Cute as they are, puppies are sometimes a bundle of trouble. Between teething and toilet training you'll run ragged rushing him outside or removing things from your little furball's path. Having a secure place to keep him as he learns is the first step toward raising a healthy, happy dog.
Advantages of Puppy Playpens
A playpen provides your puppy with a comfortable place to explore and learn about the world without exposing him to the hazards inherent in the average home. Things as seemingly innocent as a dangling lamp cord could spell disaster if a teething puppy decides to chew on one while it is plugged in. Of course, potty accidents are another reason your puppy is best confined to one area until trained. Giving your little one a quiet place of his own to sleep and teaching him to tolerate not being near you constantly without separation-anxiety issues are two others.
DIY vs. Commercial Playpen
You can purchase metal, plastic or canvas panels to erect commercial playpens for your puppy, but unless you raise puppies on a regular basis, this could be an unwarranted expense for what is typically a one-use item. Making your own panels from readily available materials probably is cheaper and allows you to customize the playpen to suit your puppy's size and activity levels.
The first thing your puppy needs is a bed. If you plan to crate train, a properly sized crate with a sleeping pad is the best bet. Otherwise, buy or make your puppy a comfortable bed sized to fit him for up to the first year's growth. Even a sturdy cardboard box with soft blankets or towels will work while he is tiny. Give him a wide, spill-proof, unbreakable water bowl and food bowl. Make the playpen large enough to add a potty area of thick newspapers, puppy pee-pads or kitty litter for those times he cannot go outside. Offer a variety of toys to keep him occupied and to help him teeth in non-destructive ways.
You can make panels in a number of ways. Fasten together PVC pipe or wooden frames and cover them with wire mesh, lattice or canvas to make panels. Attach them to one another using nylon zip ties at the sides of the frames to build a custom-shaped playpen. Make each panel about 3 feet high by a similar length and you can rearrange or add to the size of the playpen as your puppy grows. Most people easily can step over a panel of that height so you may not need a gate. If you prefer to have one, just leave one side of a panel unfastened and block it shut with something heavy or tie it with a bungee cord that you can unfasten when necessary to open it. Alternatively, use a screen door latch attached across two adjacent panels.
Wooden Box Playpen
If you prefer something more solid, make a rectangular wooden box from thick plywood to house your new puppy. This entails building a substantial piece of furniture that is not portable without effort and is less adaptable to changes in puppy size. However, it has the advantage of sturdiness and is more escape-proof for determined chewers. Make a hinged gate at one end for this one. Be aware that this style offers little ventilation and no visibility, so your puppy could overheat and may show some anxiety at being visually separated from his family. Building-in screened windows on at least two sides will help.
Outdoor Playpen Safety
Portable playpens offer a choice to bring puppy outdoors for family fun, but your furbaby easily can overheat, get wet or chilled without shelter. In the summer, put the pen under a tree or provide a shade screen and keep cold, fresh water available to him at all times. Give him a cozy outdoor house to keep out rain and chills. Never leave him alone and unsupervised outdoors. In addition to environmental concerns, remember that puppies sometimes have bad habits. If your puppy is a “Hairy Houdini”, and escapes his playpen, he may become lost, so always keep a collar on him with clear identification.