand offers several different styles of its backpack, with the Sport Sack Trainer being the most popular among our experts. It comes in four sizes, all of which can carry up to 30 pounds. Instead of listing the dimensions of the bags, they measure by appropriate size of dog for each backpack. For peace of mind, the bag has dog-safety features, including a carabiner clip, cinch straps, and a collar buckle to keep your dog from jumping out to chase a squirrel. And if your dog is a puppy (or shorter in length), you can buy a three-inch booster block for $10.

Best TSA-approved dog carrier

From $225

Style: Soft-sided with mesh panels | Size: One size with a max weight of 18 lbs | Comfort: Padded cross-body strap and handles | Materials: Machine-washable sherpa bedding, water-resistant lining and exterior

Away’s dog carrier is just as sleek, stylish, and functional as the brand’s ubiquitous (and Strat-approved) rolling luggage. It’s crash-tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety, as well as TSA- and airline-approved. It only comes in one size that measures 18.7 inches by 10.8 inches by 10.75 inches, which will slide under an airplane seat and fit small- and medium-size dogs that weigh up to 18 pounds. It is also car-safe and can be secured by a seat belt with two snap-down latches. The carrier comes in black and a calm blue color called Coast. After testing out the blue version of the carrier, I was impressed with how sturdy and safe it feels. While it is technically a soft-sided carrier, its sides and bottom are much more rigid than those of the Sherpa Deluxe. A sturdy base means Uli can relax rather than constantly shifting her weight within the bag. When I use the Away carrier in conjunction with a rolling suitcase, I leave the top open and clip her into the safety tether to keep her from jumping out. This setup feels luxurious, especially with her name embroidered on the side — Away offers personalization with up to three letters for an extra $35. It’s like I’m wheeling a tiny royal around the subway or down the sidewalk.

I haven’t taken the Away carrier on a plane yet, but it has been very handy on the Metro-North railroad and in the subway. Uli is still getting used to it, but she seems pretty comfortable so far — and because she’s so little (she weighs just five pounds), there is room for her to stretch out or for me to pack a bag of treats and toys in the carrier too. Like the Sherpa Original Deluxe, the Away has a soft faux-sheepskin bottom to keep pets extra-cozy (though it’s lower-pile than the Sherpa bedding) and mesh panels for visibility. It also has a roll-down privacy screen to cover the mesh if needed, and lots of exterior pockets, including one with drainage holes. While I would love for it to fold flat so I could store it more easily, at the moment I have it open on the floor of our apartment to help Uli get comfortable with it, and it’s actually so nice-looking that I don’t even feel like I would need to put it away when guests come over.

Best carrier for dogs over 25 pounds

Style: Brushed canvas tote with zipper top | Size: Two sizes with a max weight of 35 lbs | Comfort: Reinforced shoulder straps, padded vegan leather base | Materials: Machine-washable pillowcase, water-repellent lining and exterior

This tote-style option from New York City–based brand Just Fred offers the highest weight capacity of any carrier on this list. Available in two sizes to fit dogs up to 35 pounds, it comes recommended by Sonali Nigam, the founder of Petminded. Although Nigam has owned the smaller model for a year and a half to carry her 10.5-pound rescue named Ella, she emphasizes that the carrier’s base is extra supportive and designed to let dogs (of all weights) rest comfortably rather than stand upright, which can be hard on their backs. And unlike other tote-style carriers, this one zips shut and has sturdy but cushy sides to prevent Ella from swaying and protects her frame, Nigam says. Nigam, who is vegan and says she appreciates that the brand’s accessories are all made of vegan materials, adds that the interior includes a removable pillow. It also comes with a waste-bag dispenser on the backside and a built-in collar clip.

Best collapsible dog carrier

Style: Soft-sided with mesh top panel | Size: One size with a max weight of 17.5 lbs | Comfort: Padded cross-body strap and handles | Materials: Machine-washable plush bedding, water-repellent lining

When we consulted Nicole Ellis, the training and product expert at dog-sitting site Rover, about her favorite car seat for dogs, this one from Sleepypod was her top pick. She is a fan of the brand because it crash-tests all of its pet-safety restraints to meet U.S., Canadian, and European child-safety-seat standards. The Sleepypod Air is both a dog car seat and a plane-friendly dog carrier that is certified by the Center for Pet Safety and meets airline requirements for flying with your pet. Ellis has used it on the road and in the sky and tells us that it has proven convenient and comfortable in both situations. It has straps on both sides that hold your car’s seat belt in place around the carrier, and it has a breathable mesh panel that allows pets to see what’s going on outside. It comes in one size that measures 22 inches by 10.5 inches by 10 inches to fit dogs up to 17.5 pounds, plus the length of the carrier can be compressed from 22 to 16 inches to help it fit into tight spaces when flying. It also comes with a padded, adjustable shoulder strap and a trolley pocket you can slide over the handle of rolling luggage for hands-free transport. Then, the whole carrier collapses and buckles flat for easy storage when not in use. It’s available in nine colors and can accommodate Sleepypod’s electric warmer pad, though you’ll have to buy that separately.

Best expandable dog carrier

Style: Soft-sided with mesh panels | Size: Three sizes for weights up to 18 lbs | Comfort: Non-padded cross-body strap and handles | Materials: Machine-washable plush bedding, waterproof-PVC exterior coating

The Petsfit expandable carrier has an accordion-style mesh window that unzips to create a sort of screened-in porch for your dog. Conrad Russo, blogger and owner of Pet Gear Lab, recommends it for flying with nervous dogs. “Dogs traveling on a plane can have a lot of anxiety, so giving them a little more space makes all the difference,” he says. When the expandable window is zipped up, the case fits airline size regulations. Once boarded and settled, you can expand it to let your dog stretch out. This carrier comes in three sizes, with the medium likely to fit on most planes and measuring 17 inches by 11 inches by 11 inches with a max weight of 13 pounds.

Best tote-style dog carrier

Style: Canvas tote with head cutout | Size: Three sizes for weights up to 20 lbs | Comfort: Reinforced canvas shoulder straps | Materials: Machine-washable

Perry Betts, the owner of a miniature dachshund named Thor, told us that she did a ton of research before deciding to purchase the Wagwear Boat Canvas carrier. “It’s sold at all of the best fancy dog stores in town, and I’ve seen it among cool dog owners who want to avoid looking overly bougie with the Louis Vuitton carrier,” she says. As for functionality, Betts says the canvas tote is super-rugged and almost chew-proof, and there’s a lanyard inside to attach to a collar or harness. The look of Wagwear’s carriers recalls that of the classic L.L.Bean Boat and Tote, which Mindy Montney — the owner of Dog & Co., a style-focused dog-gear shop — says is what dog owners carried their pets in before the niche pet-carrier industry blew up. “Classic tote shapes are the most popular dog bags in the city,” she says, and since dog owners were already using L.L.Bean and similar canvas totes to carry their pets on the subway, it made sense for designers to customize that style of bag with “a U-shaped cutout where the pup’s head can hang out.”

Best (less expensive) tote-style dog carrier

Style: Canvas tote with head cutout | Size: One size with a max weight of 20 lbs | Comfort: Reinforced canvas shoulder straps | Materials: Water-resistant base and trim

Though L.L.Bean doesn’t specifically make a tote bag for dogs, Land’s End does. It has the same New England cachet and is made with heavy-duty canvas that’s coated on the bottom to keep water from seeping in or out of the bag. You’ll pay half what you would for the Wagwear tote, and you can have it monogrammed with your pet’s name. Miyamoto has one that she uses for Mokutan when they’re running errands together, and she says that it’s sturdy, easy to spot-clean, and very cute. Plus, the bag can be monogrammed for just $8. The only drawback she mentioned is that it’s one-size-fits-all — it measures 16.5 inches by 8 inches by 12.5 inches and fits dogs up to 20 pounds and 11 inches tall — while most of the fancier dog tote bags come in multiple sizes.

Best sling-style dog carrier

Style: Sling pouch | Size: Two sizes for weights up to 16 lbs | Comfort: Non-padded cross-body strap | Materials: Machine-washable soft-coated canvas, quilted nylon interior

Mei-i Zien, owner of Maison de Pawz, a Parisian-inspired dog “pâwtisserie,” was introduced to this sling-style carrier by a friend who used it to transport their pug around New York City. Zien bought one for her long-haired Chihuahua named Marcel five years ago and says it’s still in perfect condition after being her most-used carrier for the six-pound dog. She appreciates the hands-free design because it allows her to see her pup at all times, while the structured cross-body strap lets him rest close to her body when she’s holding a coffee, shopping, and even walking another dog. The elastic sides and quilted lining create a snug pouch to support your pet, and a built-in collar clip adds extra security. In addition to the camo pattern, shown, which Zien owns, this carrier is available in six solid colors.

Best dog carrier with a laptop compartment

Style: Nylon tote with mesh top | Size: One size with a max weight 25 lbs | Comfort: Non-padded shoulder straps and padded cross-body strap | Materials: Machine-washable sherpa bedding

The Everyday Pet Tote from Béis combines the casual feel of a tote-style dog bag with the added features of a more serious travel carrier. It has a removable and machine-washable plush lining that doubles as a cozy bed when pulled out of the bag. The recycled polyester sherpa bedding is softer than the included bedding of both the Away carrier and the Sherpa Original Deluxe. And when I laid it on my living-room floor, Uli went straight for it and lounged for hours. The same soft lining covers the zip-down front panel, giving dogs a soft place to rest their heads. The carrier has a safety tether, exterior pockets, a removable cross-body strap, and a mesh top panel. But I am most impressed with the padded laptop compartment that fits my 13-inch MacBook Air, which I have never seen on any other pet carrier. Being able to carry your computer safely in the same bag as your pup is a game changer and would come in handy for weekend trips as well as daily commutes to a dog-friendly office. The carrier comes in one size, measuring 12 inches by 17 inches by 8 inches with a total max weight of 25 pounds (including a laptop).

Best dog stroller

Style: Collapsible stroller with removable mesh window | Size: One size with a max weight of 33 lbs | Comfort: Padded foam bottom | Materials: Cushioned handlebar, water-resistant Oxford cloth

Wendy Wells, a dog owner and the mother of former Strategist audience growth director Stephanie Downes, bought this stroller because her aging Maltese–Shih Tzu mix named Chandler started having mobility issues and struggles on even short walks. “He loves to go with us everywhere, but he’s too heavy to carry for long periods of time. So now we walk him every day in the stroller and he loves it,” she says. Unsure of whether a stroller would work for Chandler at all, she bought this affordable one to start and says it has worked out great. “The basket is handy, and it’s much easier to get into restaurants and stores that don’t allow dogs with Chandler in a stroller,” she says. Though she wishes the wheels “were a little bit more substantial,” she says that “all in all, I am very happy with it.” The stroller measures 33 inches by 17.5 inches by 39.5 inches and can hold dogs up to 33 pounds when in use. When folded, it measures approximately 29 inches by 15 inches by 8.5 inches. It includes a cup holder, cargo basket, mesh window, and foot brake.

Best dog carrier on wheels

Style: Soft-sided with mesh panels and four wheels | Size: Three sizes for weights up to 22 lbs | Comfort: Padded pull strap and carry handles | Materials: Machine-washable sherpa bedding, water-resistant lining and exterior

If you’re looking for a dog carrier that functions like a stroller but doesn’t look like one, this rolling Sherpa carrier is a great choice. It has all the same features of the Sherpa Deluxe Original, but with wheels and a cute little flag for visibility in crowded airline terminals. Ian Patterson, the owner of a famous rescue Chiweenie named Tuna who has 2.1 million Instagram followers, says it’s a solid option for transporting dogs that are too heavy to comfortably carry around in a tote or a backpack. “We tend to cart Tuna around in this wheeled airplane bag from Sherpa and he loves it. It’s like his little man cave,” Patterson says. Like the non-wheeled Sherpa carrier, this one comes in three sizes to fit dogs that weigh up to 22 pounds.

Some more dog carriers we’ve written about

Our experts:

• Perry Betts, owner of a miniature dachshund named Thor
Nicole Ellis, training and product expert at dog-sitting site Rover
• Candy Godoy, owner of a pug named Boogie
• John Iovino, veterinarian and contributor to the Wildest
• Mia Leimkuhler, former Strategist senior manager of audience engagement
• Peter Liu, co-founder of Rifruf
• Logan Mikhly, owner of dog café Boris and Horton
• Risa Miyamoto, makeup artist and Pomeranian owner
• Mindy Montney, owner of Dog & Co.
• Sonali Nigam, founder of Petminded
• Ian Patterson, owner of a famous rescue Chiweenie named Tuna
• Parisa Fowles-Pazdro, founder of luxury dog-gear store Maxbone
• Conrad Russo, blogger and owner of Pet Gear Lab
• Samantha Schwab, former resident pet expert at Chewy
• Alison Waszmer, director of Dogtown, a sanctuary for homeless dogs at Best Friends Animal Society’s Utah headquarters
• Wendy Wells, dog owner and mother of former Strategist audience growth director Stephanie Downes
• Mei-i Zien, owner of Maison de Pawz

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The 12 Very Best Dog Carriers