What's the Best Small Dog Carry-on Bag?
Pet Carriers

Best Small Dog Carry-on Bags for Domestic and International Travel

Many pet owners take their dogs with them everywhere that they go. Hotels are getting more pet-friendly, and so are airlines.  There are always rules that you must follow, though, to ensure everyone’s safety (including that of your pet).  You want to buy the best dog carry-on bag, and it needs to be comfortable, safe, and affordable!

There are many styles of bags for small dogs (see also ‘The 10 Best Dog Treat Bags For Practicality And Style‘). They have soft mats, leak-proof bags, and pockets that allow you to take crucial documents, such as vet and vaccination records, pet treats, medicines, etc. with you.

If you’re ready to take your dog on your next long or short trip, choosing the right carry-on bag will make the experience much more comfortable for you. It can also be a comforting (and exciting) experience for your pet. Your dog will enjoy being able to stay with you onboard your flight, and you’ll feel better knowing you can keep an eye on them while you’re traveling the skies.

Table of Contents:

Best Airline Approved Pet Carriers That Go Under the Seat

This guide will feature pet bags that can go under your plane seat. Air travel consists of more than just sitting on a plane. So, we’ll also cover the best bags for walking through an airport or bags you can use to walk around different places once you’ve reached your destination. The easier it is to use your pet carrier, the less stressful traveling with your dog will be for both of you.

How to Choose an On-Board Pet Carrier

There are different features to consider when you’re choosing an in-flight carrier for a dog. Most onboard pet carriers are soft-sided, so they can comfortably fit underneath your seat. Hard carriers and kennels are only allowed in the cargo area, but not on board your flight.

If you want to keep your dog with you on the flight, then choosing a soft-sided carrier is likely to be the right option. But, with so many different types of dog carriers on the market, how will you know which one is right for you and your dog?

Consider these features when you’re looking at carry-on pet bags:

  • Ventilation: Choose a carrier with durable mesh siding. Dogs can become overheated easily, especially if they’re nervous. Mesh sides allow your dog to see you and for you to see them. They also allow for air to get through the bag, so your dog can enjoy a cool breeze.
  • Durability: Traveling can be hard on everyone. Even carry-on bags can take a beating at times, so it’s vital to choose a carrier that is durable. Things like reinforced handles and durable materials will make a massive difference to how long the bag lasts.
  • Easy to use: You aren’t going to use a carry-on pet bag if it’s not convenient for you. Look for bags that have shoulder straps or ergonomic handles that can be carried easily. The carrier should also be easy to clean and store away when it’s not in use.
  • Leak-Proof: Having a leak-proof carrier on a plane isn’t just a convenience factor for you. It’s a necessity. If your dog has an accident in their bag on the plane, you’ll want to make sure none of it leaks out on the cabin floor. If it does, you may be faced with a fine from the airline. Plus, it’s an embarrassing moment that no pet owner wants to go through.
  • Safety: We may be listing it last, but protection should be the number one priority when choosing the right in-cabin pet carrier for your little dog. Make sure they can’t get tossed around in the carrier and will be safe inside through an entire flight. Once you know they’re safe, you can start looking at extra features like comfort, storage pockets, etc.

You know your dog better than anyone. Think about their personality and what they might feel most comfortable in.

What’s the Best Airline Carrier for Small Dogs?

Our pick for the best bag to take your small dog on a plane is the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier. There are so many reasons why this designer carrier can help both you and your dog. First, we’ll note that it’s highly recommended by both the ASPCA and the Humane Society. Many veterinarians also recommend the carrier for safety and comfort.

The Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier was designed with smaller dogs in mind. You can get it in three different sizes. But, even the largest size only holds a dog up to 22lbs. If you have a small dog to travel with, it’s the perfect solution.

Review of the Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

Some of the most crucial safety components of the Sherpa Original Deluxe are as follows:

  • Mesh sides: Ventilation is essential in a pet carrier. It allows for enough air flow to get through the bag. Not only will this keep your dog from overheating, but it can also help to calm them down because they’ll be able to see their surroundings.
  • Locking zippers: Even small dogs can be strong enough to get out of a carrier without the right zippers. The zippers on this bag lock in place. So, even if your dog paws at them they won’t come undone, and the dog won’t be able to escape.
  • Reinforced handles: This pet carrier is as durable as it is stylish. It features reinforced handles and a reinforced bottom. You don’t have to worry about it tearing or breaking apart, especially when you’re carrying your dog.

If you want to use the carrier for car travel, it features a seat belt strap that will keep your dog from getting jostled around while you drive.

On a long plane ride, comfort is critical. The Sherpa carrier has a soft padded interior that will keep your dog cozy while they’re on board with you. This liner is removable and can be washed easily. It’s also leak-proof, so you don’t have to worry about any embarrassing messes.

Not only does this carrier easily slip beneath an airplane seat, but it folds flat quickly for storage. It’s easy for you to use, and something your small dog will love. If you’re looking for a soft-sided pet carrier to take on a plane, we recommend the Sherpa Original Deluxe.

What is the Best Pet Crate for Flying?

Some people prefer a hard-sided carrier when they fly. There aren’t many hard dog carriers that can go on board with you, because they don’t usually fit underneath the seats. But, they can often be taken to the cargo area so your pet will be underneath the plane.

You want to know that your dog will be safe throughout the flight. The best way to do that is with a hard carrier, like the Petmate Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel.

The Petmate crate is made of durable plastic. It meets airline requirements so that you can fly with your pet in the cargo area. Some airlines may allow you to bring it on board with you if you have a tiny dog. Call your airline ahead of time to learn about their rules!

Petmate Two Door Top Load Pet Kennel

No matter how you fly with your dog in this crate, you can take comfort knowing they’ll be safe and happy. It features two entry points. If you have a nervous and anxious dog, you can lower them into the carrier instead of ‘forcing’ them to go in through the front.

Your dog will also stay calm and relaxed due to the steel-barred doors on top and in the front. They allow for proper ventilation, and your dog won’t be able to break out of them.

The wonderful thing about a crate like this is it can often be used as a kennel or a place for your dog to stay. When you’re traveling somewhere new, that can be beneficial. Your dog will be able to take their ‘home’ with them. So, you don’t have to worry about them running around a hotel room, friend’s house, etc.

What is the Best Dog Purse for Air Travel?

One of the benefits of having a small dog is they’re easier to carry in smaller bags or purses. Many small dog owners take advantage of this by choosing a stylish or designer purse to tote around. But, not all of them are approved for air travel.

We recommend the Argo by Teafco Petagon Pet Carrier. It’s a stylish and sleek bag that is designed for dogs up to 15lbs. But, there’s more to this carrier than meets the eye. It’s also approved for air travel so that you can take your little pup with you on the plane.

There are many different features and benefits to this small bag, including:

  • An interior safety hook to attach your dog’s harness to the bag
  • Five external zippered pockets for supplies
  • Top loading opening
  • Reinforced mesh windows for ventilation
  • Side opening for feeding

Argo by Teafco Petagon Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Another useful feature of this lightweight purse is that you can carry it with you almost anywhere. Some pet carriers can be cumbersome and bulky, even when they’re made for small dogs. The Argo carrier weighs only two pounds on its own. If you happen to be waiting a long time or walking around an airport, it won’t start to cause discomfort or become hard to carry with you.

What is a Good Dog Carrier for Walking?

When you travel, you usually end up doing a lot of walking. From walking through a big airport to hitting tourist attractions on your vacation, walking is a part of almost any kind of travel. You don’t want to have to carry around a heavy bag that’s hard to hold onto for a long time.

The best carrier for walking is the Pet Gear I-GO2 Escort Roller Backpack. What makes this bag so great? It’s four different carriers in one convenient product. It functions as a traditional carrier, a backpack, a car seat, and a rolling carrier. It can also be used as a tote because it’s specifically designed for small dogs. The maximum weight is 15lbs.

As you might expect from the name, it’s a great backpack carrier. You can wear it over both your shoulders, and it helps to distribute your dog’s weight evenly. This makes it more comfortable for you to wear for long periods of time.

Pet Gear I-GO2 review

Your dog will be comfortable while you’re walking, too. It has a robust and reliable base that will keep them safe. But, it also features a plush mat that’s easily removable for cleaning. Even on long walks, your pet can be content and secure.

This is a roller backpack, which means there’s another easy way you can walk with it, especially at an airport. It has a telescoping handle that can be pulled out to roll the bag around. If you have other luggage with you or need to get somewhere quickly, turning it into a roller can allow you to move faster and have your other hand free. The roller option also makes it easy for children or seniors to push or pull it around.

How to Measure a Small Dog for a Carry-on Bag

Many small dog owners buy the smallest-sized carrier a company has to offer. But, that isn’t always the right size.

Most manufacturers also suggest sizes based on weight. That’s okay to consider if your dog nears the weight limit. But, it shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when choosing the right carrier size.

To get the right size and make sure your dog is comfortable and safe, it’s best to measure them. Some dogs might be the same weight, but one might be taller or longer than another. That’s why getting the accurate height and length measurements are crucial for comfort.

Measuring your dog for a carry-on bag is easy. To measure their height, start from the floor and measure up to the base of their ears. To measure length, go from the tip of their nose to the tip of the tail. You’ll want to allow for a couple of extra inches so give them some room. They should be able to turn around and lay down once they’re in the bag.

But, they shouldn’t have too much extra room. You might think having a lot of space would make them more comfortable, but it can be dangerous. If there’s too much space, your dog could easily get jostled around inside the carrier. If you’re traveling by car or plane, this can be especially dangerous. Hitting a bump or some turbulence could lead to injury.

Carriers like the Pet Gear Backpack can expand up to three inches. It’s the ideal solution for giving your small dog a little more room without having to buy a carrier that’s so large that it can be potentially dangerous for him or her.

airline approved dog carriers for in cabin

Tips for Flying with a Dog on an Airplane

Some dogs love air travel, while it can make others nervous. Whether your dog is a frequent flyer or going on a plane for the first time, you should always reassure them of their safety and try to keep them calm.

Use some of the following tips to make flying a little easier:

  1. Know your dog’s temperament when it comes to flying. It’s easy to assume that just because they’re comfortable in their carrier, they’ll be fine on a flight. That isn’t always the case. If you had to train your dog to be comfortable in their carrier, don’t assume they’ll enjoy the flight experience right away. Take them on frequent car trips, or even walk around an airport to get them used to sights, sounds, etc.
  2. The carriers in this guide feature external pockets. These pockets can be used for a variety of things, but you should always keep as many useful supplies with you to keep your dog happy. Items like treats, toys, medications, etc., are essential to have in your dog’s bag at all times. Think about what would keep your dog calm and happy, and make sure that they’re in one of the pockets.
  3. Even once you’re sure your pet carrier is airline-approved, call ahead before your flight to reserve a space for your dog. This doesn’t mean they’ll charge you for an extra ticket (though you may have to pay a fee for your dog). Some flights only allow a certain number of pets on board. By reserving a space, you don’t have to worry about that limit being reached before you get there.
  4. Make sure your dog is tired on the day of your trip. Take them on a long walk before you head to the airport. If it’s possible to walk them in or outside the airport while you’re waiting, take advantage of that. A tired dog is a good dog. They’ll be less likely to show signs of anxiousness if they’re tired. If they can sleep through most of your flight, it can make for a more pleasant experience for everyone.

Every airline is different when it comes to which dogs they allow on board. Some don’t allow certain breeds. But, almost all of them only allow dogs up to a specific weight limit. This usually ranges anywhere from 15-20lbs.

Flying is no longer off-limits to people who have small dogs and want to take them everywhere.