HuggleHounds “Alpha Dog Carrier”

Photo by HuggleHounds

Best suited for: Over the shoulder carrier
Also works for: Travel bed
Quality: ★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★★

One of my favorite Seattle pet stores, All the Best, had both sizes of this carrier available when I went there a couple of days ago. I’d never seen it before, so I settled myself on the floor with a measuring tape and a notebook, and took a good look.

Here’s what I liked: The carrier is well-made, with good-quality zippers, big ventilation panels on the front side and both ends, and the very best pad I’ve ever seen in a dog carrier. It’s thick, comfortable, and has a bolstered edge on three sides. A panel on the back can, once unzipped, slip over the extended handle of a suitcase. I like, too, how the carrier’s front and top, once unzipped, lie flat and make the carrier an appealing dog bed:

The black rectangle lying flat is actually the top of the bag; just beyond it is the mesh panel from the front of the bag.

Despite these excellent features, I won’t be buying the Alpha Dog Carrier. Both sizes are really too large for in-cabin airplane use (the Medium, at 20″L x 10″W x 10″H, nearly works, but is a couple of inches too long; the Large, at 22″L x 12″W x 11.5″H, is way too long). Neither is equipped with the straps you need to secure a carrier in a car. The top of the bag, as you can see from the unzipped view, above, is solid, and I don’t like being unable to see down into a carrier from above. The bag has a couple of pockets, but the largest one is on top (where I’d prefer to see a mesh panel) and the other, small one is, oddly, in the bottom of the bag.

Amazon links:
HuggleHounds Alpha Dog Carrier (Medium)
HuggleHounds Alpha Dog Carrier (Large)

Milk & Pepper “Elite Kaba”

Best suited for: Over the shoulder carrier
Also works for:
Quality: ★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★

Milk & Pepper is a French company that makes dog clothing and accessories. I’ve never seen their products in the U.S., but according to the M&P website (click on “Stores”), they’re available in Northern California and New York. We found Chloe’s carrier in Paris at the BHV La Niche, among a line-up of all-European carriers.

The fact is, Chloe absolutely does not need any more carriers. At the moment I was contemplating the carrier selection at BHV La Niche, I had a pet sling rolled up in my purse, and Chloe’s messenger bag and large SturdiBag were stacked in our rental apartment (not to mention the, what, five additional carriers waiting for her back at home). Here’s another fact, though: I cannot pass up a good-looking carrier, and Milk & Pepper’s “Elite Kaba” is both good-looking and well-made.

It comes in two sizes, Medium (about 15″L x 10″H x 7″W) and Large (about 17.5″L x 13″H x 9″W). Chloe fits comfortably in the Large. Hers is made of heavy grey felt (a 50/50 wool blend) with a black nylon lining and black leather-like trim. As you can see, it’s open on both ends, and a large flap with a thumb-latch covers the top. More serious encouragement to stay put is provided by a built-in tether. The bottom is slightly padded; I keep trying to remember to put a handtowel on the bottom for more comfort.

BHV La Niche only had the winter version (the grey felt that we bought), but another store we visited carried M&P’s summer versions of the same bag: “Smart Kaba” (a grey cotton twill) and “City Kaba” (a seriously tempting khaki twill printed with images of famous monuments/buildings). You can see all of these bags by visiting M&P’s site and clicking on “Winter Collection” and “Summer Collection” and scrolling a couple of pages to the right.

Once we bought the “Elite Kaba,” it got a lot of use. By the end of our two-week trip, the felt was pilling slightly, but only slightly. It seems like a durable bag, and Chloe likes being able to observe the world from the open ends. It may be of somewhat less use in the U.S., where Chloe either walks on her own paws or is completely contained in her messenger bag — that said, though, I brought her in it yesterday to the pictured yarn store, Seattle’s Acorn Street Shop. (It’s a small shop, but it’s packed to the rafters with yarn and knitting supplies; I like shopping there all the more now that I know they’re dog-friendly — complete with treats!) They would have welcomed her on a leash, but it was easier for me to have her over my shoulder.

One last note: I was already carrying a purse in Paris (well, kind of — it was Tom Bihn’s small “Imago” messenger bag), and I didn’t want to have two things slung over my shoulder, so when Chloe wasn’t using her new carrier, I stuck my purse in it and carried the M&P bag like a purse. It worked well enough in that role that the one night we had a fancy dinner, I used it as my purse (note to self: It looked good, but next time, pack a clutch).

Kyjen Company/Outward Hound “Eco Carrier”

Photo by Kyjen Company

Best suited for: Over the shoulder carrier
Also works for:
Quality: ★★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★

The Eco Carrier is an extremely affordable, collapsible carrier that could be carried for emergency use (its bottom is a stiff, padded board measuring 14″ x 7.5″, so it would need to be carried in a backpack/messenger bag or a substantial purse). I was given this carrier at this summer’s BlogPaws conference — it was the “bag” part of the swag bags we received.

I like it because it’s cheap (just under $10) but sturdy, and because the four panels sewn around the opening can be brought together with Velcro strips to enclose your pet — which is a typical requirement on pet-friendly public transit systems. Alternatively, you can leave the panel on the shorter end disengaged, so your pet’s head can stick out. There are no ventilation panels, but even when all of the Velcro strips are engaged, gaps in the structure allow your pet plenty of air. They would also allow a small pet to escape, if she was motivated to, but there is a built-in strap and clip to attach to your pet’s collar.

The bottom of the Eco Carrier is stiffened with a removable, padded board. There is no way to clean it, other than by spot-cleaning. Given how inexpensive the carrier is, Kyjen probably assumes that you will simply choose to replace a badly-soiled carrier with a new one.

The carrier measures 14.5″ long by 8.5″ wide, and is either 10″ tall (with the top open) or 9″ tall (with the enclosing panels velcroed together). Although Kyjen says that it will work for “animals up to 25 lbs.,” Chloe (at 13 lbs.) completely filled the carrier, to the point where the Velcro strips did not meet over her shoulders and head. I believe that this is a carrier best suited for dogs 10 lbs. and under.

Amazon link:
Kyjen Outward Hound Eco Lightweight Carrier, Swirl

Ferret carrier idea

During the BlogPaws pet bloggers conference, I met the ferret half of the Snotface & Twiggy team, and of course asked about travel carriers for ferrets. Snotface’s owner told me that normal pet carriers don’t work for him — he’s a digger, and he’s figured zippers out — so she’s  modified a lidded plastic hanging file holder, like the kind you’d get at Office Depot, to serve as his carrier. She’s drilled several holes in its sides — big enough for his head to poke out, but not so big that his body can follow — and its sturdy bottom resists digging attempts.

It works well as a car carrier, she says. They haven’t flown yet together, but it seems to me that when they do, they could create a workable in-cabin carrier by modifying a smaller, lidded, plastic storage container in the same way. Places like The Container Store and Michaels and Lowe’s sell tool-box type carriers for craft/hobby/tool storage that might work well — the handle on the lid and the sturdy closure clips would both be useful features.

Pet Gear World Traveler wheeled carrier

Photo by Pet Gear

Best suited for: In-cabin airplane carrier
Also works for: Over the shoulder carrier, car carrier
Quality: ★★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★★

As you know, I’ve long been searching for a good wheeled dog carrier that will work for in-cabin plane travel. I own one — the Creature Leisure Pet Pilot XL — but it’s just a hair too small for Chloe. I was excited, therefore, when a reader asked me what I thought of Pet Gear’s “World Traveler” carrier: It sounded like it was about the right size, and it had wheels. I was intrigued enough to order the bag and check it out in person.

The verdict is: Almost, but not quite. It’s a fairly attractive bag, and it’s not cheesily-made. It depends, structurally, on one very long zipper, which is annoyingly balky but seems substantial enough to do its job. The point of the long zipper is that between uses, the carrier can be collapsed into a flat packet. It doesn’t have a mesh panel on top — always a pet peeve of mine — but it does have sizeable mesh panels on all other sides. One effect of that? There are only two tiny pockets, located on one of the ends. Between the two pockets is a single, short vertical strap, through which a seatbelt can pass. I prefer a carrier with at least two seatbelt straps, and on the long end, so that your dog is secured at two points to your car.

The dimensions provided on Amazon are nearly the same (in fact, a hair smaller) as those for Chloe’s SturdiBag: 18″L x 11″W x 11.5″H. In actuality, the bag is bigger. The internal space is 11″H; overall, including the wheels on the bottom, the bag is 13″ tall, 18″ long, and 12″ wide. [Please note that it also comes in a size Small; Amazon’s dimensions for the smaller bag are 15″L x 9.5″W x 10.3″H.]

Although it’s about the same size as the large SturdiBag (it’s an inch taller), it doesn’t compress like its competitor. It would have to rest on its side under your seat, which would mean you’d have to de-Velcro the base pad and move it around to the side (the sides are, like I say, mesh panels — not padded), or carry some additional padding with you. However, the stiffness of the ends and the bottom mean that it cannot compress, even lying on its side, to fit in a space shorter than 11″ tall — and too many airlines have spaces that are shorter than that. You could turn the bag around and poke it in, on its side, top first (so the fattest, bottom end was pointing towards you) — that way, you could jam most of it into a space that was 10″ tall but no shorter. But then, of course, none of the mesh panels would be facing you, which I think would be pretty horrifying for your dog, even just for takeoff and landing.

This carrier’s shoulder strap doubles as its handle — you remove the strap, then clip both of its ends to a loop on one end of the bag. The resulting structure rolls, but at a great distance behind you (which is awkward in a crowded airport); it’s difficult to steer; and it wants to topple over. On balance, I don’t think the wheels make up for this bag’s drawbacks.

Amazon link:
Pet Gear World Traveler Carrier

ProSelect Bolt-On Coop Cup (for wire crates)

Photo by ProSelect

I bought this crate bowl on-line, from Amazon, after I realized that the Lixit crate bowl I owned was plastic (many dogs are allergic to plastic bowls, and I don’t want to find out that Chloe is one of them). It arrived today, and I’ve just installed it. It’s a straightforward object: The bowl is held in a steel ring welded to a small rectangular plate, which is attached to your dog’s crate by a wing-nut, exerting pressure on another rectangular plate. While the bowl itself is stainless steel, the supporting steel ring and attachment apparatus are black powder-coated steel.

It’s inexpensive, easy to install, and I don’t believe that Chloe will have any interest in chewing on the empty steel ring (when the bowl is absent). She could, I suppose, knock the bowl up and out of its supporting ring (the bowl only rests in the ring), but I’ve positioned the apparatus low enough on her crate that she’d really have to try before she succeeded.

Please note that I chose an 8 oz. bowl for her. That turns out to be quite a small bowl, but she’s a small dog, and we only leave her in her crate for short periods of time. If you’d prefer a larger crate bowl, ProSelect offers the same bowl in a 16-oz. size.

Amazon links:
ProSelect 8-oz. Stainless Steel Coop Cup
ProSelect 16-oz. Stainless Steel Coop Cup

Lixit Carrier Cage Crock (for wire crates)

Chloe and her Lixit crate bowl

I found this crate bowl at Petco, and I like it because it came in a small (10 oz.) size (it also comes in a 20 oz. size), it was inexpensive, and it fastens easily and solidly to a wire crate. The bowl fits onto a notch in the holder and you turn the bowl to secure it — simple, straightforward, and impossible (or at least hard!) to dislodge. I suppose that a bored or motivated dog could chew on the exposed base, if the bowl weren’t in place, but Chloe has never shown any interest in doing so.

The only problem with this bowl — and I only thought of it on the way home, after I’d made my purchase — is that it’s plastic. Some dogs are allergic to plastic bowls (our cats certainly were), so if I’d been thinking, I would have passed this bowl up. As it is, I plan to use it as Chloe’s travel crate bowl. I’ll pack it in her suitcase, and it’ll be the crate bowl she uses when we’re on the road. I’ll keep an eye on her, though, and if it looks like she’s developing an allergy, I’ll replace it with a stainless steel crate bowl.

Please note that Lixit also makes a crate bowl for soft-sided crates. I have not tried that product out, but would like to know what you think of it!

Amazon links:

Fundle Ultimate Pet Sling

Chloe in a large Fundle sling

Best suited for: Over the shoulder carrier, stealth transport
Also works for:
Quality: ★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★★

Longer ago than I’d like to admit, a reader wrote to me and asked what I thought of the Fundle pet carrier. She wanted a stealth bag for her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but thought that the PetEgo messenger bag I’ve recommended would be too big for her (she’s petite, and she has some neck/back problems). I’m on it, I told her, and I sent away for a large Fundle carrier (the carrier is available in Mini, Standard and Large).

As you can see from the picture, it too is an over-the-shoulder carrier. Its particular claims to fame include its shape, which cleverly supports your dog in a comfortable sitting posture, and a heavily-padded rim on which she can rest her chin. Chloe did indeed seem to find it comfortable to sit/lie in the carrier, with her chest fully supported by the sloping bottom of the bag. That feature gives this carrier a distinct advantage over, for example, her Wagwear tote.

I don’t know what she thought of the cushioned pads around the rim. They are somewhat rigid, and although they curved out of the way when I left the carrier open on top, when the stealth cover was zipped into place they pressed closely around Chloe’s face. She didn’t like that at all. A smaller dog might feel less trapped by the cover (which does have a nice ventilation panel, providing air and some visibility). Chloe, however, is at the upper limit of what even the large-sized bag will hold. To fit in the bag, she pretty much had to have her neck and head poking out the top.

It’s an effective stealth bag with the cover zipped in place, especially in black. I like the four generous outside pockets, and I like how it’s made. It’s also quite light. Unfortunately, although the shoulder strap is nicely padded, the padded area is fixed in place — so if you (like me) are tall and have to extend the strap to its longest length, the padded area shifts off your shoulder and hangs uselessly behind your back.

If you are petite and your dog weighs, say, 10 lbs. or under, this is a carrier to consider. You’ll have to get her accustomed to the zipped cover over time — I would not count on your dog taking to it straight out of the box. For a dog Chloe’s size, I still prefer the PetEgo messenger bag.

BICE WalkyBasket bike carrier

Photo by BICE

Best suited for: Bike carrier
Also works for: Over the shoulder carrier
Quality: ★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★

The WalkyBasket is, relatively speaking, a large carrier (15.7Lx13Wx10H). That’s good news for me, because Chloe’s a big small dog. The carrier is made of a sturdy PVC fabric, and it’s nicely put together. It has several outer pockets, two of which will be occupied with the optional zip-in mesh top and the rain cover. Still, you’ll have room in the others for a water bottle and some treats and a leash. There is a tether to attach to your dog’s harness, and the bottom of the carrier is lightly-padded and removable for cleaning.

The zip-in mesh top is presumably meant to keep your dog contained, but it’s very lightweight. The tether is a more reliable restraint. The rain cover, by contrast, is very sturdy — if it covers the carrier completely, it’s hard to see where your dog’s air would come from. Happily, you can adjust it so it leaves a section of the top open, like pushing a shower cap to one side of your head (consider carrying a couple of clothespins or binder clips to ensure that the cover stays on the carrier and doesn’t get popped off by its elastic).

The WalkyBasket would, I think, be a good choice for someone who wants to travel somewhere else and then go biking. The sides of the carrier are unstructured, so the carrier collapses into a packable oval about 2″ deep. It comes with a shoulder strap, and once the carrier is unhooked from the bike, it functions well as an over-the-shoulder carrier. It mounts to a bicycle with a KLICKfix handlebar adapter, which is pretty easy to install (remember to bring a Phillips-head screwdriver with you). Please note that KLICKfix also makes an extender that attaches to your seat post; I prefer to have my dog in front of me on a bike, but the extender might be a good option if you need to carry two dogs.

Sleepypod Air pet carrier

Best suited for: In-cabin airplane carrier
Also works for: Over the shoulder carrier, car carrier, travel bed
Quality: ★★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★

This is an unpaid and unsolicited review of Sleepypod’s new Air pet carrier. Sleepypod sent me a carrier, at my request, to try out and review. The company has also generously given me a second, unused Air carrier to give away to one lucky reader. The giveaway will start on Monday, March 29th, and will be co-hosted by my other blog, Dog Jaunt, and by Edie Jarolim’s blog Will My Dog Hate Me. Check back on Monday to learn how to enter!

Sleepypod first caught my attention with a combination pet bed/carrier (the “Sleepypod”) that I praised in one of Dog Jaunt’s first posts. When I learned last fall that the company was introducing a carrier specifically designed to work for in-cabin pets (the “Air”), I was intrigued — and asked for a sample to review.

We’ve now used the Sleepypod Air on two separate trips involving several flights on different kinds of planes. It’s an outstanding carrier in ways that I’ll describe below, but it’s revolutionary in one particular way: It’s designed to compress in length from 22″ to 16″. A carrier’s length is always its Achilles heel — you want a long carrier so that your dog has room to sprawl, but U.S. airlines typically require your carrier to be only 16-19″ long (depending on the airline). The Sleepypod Air’s ends and interior padding are structured so that they can be folded up to fit the carrier lengthwise in a 16″ space (if you only fold one end up, it fits in a 19″ space). Once the flight is underway, you can pull the carrier out and turn it around under your legs — the ends fall back down, giving your dog an unusually large amount of room to maneuver.

Photo by Sleepypod

Please note that you can still only bring a small dog onboard — the carrier is just 10.5″ tall and 10.5″ wide — but she’ll have room to stretch, and that’s rare.

Here’s what we like: The carrier is made of a sturdy ballistic nylon and lined with a thick, easily-cleaned nylon. The zipper runs completely around the perimeter of the all-mesh top and ends, allowing the carrier to be collapsed when it’s not in use and allowing the top to be flipped off at the end of a journey, so the sides and bottom can function as a comfortable travel bed. Because the top and ends are all mesh, your dog has plenty of ventilation and you can see her easily from above (there are no privacy panels, so if your pet prefers cavelike solitude, this may not be the carrier for her). If you want to have the carrier mostly closed, but have one of the ends open, each end flap has a snap that can attach to the bottom of the centrally-located handle.

The bottom pad is cushy and washable. If you’re using the carrier as a travel bed for a pet you really want to pamper, you can buy a warming pad from Sleepypod that slips into the carrier’s bottom pad. But what about the cord (leading to either a car adapter or a wall adapter)? Sleepypod has positioned a large grommet in a bottom corner of the carrier, through which the cord threads. Genius!

There is a long pocket on one of the sides — there’s one on the other side, too, but it’s also the slot through which your suitcase handle passes, so I tend not to keep anything on that side. The handle and shoulder strap are both padded and comfortable. There is a harness tether — in another clever move, you can unclip it from the carrier if you prefer (most tethers are not removable, and cry out to be chewed off by a bored dog). The carrier is quite light (4 lbs.), which turned out to be a blessing — Chloe was weighed for the first time in the Air carrier, and easily came in under Jet Blue’s 20 lb. maximum.

Here’s what we didn’t like: Theoretically, it’s not a problem that there’s no dedicated access zipper, since you can position the existing zippers at the top of the carrier and sneak your hand in between them when you need to pat your pup. In practice, that doesn’t work so well, because the edges of the carrier components are fairly rigid. Another side effect of the carrier components being so structured is that this carrier doesn’t easily lose height(this is one place where Chloe’s SturdiProducts bag comes out ahead).

When I looked at Sleepypod’s drawings of the Air carrier, I got the impression that when you wanted to shorten the bag, the ends flipped upand stayed up. In fact, they don’t. They flip up, but only as long as you’re applying pressure to them (as you would be when you’re wedging your dog’s carrier under your seat). It’s not immediately obvious, therefore, that the bag has the ability to be shorter. With that in mind, I’ve kept the explanatory card that comes with the Air bag and tucked it into the side pocket, so that if a ticket or gate agent is concerned about the bag’s length, I’ll have the diagrams to show them. They’re just diagrams, so they’ll work in any country.

It’s just as well that I’ve kept the explanatory card, because I need it every time I have to attach the carrier to a seat belt. Sleepypod has come up with an ingenious set of buckles that fasten the carrier securely to a seat belt, but without the diagrams, I’m lost.

Our last complaint? The carrier slips over the handle of a rolling suitcase by way of a panel on one of the long sides. Double-ended zippers at the top and bottom of the panel allow it to be a pocket when you want, and a slot when you want. So far, so normal. However, the Sleepypod Air panel is 14″ long! I assume the designers thought I’d like to have the option of having a 14″-wide pocket when the slot is not needed — and when the slot is needed, I can close the zippers tightly against the handle of my suitcase. It’s a great idea, but the zippers sometimes shift, allowing the bag to swivel around on top of the supporting suitcase. Happily, Chloe is a dog with a sunny outlook on life, and doesn’t lose sleep over sudden swoops. I suggest looking back frequently as you roll along to make sure everything’s in place.

Please note that the Air comes in five colors. I asked for a sample in Orange Dream, because I’m a total sucker for orange. As always, I recommend that you get your carrier in a dark color (Jet Black or Dark Chocolate) so that it looks as small as possible. That said, however, we took our high-visibility Orange Dream carrier on Jet Blue and Virgin America and neither airline turned a hair over the carrier’s size.

Dog Jaunt’s review policy requires me to give away freebies valued at over $50, and the Sleepypod Air has a retail value of $149.99. I can’t give the carrier I’ve been testing to a reader because it’s been thoroughly Chloe-fied by now. I don’t want to give it away, period, since I like it so much. My solution? I’m sending Sleepypod a check and adding it to Chloe’s Collection of Carriers.

Amazon link:
Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier