How to Measure Dog For Carrier [THE RIGHT WAY]

When traveling by plane with your dog, you will most certainly need a pet carrier.  If your dog is small enough to fit under a seat in the cabin, you will need a carrier that is a certain size and airline-approved. 

how to measure dog carrier
How to Measure Dog Carrier

Finding that is the easy part, but how do you know what size carrier your dog will need? Well, that entails taking certain measurements of your dog.

So, how do you measure your dog for a carrier? You will need to use a soft tape measure and get measurements for these three different dimensions of your dog: length, height, and width. 

There are ways to measure your dog that will tell you exactly how big the carrier needs to be for comfortable travel, keep reading to find them out!

Related Reading: Best Airline Approved Small Dog Carriers [REVIEWED]

Measuring Tips for Dog Carriers

1. How Long is Your Dog?

Measuring for length is really important because, if you are flying, you want your dog to be able to stretch out. Travel carriers made to fit under the cabin seats (the length allowed by airlines is usually 17 inches) are going to be snug, but they need to be able to lay down in a normal fashion.  

This will also determine if the dog will be able to ride in the cabin with you, or if they will need a hard carrier to travel in the cargo area.

If you are measuring for a home crate, your dog’s size will give you an idea of the size you need but you will be able to take some extra liberties with how big the crate can be.   

The most accurate way to measure length is to start at the nape of the neck, where the collar would go, and measure to the base of the tail.  Once you have done this, you will need to add a few inches to accommodate their head.  

If your dog has a long nose then you will add more inches to the measurement, but if you have a dog with a face like a pug then you will add less.  This will give you an accurate idea of what the carrier length will need to be for your pet. 

If your pet needs more than 17 inches in length to lay down comfortably, then you will not be able to take them in the cabin of an airplane and they will need to ride in cargo. 

However, if it is for a home crate, then you just know the smallest your crate can be for your dog to be comfortable while you are away. 

2. What is Your Dog’s Height?

Pet owner measuring his dog's height
Pet owner measuring his dog’s height

If you are hoping to take your dog on an airplane and have them ride in the cabin with you, then the carrier can’t be over 11 inches high.  The carrier has to be able to fit under the seat.

While your dog will likely be laying down the whole time, they need to be able to stand in the carrier.  If it is a tight fit, your dog won’t be comfortable and may actually become stressed out while traveling. 

If your dog is going to be hanging out in their crate while you are at work or just out of the house, then you will probably want them to be able to stand comfortably with an inch or so to spare so they aren’t rubbing their back. 

Be sure to take this into consideration when calculating the final height. This is a great place to start when trying to find the right home crate for your dog. But with home crates, you have more freedom when choosing the size for your home.

Measuring height is simple, you measure from the highest part of the shoulder down to the foot.  This will give you your dog’s base height. Add a few inches to allow for the top of the head and this will tell you how tall the carrier needs to be. 

If it needs to be more than 11 inches, then the pet cannot ride in the cabin of an airplane. If this is the case but you need to be able to take your dog on the plane, then you will have to get a  hard-sided carrier and have them ride in the cargo area.

3. How Wide is Your Dog?

When flying with your pet, if your carrier is too wide, then it won’t be able to fit under the seat.   It doesn’t just need to fit, it needs to fit comfortably because you will have a dog in the carrier.  Because of these things, it is important to measure your dog for width. 

Most airlines require your carrier to be no more than 11 inches wide at its widest point. Any more than this and you won’t be able to bring your dog with you in the cabin.

Airlines are very strict about this, so don’t wait until you get to the airport with your pup to do your measuring. 

It is imperative that you have accurate measurements prior to arrival. If your carrier or dog is too wide, then you need to either make arrangements for boarding or have a hard-sided carrier so they can ride in the cargo area.

To get an accurate width, you will need to measure the width from the widest part of the dog’s body.  That could be the shoulders or the hips, sometimes, it may be the stomach. Look at your dog, determine where the widest point is, and measure there.  

Add an inch or so to the final measurement for comfort. So if your dog measures 10 inches across the widest point, then an 11-inch carrier should be a perfect fit. 

However, if your dog measures 11 inches at the widest part, then it is not recommended to use an 11-inch carrier.  They will need a carrier that is at least 12 inches wide. Don’t be tempted to squeeze them into a carrier that is too small just to fit them in the cabin. 

Your dog won’t be comfortable and make the flight difficult by whining or trying to get out. 

This measurement will be more important when flying than for driving, or for a home crate.  If it is for a home crate, you may not even need to measure the width, but it is crucial for flying with your pet in the cabin.

How To Measure Your Dog So for Travel Crates

Determining the Right Size Dog Carrier

The size of the carrier is not only determined by the size of your dog but also by where you are going and how you are getting there. Going by car, you can be a little more flexible with how large or small the carrier is, but by plane the size limits are strict.

Especially when you want your doggie to travel in a cabin rather than in the cargo hold. 

It also matters if you are simply looking for a home crate and not traveling at all.  When using it as a home crate, the dog needs to be able to have a little more freedom to move around. Whereas if you are traveling, the dog needs to be a little bit snugger for safety purposes. 

Once you know why you need a carrier or crate, then you know the specifics you need to know and how to measure your dog.  For some crating situations, you may not need to be as specific, but for other situations, you need to be very accurate.

For air travel, if you aren’t accurate, it can result in missed flights and your doggie left behind at a boarding facility. 

measure dog for airline carrier

Final Thoughts

How do you measure your dog for a carrier? You will need to measure three different parts of your dog to determine the size of the carrier that is suitable:

  • length
  • height
  • width

If you intend to travel by airplane then keep in mind that an under the seat carrier is typically restricted to these dimensions:

  • 17 inches length
  • 11 inches height

But always check with your specific airline before traveling to ensure their policy around dog carriers.

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.