The type of carrier you have for your dog may greatly affect his desire to get into it and his comfort while traveling. Dogs unhappy about their surroundings in a car or other moving vehicle may howl, bark, experience stress and be generally miserable. If you must take your dog to the veterinarian, the stress experienced from the trip to the veterinarian's office may raise his pulse and breathing rate and may even result in fear and anxiety.
The type of carrier also may affect how easily you are able to transport your dog. When purchasing a carrier, give careful consideration to your needs and those of your dog.
One of the most important considerations is the size of the carrier. Is
it large enough for your dog? Squeezing big Ben into a carrier that was
made for tiny Tim will reduce Ben's desire to travel. If you adopted a
cute little puppy, consider getting a carrier that will accommodate him
as an adult rather than a small carrier that you will have to replace in
a year or two. In addition, all carriers must have a few standard features.
- Ventilation. Any dog, but especially one that is stressed by traveling, needs to have the flow of air through the carrier to accommodate what may be an increased breathing rate. Most carriers have vents on at least three sides to allow ample air to pass through. If your trip is lengthy or if your dog is shipped in the cargo hold of an airplane, adequate ventilation is a must. Another important feature for those long trips is an attached bowl for water so your dog doesn't become dehydrated.
- Security. When selecting a carrier, make certain it can be latched securely. Dial latch systems or pinch latches don't accidentally come loose. This is especially important if your dog is traveling by airplane. If the carrier comes in two parts, a top and a bottom, make sure that whatever prongs fasten the two parts together are strong enough to hold if the carrier is jostled. Metal nuts and bolts are typically stronger than plastic and less likely to break.
- Hard-sided vs soft-sided construction. Hard-sided carriers are required for all cargo airline transportation. The size depends on whether your dog is being shipped in the cargo hold or under the seat in front of you in the passenger compartment. Before transporting a dog via airplane, contact the airlines for their carrier specifications. Animals must be scheduled ahead of time, so don't wait until you must fly and assume that you can just carry your dog on board as luggage.
Soft-sided carriers (only available for small dogs) are more likely to soften any blow to your dog from sliding or jostling during a trip, but they also may have less ventilation and less room to move around. In warm weather, a soft-sided carrier may be too warm. On short trips, such as to the veterinarian's office, a soft-sided carrier may be fine for your small dog and easier for you to handle.
A soft-sided carrier is difficult to clean if your dog has a potty-accident while being transported. Soft-sided carriers usually come with straps that can be positioned around your neck or over your shoulder. Avoid backpack-style carriers or those that allow the pet's head to extend out the top. Dogs should be observed rather than be carried behind one's back, and they can easily escape carriers that don't close completely.
- Human considerations. Some carrier features are intended to appeal to the human rather than the animal, so take into consideration what your needs are as well as those of your dog. Cost may be a consideration for you. Carriers of all sizes come in all price ranges. If you are never going to transport your dog via airplane or take him on a long trip, a less expensive carrier may do just fine. If you have limited space to store a carrier, check out collapsible or fold-away types. If you have trouble lifting a carrier, especially with your dog in it, buy a carrier with wheels and a pull-strap so you can roll him where he needs to go. For very large dogs, appropriately sized carriers may not be available.