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Can I Carry a Small Dog in a Handbag? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Keri-Beth Clur

By Keri-Beth Clur

Dog In Airplane Carrier

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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After models carrying dogs in purses hit the runway in Hollywood in the 2000s, it became a fashion trend that blew up amongst celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Jessica Simpson, who were rarely seen without a dog’s head sticking out of their handbags. When celebrities jump onto a new trend, many fans and followers do the same. While carrying your small dog in your handbag is practical, it’s not recommended.

Carrying your small dog in your handbag can be harmful because it hasn’t been designed to accommodate dogs. The weight limit and materials used for your handbag are typically suitable for small, day-to-day items but not for a pet that needs good airflow and plenty of room to move about. Before placing your dog inside your handbag and hitting the streets, let’s unpack why people often use their handbags and whether there are risks around this popular trend.

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The Advantages of Carrying a Small Dog in a Handbag

There are a few reasons why people carry their small dogs in their handbags. The first is to keep up with the fashion trend but more commonly because it’s convenient. Most women have a handbag large enough to fit a small dog into and, therefore, don’t see the necessity of buying a dog carrier.

People also tend to use their handbags for carrying their dogs when they go into malls and restaurants. They won’t have to worry about their dog being trampled or getting into trouble, and they’re often able to sneak them into areas where pets typically wouldn’t be welcomed.

Handbags become useful when people need to walk long distances with their dogs. When their dog becomes too tired to continue walking, they’re able to pick them up, carry them, and keep their hands free to do other tasks or carry other items. The same is true for senior dogs that no longer have full mobility. Instead of leaving them at home alone, dog owners may choose to use their handbags to get them out of the house without needing to walk them on a leash, which might be too uncomfortable for them.

It can also be used to keep pups warm during winter. Small dogs feel the cold more intensely than larger dogs, especially if they have short or thin coats. Placing a dog into a handbag will stop the cold wind from blowing against them and allow them to curl up and keep warm.

Although these might be advantages for the dog owner, they’re not all beneficial to the dog.

Cute chihuahua inside a bag on a bike
Image Credit: Annette Shaff, Shutterstock

The Risks of Carrying a Small Dog in a Handbag

Unfortunately, many people think that carrying their dog in their handbag is the same as carrying them in a dog carrier. But it’s not. Handbags aren’t designed for dogs, and the materials the handbag is made from can cause an allergic reaction in the dog.

If your handbag isn’t made of breathable fabric, it can be a suffocation risk. Once zipped up, little airflow will move throughout the bag, and your dog may struggle to breathe. The risk of overheating is also a factor to consider. Limited space, little oxygen, and overheating can cause stress in your dog without you even realizing it, which can affect their health negatively.

A handbag is typically used to carry around items you may need throughout the day. These items often include keys, lipstick, tampons, gum, sanitizer, medication, chocolate, and coins. Not only can these items be a choking hazard for your dog, but some of them are toxic to them.

Your dog needs daily exercise. A dog shouldn’t be carried around everywhere because they aren’t able to burn off their energy that way. An unexercised dog can become obese and develop behavioral issues. It’s also natural for dogs to walk and sniff their environment.

Walking your dog also encourages socialization, as they’ll be able to interact with people, children, and other dogs. A dog that is kept in a bag won’t have the experience of socializing and will feel nervous around other people and dogs, and may even begin to show signs of aggression.

It’s never too late to start training your dog to walk on a leash. They may not like it initially because they’re so used to being carried, but those natural instincts will eventually kick in, and they’ll experience a lot more freedom and happiness by walking and interacting with their environment than being restrained to a bag.

dachshund sits on pet carrier
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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A Suitable Carrier for Your Dog

There are times when it is necessary to carry your dog in a bag. It’s often part of airline protocol because they don’t want dogs running around on their flights, causing all types of problems. Using a carrier to take your dog to the vet or groomer is an easy and often safer option due to other pets being around that might be aggressive. It can even be used to transport a puppy that isn’t leash trained yet.

However, a standard handbag isn’t the right kind of bag for these situations, even though they’re small, lightweight, and easy to carry. Dog carriers might be bigger and bulkier, but they’re safer to transport your dog in because they’re comfortable and well-ventilated. When looking for a carrier for your dog, ask yourself these questions:

Is It the Correct Size and Weight?

A dog carrier that is too small for your dog is going to be very uncomfortable, and your dog is going to feel restricted and cramped up. The correct carrier bag will be big enough for your small dog to stand in and turn if they need to.

Before purchasing your dog carrier, measure your dog from their nose to their tail and from the top of their head to their paws. When you find the carrier you like, make sure that its length and height are longer than your dog by 3 inches, as this will give them the freedom they need.

Also, make sure that the carrier you get has a weight rating that is suitable for your dog.

pomeranian in a bag rides an airplane
Image Credit: nadisja, Shutterstock

Is It Secure?

You don’t want a flimsy bag that is going to collapse or snap off from the straps, as this will injure your dog. Instead, look for a good-quality carrier that is durable—it might cost a bit more, but your dog’s safety is worth the price.

Also, make sure the bag is secure enough to keep your dog inside without being able to escape. Placing your dog down only for them to dash out in a busy airport is not something you want to experience.

What Is Its Purpose?

If you plan to use the dog carrier for extra-long walks, a trip to the vet or groomer, or to keep your dog safe when driving in your car, you won’t have to stress about getting a specific type of carrier.

However, if you plan to use it to take your dog on a plane, you need to read the rules and regulations of that airline before buying the carrier, as they’re strict about the size of the bag in relation to your dog. Their requirements are necessary as they care about the safety of your dog and want to ensure they don’t feel cramped, stressed, or at risk of slipping and falling about during the flight.

It’s also important to choose a style of carrier that best suits your lifestyle or needs. Hard-sided dog carriers are an excellent choice if you want to do a lot of traveling with your dog, while soft-sided dog carriers are a better option for shorter trips around town or walking through a mall. Dog backpack carriers are useful for hiking trips because you can place them in the backpack once they become too tired or in case of injury.

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In Conclusion

It is not recommended to carry your small dog in a handbag because it’s not well-ventilated, could cause an allergic reaction in your dog, and may contain items that are harmful or toxic to them. However, dogs sometimes do need to be carried due to the cold, for their safety, transportation requirements, or because they’re too tired to keep walking. In these cases, a dog carrier will be more suitable than a handbag because it’s secure, safer, and more comfortable for your dog.

Featured Image Credit: Cameron Cross, Shutterstock

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