Pet Travel

Traveling with Pets: Find the Perfect Dog Carrier

Bolt the dog hanging out in his carrier

Traveling with Pets:

While visiting my family in Florida, my dog Bolt managed to unzip my purse, dig out a sealed plastic bag and open a “dog proof” medicine holder— the same medicine holder that had all his sedative for our return flight. Needless to say, the flight back to Los Angeles was horrible. Besides being delayed and having two flights cancelled, my dog was  going crazy. It was a stressful situation. At that moment I needed all the help I could get… but instead, my dog escaped.

The best image I can give you is me trying to buy pizza from an airport vendor, and seeing my dog running away— with my new, “really great” pet carrier attached to his harness! I was lucky enough to have a nice man grab him and give him back. But, putting my dog back in the carrier was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. You might be quick to shout out a “bad dog!” comment, but I was cursing thepet carrier. I had just bought it that week to ensure a safe and enjoyable flight, neither of which ended up being the case.

Your pet’s luggage may easily be more important than your own. A sturdy and reliable carrier is the difference between calmly walking around the airport and sitting in a bathroom crying because your dog won’t get back into the dang thing!

Always one for a bargain, I shopped and researched heavily before buying a carrier. I purchased a carrier for my other dog, Romeo, at a Home Goods store a while back and it turned out to be wonderful. The only problem now was the brand was nowhere to be found. Time was running out and my upcoming trip was getting closer by the day!

Having trusted Petco and their employees with other dog related advice, I again sought out their help. I ended up getting a Petco brand, mid-tier dog carrier that seemed perfect for my 11 pound Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix; more spacious than other ones but still keeping with airline guidelines, it had poles that kept the top from falling in, a hard bottom, and appeared to be very sturdy.

Unfortunately, most of the things I thought would be great features of the bag turned out to be awful. The poles ended up poking through the plastic of the bag, and it looked like I was bringing a scary metal weapon onboard with me (not fun in these air security times, let me tell you!). The zipper completely broke off the carrier, so Bolt was able to open it and it wouldn’t close back. I understand that all bags are subject to wear-and-tear and have a shelf life, but on the second trip?! He had been in the bag maybe 7 hours, and already it’s breaking apart left and right.

Between what failed and what worked well with my latest bag, I have a few tips and suggestions for finding the perfect carrier for your pooch.

  • Strong hardware is a must.  Make sure all the zippers, buttons and closures do exactly that— zip, button and close with ease.
  • No metal poles! Doesn’t make for a fun trip through airport security.
  • A strong and sturdy bottom. Carriers that have a loose bottom were not comfortable for my dog, as he was bouncing around as I walked.
  • A sealable pocket for treats and paperwork.  My less-than-stellar bag had a Velcro closure and didn’t stay closed.
  • Measure your pet and make sure they’ll be comfortable in the bag. Some bags say they can hold up to a certain weight, but if your pet is long (like Bolt) he’ll need a longer carrier.

Even though I had a crazy pet travel adventure, it was certainly a learning experience! I would absolutely take my dog on an airplane with me again— just with a new and improved carrier!  Good luck on your adventure!

sleepy dog in his carrier!