Choosing a carrier for your dog is a very important task – one that will ensure yours and your pet’s comfort and safety when traveling. But there are lots of available models on the market varying in size, materials and design, so selecting one from the many can be a bit overwhelming. How can you narrow down your options?

The most important thing about the carrier you will purchase is its size. Get your dog to sit still and measure it entirely – from head to tail, from floor to top of head, from floor to shoulders. No dog enjoys being confined in a carrier, but you are obliged to make them as comfortable as possible. In order to do that, you must ensure that your dog can stand, lie down and turn inside the carrier. If you have a small dog, like say a pug or a Pomeranian, the size shouldn’t be a problem. You can get a big enough carrier that is easy to handle and has enough room for the dog. If your dog is medium sized, however, like a Chow Chow, it will be harder to get a carrier that has all the extra room. That’s why it was said you should measure the height from floor to shoulder above – that is the minimum carrier height that will make your pet feel okay inside. As pets usually curl up when they are placed inside the carrier, the ability to stand up straight is not mandatory.

The next thing to consider is the material of the carrier. There are two main types – soft and hard carriers. Soft carriers are the ones that resemble a shoulder bag and are made of some kind of fabric. These are only good for small dog breeds, because a dog that is bigger will not feel comfortable, and you will also not be able to handle its weight on your shoulder. Hard carriers look like boxes and are made of plastic. They are good for all dog sizes and are preferable if you want to make sure your dog stays inside. It is very important to make sure that the locking mechanism is fully operational and that the plastic used is very durable and shows almost no bending when handling the weight before you make the purchase. There is also a third type which is a combination between soft and hard carriers – hard construction with soft lining. This will of course be more comfortable for your dog, but you shouldn’t buy it if your dog is still in training – getting rid of the stains on the lining can be extremely hard, if not impossible.

Last but not least – the ventilation. As mentioned above, you should ensure the pet’s comfort as much as possible and ventilation is very important in that regard. The carrier should have openings on all sides except the floor and ceiling. These openings contribute to the pet’s comfort not just by providing them with fresh air, but also by giving them the chance to see what is going on around them and where are you taking them, plus to see you so they don’t feel as nervous.

If you are going to be traveling with your pet by plane and that is the reason for buying a carrier, check the airline’s requirements before you make a purchase. You may find that your carrier does not fit them when it is already too late to buy another one.

None of like to think about their dog in the cargo hold of an airplane but, if a car isn’t an option a plane might be the only alternative. Here are some tips from the ASPCA on how best to travel on the airlines with your dog.
1. Call the airlines to find out what documentation you will need to travel with your dog. Take your pet to the veterinarian no more than 2 weeks before you travel. Tell the vet exactly what papers you need for your journey. Ask if there are any additional documents he or she feels might be appropriate or necessary.
2. Have your dog implanted with a microchip. Provide an ID collar and affix your destination in case he or she escapes.
3. The night before you travel, fill the travel bowl with water and freeze it. This way the water won’t get spilled while being loaded and it will begin to melt as your pet needs to drink.
4. Book a direct flight as often as possible. This lessens the chances of the crate getting lost or left behind.
5. Buy a USDA approved crate for your pet. Make sure it is large enough for the dog to stand, sit and turn around comfortably. A few days before you leave put the dog’s favorite toy or blanket in the crate. Let him or her know that this won’t hurt them in any way.
6. Write the words ‘live animal’ on the outside of the crate. Affix a picture of your dog as well as your home address and phone on the crate so airline personnel will know where your pet belongs. Tape a small bag of dry food on the outside of the crate so the baggage handlers can give your dog a treat if when he or she gets hungry. Put some kind of padding and absorbent material in the cage in case of an accident.
7. Let every airline employee know you are traveling with a pet. When everyone is informed they will give the best care to both you and your dog. Have a picture handy so they will know which dog belongs with which owner.
8. Check with your vet before any tranquilizers are administered. Often times these drugs can do more harm than good.
Every airline employee wants you and your dog to have a pleasant trip. Following these suggestions will help you and your pet have a safe voyage to your destination.