Most soft-sided carriers are designed for you to carry your dog, so they are for smaller dogs. These guidelines are for soft-sided carriers and hard-sided kennels used to transport your dog weighing up to 25 pounds (see specific carrier for weight capacity). Different guidelines should be used for Crates and Kennels for home use and for dogs that are larger.
Carriers allow you to take your dog with you to places they normally wouldn’t get to go. And they can make vet visits much easier to maneuver. There are several different varieties of small-dog carriers – ones that have a shoulder strap or handles, purses, backpacks, front-packs, rolling carriers with telescoping handles (some of these can hold dogs up to 30 pounds), bike baskets, hard-side, soft-side, etc. Sizing will be similar for all types, so do these basic things first.
As a general guideline, your dog should be able to stand comfortably in the carrier, turn around easily inside, and lie down without difficulty. But don’t get it too big either.
As always, the most important part of getting the right size carrier is MEASURE YOUR DOG!
1. Backbone Length – measure from the neck where the collar rests to the base of the tail. Add 2-3 inches to determine the carrier’s long measurement.
2. Shoulder Height – measure from the ground to the top of shoulders. To determine carrier height for
a. Purses: For toy and very small dogs. Add an inch or so to dog’s shoulder height.
b. All other soft-sided carriers: Add 2-3 inches to shoulder height.
c. Hard sided carriers: Add 3-5 inches to shoulder height. It’s better with hard-sided carriers if the dog can stand comfortably with head up.
If the measurements are borderline between sizes, choose the bigger size.
Weight should be used as a guideline only -- it will not give an accurate length or height. However, never exceed the weight capacity of the carrier.
For Slings and Front-packs, make sure your dog has plenty of space and won’t fall out, but they’re designed to be cozy. These are typically not designed to provide support and your dog will be supported against your body.
For rollies that roll at an angle on 2 wheels (rather than flat on 4 wheels), make sure your dog has enough space for comfort while being rolled.
If you’re planning to take the carrier in the cabin on an airplane, please see these guidelines for Dogs on Planes.