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The day has come and your dreams have come true. A chubby ball of fluffy cuteness is squirming in your arms and licking your face with that tiny pink tongue. You’ve pulled the plug and brought a puppy home.
There’s a pyramid of supplies you’ve no doubt already bought for your new fur baby. Amidst the toys, food, and blankets, one of the most important products you’ll need to invest in is some sort of confinement area where your puppy can safely play and stay out of trouble.
This is where the puppy playpen comes in.
Contents & Quick Navigation
How to Use a Playpen for Puppies?
Let’s start with answering the most common question first: why should you use a puppy playpen in the first place?
In a nutshell, a playpen is suitable because it allows pups to burn energy and get the exercise they need. After all, puppies have bundles of energy!
Playtime is important for them, helping develop vital social and physical skills needed for adulthood. Your pup will have room to strengthen those muscles and joints, which she won’t be able to do when lounging around in a crate.
Where should you put the playpen and what to put inside?
When your puppy is inside the play yard, ensure it is placed where she can see you and you can see her. Playpens can be used indoors or outdoors.
Setting up indoors
Puppies are curious and like to romp and chew. A playpen allows your pup to do so safely with supervision. A hard surface such as tile or wood is best to set the pen upon to avoid accidents or chewing on the carpet.
Setting up outdoors
Think about a shady spot under a tree or patio if it’s a hot day. For small dogs, if you live in an area where birds of prey such as hawks or owls are prowling, investing in a cover such as the GoGo Pet Products UV Top for added protection if you can’t fully supervise when outside.
Safe bedding options for your playpen
Avoid laying down bedding such as towels or blankets, which pose serious health risks due to chewing and swallowing.
My college roommate’s puppy ended up having emergency surgery because her digestive tract was backed up with cotton and cloth from this very situation occurring.
Instead, invest in durable bedding that is easy to clean and doesn’t come with easy-to-swallow pieces such as zippers or buttons.
The goDog Bed Bubble Bolster with Chew Guard Technology is a decent choice. It features a double mesh liner that heightens strength. Not only that, but it’s machine washable for those random accidents and has a skid-proof bottom.
How you can use the playpen
Adding puppy toys?
Keeping safe toys in your playpen allows your puppy to burn energy while learning what is ok to chew on. It also keeps her from getting bored and attacking her poor bed.
The Rubber Kong Toy is a popular option for indestructible pet toys. Built tough with a hollow inside, you can stuff a treat inside, such as peanut butter or canned pumpkin, and keep pupper occupied for a good while.
Can you put food & water inside?
We do not recommend keeping a water bowl inside the playpen, because your puppy will have to urinate frequently, heightening the risk of accidents.
If you plan on leaving your pup in the pen up to 2 hours or if the pen is set up outside in the yard, then go ahead and leave a bowl of water.
The same goes for food. You want your puppy to grow accustomed to eating fixed meals at certain times each day instead of feeding all day long. We do not recommend leaving a bowl of food in the pen for this reason. Plus, it can get messy.
If you plan on feeding the main meals inside the pen, that is ok.
How long to use puppy playpen?
Do not leave puppies in a playpen for long hours at a time. Remember, the pen is new to them, so you want to develop good behavior by letting get used to the pen as a positive environment. You also don’t want them to have accidents from being left in for too long.
That’s why it is recommended to not exceed 2 hours in the dog pen. Break up the day by taking pupper out to use the toilet and go for walks.
How should you clean a puppy pen?
Opt for open, hard materials or liquid resistant, washable fabrics that unzip to make cleaning a breeze.
Plastic and metal wire panels can detach to clean each individually, while soft pens can be opened at the top and bottom to reach hard-to-get areas with soap and water.
How do you set up an exercise pen?
Choose a pen that folds down and up without the use of tools for easy travel. Certain pens (metal wire and plastic) can be detached and constructed as a gate to create a custom fenced in area.
Do you like the idea of using both a dog crate and a playpen? You can set up both for your puppy! This video gives you tips on how to combine the two so your puppy has a den-like area to call home and an area to play.
How do you keep the playpen from moving?
If you use the pen indoors, make sure the bottom is skid-proof. This stops your puppy from pushing the pen across the room. For outdoors use, anchors secured in the dirt help keep the pen in place.
Sometimes, a skid-proof bottom just doesn’t cut it against a smooth floor. If you want to use your playpen indoors, but are worried about your puppy moving the pen across the floor and causing scratches, check out how this clever dog owner keeps his pen well-anchored for indoor use.
Puppy Playpen vs. Crate: How They Differ
Offering more open area than a crate and versatility when it comes to configuration and placement, the pet exercise pen is a basic, cost-effective option for safe confinement.
But what if you want to train your puppy? Or, have you read too many mixed reviews on how crates negatively or positively impact puppy development?
It all comes down to what you have in store for your four-legged friend’s future. A fresh, innocent mind is at your disposal and it’s your responsibility to shape it with the right tools.
- Do you want to start behavior training early? If so, how do you plan to do it?
- Do you have a plan for housebreaking?
- How much time will you spend with your puppy?
- Do you travel frequently via plane?
- Do you like to spend time outdoors camping?
Starting here will help you decide whether a crate or puppy pen is best for your needs.
Top 3 playpen pros
- Playpens offer more space and are open, so your puppy has room to roam around and play.
- Made up of panels, a playpen is highly versatile. You can create an enclosure and shape it to fit in most spaces. You also have the option to use it as a gate to block off a section of your home. Some manufacturers sell panels separately, so you can link more to make a larger enclosure or fence.
- It’s a simple structure that’s easy to assemble, lightweight and can be used indoors and outdoors. It’s especially more convenient for camping, as it is spacious and easy to fold up or down.
Top 3 playpen cons
- Playpens do not offer a den-like atmosphere that dogs view as their own personal space to calm down. It’s geared towards play and exercise.
- Since they are lightweight, they don’t stand up against destructive behavior very well.
- They can be used for car travel, but are not approved airline pet carriers.
Top 3 puppy crate pros
- With proper puppy crate training, you can potty train your pup and provide a den-like spot for her to de-stress. There are also heavy duty crates that dissuade destructive behavior and escape.
- You can save money by purchasing a large crate with a divider panel. This can be used to allow space for your puppy as she grows, so you won’t need to buy bigger crates down the road.
- Crates can be heavy, clunky and difficult to transport if you take your dog outdoors frequently. But, soft crates and plastic crates are the best and only accepted pet carriers for air travel.
Check out our top picks for small dog crates here.
Top 3 crate cons
- Crate training takes TIME and DEDICATION to be successful.
- You need to be very particular about the type of crate to purchase and the size so that your puppy doesn’t have accidents.
- If not utilized correctly to develop good behavior, a dog can become afraid of the crate, destructive or anxious.
How to Choose an Exceptional Playpen
Puppy playpens are way less complicated than dog crates, with fewer features. Still, there are so many enclosures on the market that will make you feel like tearing your hair out when trying to choose “the best this” and “the most durable that.”
How big should a puppy playpen be?
Playpen size depends on the breed of your dog. There are multiple sizes available to accommodate puppies, small, medium, large and XL dogs.
Essentially, you want your puppy to have a space large enough to be able to roam and play in. If you plan on using a pen from the time your dog is a puppy until it reaches adult age, opt for a pen with high sides according to the breed size. Here is a brief guide:
- Small dogs: 24” to 30” high
- Medium dogs: 36” to 42” high
- Large dogs: 42” to 48” high
- XL dogs: 48” high
Metal and plastic pens are better for medium to large dogs because of durability, while soft sided pens are more suitable for small dogs.
What is the best type of dog playpen?
Exercise pens are made from metal wire, plastic panels or fabric. Here’s a quick breakdown of each.
Metal Wire Playpens[amazon fields="B079P9FDNN" value="thumb" image_size="large" image="1" tracking_id="amzanimal-20" image_class="ais450none"]
Playpens made from metal wire tend to be the most durable. If you have a large to XL dog or a destructive dog, they offer the most support with strong metal tubing that can hold up against a muscle and teeth.
The panels of a wire pen are incredibly versatile. There are a wide variety of sizes available on the market, which is a huge convenience. Also, you can assemble them to fit multiple shapes, such as square, rectangle or octagon.
If you prefer a fence, the sides can detach to block off an area of the home.
This type can be used indoors or outdoors. Metal pens do not come with an attached floor, but some products will include anchors to hold it in place when outside.
You can purchase a separate fabric or mesh cover if you wish to have a roof that dissuades jumping or gives your dog shade from the sun when outside.
Plastic Playpens[amazon fields="B00W1Y6FYI" value="thumb" image_size="large" image="1" tracking_id="amzanimal-20" image_class="ais450none"]
A plastic pen is a better option if your dog is medium to large and not destructive, as it is less durable than metal wire when it comes to chewing.
Other than the strength factor, the plastic pen has all of the same beneficial functions as wire. It can be detached as a gate and set up in multiple shapes to be used indoors and outdoors.
If you travel quite a bit and prefer a hard pen to a soft pen for a larger dog, the plastic is often preferred because it doesn’t have the sharp edges that a wire crate has and can snap apart easily like puzzle pieces.
Planning to use your pen outdoors? For those who live in a region that is wet and rainy, you’ll definitely want to opt for the plastic pen. It won’t be subjected to rust like a metal pen.
This type doesn’t have a floor or roof attached, but you can purchase a separate cover for the top if desired.
Soft-sided Playpens[amazon fields="B017I6Y0TU" value="thumb" image_size="large" image="1" tracking_id="amzanimal-20" image_class="ais450none"]
You won’t get the same level of durability as metal or plastic, but if you travel frequently then this is a winner. Fabric pens are a cinch to fold up. Look for products that come with a carrying case for easy storage.
These pens should be water resistant, with plenty of mesh paneling on the sides for continuous airflow. We love the models that unzip completely on the top and bottom to make the pen more open and cleaning more convenient.
Another bonus is the inclusion of storage pockets, which come in handy when you’re camping and need a place to stash pup supplies.
Don’t count on soft-sided pens to withstand chewing or aggressive jumping. If your puppy or dog is on the larger side, a plastic or wire pen is better suited for them.
Now, Bring on the Puppy Playpens!
We are confident that you scoured through our informative guide and know everything there is to know about puppy playpens.
At this point, you’re pretty much the pen master, so there’s only one thing left to do: wade through the hundreds of products on the market to find the golden playpen.
Luckily, we’ve also taken care of that for you! We’ve done the research and compared playpens to hand-pick the 20 best products that money can buy.
You’ll find a wide variety of top-quality metal, plastic and fabric options that offer different features and vary in price.
Conclusion: These are Our Top 3 Puppy Playpen Picks
When it comes to the best of the bunch, these are our absolute favorite metal, plastic, and fabric puppy playpens.
Our wire playpen pick is the MidWest Exercise Pen, which always stands up to competitors with quality and reputation. Features that add to convenience are nice, but nothing compares to basic reliability.
This is a durable option with a diverse selection of sizes available to choose the best pen for your growing pup or small dog.
The North States Pet MYPET Petyard Passage is a reliable plastic paneled option that’s built tough to last. The thick plastic panels can go up against those sharp puppy teeth and jubilant hops without toppling over.
Assembly is also a breeze, as no tools are required and the panels snap together like puzzle pieces.
For the best soft puppy playpen, you can’t go wrong with the ESK COLLECTION Playpen. It’s well-ventilated with strong mesh panels on all 8 sides of this spacious pen.
Better yet, both the top and bottom of the structure can be unzipped completely, so the pupper can feel the sun on her skin and grass under her toes. Read more on setting up a puppy playpen.