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Playpen vs. Crate: Which Is Better for Your Puppy?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
January 16, 2022
4 min read
Playpen vs. Crate: Which Is Better for Your Puppy?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.
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So much goes into raising a puppy, from buckets of toys to leashes and bowls!

And just like with children, you’re likely bombarded with a slew of advice and a multitude of products.

Probably one of the most commonly advised puppy-rearing suggestions revolves around playpens and crates, often arguing using one over the other.

So, what’s better for your puppy?

Playpens are helpful when your puppy needs room to roam or if you are a very busy individual, but can make potty training more difficult. On the other hand, crates are great for confining your puppy and designating a sleeping area, but puppies can’t stay in them for long periods.

In this article, I’ll give you my honest thoughts on playpens and crates - and why neither is better nor worse, they’re just different!

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents
01
Pros and Cons of Using a Playpen
02
Pros and Cons of Using a Crate
03
Combining the Pros of Both Approaches
04
My Recommendation for Your Dog

Pros and Cons of Using a Playpen

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Playpens are enclosed areas (whether using a designated puppy playpen or even toddler gates!) where your puppy can frolic around in their caged area.

Playpens allow your puppy to explore their determined area and get a bit of exercise when you cannot watch them closely. Playpens often house food and water, as well as your puppy’s toys!

Many puppy owners like to use the Amazon Basics Foldable Metal Dog and Pet Exercise Playpen as their fencing for the playpen.

Like any tool, there are pros and cons to using a playpen to raise a puppy.

Pros

  • Allows your puppy to stretch their legs, walk around, and explore the contained area you set for them. Playpens are great when your puppy needs to get some exercise, and you can’t watch them.
  • A puppy can stay in a playpen for a prolonged period.
  • Playpens are large enough to throw in some fun toys, food, and water!
  • Because you set the fencing up yourself, you control the size of the playpen. You can expand, downsize, and constantly readjust the pen as needed.
  • Playpens can be assembled and disassembled with ease and set up anywhere. You can also use them for traveling!
  • Playpens can be used indoors and outdoors.

Cons

  • With the larger playpen size, your puppy may designate a corner to relieve themselves. This can be a big pain when potty training your puppy, as the larger space can make it difficult for a puppy to distinguish where they can and cannot go potty.
  • Eventually, adventure and confident puppies will test the boundaries of the playpen barrier. This can result in puppies climbing, jumping, or breaking the fence.
  • Depending on the type of playpen fencing you buy, puppies have gotten limbs stuck in them if the fencing is not sized correctly.

Pros and Cons of Using a Crate

On the contrary, a crate or kennel is a small, confined space for your puppy. In a correctly sized crate, your puppy can stand up and do a full revolution but will not be able to walk around (check out my guide on dog crate sizes here).

Crate training is considered pretty fundamental in modern puppy raising, primarily because the crate becomes their safe space to sleep and relax!

Training your dog to be comfortable in a crate is also great for emergencies where your dog may need to be crated for their own safety, such as an evacuation.

Pros

  • Crates tap into a puppy’s natural denning instincts - providing a safe, comfortable, and warm place for them to relax and sleep.
  • Crates help keep your dog safe when you’re not home or not able to watch them.
  • Crates make potty training much easier, as a dog won’t relieve themselves in a spot where they sleep.
  • Crates are excellent for nighttime sleeping routines.
  • Crate training is important for emergency situations.
  • Crate training is great for driving, as it’s safest to keep your dog in a crate when in a moving vehicle.

Cons

  • Like everything, crates have their downsides - primarily revolving around a crate’s size. Because your dog cannot move freely in them, crates are not for prolonged hour usage.
  • Crates can lead to physical frustration and distress if left in for too long.
  • Badly made or assembled crates can be uncomfortable for your dog, can pose a safety risk if your dog gets stuck, or can be easily escaped from.
  • Ventilation in a crate can be an issue if you’re not attentive to overheating. See my article on how to prevent overheating.

Combining the Pros of Both Approaches

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As the wheels in your mind start turning, you might be asking yourself if there is a way to combine the benefits of both a playpen and a crate in one go - and the answer is yes!

Because crates and playpens are great for their individual uses, you can use both simultaneously to raise your puppy.

One option is to put a crate inside of your puppy’s playpen. This helps your puppy become much more comfortable with the crate and begin choosing the crate as a sleeping area (which is something you want!).

If you live in an apartment and have a smaller dog, you can actually use the crate-inside-of-playpen approach to litter box or potty pad train your dog.

Place your dog’s relief area inside of their playpen in a further corner from the crate. With some patience and positive reinforcement, your dog will learn to use the relief area. Then, you’ll start seeing your puppy leave the crate to relieve themselves and then return to the crate to continue napping!

Another approach is to alternate use of the playpen and crate. You can use the playpen during the day when your puppy is more active and needs some playing time, and use the crate at night to indicate that it’s sleepy time!

This helps teach your puppy the different uses of each area and that the nighttime routine includes sleeping in their own area. Or, if you work an opposite shift or you’re a night owl, you can use the crate during the daytime and the playpen at night!

My Recommendation for Your Dog

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My recommendation? Raising a puppy is profoundly personal and dependent upon various factors, such as what your routine is and your home life situation consists of. As such, I cannot give you an absolute answer here!

That being said, my approach leans towards using both a playpen and a crate. I approach training from the perspective of puppies not being allowed to roam a home unsupervised until they reach an age where you can trust them.

As a person with (likely) a job, a slew of responsibilities, and a day that cannot revolve entirely around your furry best friend, what are you to do if the puppy needs to be let out for exercise, but you cannot watch them like a hawk?

The playpen works wonders in this situation! You can plop your puppy into a safe space to frolic while you work on whatever it is you are working on. The crate will do wonders for breaks, rest periods, and nighttime and become your puppy’s happy spot.

As such, my suggestion is to utilize both methods for when each one is deemed fit.


Tags
Crate TrainingPotty TrainingDog Training
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