Dogs aren’t pets; they’re family. If you’re like most Americans, your dog is your constant companion on adventures, and you go nowhere without him or her. We hear a lot about dogs with separation anxiety, but–just between you and us–we think humans suffer from it too. Fewer and fewer people are leaving their dogs at home nowadays, giving rise to a market for dog carrier backpacks (mostly for small dogs).
With a dog carrier backpack, you can take your dog onto planes and through crowded plazas where they might otherwise get crushed underfoot. And he or she can stay close to you the whole day in luxury. It’s a win-win situation. So, in this guide, we’ll cover how to choose the best out of several options for dog carrier backpacks.
How to Choose a Dog Carrier Backpack – Buying Guide
We are unfortunately not certified pet trainers. So, to get a better idea of just what kind of carrier your pooch might appreciate, we turned to April, the voice behind the lovable blog, Tenacious Little Terrier.
Voice Behind the Tenacious Little Terrier
The Tenacious Little Terrier is Mr. N. He's a Maltese Yorkie with beautiful grey-blonde hair and the long legs of a model. He loves posing for photos (see left—photo credit goes to Kolu Photography), and he dislikes staying at home. So he goes almost everywhere with his humans.
He and April are the driving voices behind the blog, Tenacious Little Terrier. They have all kinds of advice—tips on how to adventure together, of course, as well as training tips and other helpful pointers. Check it out below!
・The Tenacious Little Terrier Blog: https://tenaciouslittleterrier.com/
Kennel or Baby Carrier? All-Encompassing Carriers are More Comfortable for the Dog
First off, there’s two main types of dog carriers. The more Instagram-friendly ones are the ones that look like baby carriers, where the legs of the dog hang out. Adorable, yes. But they leave your dog with very little space to stretch their little limbs and can cause cramping. Some dogs look happy enough in them, but we can’t recommend you take the chance.
Then there are those all-encompassing carriers–they kind of look like a kennel or little space pod on your back. These are far more suited to long plane rides or treks in the forest. There’s no risk of chaffing. You don’t need to worry about your dog getting overheated with all of that fabric close to their body.
There’s just so much less risk associated with space pod carriers, so we recommend them over the type where the legs dangle. And if you’re worried about bulk, they come in different shapes and sizes. And some of the designs are quite streamlined.
And [enclosed carriers] can be easy to store. The Sleepypod Air folds down so when you store it, it’s flat. And we don’t have this feature—I’m thinking about getting it—but it has an option where they also sell heating pads that you can insert into it.
Materials: Nylon, Polyester, and Oxford (They’re All Durable, but Differ in Quality)
Polyester is both durable and breathable, and it dries quickly. Just slightly more durable than polyester, nylon is known for weather-resistance. While there’s no way you can keep wind and rain completely away from your dog–not unless you give up proper airflow–nylon absorbs very little moisture and holds up well to sudden May showers.
Canvas is comfortable, but it’s not as strong against tearing, so we wouldn’t recommend it if you have a dog that likes to scratch. Oxford is thick and durable, but has a slightly rougher texture to it.
If you ask Mr. N, he just usually wants the softest material, lining-wise. The carrier that he mostly uses, the lining feels like fake fur—that kind of very plush and smooth texture. So that’s his main criteria.
For Ventilation and Visibility, Find a Carrier with Mesh Siding
Mesh makes sure your dog is getting enough ventilation. He or she will need it to breathe, but it gets all the more important if you’re heading to a hot and steamy resort for vacation.
And if your dog’s curious, it gives them a window into the world. Many mesh windows also unzip, so your dog can poke his or her head out and catch a breeze or crane their necks to take in a sight.
I’ve seen options where there's a flap that detaches to cover some of the mesh or where there’s a privacy screen that you can pull down—an in-between option like that might be good so you have the best of both worlds.
Weight Isn’t Everything; Check Height and Length and Add 2-3 Inches
A common mistake humans make? Purchasing a dog carrier backpack after only confirming its weight limit. Along with weight, make sure to measure your dog’s (standing) height from the top of his or her head to the floor, as well as length–from the tip of his or her nose to the tip of the tail. Add 2 or 3 inches to those measurements.
This will ensure that your dog has enough room to be comfortable, but not so much that they will get tossed around.
[With sizing], I look at the measurements of the carrier, and I know Mr. N’s measurements off the top of my head, and I compare. I also read reviews and see what other people are saying about how sizing works for their dog and just accommodate for that.
Travel Safety: Look for Carriers that are Airline Approved and Crash-Tested
First off, road trips. April introduced us to the Center for Pet Safety (CPS), which is an advocacy organization specializing in consumer and animal safety. They ran a series of crash tests, where they strapped carriers into backseats and simulated a car crashing at 30, 40 mph. Some carriers flipped off the seat; some of the test dolls were sent hurtling out of the carrier.
Long story short: if you plan to use the carrier in the car, make sure it’s CPS-approved. Unfortunately, there are currently no backpack carriers that have been tested by the CPS and given the green light. At this point, we’d recommend using a harness or kennel that does meet safety standards for car rides, and regularly check the CPS site for updates.
Some carriers are airline-approved or can be converted to accommodate airline regulations. Riding in the undercarriage of the airplane is stressful–so if you’re planning to fly, try to bring your dog into the cabin. However, make sure you read the product description carefully, as airlines have different regulations. Just because one plane accepts your carrier doesn’t mean they all will.
[For plane rides], we use the Sleepypod Air. It has a removable bottom pad that you can throw into the washer. And it’s really durable. I haven’t put anything super heavy in it, but it handles his weight well and it’s easy for him to go in.
Safety First: Internal Safety Harnesses and Reflective Strips
If your dog’s a little antsy, look for an internal safety harness. It will keep your dog from jumping out when he or she sees a squirrel.
If you travel at night, there are also reflective strips on some of these carriers. They function just like they would on shoes or a shirt, making sure that cars can see you when they pass you on dark country roads.
I would not recommend them for people who primarily use collars and don’t use harnesses. If you attach your dog’s collar to it and they try to jump out of the carrier, then they would end up strangling themselves. So if you are going to use it for the safety aspect, I would use it with a harness.
For Your Comfort: Belts, Buckles, and Extra Padding on the Shoulder Straps
So we’ve talked about how you can make your dog comfortable. Now, let’s talk about features for you. Basically, you want as much padding on the shoulder straps as possible. And see if the pack has belts and buckles that go across your chest and rest on your hips. These will distribute weight more evenly across your body.
Below, April talks about some other features that she, as the human, appreciated.
Some carriers also have a better warranty than others—customer service is a big one. Once, I posted on social media that our Sleepypod had been stolen; someone smashed our car window and took it. And the company saw that on social media and they offered to send me another one.
Top 10 Best Dog Carrier Backpacks to Buy Online
So we’ve talked about all these features that you or dog might appreciate. Now, here are ten dog carrier backpacks that actually put these features to use.
10. ibiyaya Multifunction Pet Carrier
The Most Flexible Backpack: Can Be Attached to Wheels and Has a Roll-Down Flap for Privacy
You can probably tell from the picture, but this carrier isn’t just a backpack. You can use it as a stroller, a rolling carrier, or hang it from a single shoulder. The wheels are smooth, and the carrier itself feels sturdy and well-constructed. There’s a flap you can drop over the big mesh opening, should your dog ever need some peace and quiet.
However, the opening isn’t very large, and you’re going to have to do some coaxing if your dog is being wriggly. The shoulder straps only have a thin layer of padding, so the bag can dig into your shoulders after a while. And though ibiyaya advertises this carrier as a car seat, it hasn’t been tested by the CPS yet, so we wouldn’t recommend it for road trips just yet.
9. Anzone Portable Space Capsule Pet Carrier Backpack
The Most Stylish Carrier: A Good Number of Colors and Stream-Lined, Functional Designs
We admit it: we chose this one for its looks. There’s a smattering of colors and designs with this one–including rounded pods without any of these angles. The straps are padded, and you’ve got a buckle that goes across your chest to take some weight off the old shoulders.
Should your pet need more ventilation, you can switch out the window for a mesh screen or a half-bubble with breathing holes punched into it. The pod itself is sturdy and roomy enough for small dogs. But we do wish it had some flaps for your dog’s head to poke out of. All it has is this little trapdoor in the back to give him or her some extra ventilation when not being carried.
8. Texsens Innovative Traveler Bubble Backpack Pet Carrier
The Sides Completely Unzip and You Can Switch the Pod out for Mesh and Extra Ventilation
Both sides of the backpack completely unzip so, hopefully, your dog will just stroll into the carrier himself. And when you pick him or her up, the bottom of the bag is solid–lined with a removable pad–so there’s no sagging and your dog can peer into the pod, which, because it juts out, leaves room for neck craning. The mesh is so sturdy even cats can’t scratch through it.
Its base measures 13.4″ x 10.2″ and it’s 16.9″ tall. It’s great for tall dogs with long necks. Some dogs shy away from the bubble, but you can switch it out for a mesh vent, which also gives you better airflow. Just know that there are no extra pockets; the bag is made to carry your pet and only your pet.
7. KritterWorld Pet Carrier Backpack
Compact Carrier with Lots of Ventilation for Your Little Dog
Designed for very small dogs, this carrier backpack is suitable for walking, sightseeing, biking, camping, and even hiking. It’s got mesh on the top and in the front, so your dog can breathe easily, relax, and enjoy the view. The shoulder straps are padded and easy to adjust.
It’s perfect for a Toy Yorkie or Maltese (around 5 pounds), but if you put a long-bodied dog in it, he or she will not be able to lie down comfortably. It has a hard, sturdy bottom for good support and a removable fleece bed for your pup’s comfort and easy cleaning. It comes with a side pocket for storage, as well, for any water or treats.
6. PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier Backpack
Great for Hiking: Large Mesh Pockets for Water Bottles and Included Water Bowl
For hiking trips, there’s large mesh pockets on the side for storing treats and water bottles. It even comes with a collapsible water bowl for your dog. There are straps that go around your waist and across your chest, which help distribute weight. However, with heavier pets, there’s a bar at the bottom of the pack that digs into your lower bag a little, even when everything is fastened.
The entire backpack is rigid, the bottom sturdy. It’s got a thin, fleece-like lining that’s removable. The window in the front can be unzipped, so your pet can stick his or her head out and enjoy the breeze on your next hike.
5. Snoozer Roll Around 4-in-1 Pet Travel Carrier
Great for Flying with Your Dog: Comes with Wheels and Three Different Sizes
This is a winner for those with wanderlust. You can roll it around on wheels or mount it on your back. There aren’t any extra straps to help stabilize the weight–but we’d use it solely when we need our hands to be free. It’s approved by many major airlines, including Southwest. There’s lots of ventilation, and you can roll the mesh screen down partway so your dog can peer out.
There are loops in the back so you can strap the carrier into the car seat. However, when the CPS crash-tested this particular carrier, the fake dog they used burst out of the mesh screen in front and went flying. Therefore, we’d recommend keeping this one for the plane and using another crash-tested kennel or harness for the car.
4. Pet Magasin Travel Carrier Backpack
Accordion Carrier Made to Accommodate Airline Standards
Let’s talk about the outdoors first. This carrier is made from a water-resistant material, so it’ll keep your dog from getting drenched by sudden showers. The shoulder straps are padded and you get those extra belts that evenly distribute the weight of your dog. They make long treks far more bearable.
Now, for how you use it indoors. The carrier is approved by most major airlines. When you lay it down, you can unzip the two side panels and more space will open up for your dog to walk around in. And once you get to your destination airport, you can go ahead and convert it into a backpack. Unfortunately, the zippers aren’t made so well, so handle them gently.
3. Pawfect Pets Soft-Sided Pet Carrier Backpack
Largish Pet Carrier Approved by Major Airlines
Measuring in at 17″ x 11″ x 11″, this is the largest pet carrier approved by major airlines. You can carry it as a backpack on your hiking trips and lay it down horizontally under the seat in front of you during flights. Unfortunately, though, there are no handles along the sides, so it’s a bit of a hassle to alternate between the two.
It’s got strong mesh windows that are a match for your dog’s claws. The zippers have mini buckles, which keep your dogs from unzipping themselves. There are also two removable fleece pads and small storage pockets on the sides. And if you prefer to leave the top open, your dog won’t jump out because there’s a tether that you can attach to his or her harness.
2. Petsfit Comfort Dogs Carrier Backpack with Good Ventilation
Best for Hot and Steamy Places: Almost Completely Mesh Carrier for Continuous Airflow
So Petsfit gets our top two spots–and, when it comes to their products, it’s really just a matter of preference. If you’re somewhere where the summers are wet and hot, this will let air flow into the bag and moisture escape. However, the bottom is, first of all, sturdy and, secondly, water-resistant enough that even if your dog has an accident, the bag won’t start leaking.
It has a chest and waist strap, which help distribute the weight of your dog a little better. There are also two zippered pockets on the side, which are large enough for keys, wallets, and a few treats. You can also unzip the little window on top so your pet can stick his or her head out and get a better view of the world.
1. Petsfit Comfort Dog Carrier/Backpack
High Quality Fabric with a Removable Bottom Pad–But No Extra Storage
This carrier backpack is made of polyester and oxford cloth, so it’s both durable and breathable. There are mesh windows on 4 sides, so your dog can look around and take in fresh air. It measures 13″ x 11″ x 17″ and can hold dogs weighing up to 15 pounds.
The mesh flaps on top and up front both unzip so you don’t need to gingerly lower your dog into the bag. And the bottom pad is removable, so clean-up is fast and easy. The shoulder straps are padded and adjustable, and most humans agree the backpack is quite comfortable. However, there are no extra storage pockets, so you’ll have to bring along another bag.
Depending on where you’re taking your dog, how you’ll be getting there, and what you’ll be doing, the kind of carrier backpack you need is going to be different. We’ve pulled together a list of various sorts, so, hopefully, something has caught your eye.
Enjoy your trip!
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