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Puppy tested: Two paws up for the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier

Oct. 23, 2022
13 min read
brown puppy sleeping in pet carrier
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  • The right pet carrier is airline approved and keeps your fur baby safe and comfortable.
  • Ideal carriers are durable and have removable, washable liners that easily deal with "accidents."
  • Sherpa's Guaranteed On Board program pays you back if you're denied boarding with your pet.

In the past four years, I've brought two puppies home to Florida from their birthplace in Michigan. In both cases, I used Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carriers to get them from A to B. Like any expectant mother, I wasn't sure what products would be best for my little one. I did a ton of research and ended up buying this model due to reviews from other pet owners.

I was a little obsessive though and worried about whether or not this carrier would fit on our American Airlines flights. For that reason, I actually bought a medium (brown, about $39.99) and large (black, about $77) bag. We packed one as our carry-on and the other was reserved for a puppy on the return trip. We figured if the large bag didn't fit under the seat in front of us, we could quickly swap the contents of the bags and stow the medium (with puppy) under the seat instead.

In the end, our 7.9-pound bearded collie puppy could have fit in a small Sherpa bag. She had room to spare in the medium-size carrier but I'm glad I also bought the large — just in case.

Here's what you need to know about the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier.

A medium-size Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier tethered to a TravelPro Crew Versa carry-on bag. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Top pet carrier attributes

A medium-size Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier under a seat in the first-class cabin of a domestic American Airlines flight. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Before we evaluate this specific pet carrier, it's important to discuss what makes a great carrier in the first place. A lot of that has to do with the bag's destiny. Do you plan to fly with your pet or is this just for visits to the vet or heading to a friend's house for a long weekend?

I needed a flight-approved carrier that would fit under the seat in front of me. I couldn't take a chance on a carrier that would be rejected by the airline. My puppy was growing fast and I needed to get her home before she "sized out" of the pet carrier/flight option.

A great pet carrier ...

... is well-designed with multiple ways to get your pet in and out of the carrier. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY
... is sized appropriately for your pet, which should be able to easily stand up and turn around in the bag. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY
... is outfitted with openings and mesh "windows" for ventilation so your pet gets plenty of oxygen during the trip. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY
... is flexible so it can contour to the under-seat area of an aircraft when necessary while still proving a safe environment for your pet. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY
... is comfortable to carry with multiple handles and straps, including a luggage strap to tether it to your carry-on or checked bag. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY
... is easy to clean with removable, washable liners. Face facts: Travel can be stressful, which can result in "accidents." ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Related: What you need to know about traveling with dogs on a plane

Sherpa pays you back for denied boarding

Here's the No. 1 reason to love Sherpa pet carriers: the company's Guaranteed On Board program. If you follow the guidelines and are turned away from your flight due to your pet carrier, Sherpa's parent company Worldwise will refund the cost of your flight and airline pet fee. This is only valid on U.S. domestic flights, Canadian domestic flights and flights between the U.S. and Canada. And, the bag you use must be one that's covered as part of this program.

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Airlines like Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, United and WestJet participate in the program that ensures your trip — with your Sherpa pet carrier — will be hassle-free. Fill out a form, print it and take it with you on your flights (one form for each flight). If you are denied boarding, ask the gate agent to sign the form and include the reason for denied boarding. Then submit the claim to Sherpa. If the bag itself is the reason you were denied boarding, and the aircraft is guaranteed, you'll be reimbursed for your flight and airline pet fee.

Sherpa pet carriers that are eligible for the Guaranteed On Board program

AirlineSmallMediumLarge
*Air CanadaSee * below.See * below.NO
Alaska AirlinesYESNONO
American AirlinesYESYESNO
*Delta Air LinesSee * below.See * below.NO
FrontierYESNONO
SouthwestYESNONO
WestJetYESNONO
United AirlinesYESYESNO

*Air Canada Note: Small and medium carriers are not guaranteed on the airline's Boeing 789, 788, 777-300ER and 777-200LR aircraft.

*Delta Note: Due to changes in Delta's fleet, not all Sherpa carriers can be accommodated on all of the airline's aircraft. See this PDF for a list of carriers that work for each aircraft type.

Read about pet policies for flying with your pet

Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier features

Here are a few features of the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier that I appreciate.

Carrier size

This particular model comes in three sizes and can accommodate all sorts of pets from dogs to cats to bunnies and more.

  • Small: For pets up to 13" long x 7.5" high and up to 8 pounds.
  • Bag dimensions: 15" long x 10" wide x 8.5" high.
  • Medium: For pets up to 16" long x 10" high and up to 16 pounds.
  • Bag dimensions: 17" long x 11" wide x 10.5" high.
  • Large: For pets up to 18" long x 11" high and up to 22 pounds.
  • Bag dimensions: 19" long x 11.75" wide x 11.5" high.

While the Guaranteed On Board program only covers the small and medium versions in certain instances, the large will fit under the seat on some aircraft. We tested it on an American Airlines flight in domestic first class and it did fit with some squishing since the large is only 1 inch taller than the medium.

Rubber feet

Rubber feet keep the bottom of the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier from touching the dirty floor. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Four rubber feet on the bottom of the bag keep it elevated off the ground. This is a nice feature so if you're outside in the rain and need to put the bag down, the floor of the carrier won't get wet or dirty.

Removable stabilizer and washable liner

Close-up of the bag's removable, washable liner. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Even if it gets wet, the water-resistant polyester fabric protects the bag's precious cargo. There is also a removable stabilizing board covered in the same material at the bottom of the bag. This provides some much-needed structure to the bag and also acts as a barrier for any liquid coming from either direction.

Velcro strips on the bag's stabilizing board are used to affix the removable and washable liner that comes with the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier. It's soft on one side — like a plush toy — and waterproof on the other. I bought a two-pack of liner replacements (about $15) and carried them with me on my flight — just in case. They wash and dry just fine.

Luggage strap

The luggage strap is strong and secure. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

I'll admit that carrying the pet carrier via the shoulder strap was a bit cumbersome but that's true of any hand-held pet carrier. My puppy was wiggling around in the bag and that meant the center of gravity kept moving. I ended up putting one arm around the bag to keep it more steady.

A better approach is to tether the carrier to your carry-on or checked bag. A handy luggage strap is on the carrier for this purpose. The small- and medium-size carriers fit very well on a 21-inch carry-on bag. Tethering works better if your carry-on bag is a spinner so your pet won't be at an angle when in motion (the way it would be with a two-wheeler).

Large Sherpa pet carrier on a carry-on bag. It extends a bit... but watch out for your bag tipping. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

The large size does hang over the sides a bit but your carry-on will provide enough support. If you're using a large carrier and your pet is on the upper weight limit for the bag, just hold tight to your luggage since the addition of the carrier may make your bag prone to tipping.

Roomy, zippered pocket

The zippered end pocket is roomy and water resistant so you can store your pet's health certificate or other documents here. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

You'll find a nice zippered pouch at one end of the bag. (The other end of the bag can be unzippered for an additional entrance/exit for your pet.) An average-size guidebook fits in the pocket. And, since the construction is made of waterproof material, you can feel secure storing your pet's health certificates and other documents here, too.

Heavy-duty snaps, zippers, straps, D-rings and detachable swivel clasps

I was impressed by the quality of the materials used to make this bag. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

All of the zippers on the bag are heavy duty. They were solid enough on zip-up to confirm my suspicion that a puppy or kitty wouldn't be able to unzip the bag from within. (If you've ever had a "Houdini" pet, you understand why this thought crossed my mind.)

The straps themselves are wide with leather details where they meet the clasps. The clasps are also detachable and swivel, giving you the utmost flexibility as you move throughout the airport or train station.

Soft, quilted sides and top

The bag is designed with soft, padded sides and a top with a quilted design. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Related: The best airlines for pets in the US

Bottom line

When it comes to selecting a pet carrier, the most important thing is that it comfortably accommodates your pet as you travel in the car; on the subway, bus or train; or in flight. If you're flying, it's essential that the carrier is not only sized for your fuzzy friend but also fits under the seat in front of you. If you've ever flown with a new pet carrier, you've felt that trepidation in the pit of your stomach right before the moment of truth: Does the bag fit easily under the seat? Sherpa's Guaranteed On Board program helps eliminate that stress.

For the price (about $40 for the medium), the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier is a well-designed and well-made product. It got the stamp of approval from both of my puppies. I hope it fits the bill for your pet, too.

If the Sherpa Original Deluxe pet carrier isn't the right option for your pet, you can also consider:

Featured image by ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees