Best Pet Playpens

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for Best pet playpens

All pets need safety and stimulation in the home and outdoors. Whether you have a gerbil, cat, or dog, it needs a secure space where it can play and rest. A pet playpen offers just such an enclosed environment for your furry friend.

A pet playpen is typically used indoors to keep curious animals from exploring areas they shouldn’t while giving them a space that’s all their own. Depending on your pet and its temperament, a playpen can be used when you’re home or away. You can stock it with toys, bed, blankets, food, and other items to engage your pet physically and mentally.

It’s important to match the right pet playpen with the needs of you and your pet. While the proper playpen gives animals enjoyment and owners peace of mind, the wrong one can be potentially dangerous. There is a lot to keep in mind when shopping for a pet playpen, and our buying guide takes you through everything you need to know. Our top recommended products can also help get your shopping started.

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Most pet playpens are made for dogs or rodents. Some cat playpens are available, but they all have one very important feature: an enclosed top to keep cats from jumping or climbing out.

Key considerations

Dogs

Depending on your dog’s age, attitude, and breed, a playpen may be useful. A playpen can keep your dog out of areas where it shouldn’t go, which is useful when it comes to a puppy that isn’t fully trained. A playpen provides your dog with an enclosed space that keeps it safe while allowing it to move around, eat, sleep, and play.

Like a dog crate, a playpen can provide a safe place for a young dog or recent rescue that’s being introduced to a new home. Dogs feel more comfortable in an enclosed space filled with their favorite things. 

Dog owners find playpens useful in a variety of situations, especially if they want their dog nearby but don’t want to grant it free range of a space. You can set up a playpen in a bedroom for your pet to sleep in at night or in a quiet room away from a party or event with people coming and going. A portable playpen is ideal for traveling or camping, especially if your dog tends to wander off outside, or even in your own yard if it isn’t fenced. In some cases, a pet playpen can be suitable for a dog that’s home alone. See the FAQ section for more on this.

Small pets

There are also playpens for smaller animals like hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits.

Small rodents should have their own cage where they can, sleep, eat, and drink, but when you want to take your pet out to play, an enclosed pen keeps it nearby while giving it more space to move around. Some playpens for small rodents include portals to connect tunnels to other structures, allowing them to explore at will.

Rabbits need a bit more space, and a playpen can be a long-term home for them. A playpen for a rabbit may include any number of stimulating activities and items, including a shelter, maze, hay, and blankets. It should also include a water source, food box, and litter box.

Size

When considering size, look at the height of the enclosure. Pens vary in height from around 12 inches, suitable for rodents and small dogs, to 40 inches for larger dogs. For dog owners, a playpen should be tall enough that your dog can’t jump out. 

Also, check the square footage of the playpen’s footprint and compare that to where you plan to put it. You may have more space available for an outdoor playpen than for one inside. 

Material

The material the playpen is made of influences its durability, portability, and strength. 

Heavy-duty plastic is a common option, offering an inexpensive and relatively lightweight structure that’s easy to set up and move around.

Metal and wire playpens are also available. Some are built like pet crates with thick wires for stability and to keep your pet from escaping and are very durable and long-lasting. While these playpens can be folded up for transport, setting them up and taking them down can take time, and the metal can be quite heavy. Some metal playpens for large dogs are very strong with thicker wire, but they aren’t ideal for transport.

Mesh and fabric pop-up playpens offer a softer place for your pet. These typically have pockets and other compartments that make them suitable for outdoor use, including camping and days at the park or beach. They are easy to transport, and some have attached flooring or a fabric roof for sun and rain protection. These are suitable for smaller pets that aren’t inclined to chew fabric.

If you put the pen on the floor, make sure it’s stable and stationary. If it slides, it can alter the configuration and potentially damage the floor.

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Features

Panels

The number of panels included in a playpen determines how you can configure it. The hinge between panels enables you to turn and position each panel as needed. For example, a six-panel pen can be configured into a rectangle or a hexagon. Most options have four, six, or eight panels of various widths. 

Door

Most playpens for dogs have a door that locks securely and opens easily. Some doors are similar to those on crates, with a pair of latch clips that need to be pulled and turned to unlock. Some may have a small pet door with a flap that can also be closed by you as needed.

Note where the door is on the panel. Some extend to the floor while others are set higher, built for larger dogs to step over. There are also larger outdoor playpens that have a door that opens like a gate so that you can step in as well.

Protective mat

Some playpens, particularly those made for rodents or puppies, come with a soft mat that protects the floor from potential messes. These mats may be waterproof, which is ideal for any little ones that may have accidents or knock over a water bowl. A mat is also useful for outdoor use if you want to keep your dog or any blankets clean and off the ground.

Portability

If you plan to use the playpen in a variety of places or only infrequently indoors, choose one that’s easy to break down and transport or put away. Their panel construction means that most fold up easily. Look for one with a latch or strap that secures the folded playpen so it doesn’t fall open while you’re moving it. Some come with a carrying strap and some fit in an included tote or bag.

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Staff Tip
If your yard isn’t fenced, a playpen is a good alternative to tethering your dog. A playpen gives it room to move around without you worrying about your dog getting tangled up in a rope or chain.
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Accessories

Pet bowl: Midwest Home for Pets Snap’y Bowl
Keep a bowl of clean water in the playpen for your pet to enjoy as needed. This quality stainless steel option comes with a bracket that attaches to the side of a wire playpen for easy access and no spills.

Dog bed: Midwest Homes for Pets Plush Dog Bed
A cozy dog bed makes the playpen more inviting and comfortable, especially for sleeping. This extra soft and cozy polyester option by Midwest Homes for Pets comes in seven sizes and is easy to clean.

Pricing

Inexpensive: Small, basic playpens for small pets cost $25 or less.

Mid-range: Most playpens for small and midsize dogs cost between $25 and $50. These may be made of plastic or metal.

Expensive: The largest, most durable playpens cost over $50, with some over $100. Most of these are suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

When you first set up the playpen, leave the door open to allow your dog to explore it and get comfortable with it.

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Tips

  • Think about the position and layout of the playpen. A pet playpen can be set up in the middle of a room, but you might also want to consider using the walls and a corner of the room as well when setting up the playpen.
  • Train your dog not to jump. Dogs, particularly puppies, often jump up to greet their owners. Work on training your dog not to jump up or lean against the sides of the playpen.
  • Create a cozy space for your pet. The playpen should be inviting and fun, not like punishment. Lay out your pet’s favorite blanket, bed, and toys so that your dog enjoys its time there and can play or rest as desired.
  • Stay nearby while your pet is in the playpen. If you’re at home while your pet is in the playpen, remember that rabbits, in particular, and many dogs like to know their human friend is close by.
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Most metal or plastic playpens are black or white but there are exceptions, while mesh options and some rodent playpens come in different colors.

FAQ

Q. Can I leave my dog in a playpen when I’m not home?

A. Your dog’s temperament determines whether or not it's safe to leave it home alone in a playpen. A playpen doesn't offer the same secure enclosure that a crate does, so if a dog wants to break free, it will be likelier to do so. If your dog wants to get loose, the playpen can present a safety hazard if your dog tries to push or chew through plastic or metal. Dogs might also try to jump out of the pen.

If you decide to leave your dog home alone in a playpen, be sure to remove its collar so it can’t get caught on anything. Note which toys are in there too. Only leave those that you know your dog can’t tear apart and swallow.

Q. Are pet playpens safe to use outdoors?

A. Most pet playpens can be used outdoors easily and safely. Some, including those made of plastic and metal, are rustproof, so they can withstand being left outside in light rain. Dogs should be comfortable in a pen when it's outdoors. Be sure to provide access to clean water as well as shade. Some playpens include stakes and hooks to help secure the pen to the ground.

Q. How do I keep my dog from jumping out of a playpen?

A. A playpen can provide comfort, stimulation, and security, but it isn’t a substitute for training. Dogs need to be trained not to jump. If your dog is trying to escape its playpen, it might not see the pen as its own relaxing space. Time in the playpen should be fun and not used as punishment. If your dog jumps, such as when it greets you, it’s advised that you ignore the behavior. Wait to greet your pet until it’s seated and relaxed and then reward it with treats and praise for the preferred behavior. 

 

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