8 Best (Indoor & Outdoor) Puppy Playpens and Exercise Pens

Who among us hasn’t dreamt of bringing home an adorable puppy, gaining a best friend and loyal companion all at once? Unfortunately, that daydream often leaves out realities like waking up in the middle of the night to take the puppy outside, or walking inside to find a new roll of toilet paper shredded on the floor.

It’s no secret that raising a puppy is not always a walk in the park. They can be slow to learn good behaviors and tough to break of bad ones, but there are some tried and true practices that will help turn unruly puppies into good dogs.

Rewarding good behavior, establishing a schedule, and providing frequent diversions are all good habits for dog owners to take up, but there is, perhaps, one that is even more important.

Much like people, puppies left to their own devices find things to worry about. Puppies who do not experience things like proper socialization worry constantly whether their owners have abandoned them, even when the period of separation is short.

Canine anxiety accounts for lots of bad behaviors that are commonly mistaken for a poorly trained dog. Things like chewing on shoes and furniture or tearing items up are obvious manifestations of a dog experiencing anxiety, and the solution to quiet that anxiety is painfully obvious: daily exercise.

While daily exercise is great for tiring a dog out so they are willing to relax in the evenings, it does much more than just that for puppies. Daily exercise early in a puppy’s life has been found to reduce behavioral issues in adulthood by decreasing their chances of experiencing anxiety.

For a puppy, exercise does not need to last all that long. A mere ten minutes per month of a puppy’s age is recommended, so an 8 week old puppy needs only 20 minutes of activity. This exercise can come in many different forms: a short walk, a training session, or even some time spent in a playpen.

While playpens cannot completely replace good old fashioned outdoor exercises like running, playing fetch, or interacting with other dogs, they can help temper that burden on puppy parents by giving the pups a better outlet for energy than simply leaving them in their crate. That way, it won’t take as much exertion to tire hyper puppies out once owners find some time to spare.

Playpens come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, meaning every puppy from toy yorkie to great dane can benefit from a play or exercise pen of their very own. Even better, owners can choose between indoor and outdoor enclosures for their puppies.

Interested in exploring the option of a playpen but not sure where to start? Not to worry! We know that the world of dog training can get confusing, so we’ve put together this guide to help conscientious pet owners make the most informed decision possible. We’ll explore both popular types of playpens, and our top picks in several different playpen categories.

First, we’ll discuss three of the most common types of playpens available to puppy owners.

Popular Types of Playpens for Puppies

Trying to picture what exactly a puppy playpen is, but coming up short? It is not all that different than the kinds of playpens smart parents use for young children. They are essentially small enclosures surrounded by some kind of gate structure. Here are a few of the most common types of playpens, all of which have models that can be used either indoors or outdoors.

  • Foldable playpens — These type of playpens generally come in the form of a portable frame covered with a water-resistant material, often nylon. They are lightweight and easy to transport, making them an ideal option for those who like to take their pups everywhere with them. Anyone with a young or small puppy who doesn’t need a huge amount of room to release some energy would be pleased with this type.
  • Panel playpens — Ideal for pet owners who don’t envision themselves traveling with their playpen, this type tends to be sturdier and heavier. They are made of a series of heavy-duty panels (usually plastic or metal) attached to each other in a geometric shape. The best part about panel playpens is that they can be expanded or contracted by adding or eliminating panels, and they often have a door or gate that allows for easy access.
  • Wire playpens — The simplest design of popular playpen is the wire playpen. Made in the same type of material as wire kennels, this kind of playpen can be purchased in a larger size for relatively cheap. Because the material is lightweight, wire playpens are easy to set up and tear down, and they are quite versatile.

What to Look for in a Good Puppy Playpen/Exercise Pen

It can be difficult to judge quality without physically touching something, and no one wants to discover they have spent money on something that will only break a few days later. To add another layer of confusion, it is hard to make sweeping suggestions about what every pet owner should look for in a puppy playpen.

Like most things in this world, the right type of playpen or exercise pen really depends on the individual puppy and owner. There are a number of questions that puppy owners can consider before choosing a pen:

  1. On average, how long will the puppy stay in the playpen? – The right playpen choice is largely dependant on how long the puppy will spend in it on a regular basis. If the playpen is simply a means for the puppy to burn off some steam for an hour or two every day, it doesn’t necessarily need to be luxurious. If the puppy will stay in the playpen all day while the owners work, comfort should be a major consideration.
  2. How big is the puppy now, and how big will it be in a few months? – An 8-week-old pup is always pretty small, but those tiny, adorable phases doesn’t last long in large breeds. A new puppy may be small now, but depending on their breed they could grow rapidly. Owners shouldn’t waste money on a small playpen that the puppy will outgrow in a matter of weeks.
  3. How often will the puppy travel somewhere it needs the playpen? – Some pet owners have the ability to take their puppies everywhere—weekend retreats, road trips, even the office. For those dogs, a portable playpen is crucial as it will save the owner time and hassle in the set up and tear down process.
  4. Will the pen be indoors, outdoors, or both? – Indoor playpens don’t take a lot of extra consideration beyond what we’ve mentioned above, but a playpen that will be used outdoors too brings up several new questions. What is the climate like? If it’s often sunny, a playpen with a removable roof might be wise. Are there other dogs nearby? If so, a sturdier design isn’t a bad idea to keep the puppy from trying to escape and play. Owners should consider their specific living situations.

Of course, there are some features that puppy owners in the market for a playpen should universally seek. High quality material (usually wire/steel, heavy duty plastic, or nylon) and ease of use (simple interlocking or unfolding systems) are always important components for any owner, regardless of any other consideration. The easiest way to get an idea of both the best features and possible issues with a pen is simply to read the reviews.

Our Top Playpen and Exercise Pen Picks

Now that we have outlined the most popular types of playpens and the things that owners should consider before buying one, we’ll reveal our top picks!

All of the play and exercise pens listed below are great options, so puppy owners can rest assured that any pen on this list that seems to meet their specific needs will serve them well.

Ruff ‘N Ruffus Foldable Portable Pet Play Pen

Key Features:

  • Two sizes: medium and large
  • Made of 600D Nylon
  • Mesh windows with zipper door and removable zip top
  • Includes playpen, travel case, and travel bowl

Overall Best Indoor Puppy Play Pen — This 8-panel playpen is sure to keep puppies comfortable with its soft and luxurious design. It is not incredibly sturdy, which is why we have ranked it highest in the indoor category. The zipper enclosure means that there is no chance of puppies making a stealthy escape and wreaking havoc on an empty house.

This playpen could not be easier to set up. Simply pull the elastic straps and the pen unfolds; it’s just as easy to disassemble and pack in the provided travel case. Since it is breathable and wholly enclosed at once, this playpen is great for taking puppies to unusual environments where they would usually be interested in exploring.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and easy to set up/breakdown for travel
  • Fully enclosed with zipper opening
  • Comfortable for long stints
  • Two sizes

Cons:

  • Relatively small
  • Not as sturdy as some other materials
  • Susceptible to chewing

MyPet 8-Panel Petyard Passage

Key Features:

  • 192 x 26 x 2 inches
  • Swing door with a locking latch
  • Encloses 34.4 square feet
  • Made of heavy duty plastic

Overall Best Outdoor Puppy Play Pen — This playpen comes in the form of 8 panels which interlock to create an octagonal pen. A swinging door in one of the panels can be left open to allow puppies to come and go as they place, or can be locked to create a secure enclosure. The fantastic durability of this pen is the reason that we have named it the best playpen in the outdoor category.

The MyPet 8-Panel Petyard Passage is great for nice afternoons where puppies could use a little bit of outdoor time, but when owners don’t have time to accompany them. It gives them plenty of room to roam, and the enclosure is large enough that big breeds won’t feel cramped. Larger outdoor enclosures like this mean that puppies can spend more time alone in them, as long as they’re not skilled escape artists.

Pros:

  • Good for small, medium, and large breeds
  • Sturdy
  • Easy setup
  • Open-air design good for outdoors

Cons:

  • Difficult for owners to move
  • Can be climbed or jumped
  • May not work as well for tall puppies (XL breeds)

Pet Gear Travel Lite Soft-Sided Pet Pen

Key Features:

  • Made of Nylon
  • Comes in two sizes: medium and large
  • Folds completely flat for compact travel
  • Removable top

Best Portable Play Pen for Puppies — Another playpen that allows for either open or total enclosure, this nylon pen boasts unmatched portability, which is why it tops our list in this category. The octagonal playpen comes in both medium and large sizes, meaning that puppies of all sizes can truly grow into it without becoming cramped a few months down the line.

The front door can be closed or left open, and the top can be removed to give puppies some fresh air, or left on for sun protection purposes. This playpen can work for either indoors or outdoors, and the option for different levels of enclosure means it could even be useful for excursions like camping.

Pros:

  • Folds flat for easy transport
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Can provide total or partial enclosure

Cons:

  • Mesh windows are vulnerable
  • Can be climbed when top is off
  • Not as sturdy as other materials

Frisco 4-Panel Exercise Plastic Pen

Key Features:

  • 8 square feet of enclosure
  • Made of durable plastic
  • Can work for indoors or outdoors
  • Latching door

At just $44 with a 96% rate of recommendation based on reviews, this playpen is an obvious bargain, and one that is sure not to disappoint. The four interlocking plastic panels create a sturdy enclosure that is small enough, it can be moved from indoors to outdoors and vice versa.

The sturdy plastic material helps guard the pen from those puppy teeth, and isn’t as weak to chewing as some other materials like mesh. Though not as convenient or mobile as some of the other options, it’s hard to beat at the price.

Pros:

  • Can add panels to increase size
  • Safe from chewing
  • Sturdy
  • Great value for the price

Cons:

  • Only appropriate for small breed pups
  • Can be climbed
  • Screwdriver needed for total assembly

4 More Top Rated Plastic Play Pens for Puppies

Not quite sold on any of the playpens we’ve listed so far? That’s okay, we understand the importance of shopping around before making a decision, so we’ve listed a few more top rated pens.

The playpens on this list fell a little short of making it into our top picks, but they are still great options that have been given fantastic marks by other pet owners that bought them. Any of these options will serve pet owners well, as long as they pay attention to the listed specifications.

Precision Pet Products Soft Side Play Yard

Key Features:

  • Made mostly of mesh
  • Comes in two sizes: small and large
  • Nested panels allow for easy folding and transport
  • Removable top

This playpen joins other portable styles on this list as easily transportable, and breathable to give pups a high level of comfort. This pen is made primarily of mesh, with a zipping door and a removable top.

It folds down and comes with a carrying strap, so it should be particularly appealing to pet owners concerned about mobility.

Pros:

  • Choice between complete or partial enclosure
  • Easy transport
  • Two size options

Cons:

  • Can be tipped over by bigger pups
  • Mesh is vulnerable to chewing
  • Zipper breaks somewhat easily

Petmate 8 Panel Wire Exercise Pen

Key Features:

  • 5 different size options
  • Coated metal panels
  • One panel includes door with latches
  • Can assemble in multiple shapes

This versatile wire pen can be purchased in sizes ranging from medium to giant, making it truly suitable for all breeds. The metal material is sturdier than many other types and won’t tear or succumb to sharp puppy teeth. The panels allow this pen to be set up in shapes ranging from octagon to rectangle to simple fence line.

Owners of puppies who belong to an extra large breed don’t have tons of playpen options that will be genuinely comfortable, so this is a great option.

Pros:

  • Many size options
  • Wire cannot be chewed through
  • No tools required for set up

Cons:

  • Connecting clips can be broken by pups
  • No top enclosure
  • Structure can wobble if tested

Regalo 4-in-1 Play Yard Configurable Gate

Key Features:

  • Made of steel
  • Consists of 8 panels 24 inches in size
  • Contains one touch safety lock door
  • 28 inches tall

This playpen is simultaneously sturdy and lightweight. It folds into a compact stack weighing in at just over 30 lbs., so it isn’t incredibly easy to transport but still very possible.

The panels allow for multiple types of construction, including just as a gate. In fact, this system comes with mounts that allow it to be safely fastened to a wall.

Pros:

  • Sturdy material
  • One touch door allows for easy owner movement in and out
  • Excellent reviews

Cons:

  • Heavy to transport
  • Comes in one size
  • Could be escaped by taller puppies

IRIS 4-Panel Exercise Plastic Playpen

Key Features:

  • Made of heavy duty plastic
  • Each panel is equipped with rubber to prevent skidding
  • 8 square feet of enclosure space
  • 5 color options

This attractive plastic playpen is perfect for giving smaller puppies a place to safely play, particularly while indoors. The skid resistant rubber helps ensure that the pen will stay put when owners cannot keep a watchful eye on their puppy.

Unlike some of the more mobile designs, this pen will not be knocked over, and it won’t damage a home’s floors should a persistent puppy continue trying anyway.

Pros:

  • Multiple color options
  • Rubber bottoms make enclosure sturdy
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Not a good option for medium/large puppies
  • Can be escaped by good jumpers or climbers
  • Could be damaged by chewing

Some FAQs About Puppy Playpens

It’s only natural that puppy owners are concerned about making the best possible choices for the new addition to their families. That’s why we have answered 4 of the most frequently asked questions about puppy playpens below.

Are puppy play pens a good idea? – The short answer is yes. Puppies require a great deal of stimulation so they don’t get into mischief, and play pens are a great way to ensure that they safely get that much-needed play time. Owners can fill pens with toys and distractions so puppies understand that those items are okay to play with, and the items outside the pen are not.

By leaving a puppy in an enclosure like a playpen, owners separate them from temptations like shoes and furniture while still allowing them to play. This sets the puppy up for success and assists in training them.

What is an exercise pen for puppies?

Exercise pens serve a similar function to kennels or crates in that they keep puppies enclosed from getting in to potential hazards or making messes. However, an exercise pen allows puppies space to move around and play while they are enclosed rather than only giving them enough room to turn around, like a crate.

By providing this extra space, owners ensure that their puppies won’t be full of pent up energy when they come out of the pen. Instead, the puppies will have had an exciting and energy-releasing experience. Additionally, the aim of exercise pens is less about potty training and more about exercise (as the name indicates).

Can I leave my puppy in a pen?

Puppies can absolutely be left alone in a playpen—that’s the whole point! Playpens are designed to keep puppies safe and occupied while owners’ attention is elsewhere.

Of course, it’s not a good idea to just stick a puppy in a pen and walk away. Owners should be sure to leave things like water and toys in the pen with their puppy to ensure that they don’t get too bored and start looking for methods of escape from their playpen. Depending on what method for potty training an owner is using, puppy pads and food may also be a good addition.

How long can you leave a puppy in a pen?

This depends on the age of the puppy, and whether the playpen is indoors or outdoors. A very young puppy shouldn’t be left in an indoor playpen alone for more than 2 hours, as they will need to go out and may start to get nervous on their own.

Older pups or those who are in an outdoor playpen can remain in there longer, provided the pen is large enough that they have space to roam around. Even in this case, it’s a good idea to check on puppies every few hours if possible. It doesn’t take puppies all that long to get restless, and all playpens have certain weak points that can be exploited by crafty dogs.

Every puppy is different, so while we hope we’ve been able to give a general idea as to the answers for some common questions, it’s always a good idea to discuss specifics with a pro. Veterinarians are great resources for giving specific advice.

Conclusion

Lots of people feel that their dogs are part of the family, and for good reason. Not only do puppies grown into loyal companions, raising a puppy can also feel a little something like raising a child at times. There are a million different methods to do everything from potty training to leash training to trick incentivizing, and often the advice is conflicting.

It’s sometimes difficult to separate the genuinely good advice from the background noise, especially when everyone seems to have a strong opinion.

The truth is that each individual pet owner has to decide what is best for them and their puppy, but we know it can be hard to sift through all the options available.

That’s why we compiled this information and this list, presenting all the facts we can on the subject. We hope that this guide helps to clear up any confusion surrounding playpens, and we encourage all puppy parents to invest in one.

Every puppy deserves a little fun, and allowing them to have it will turn them into more confident, better behaved dogs as well. Playpens are meant to help puppies safely enjoy themselves, sure, but they are also instrumental in shaping a puppy’s future personality.

Playpens may not quite rank at the very top of the necessary supplies list for a new puppy, but they are certainly a valuable addition to that list. We hope puppy owners use this list to their advantage, and find a playpen that will work for them and their families!