The 8 Best Dog Travel Crates (2021 Reviews)

Dog travel crates, also known as portable kennels, are a great way to safely travel with your pup, whether on the road, in the air, or on a trip to the vet. But with so many varieties, it can be difficult to decide which crate to buy.

To help, we reviewed hundreds of options, and thousands of verified reviews, to find the 8 best dog travel crates available now. Here’s our list:

Our Picks for the Best Dog Travel Crates

1. SportPet Dog Travel Crate With Wheels

sportpet rolling dog travel crate

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Most suitcases these days have wheels, so what about dog travel crates? This SportPet Crate is a sturdy, hard-shelled kennel complete with removable wheels for easy transportation. The model comes in six different sizes, with options for puppies all the way up to extra large breed dogs.

Key Features:

  • Hard shelled dog travel crate
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA) approved for air travel
  • Removable and lockable wheels
  • Wire ventilation holes on all sides
  • Available in six sizes, ranging from Small to XXXL

Pros:

  • Affordably priced compared to other hard shelled carriers
  • “Floor gutter” on the bottom for easy clean up of any accidents
  • Includes clip-on bowls and “Live Animal” stickers
  • Tie down holes to secure the crate base when traveling

Cons:

  • Only available in one color combination: white and grey

2. Sleepypod Air Cabin Pet Carrier

sleepypod air dog bag

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The Sleepypod Air is a highly rated soft carrier for small dogs. While made specifically to fit airline under-seat dimensions, this bag is also one of the safest options for car travel. Sleepypod is one of just three companies to be crash test certified by the Center for Pet Safety, a non-profit devoted to animal welfare.

Key Features:

  • Soft-sided travel carrier for both air and car travel
  • Made of durable nylon, a plush interior, and tear resistant mesh
  • Meets all airline and TSA requirements
  • Fits small dogs up to 17.5 pounds
  • Available in six colors, and as a mobile pet bed option

Pros:

  • One of the safest carriers available on the market
  • Includes a seat belt security strap for car travel
  • Center for Pet Safety (CPS) car crash certified
  • Collapsable design for easy storage

Cons:

  • Only suitable for small dogs that can fit under an airplane seat

3. Petmate Sky Kennel Travel Crate

petmate sky kennel

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Looking for a quality “all-around” travel crate? The Petmate Sky Kennel is your best bet. This hard shelled carrier is made out of durable plastic, reinforced steel wiring, and non-corrosive wing nuts for an extra sturdy build. It’s also IATA travel compliant for the majority of major airlines.

Key Features:

  • Hard shelled dog travel carrier made with plastic and steel wire
  • Ventilation holes on three sides for enhanced air flow
  • IATA compliant; meets requirements for most airlines (check with your specific carrier before flying)
  • Available in multiple sizes, ranging from 21-36 inches long

Pros:

  • Affordably priced relative to other carriers
  • Larger versions have a latched door mechanism for extra security
  • Includes “Live Animal” stickers, clip on bowls, and ID tags for travel
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Only available in one color
  • Hard shelled, but not as heavy duty as other options

4. Sherpa Delta Airline-Approved Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

sherpa dog travel bag

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The Sherpa Dog Bag is the official pet carrier for Delta, and meets the size requirements of all major domestic airlines as part of the “Guaranteed on Board” program. It’s highly-rated, stylish, and extra breathable with mesh construction. Sherpa is a brand that’s been around since 1989 and maintains a loyal following with many dog owners.

Key Features:

  • Soft dog carrier made for airplane travel
  • Mesh windows and fold down privacy flaps
  • Machine washable, faux lambskin liner
  • Available in three sizes
  • Fits dogs between 8-22 pounds, depending on size

Pros:

  • “Guaranteed on Board” certified; this bag meets all domestic airline dimensions
  • Locking zippers provide extra security
  • Stylish and fully collapsable design

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have as much storage as other carriers
  • Only available in one color

5. Pet Gear Dog Car Seat Carrier

petgear dog carseat carrier

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The PetGear Car Seat is a solid option for car travel with your dog. It fits snug in a standard car seat and attaches directly to your seatbelts for extra stability. Once the ride is over, you can also easily pop the seat out and use it as a carrier. Just a heads up, while the PetGear is perfect for the highway, it’s not made to fit airline dimensions.

Key Features:

  • Made for car travel, with a seatbelt loop and interior collar tether
  • Soft fleece interior is machine washable
  • Front and top zippered mesh walls
  • Fits dogs up to 20 pounds

Pros:

  • Convertible from a car seat to a dog carrier with the included shoulder strap
  • Mesh walls add breathability, fold down flaps give privacy
  • Multiple storage pockets for treats, doggy bags, or toys

Cons:

  • This carrier is made specifically for car travel, and doesn’t conform to airline travel requirements

6. Petmate Two Door, Top-Load Carrier

petmate top load travel crate

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If you’re looking for a hard carrier that gives quick access to your pup, check out the Petmate Top Load Dog Crate. It’s easy to assemble, suitable for both air cargo and highway travel, and has a versatile design that includes two separate doors.

Key Features:

  • Dog travel crate for small dogs and puppies up to 20 pounds
  • Made of hard shelled plastic and stainless steel wire
  • Fully compliant with airline and highway travel requirements
  • Available in two sizes: 19 inches and 24 inches long

Pros:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Includes both a top door and side door for quick access
  • Handle for easy transportation
  • Comes with a 1 year warranty

Cons:

  • Only made in sizes for small dogs

7. Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel

petmate ultra vari

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For those traveling with a large dog, the Petmate Ultra Vari is your top pick. This crate is big; it’s 4 feet long, almost 3 feet tall, and can handle dogs that weigh up to 125 pounds. The plastic shell on the kennel is extra heavy duty, with wire ventilation holes on all sides for increased air flow.

Key Features:

  • Extra large dog travel crate
  • Made with a heavy duty plastic shell and metal wiring
  • Meets cargo dimensions for most airlines, though check with your specific carrier before flying
  • Dimensions: 48” L x 32” W x 35” H
  • Fits dogs up to 125 pounds

Pros:

  • Wire ventilation openings on all sides for optimal air flow
  • Tie down strap holes for a secure base
  • Easy to assemble; requires no tools
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Quality and size come at a price, as it’s more expensive than other carriers

8. Henkelion TSA-Approved Soft Dog Carrier

henkelion dog bag

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The Henkelion TSA Approved Dog Carrier is another stylish choice for dogs up to 15 pounds. Where this bag shines is its versatility; three out of four sides zip open for easy accessibility and storage. It’s also airline and TSA approved for flying with your pup under the seat in front of you.

Key Features:

  • Highly-rated dog travel bag
  • Approved by the TSA and most major airlines
  • 3 zippered sides for easy access
  • Available in two sizes and five color options
  • Dimensions: 15″ L x 9″ W x 9″ H

Pros:

  • Affordably priced
  • Mesh walls provide breathability for your dog
  • Fleece padding is removable and machine washable
  • Includes a shoulder strap and carrying handles
  • Interior safety leash to connect to your dog’s collar

Cons:

  • Does not fit dimensions for Southwest Airlines
  • Larger size cannot fit inside an airline cabin

Honorable Mention: Gunner G1 Dog Crate

We also wanted to include an extra heavy-duty option as an honorable mention, as these types of crates tend to be more expensive and aren’t applicable to every dog owner.

gunner dog travel crate

The Gunner G1 is the Fort Knox of dog travel crates, and is one of only two hard-cased options to be recommended by the CPS for car crash safety (Gunner even claims that it can protect a dog in a car rollover, rear end, and frontal collision). Its shell is rotomolded, and double-walled for extra protection, and has a reinforced aluminum door. While this is the strongest option for car travel, it also comes with a hefty price tag of $600.

Pros:

  • Reinforced dog travel crate made for car travel
  • Double walled and rotomolded hard exterior for extra impact protection
  • 5-star crash test rated by the Center for Pet Safety
  • Built to withstand 4000 pounds of pressure
  • Reinforced, escape-proof aluminum door
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Very expensive at $600-$700 depending on size

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Dog Travel Crates Buying Guide

Guide provided by Marguerite Larsen

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll give you tips on how to find the best travel crate for your four-legged best friend. You’ll learn the reasons to own a portable dog kennel, as well as important sizing and airline travel requirements.

dog next to travel crate

Reasons to Buy a Travel Crate

Most people associate carriers with flying, but crates are actually a versatile product that are necessary any time you travel. Did you know, while it’s common to let dogs sit in the passenger seat or the back of a car, doing so can be dangerous? In the same way you wouldn’t let your toddler ride without a seatbelt, dogs should always be secured, ideally in a crate that’s attached to a seatbelt or other object. This is true whether you’re taking your dog on a long car trip or just a trip to the vet.

There are a few main types of crates, each designed for different travel situations. We’ll review all of them in detail below.

Types of Dog Crates and Portable Kennels

The type of crate to buy will depend mostly on the type of travel you intend to do, with some additional considerations for your dog’s size.

Hard-Sided Carriers

These are the traditional plastic, hard carriers that most people associate with travel crates. They’re durable, functional, and provide great protection for your dog. Hard carriers are especially beneficial for large dogs, any dog traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane, or for a long car ride over 6 hours. With sturdy sides and a solid base, these kinds of carriers are often more comfortable for larger dogs. They’re also more resistant to chewing damage, and most importantly, offer the most protection for dogs held in cargo holds or in the event of a car accident.

Soft-Sided Carriers

Soft-sided carriers have become more popular in recent years, particularly as it’s become common for people to take smaller dogs with them wherever they go. Soft-sided travel kennels are ideal for small and medium-sized dogs who will be stowed under an airline seat. They are also great for quick travel because they’re lightweight and easily packable.

Soft carriers aren’t necessarily good for large, heavy dogs, or for nervous travelers who may attempt to chew through mesh paneling.

Wheeled Carriers

Both hard and soft carriers can come with wheels. These are great options for heavy dogs, older dogs who shouldn’t be jostled too much, or owners who find it difficult to carry their dog for an extended period.

Reinforced Crates (IATA CR82)

Reinforced crates are a special type of hard-sided carrier made from metal or reinforced synthetic materials. These types of carriers are designed for certain breeds that may be able to chew through a standard hard-sided carrier.

Many airlines have restrictions on what breeds of dogs they will transport or the conditions upon which they will transport them. For breeds designated by the airline as “dangerous,” they may require you to use one of these special crates that has an IATA CR82 certification.

Wearable Carriers

You may have heard of babywearing before, but what about fur-babywearing? Wearable dog carriers are becoming increasingly popular among owners with small dogs. They’re great when walking through airports, but be aware that most airlines still require your dogs to be stowed under the seat during flight, which isn’t possible with a wearable carrier.

Basic Crate Safety

Whenever using a crate or portable kennel to transport your dog, make sure to follow these cardinal safety rules:

  1. Ensure a proper fit. A crate that’s too small for your dog could cause discomfort or injury.
  2. Check for missing or broken parts. Don’t use a kennel that has missing or broken zippers, latches, fasteners, or handles.
  3. Make sure your dog can’t escape by chewing through the crate or opening a latch with its paws.
  4. Always keep identification and vaccination records in a pouch on the carrier.

Crate and Kennel Sizing

One of the most important considerations for a portable travel crate is the size.

Crates are sold according to a variety of size conventions. Some under sizes ranging from “Small to Giant”, others by the International Air Travel Association (IATA) series number, and others by dimensions in inches.

However it’s sized, you’ll need to have an accurate measurement of your dog to ensure a proper fit, as this is crucial to maintain the safety of your dog while traveling.

To measure your dog, start by measuring its length, height, and width. Then add additional space to ensure they have sufficient room to stand, turn around, and lay down comfortably:

  • To Measure Length: Measure from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail and add three inches (or half the length from the elbow joint to the floor, if you want an even more accurate measurement).
  • To Measure Height: Measure from the top of the head (or tip of erect ears) to the floor and add three inches.
  • To Measure Width: Measure the width across your dog’s shoulders at the widest point and multiply by two.

iata dog container dimensions

Official minimum crate measurements for the IATA

These measurements will give the minimum internal dimensions needed to give your dog a proper fit. But in addition to these, you should also consider your dog’s weight, as many carriers have maximum weight limits.

Pro tip: if your dog is between sizes, go up a size.

What to Look For When Buying a Portable Dog Kennel

Appropriate Size

Any travel carrier should be large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If you’ll be flying, make sure it’s an airline-approved style and size (which we’ll get into below). See above for guidance on how to measure your dog for a travel crate.

Sturdy and Comfortable Handles

Make sure handles and grips are secure and unlikely to snap off or break while being carried. They should also feel comfortable for you when you’re holding them; they shouldn’t pinch or poke.

Potty Proofing

Make sure the bottom of the carrier is solid, leak-proof, and covered with something (e.g. absorbent bedding or potty pads) to absorb any accidents your dog may have during travel.

Good Air Flow

A decent travel kennel should have good ventilation on at least two sides. Some airlines require ventilation on three or four sides. As a general rule of thumb, the more sides with ventilation, the better.

Informative Labeling

Be sure there’s adequate labeling to keep your dog safe and identifiable. This is important for all travel with a dog, but especially important if your dog will be separated from you at any point, such as being checked into an airplane cargo hold. Add a “live animal” label, arrows to show the appropriate upright position, and a pocket for medical records and owner information (including name, address, and phone number).

Traveling by Air

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 2 million pets travel by air each year. With so many pets traveling, airlines have developed highly strict regulations for dog travel, including restrictions and guidelines on travel crates.

Airline Travel Crate Requirements

There’s unfortunately not a uniform set of guidelines for travel crates across airlines. Each airline has its own set of regulations for both in-cabin pets and pets being transported in the cargo hold. Note: Due to COVID-19, you should check your airline’s updated policy, as many have restricted pet air travel.

The guidelines for in-cabin travel vary widely by airline, so be sure to reference the most up-to-date regulations before booking. Below are some of the current regulations for airline approved dog carriers.

United Airlines

General information: pet travel requirements can be found at this page.

Max dimensions in the cabin: 17 in x 12 in x 7.5 in (hard-sided), 18 in x 11 in x 11 in (soft-sided)

Other notable information: Pet carrier is allowed in addition to carry-on item. No pit bull breeds in the cabin.

Delta Airlines

General information: carry-on pet information can be found here.

Dimensions in the cabin: Determined by flight, must fit completely under the seat.

Other notable information: Pet carrier counts as your carry-on item. Ventilation is required on 3 sides for domestic flights and 4 sides for international.

American Airlines

General information: pet travel requirements can be found on this page.

Dimensions in the cabin: Determined by flight, must fit completely under the seat.

Other notable information: Pet carrier counts as your carry-on item. Carrier may contain two dogs if size allowance met.

Southwest Airlines

General information: can be found on Southwest’s Traveling with Pets page.

Max dimensions in the cabin: 18.5 in x 13.5 in x 8.5 in

Other notable information: Pet carrier counts as one personal or carry-on item . No snub-nosed breeds or mixes as checked cargo (see a complete list on their website).

The best type of crate to buy for air travel depends on where your dog will be held. If you’re carrying them with you inside the cabin, soft-sided carriers are the best as they’re more comfortable for small dogs and easily stow-able. If you’ll be checking your pet in the cargo hold, opt for a hard-sided carrier to give your dog the most room and best protection from bumps and jostling.

Soft Sided Kennel

When purchasing a soft-sided kennel, look for:

  • “Guaranteed On Board” certification: Some brands, such as Sherpa, partner with airlines to manufacture airline-approved dog carriers. If your carrier has this certification and your pet is denied on-board entry, your flight will be refunded.
  • Expandable options: If you want to give your dog a little more room to move around, while still containing them inside their travel crate, consider investing in a kennel with expandable sides.
  • Luggage strap: Some carriers have a luggage strap on the one side that you can slip over the handles of your rolling suitcase. If you’ll be carrying additional baggage on-board, this is a great added feature as it allows you to keep one hand free.
  • A pocket for paperwork: When flying with a dog, you must have copies of their medical and vaccination records and pet registration information. Make sure your carrier has a convenient place to store this. This isn’t only beneficial for easy access through security, but is also important in locating your dog in the event you get separated.
Hard Sided Kennel

When purchasing a hard-sided kennel, look for:

  • 3-4 sides of ventilation: Most airlines have ventilation requirements. For some, ventilation is required on three sides for domestic travel, and four sides for international travel. Whatever the airline’s requirements, your dog will be more comfortable with better airflow and good ventilation.
  • No large holes or gaps: Make sure your dog can’t poke any body parts through doors or ventilation holes, otherwise the carrier may be denied.
  • For certain breeds, opt for an IATA CR82 reinforced carrier: This is a requirement for most airlines, if they even allow these breeds to fly.

Traveling by Land

Dog Car Crates: What to Look For

As discussed above, portable crates are just as important for car travel as they are for air travel. Both soft and hard-sided crates are excellent choices. Whichever option you decide on, the best dog crates for car travel are ones that can be tied down or strapped in with a seatbelt, so the crate doesn’t go flying in a crash.

If you’ll be taking your dog on long car rides, you’ll also want to look for a travel crate with comfortable bedding, so your dog can lie down and relax.

small dog inside portable kennel

Car Kennel Safety

Crates are the safest way to transport all dogs, especially small to medium-sized breeds. When traveling in the car with your dog, keep their crate in the back seat or storage area of a van/SUV, and make sure the crate is strapped in well.

The Center for Pet Safety also performs independent crash test ratings. You can check their ongoing recommendations here.

How to Help Your Dog Enjoy Their Travel Crate

Some dogs can initially be hesitant to use their carrier. If your dog gives a hard time when you try to crate them, try the following tips:

  1. Create a positive association between the dog and the crate. Reward your dog with treats and praise for getting in their crate.
  2. Before traveling, get the crate out early. Try putting treats leading up to it, as well as in the back of the crate, to encourage your dog to venture in and explore.
  3. Practice getting your dog to stay in the crate for short periods. Reward them for their success, and gradually increase to longer stretches over time.
  4. While your dog is inside the crate, try using interactive treats (such as a Kong) to keep them engaged and happy.

This short video highlights some handy strategies for easy crate training:

Other Important Travel Information

  • Before traveling, get your dog a check-up, update any vaccines, and get copies of health certifications (which are usually required for air travel and sometimes when traveling across state lines).
  • Check any travel restrictions that may affect your trip. For example, most airlines have a maximum number of dogs allowed on flights, min/max temperatures for checked dogs in cargo holds, and some states and countries have quarantine procedures.
  • Ensure your dog has proper identification: collar, leash, microchip, etc.
  • Take some of your dog’s regular food, bottled water, and any medications they may need.

Conclusion

We hope this guide has given you a solid background on dog travel crates, and the many uses of them. As discussed, there are a multitude of options to explore when traveling, whether you’re taking your dog on a quick trip to the vet, a long car ride, or are flying with them on a plane.

Both hard-sided and soft-sided carriers come in a variety of styles with added features, so the one you choose should depend on your dog and the type of travel you’re looking to do with them. If you have multiple dogs, or will be using the crate for a variety of functions, you may even want to invest in different types.

References and Additional Resources

Traveling With Dogs

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/complete-guide-to-traveling-with-your-dog/

International Air Travel with Pets

https://www.state.gov/pets-and-international-travel/

Measuring Your Dog for a Travel Crate

https://www.iata.org/en/programs/cargo/live-animals/pets/

Types of Travel Carriers

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/how-to-choose-the-best-dog-carrier-for-your-canine-friend/

Travel Crate Use and Safety

https://www.petmd.com/news/view/how-relieve-pet-travel-anxiety-37157

https://www.petmd.com/dog/pet_lover/evr_multi_holiday_travel_car

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