New puppies are full of mischievous energy, and their endless curiosity means they get their little noses into all sorts of trouble. Of course, that’s how they learn but it’s also how they can get themselves into trouble!
An expandable dog pen can be a great help for those times when you can’t give your puppy 100% of your attention. You get peace of mind knowing exactly where your puppy is, that they can’t wander off too far, and what they’re playing with - and they have lots of room to play safely and feel they are still beside you and part of the family.
Follow our helpful tips for everything that you’ll need to give your playful puppy their perfect dog pen.
The basics of playpens
You should be able to find a puppy playpen at most good pet shops or you can buy them online.
Ideally look for an expandable pen you can add sections to that can grow with your puppy - and with high enough sides to stop your adventurous pup escaping easily!
They come in various sizes - and often have additional panels you can put in as your puppy grows - so choose the right one for your puppy’s breed/type and of course the size of your room!
A puppy playpen should have wire or slatted sides so your puppy is safely protected but they still get to see what’s going on in the world around them, and don’t feel that they are isolated or locked away from you. They can also see what everyone is up to and prevent FOMO (fear of missing out) that can easily become a cause of frustration in puppies.
Puppy playpens can be used outdoors in the garden as well as indoors which is great if you want to spend some time outside with your dog but plan on catching up on some reading or your emails, and don’t want to have your eyes constantly glued to an exploring pup. Try and have some of the playpen in the shade if it's a warm day however and make sure there is some water in there. Never leave your puppy alone – especially if there are things in the garden that are unsafe or not puppy proof – as a bored and adventurous puppy can, with a bit of effort, climb out.
Supervise your puppy all the time as you always do - and if you want your puppy to use a specific area of the garden as their toilet, remember to take them out of the pen frequently and go to the toilet area.
This is exactly the same as in the house – where if you don’t take your puppy out frequently (especially if they haven't quite mastered toilet training)they could be tempted to use one end of the play pen as a toilet.
Watch out for any warning signs that they might need to go to the toilet. These can include looking restless, whining or squeaking, sniffing around, circling or squatting. The important thing is that you stay watchful and don’t put your puppy in a position where they make a mistake and soil their playpen.
Puppies can be bundles of energy, but they also need lots of sleep and often puppy naps happen suddenly! Make sure there is something comfortable to lie on such as veterinary bedding or even a small dog bed.
Growing up is thirsty work, so your puppy will always need access to clean drinking water. All the time. A non-spill dog bowl can work best in a play pen as it won’t get knocked over if your puppy is playing with a toy.
Most of the time, your puppy will be out and about with you - learning about their new world but a pen can be useful for when you need some relaxation time – or perhaps if you have visitors or your children are playing ‘non-puppy’ games so you can keep your puppy secure and close by without you having to have your eagle eye on them all the time.
Toys and supplies for dog pens
Line some of the play pen with veterinary bedding – which is soft and comfortable (and also easily washable). Have several pieces so you can swap them when one needs a bit of a cleaning.
Think about other surfaces you can put in the pen – puppies learn through their paws as well as their eyes, ears and noses, and having different surfaces to walk on and play on can help build their confidence. Cardboard, off cuts of carpet (watch out for frayed edges), fake grass… be inventive.
Add things that will help with their habituation – things that make a noise can be useful (a pile of old oven trays with treats in them as an example), or toys and treats hidden in a large cardboard box… Make the pen a fun place to be and to explore – otherwise it is boring and why should your puppy be happy in there!
You want your puppy to enjoy their time in their puppy playpen so give them a range of toys to play with. Puppies explore with their mouths, and safe chew toys that you can stuff with food are a great way to provide enrichment and distract your gnawing puppy away from your furniture and fingers!
These toys will also help the physical development of teeth and jaws for when they’re older. Plus chewing is a great calming exercise for dogs so it will help burn off some of that puppy energy in a calm way.
Your puppy won’t need a puppy playpen forever, so don’t worry about it being a permanent feature in your home. Once your new puppy has learnt all the life skills needed from an adult dog – so they are toilet trained and you know that they can be trusted not to get into mischief the second your back is turned – the puppy pen can be a thing of the past. Don't throw it away however – it might come in useful when travelling, visiting friends, or having guests who aren’t comfortable around dogs.
The benefits of using a puppy playpen
Using a puppy playpen comes with many benefits, for you and for your pup. You don’t have to worry about what they’re getting up to, whether they are ripping up some toys, or if they are sniffing out something they shouldn’t. Let’s delve into the benefits of using a puppy playpen.
Reduces your stress
Sometimes when we are with our puppy, we need to do things that mean we can’t be totally focused on them. Maybe you are working or reading or catching up with friends on a video call. For these occasions there is nothing better than knowing where your mischievous puppy is at all times. You can see through the playpen and are able to see what they're doing and that they're safe. For them, they can also see you, so they don’t worry about where you are or the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out).
Offers more freedom
For many owners who don't like the idea of using a crate, having a puppy playpen gives them a larger free area for their puppy to relax and be safe in. Playpens come in all shapes and sizes so if you want more space, you can choose one that encompasses the space you’re after. Or if you need one that needs to fit in an exact area, then there are puppy playpens for that too!
Keep them contained
When you are going through the toilet training stages of puppyhood it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on them especially if you’re busy during the day.
A playpen gives your puppy the space to roam around that you can fill with interesting toys and enrichment opportunities so they can explore without getting into trouble, or munching on any house plants. And if they suddenly need a nap, there is somewhere to do that safely and in comfort.
That’s our short guide on the benefits of a puppy playpen, they are great additions to your household, along with the fluffy friend of course! So, if you are toying with the idea of investing in one for your puppy, then we think this guide will have given you all the answers necessary. Next, find out our puppy toilet-training tricks with this easy-to-follow guide.