How To Set Up A Puppy Playpen and Crate

Set Up A Puppy Playpen and Crate in 4 Simple Steps

We feel it’s essential that every puppy owner learns how to set up a puppy playpen and crate, and here’s why… A common mistake new puppy owners make is giving their puppies access to the whole home right away. And it leads to a lot of preventable problems like accidents on surfaces that are not easily cleaned and damage to shoes, furniture, walls, and other things a puppy might find to chew. Instead, a new puppy should have access to one room at a time with constant supervision or in a puppy playpen without supervision.

It's perfect for when you're making meals, cleaning the house, folding the laundry, or doing other household chores that interfere with supervising your puppy. Using the puppy pen teaches our puppies that they can be by themselves and that they don't have to be glued to us every minute of the day. We want to avoid any opportunity for separation anxiety to occur. Teaching your puppy how to play by themselves or self-soothe in their puppy pen will be a great start.

Let us show you how to set up a puppy playpen and crate quickly and easily.


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What Is A Puppy Playpen?

A playpen is a fenced area inside your home that provides a safe place for your puppy to play, eat, and nap without your supervision. It enables you to keep your puppy out of mischief and helps protect your home and belongings while you’re teaching your puppy proper indoor behavior.


Why Use A Puppy Playpen?

New puppies don't know you need them to go potty outside or that you don't want them to chew on your belongings. They have to be taught not to do these things.

Puppies also love to explore every nook and cranny of their environment and learn about new items they encounter by sniffing, licking, and chewing. Their curiosity can put them in dangerous situations if they chew through live electrical wires or eat things that are poisonous or present choking hazards.

And supervising a curious puppy can be exhausting! Plus, as much as you love spending time with this new addition to your family, there are still things you need to get done without worrying about what your puppy is doing. That’s when you’ll be so glad you have a puppy pen where your puppy can happily play, eat, or nap while you’re busy with other things.


How Long Do Puppies Need A Playpen?

Puppies need a playpen until they are potty trained, settled into their new home, familiar with their environment, and follow the rules of the house. At a minimum, we recommend using a puppy pen until your puppy is six to eight months old.

If you're wondering how much time your puppy should spend in their puppy pen each day, make sure that you check out our free New Puppy Starter Kit. In it you’ll find a sample puppy schedule. It’s in the potty training lesson. This will give you an idea as to how long your puppy should be playing, how long they should be in their crate with the door closed, how frequently you should be taking your puppy outside and when to feed your puppy.


Setting Up Your Puppy Playpen and Crate

How Big Should A Puppy Playpen Be?

When choosing a playpen, there are several factors you should consider:


  • The size of your puppy – larger puppies need more space inside the playpen and taller pen panels to keep your puppy comfortable and secure inside the pen


  • Your puppy’s temperament – some puppies need more room to roam


  • How much time your puppy will spend in the playpen – puppies need exercise during the day, so if your puppy is spending a lot of time in the playpen, you need to ensure there is adequate room for your puppy to move and play


At a minimum, the playpen needs to be large enough to accommodate a crate, food and water bowls, some toys, and enough space to move and play. We like this indoor playpen because it is so versatile and can be configured in so many different ways.


Where To Put A Puppy Playpen

Your puppy pen and crate setup should be in a location that gives you the opportunity to peek in on them periodically but doesn't completely isolate them from everyone or everything else going on in your home.

It’s best to put the playpen on a hard, nonporous surface to make clean-up easy. But, depending on your situation, that may not be possible. So, I discourage you from keeping your puppy pen on any carpet because, once an accident happens, it is very hard to remove that urine smell.

I also recommend that you use a remnant of vinyl flooring or a piece of plywood under your puppy pen. This will further protect your floor in case there's an accident.

If you have to place your puppy playpen on the carpet, be sure to cover your carpet with vinyl flooring or a rubber mat that will provide a protective barrier in the event of any accidents.

That way, when accidents do happen, you can use products like Nature's Miracle to quickly clean them up. Nature’s Miracle contains an enzyme that breaks down the ammonia found in urine. This does help to neutralize the smell and remove stains.


What To Put In A Puppy Playpen

1. Dog Crate

To set up your puppy's pen, you're going to need either a metal or plastic crate and a puppy pen.

When choosing your puppy’s crate, it’s essential to choose the right size. Your puppy should have just enough room to turn around and lay down, stretched out, in the crate.

NOTE: I don't keep soft squishy bedding in the crate as this just encourages accidents and may lead to a destroyed bed or ingested pieces of stuffing from the bed, which may need to be surgically removed, leading to an expensive vet bill. Once your puppy is past the chewing and teething stage, you can add a bed in their crate, typically when your puppy is six months or older.

Escape Proofing Tip: Block off the top part of the crate so your puppy doesn’t have access to climb on top of the crate and escape the playpen.

You can find more helpful crate training tips here.

2. Feeder Bowl

The best way to get your puppy to absolutely love their crate is to feed them their meals in their crate. You can use a puzzle feeder or a slow bowl feeder inside their crate, or you can sprinkle their kibble on the bottom of the crate floor when it’s time to eat. And, by sprinkling their food on the bottom of the crate, you're teaching them that this is the place to eat, not go to the bathroom. Typically they don't like to eat where they go to the bathroom.

If you use one of the puzzle feeders or the slow feeder bowl, make sure you remove it about ten minutes after they're done eating. You don't want your puppy to think it's a toy and continue to chew on it when you're not looking.

3. Water Bowl

You need to periodically put water down for your puppy when you can watch them like a hawk to avoid accidents in the house. I don't recommend leaving it down all the time as most puppies like to play in the water, and it becomes a mess.

It's far better to keep track of how much water you're giving them so that you know how frequently you need to take them out and ensure they’re actually drinking enough water to prevent dehydration. The general rule of thumb is one ounce of water per pound of dog per day.

If you notice your puppy's extra thirsty, give them more water and take them out more frequently. I recommend that you pick up water by about 7 p.m. each night. Making sure their water is picked up by 7:00 p.m. will help you with potty training and help your puppy sleep more through the night. They won't have to go potty in the middle of the night as frequently.

4. Safe Toys

The kinds of toys you're going to keep in their puppy pen are the ones that can't easily be destroyed, especially if you're going to give them stuffed toys or rope toys without supervising them.

Most puppies want to pull soft, squishy toys apart and remove the stuffing or the squeaker or pull the rope apart because it's a lot of fun. Once ingested, they frequently have to be surgically removed. I don't want that to happen to your puppy.

The kinds of toys that you can keep in your puppy's pen would include Nylabones, marrow bones, antlers, and harder toys that cannot easily be destroyed. We recommend a number of different types of appropriate toys on our Products page.


How To Secure The Puppy Playpen

The puppy playpen is a temporary security measure to keep your puppy safe without constant supervision. As a result, you want it to remain in place without marring surfaces in your home. So here are some cost-effective and damage-free ways to keep your puppy pen in place.


Position the puppy pen against one or two walls to keep it from moving much.

Heavy Furniture

You can also position the puppy pen between pieces of heavy furniture like a bookcase. Or zip tie it to heavy objects in your home.

Sandbags, Bricks, or Cinder Blocks

Sandbags, bricks, or cinder blocks can be used to weigh down the puppy pen and anchor it in place.

Non-Slip Pads

You can get non-slip pads from most hardware or home improvement stores. The best ones are made from soft, durable polyester or silicone, so they’re washable and easy to clean.

If you find that these measures don’t work well for your particular situation, you may need to consider more permanent alternatives like wall or floor anchors to secure your puppy playpen.

Michele Lennon with her dream dogs

About the trainer

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.