dog bag

Dog Bag: 5 Best Airline-approved Carrier (New Buying Guide)

The logistics of leaving your dog at home while you’re on a trip are tricky, but taking a dog aboard an airplane can be even trickier. For one thing, you’ll need to find a Dog bag that’s comfortable enough for an hours-long flight and meets your airline’s individual size requirements for bringing a pet in the cabin. (All the carriers in this story are for in-cabin travel, not for larger animals who would travel in the cargo hold.)

The TSA does not have general guidelines for pet carriers, but carriers typically go through an X-ray machine (while pets must go through a metal detector, just like their owners), so it’s also a good idea to bring a leash or harness so your pet doesn’t break loose at security.

Because there are so many variables, you should book your flight first. Some airlines limit the total number of pets allowed on each flight, so it’s important to buy a ticket as early as possible to ensure you and your pet have a spot.

Then you can choose a carrier and prep your pet for the flight. “Pets are often less stressed when there is some familiarity with their surroundings,” explains Annette Louviere, a veterinary consultant at Whistle. “Of course, once you get to the airport, you lose most of that control, but acclimating your pet to the carrier prior to travel can help greatly.”

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Read on for what to look for when choosing an airplane-friendly carrier for your furry friend…

5 Best Airline-approved Carrier

1. Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Airline-Approved Soft-Sided Dog & Cat Carrier

18” x 10.5” x 11”, max weight 15 lbs | Removable faux-fleece lining, leakproof material | Padded shoulder strap, luggage strap, seatbelt attachment, ID-tag holder


While all of our experts recommend carriers with mesh openings so pets can see their surroundings, a roll-down fabric cover may be useful if your pet is easily overstimulated by all the action at the airport. This heathered fabric carrier with a cover from Mr. peanuts is available in a refreshing selection of non-black colors and another one of Schwab’s picks.

“It’s lined with a soft fabric so your pet can snuggle up during a long trip,” she says. The carrier features locking zippers for added security and outside pockets for storing treats, toys, or a leash. Littrell, who also likes this model, says the roll-down cover flaps “keep the airline draft out when you are flying.”

2. Sleepypod Air Dog Bag

22” x 10.5” x 10”, max weight 17.5 lbs | Machine washable and water-repellent lining, tear- and stainproof materials | Folds flat for storage, compressible for tight spaces, seatbelt strap 


Richardson is a fan of Sleepypod, which makes mobile pet beds that double as car sets and carriers. The Air carrier has all the features she says pet owners should look for, including enough space for a pet to stretch out their claws and paws. It’s not the first time we heard about this brand of the carrier, which made appearances in our guide to the best car seats for dogs and everything you need to fly with a cat, where it was among the best cat carriers.

Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior expert with Rover, likes that it’s specifically made to fit underneath airline seats. Richardson and Delgado both recommend putting your pet’s favorite blanket inside, as the familiar smell will make them feel more at ease. Louviere, meanwhile, has heard raves from cat owners about the Sleepypod: “Their kitties appear quite cozy when visiting the clinic.” A flexible structure allows the carrier to compress to fit smaller spaces and it also collapses down flat for easy storage.

3. PetAmi Backpack Dog Bag Carrier

dog bag

16.5” x 12.5” x 10”, max weight 18 lbs | Hand-wash, no removable lining | Padded shoulder straps, waist and chest buckle for extra support, includes a collapsible bowl


Waszmer suggests trying out different styles of carriers to see what your pet feels the most comfortable in. She tends to go with either the Sherpa, above or this carrier from PetAmi. “I like the way the PetAmi fits under the seat,” Waszmer says. “When laid flat, it allows most small dogs to lay either straight or curled up.” The backpack features four-way access on the sides, front, and top, where there’s a mesh opening for a pet to poke out its head. The chest and waist straps will come in handy if you’re also toting carry-ons and checked baggage.

4. JetBlue JetPaws Official Dog Bag

dog bag

16” x 10” x 8.5”, no maximum weight listed | Machine washable liner pad | Adjustable shoulder strap, five pockets


If you’re a frequent flier on a specific airline, it might be worth buying its official pet carrier so you won’t have any doubts about it fitting under the seat. This one from JetBlue is on the smaller side and best for petite dogs and cats, and it’s guaranteed to fit on all JetBlue flights. Other airlines have their own branded carriers (like this American Airlines x Sherpa model), but because the JetBlue one is among the smallest and will likely meet multiple airlines’ size requirements, we recommend it for any pets that will fit.

5. SturdiBag Pro 2.0 Dog Bag

Small: 18” x 10” x 10”, max weight 25 lbs; Medium: 15” x 12” x 12”, max weight 25 lbs; Large: 18” x 12” x 12”, max weight 30 lbs | Fully machine washable | Luggage strap, adjustable and padded shoulder strap, vegan-leather handle


In their travels with a dog and cat in tow, Dandy Dogwalker founder Hadley Raysor uses the SturdiBag Pro, designed with a rounded top to easily sling over your shoulder like a tote bag. The bag comes in three sizes, and while the brand says the large fits on most airlines, it recently introduced the medium after receiving customer feedback that the bigger size was sometimes rejected.

Raysor initially liked how the carrier’s features — like a luggage handle loop, locking zippers, and security clips — made traveling easy on them. But it turned out their pets actually didn’t mind cross-country flights in the carrier. “My cat particularly liked being able to see out of the mesh top of the bag,” Raysor says. It’s fully machine washable too.

Buying Guide

Start by Choosing the Best Size for Your Pet

Your main objective is to find the perfect carrier that is large enough to give your pet room, yet small enough to meet airline requirements and fit in your plane, bus, or train’s storage areas. “[You need] to make sure your pet is not squashed,”

Dr. Hohenhaus says. “The carrier should be big enough to let your pet move around a bit — but isn’t so big you can’t carry it. It’s good to have a carrier big enough for a mat, blanket, or something comfy to fit in as well.”

It’s worth keeping in mind that airlines limit pet carry-ons to 17.5 x 12 x 7.5 inches. If you’re planning to check your pet carrier as cargo, the carrier must be compliant with International Air Transport Association regulations and meet a host of other requirements.

Choose a Carrier That Works for Your Mode of Transportation

In addition to the requirements above, most airlines also require pet carriers to fit comfortably under plane seats. That said, we suggest a soft side carrier if you plan to keep your pet in the cabin with you — it’s much easier to fold and bend a soft carrier down to fit under a seat than it is with a hard side carrier.

Taking your pet on a train? Amtrak requires pet carriers to be under 20 pounds and dimensions of 19 inches long by 14 inches wide by 10.5 inches high. Keep in mind carriers must also be stowed under the seats for train travel.

Check Airline and FAA Requirements Ahead of Travel

Because certain airlines don’t allow pets to travel in the cabin with their owners at all, the FAA suggests calling the airline you’re traveling with prior to your trip.

The FAA and most airlines require pet carriers to be stowed securely throughout the duration of the trip and for pets to fit comfortably in their carrier (they can turn around and stand without touching the sides or top of the carrier).

Look for Features Specific to You, Your Pet, and Your Trip

While there are exceptions, soft side carriers tend to work best for plane and train travel, especially if you plan on keeping your pet in the cabin with you. Soft carriers are easier to fit under seats and keep properly stowed, and they generally take up less space. If you’ll be checking your pet carrier as cargo, make sure to have a hard carrier and follow these guidelines.

When it comes to carrier doors and openings, Dr. Hohenhaus recommends going for convenience rather than style. “I like carriers that open on the top,” she says. “The opening is bigger than those with a front door, and I can examine… the pet in the carrier through the open top door.” She adds that, when it comes down to it, it’s totally up to the owner and the pet.


How long can a pet stay in a carrier?

According to Dr. Meg Summers of Heart of Chelsea Veterinary Group in New York City, the number of times pets can stay in carriers depends on their age. “Ideally, any pet six months and older should be in a carrier or crate for no longer than eight to nine hours at a time,” she says. “If the pet is under six months, it’s recommended [they stay in their carrier] no longer than four to five hours.”

How can I make my pet comfortable and at ease in a carrier?

An easy way to keep pets happy in their carriers is to drop in a few treats and toys. It’s also wise to spend a few weeks getting your pet used to their carrier before you travel. “Leave the pet carrier out in your home or apartment with the door open and make sure there is a comfy blanket inside,” Dr. Hohenhaus says. “Every day put a few treats in there and it will be much easier to load your pet in the carrier.”

What should I put in a carrier?

As mentioned above, you can’t go wrong with small treats and toys. Consider also throwing in a blanket your pet is familiar with, a shirt that carries your scent, and extra padding if the bottom of the carrier is thin or hard. As far as bowls of food and water go, Dr. Summers suggests keeping those out of the carrier.

“There already is not a lot of space, and often, it can create more of a mess inside the carrier that the pet has to be in,” she says. “If [water] is in the form of a water bottle, like for a hamster, and the pet is acclimated to using it, that is okay, but typically I find it is best to just let them drink a little right before the flight, then offer them food and water as soon as the flight is over.”

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