You wouldn't allow a toddler to roam unsupervised, and you shouldn't allow a puppy to do so either. Left to do as he wishes, a puppy can get into mischief and danger. For most people, it’s not always possible to provide a puppy constant supervision, but you can set up a playpen or create a confinement area with a baby gate to keep him safe.
A puppy playpen provides a little oasis where he can romp, chew on toys and sleep in complete safety. Whether you choose to section off a room with a canine exercise pen or use a pop-up playpen, the confinement area should be used for his enjoyment and safety, not as punishment. It is essential to balance use of the confinement area with plenty of exercise and interactive activities. This includes taking him for a walk or having a play date with other puppies. As he ages, these interactions will help him learn social skills and avoid boredom that leads to destructive behavior patterns.
Pop-up playpens come in many sizes and are similar to a human baby’s playpen. It comes fully assembled as one unit with bottom and top rails, mesh walls and a liner for the floor of the pen. To set up, expand the top rails and latch them securely into place, then repeat with the bottom rails. When the playpen is fully opened and secure, install the liner on the bottom. Place a cushion inside for his naps, toys for his chewing pleasure, and food and water. If you are training him with puppy pads, lay one at the furthest corner away from his food and water.
Tile floors clean easier than carpet, so if you are using the exercise pen, keep this in mind when choosing a confinement location. Such pens are similar to baby gates used for small children and can be purchased fully assembled at most pet supply centers. They are made of mesh or wire folding or sliding panels that you simply unfold or slide to section off an area. Make sure the only items in the confinement area belong to your puppy. This means no chairs, tables or dangerous electrical cords that he can get to and chew. Just as with the playpen, fill the area with toys, puppy pad, food, water and a bed to lay on.
Unless you are using puppy pads for potty breaks, take him outside so he can relieve himself before placing him in the playpen or confinement area. To avoid accidents inside the play area, remember that a puppy may need to up to 10 potty breaks each day. When you put him inside the area, offer him a chew toy and then walk away, leaving him alone. After about five minutes, take him out and let him hang around with you again. Repeat this sequence several times during the day increasing his time alone up to the desirable limit.
You can use a playpen or confinement area for his nighttime sleeping area. However, prepare to stand strong against his sad puppy eyes and some dramatic whimpering. He may even howl and bark, beckoning you to come get him, but don't respond until he is quiet for 10 seconds. Responding too soon will reinforce his behavior. Remember he is in the place that will become his safe, happy place and not in any real danger. It may take weeks for this behavior to stop -- but it will, so be patient.
- Humane Society of Boulder Valley: The Confinement Area: Your Pup's Playpen
- University of California: Breeder Caretakers: Sharing Ideas and Suggestions
- DogChannel.com: Helping Destructive Behavior in Dogs
- DogChannel.com: Puppy Potty Schedules: Owner at Home All Day
- Dog Gone Good: The Three Pillars of Housebreaking
- Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images