Playpen training a puppy is not a very popular statement among dog owners they mostly hear about crate training. However any place your dog is going to spend time in, you need to have some rules.
The playpen is a great way to keep your dog confined and at the same time give him enough space. the playpen could be used for plenty of situations and could be very useful in dog training.
The puppy playpen training has nothing to do with crate training, just like a playpen is not a large crate.
Each has a different purpose and therefore each one can be used differently.
In fact, you can use both the playpen and the crate as complementary tools for your puppy training.
Playpen training your puppy is relatively easier than crate training and results are faster. This is mainly due to the fact that the puppy doesn’t feel confined in a playpen as he would in a crate.
In this article, we will see how you can use a playpen and when to use it; we will also see the difference between the crate and the playpen and most importantly how playpen training a puppy works.
We will also give some recommendations about the best playpen for your puppy in each situation.
What is the point of a puppy playpen?
Before you can start playpen training your puppy you need to know what is it used for. The purpose of the playpen and what it can offer to your puppy training.
A playpen can be used for plenty of reasons depending on the dog owner and how he feels about his dog training.
A playpen provides a safe environment
The main reason a playpen is used for is to control the puppy’s environment while you are absent.
Puppies have no house manners and mostly can’t assess danger so they could be in danger while you are not supervising.
The best way to keep your dog safe and at the same time enjoy himself playing or walking around is the playpen.
Unlike the crate, the playpen offers a large space where the dog can actually move around. This does not mean the playpen is better than the crate. They are totally different tools and you can read this crate vs playpen article for more details.
The playpen could not only be used indoors but also in the backyard or the garden. Your puppy can enjoy the sun while you can be doing something else indoors.
All in all, the playpen will give you peace of mind while you are not there to watch your dog.
Separate a puppy from older dogs in the house
The playpen is often used as a transition phase for your puppy when you have other pets or dogs in the house. This especially important around older dogs who can be protective and territorial.
Puppies tend to bother older dogs since they do not yet respect personal space and are very curious. In order to keep the older dogs calm, you need a place to confine your puppy and at the same time give him enough space to move around and play.
You should never keep the new puppy away from the older dogs. Puppies still have no house manners and can’t move around freely around the house.
Puppies should be kept in the playpen observing the older dogs and how they react.
Control the puppy’s environment
The playpen does a great job puppy-proofing an area and controlling the puppy’s environment. Some dog owners do like to keep their puppies free to move around the house; however, it is better for young puppies to have some boundaries.
Young puppies can’t just move around the house with no control. Other than the fact that it is dangerous it is also great to teach your puppy some house manners before you set him free.
The best time to train your dog is when he is still young and hasn’t yet acquired bad habits; that’s why playpen training is great to keep your dog in a controlled space where he learns that he can’t go wherever he wants.
Playpen training a puppy
Playpen training is partially similar to crate training in some aspects; since the two are confined spaces the puppy needs to get used to being in. But the playpen like we saw has different purposes so the training is also different.
So how do you get a puppy to be comfortable in a playpen and accept it?
This is of course done following a few easy steps just like crate training.
Choosing the best playpen for your puppy
When choosing a playpen for your puppy you have two main options to consider.
The perfect size for the puppy playpen
When it comes to the size this is not as difficult as it is the case with crates. It just doesn’t have to be too small and anything beyond that is ok.
You have to consider the size of your dog and how big he will get in a couple of months. You can’t buy a playpen that he will be able to jump over in a month.
Also, the space you can give your puppy is important, unlike the crate the bigger the better. So the only thing to consider for size is how big the room you are going to install it in.
Most playpens can be adjusted in size so if you are moving it from room to room base your decision on the largest room.
If you don’t want to give your puppy too much space from the start you can get the large playpen and adjust it as he grows.
If you have a garden or a large backyard you want to get a really large adjustable crate and then reduce the size when indoors. This could be a great use to get your dogs out to get some sun and enjoy the outdoors while safe in the playpen.
If you are using the playpen for multiple dogs you’ll need a larger one of course. Dogs can share a playpen if it’s not too small or used as a sleeping area at night in which case you should use a divider.
The best crate for your dog
There are many types of playpens for puppies that are made from different materials. Choosing the right one is important, You do not want your dog to just go through it.
The type of crate will entirely depend on what breed of dogs you have and how calm is your dog.
Strong and large breeds will certainly need something more heavy-duty; while smaller and calm dogs will fit perfectly in a regular playpen or even a soft-sided one.
The type of the playpen will also depend on how you intend to use it. if you are working full-time or you leave the puppy alone a lot; you need something strong and reliable.
But if you only use it to keep the dog away from your stuff while you are there and supervising you don’t really need something super strong.
If you use the crate it would be ideal to use a playpen that attaches to the crate as it would be easier for you and the dog. It does a great job providing the dog the opportunity to enjoy the space of the playpen and get into his crate when he needs privacy.
This playpen and crate combined setup would look like this:
Preparing the treats and toys
Whenever you plan to train your puppy to be in a new place or learn something new you need to prepare some training treats and toys.
Dogs get used to new places and get to like them simply by associating good things and memories to it.
And what a better way to make some good memories and enjoyable place than training treats and toys.
I recommend using training treats and not regular treats or food because they are low in calories. So they do not disturb the puppy’s diet and daily caloric intake.
I suggest you read this article about the best training treats and to use them and most importantly how to phase out on them.
You also want to choose the toys you give your puppy carefully, you can’t just toss in the playpen any toy you bought and leave the puppy in there.
Dog toys fall into four different categories and each one has a different use. The puppy can’t be granted access all the time to all of those four types.
Toys are a great training asset and by just giving them to the puppy you miss on great opportunities for some training moments.
You should read this article about the types of toys and how to use each one. The example I gave in there is about crate training but it is similar to playpen training or training in general.
Introducing the puppy to the playpen
Never introduce your dog to something when it’s time to do it. This is my doctrine when it comes to dog training.
You don’t want your puppy to be shocked by just putting him in a place or a structure he never been to before and leave.
You want to install the playpen while your puppy is around and let him explore a bit while you’re working on it.
Once installed have the puppy on a leash and around the crated let him sniff it a bit.
Dogs are usually curios and will explore new things and show interest. Once that than you want to lure your dog to the playpen. To do that you need to use the training treats.
Don’t close the door as soon as he gets inside but lure him with treats to the other end of the playpen. bend over and give him treats and use verbal praise.
Being in the playpen is not as difficult as the crate since the puppy has plenty of open space; however, you need to take it slowly if you rush your dog into the playpen he will reject it.
Now that you’ve introduced your puppy to the playpen you can move on to the next step.
Building a happy relationship with the playpen.
Once you get your dog into the playpen you need to start building that happy relationship with it.
Your dog needs to have a good time in the playpen to grow into liking it. And that starts with training treats and toys.
Use interactive toys and play with your puppy in the playpen. You also need to use verbal praise and get touchy; rubs are a great way to reward the puppy and make him feel great.
Do not leave him alone in the playpen from the start and keep in sight. Talk to your puppy and toss a treat once in a while to reward him if he is calm in there.
Chewing toys do a great job distracting the puppy in the playpen when you are not around.
Feeding the puppy his meals in the playpen
Food is the easiest and most effective way to make a dog like a place. Serve the puppy his meals in the playpen and you can keep it open if the puppy is still not used to be in it yet.
Slowly after each meal, increase the time your puppy spends in the playpen. You can use the chew toy to keep him busy in there.
At first, you can feed him while you sit next to the playpen and gradually start moving around the room until he’s used to feeding while you’re gone.
As a puppy, your dog normally has three feeding sessions per day so you’ll have three training opportunities every day.
If you notice that your puppy is not responding well then you might be speeding things up a little. Take a step back and spend more time with him while feeding.
Leaving the puppy in the playpen for longer periods
If you’re following the steps correctly by now your puppy is fine with being in the playpen. Enjoying his favorite toy and meals inside, not panicking with the door shut for short periods.
Now is the time to increase the time he spends alone in the playpen. Toss a toy in there -a chewing toy as interactive toys are only used when you are there hence interactive in the name- let the puppy play around and leave the room but walk around from time to time without necessarily talking or interacting with the puppy.
The best time to do this is after the meals where the puppy is more relaxed and a bit sleepy.
The puppy should by now start taking naps in the playpen depending on if he is crate trained or you decide not to crate train at all.
if the puppy is crate trained he should continue to nap in the crate. However, if you decide not to crate train your puppy he ca sleep in the playpen.
Leaving the house with the puppy in the playpen
Once your dog is ready for you leaving the house while at his playpen, start slow by short periods outside and go on gradually.
Get your puppy in the playpen like you are used to do and then just leave for a short period.
Do not make a scene while you are leaving with goodbyes and drama. Just put your puppy in his playpen five minutes before you leave and walk around for 5 minutes so he doesn’t associate the playpen with being left alone and then just leave.
You can slowly increase the period you leave your puppy in there gradually as he gets used to it.
When you get back in the house don’t go directly to the puppy you need to let him calm a bit before you interact with him. most dogs will get excited when you come back but you don’t want that as it grows into other behavioral issues.
Just walk around for 5 minutes change or do whatever you need to do and then go to your puppy.
Unlike the crate where you can’t leave a young puppy for long periods; the puppy will be fine in the playpen and you can go out for longer periods.
Just make sure your dog is ready before you leave for a long period so the puppy does not feel left alone form the start and associate that with the playpen itself.
Playpen training a puppy at night
Again this will entirely depend on whether you are using the crate or not as the crate is always the first choice.
The playpen is not made for sleeping overnight crates are. If you have to use a playpen for sleeping at night I would strongly recommend reducing the size of it.
At night it is better not to leave any food or toys in the playpen; your puppy needs to know that bedtime is only for sleeping nothing else.
For the first few nights, it would be better if you install the playpen in your room. You don’t have to but it would be better if the puppy starts to whine at night or cries.
Unlike the crate, you won’t need to let your dog out to eliminate and you can use the pads. At first, put some pads to cover the whole area of the playpen. And once your puppy gets used to them start reducing it until he only uses one or two.
If you want your puppy to sleep through the night you need to exercise the puppy before he goes to bed.
Puppies do spend most of their time asleep, up until 18 hours per day at first. and even when grown they sleep about 12 hours a day. So you need to exercise your puppy enough and have a walk outside to eliminate before going to sleep. That way your puppy gets used to it and he gets tiered a bit before he sleeps and he is less active.
Young puppies can’t handle too much exercise so 10 to 15 minutes is plenty for a young puppy. They do get too excited and won’t show their fatigue so be careful not to overdo it.
Puppy cries in the playpen
It is not very common that the puppy cries in the playpen since he has plenty of space. You just need to take things slowly so he doesn’t feel abandoned.
Use the playpen gradually and increase slowly the time he spends in there before you can leave him alone and leave.
If there is any crying you need to ignore it or if it won’t stop, break it then use the treats to reward.
The intelligent use of the training treats and toys will help your puppy adapt to his playpen. But you need to make the playpen a great place for your puppy so he doesn’t reject it.
Food treats, and toys will help a lot calm your dog and keep him distracted in the playpen especially chew toys. So make sure you use them while training your puppy at the playpen.
Never yell at your puppy or punish him by locking him in the playpen or else he will reject it.
When the puppy cries at night in the playpen talk to him or make a noise to let him know you are there. This will usually be enough to stop him but never let him out while crying or he will know that’s the way out and keep doing it.
Usually, puppies crying in the playpen is not a big problem and won’t take long. This takes a couple of days for the puppy to get used to it and since he has plenty of space.
If your dog keeps crying in the playpen for longer than two or three days you want to make sure he is not ill or has something else bothering him.
Puppy playpen potty training
Potty training is an essential part of your dog home training; the crate is actually better at potty training than the playpen.
Dogs are fairly clean animals and they don’t like to eliminate where they sleep. So we use that to teach the dog to control his bladder a bit in the crate until we let him out to do his business.
In the playpen, the puppy has plenty of space to eliminate; so he does not have to hold it and this is why it’s harder. You need at first to use the pads and cover a large space of the playpen.
When your puppy is used to the pads you can start reducing the covered area slowly. You need to give it some time and avoid any incidents; but if there are any don’t reprimand your puppy.
The goal is to have your dog use only one pad to eliminate and associate it with that. You can also help reduce incidents by taking your dog to eliminate before going in the playpen.
At night take your dog out for a break before going to bed. This way your puppy is less likely to wake up for a potty break. Also, take him out as soon as he wakes up in the morning.
If you do it right at a point your puppy will be using only one pad; then you can install a potty corner.
Crate and playpen combined
I can’t talk enough about how great and useful the combination of a crate and playpen is. It is absolutely the best option especially for working dog owners who have to leave their puppies for long hours.
The crate and playpen combined gives the puppy the possibility to enjoy the space of a playpen and at the same time when he needs to; the privacy and safety of a crate.
I personally don’t use the playpen for my older dogs since there is always someone around. And I do like crates better but for younger puppies, I keep them in the playpen with a crate attached to it.
I really recommend using the playpen and crate I suggested earlier it does a great job in training your dog. The best thing is that it gives the puppy a choice to be confined when he wants to or enjoy the space.