Puppy playpens vs dog crates: both tools help train new dogs. Use a playpen to give your puppy a safe space to play and chew.

If you’re looking to become a new dog owner, you may wonder whether you should use a playpen or a crate to train your pup. You may have seen both displayed in stores and are wondering whether you should invest in one or the other or if you need both to prevent stress on your dog during potty training.

This blog post will explore the difference between playpens and dog crates and when each is most effective. We’ll also discuss whether you need to purchase a playpen for your puppy and where the best place is for it in your home.

Finally, we’ll talk about how long your puppy can be left alone and where the crate and/or puppy pen can go in your home.

Playpen vs crate: Everything you need to know about both

Below is everything you need to know about puppy playpens vs a puppy crate.

1) Playpen vs crate, what’s the difference?

If you are confused about using a dog pen instead of a dog crate or vice versa and want to learn a little bit more about both popular dog products, then keep reading because both options are covered in detail below.

What is a puppy playpen?

A puppy playpen is typically an enclosed area made of metal or plastic gates (similar to baby gates) that are put together to create a safe space for your puppy to play and chew within your home.

These playpens are designed to give you a much-need break from having to watch your dog so intensely while they are inside your house and active.

A dog pen is a temporary solution to keep your young dog safe while they are alone and many puppies will outgrow the need for a dog pen once they understand how to behave inside the home.

What is a dog crate?

On the other hand, a dog crate is made to create a calm den for your puppy and has a door that can be closed to confine your puppy in a small space to assist you and your dog with house training, separation training, and chew training.

A dog crate is the perfect sleeping space for most puppies, and many adult dogs continue to use their dog crate to rest throughout their lives.

Adult dogs will see their dog crate as an escape from the hustle and bustle of an active family or use it for comfort when they are left alone in the home.

2) When and how to use a playpen

Boston Terrier puppy sleeps in open crate. To teach your puppy alone time, start by choosing a safe confinement area such as a crate, exercise pen, or a small room.
To teach your puppy alone time, start by choosing a safe confinement area such as a crate, exercise pen, or a small room.

Using a playpen with a dog crate

Crate training is essential to house training a puppy, however, you can use a crate and playpen together to give your dog a controlled environment to play in.

If you intend to use a playpen you can place your young dog directly into the play area and let them have a safe chew toy to play with while you are nearby.

This gives your puppy a chance to burn off energy without worrying about destructive chewing in the house. When using a dog pen it is best to pay more attention to how often you let your puppy out for potty breaks because young dogs are more likely to potty while they are active and playing.

Using a playpen alone

Using an exercise pen instead of a dog crate for a new puppy is not recommended. The two products are intended for different uses.

Many pet parents find that when their puppy is properly crate trained, they enjoy going into their dog crate for naps and downtime.

If you use only a playpen for your puppy, you can miss out on teaching your puppy the essential life skill of being comfortable inside a dog crate.

Every dog will need to spend time inside of a dog crate at some point in its life, whether it’s a vet appointment, dog daycare, or boarding your dog will handle these situations much better if it is comfortably crate trained.

Potty training with a playpen

Playpen training isn’t the same as potty training your young puppy. Using a dog exercise pen with puppy pee pads is not a permanent solution to potty training your young dog. 

Unless you intend for your furry friend to always use the bathroom in a specific place inside your home or apartment, it is best to teach your puppy not to relieve themselves inside the home at all during this young, impressionable stage of your dog’s life.

If you are looking to housebreak your puppy quickly you can help your puppy learn to alert you when they need to go out by using potty bells combined with crate training. You will simply teach your puppy to ring a bell to alert you when they need to go outside.

Don’t leave your puppy bored in its playpen all-day

Another thing to consider before you purchase a puppy pen is what your puppy’s schedule will look like. Your puppy pen should be used to give your puppy a safe place to chew toys, exercise, and learn to be alone for short periods of time.

Puppy pens are not intended to give dog owners the ability to leave a puppy alone for several hours or an entire night. Puppies are curious and social animals and will want to spend time with you and go outside frequently to explore.

Every minute your young puppy spends inside a dog pen is a minute they are not getting outside to learn puppy socialization and explore their world.

3) When to use a crate (and why it is essential)

Crate training is one of the best ways to teach a puppy not to soil the home while also teaching them to enjoy some personal space and downtime.

Crate training is also essential in puppy training to keep your new puppy from chewing on inappropriate items (cords, furniture, shoes, etc.) and can help save your young dog’s life.

If you have the right size dog crate and give your dog a positive experience while crate training them, you will have more success in every other area of your puppy training routines.

Pair of fluffy chihuahuas in puppy playpen. A puppy playpen is a great option for a young dog. It can complement your other training at home and give your dog a fun area to chew toys and play for a little bit.
A puppy playpen is a great option for a young dog. It can complement your other training at home and give your dog a fun area to chew toys and play for a little bit.

4) Do you have to get a playpen for your puppy?

A puppy playpen is a great option for a young dog. It can complement your other training at home and give your dog a fun area to chew toys and play for a little bit.

Dogs naturally love to explore and will be safer in a playpen than being left to roam freely in your home. However, your canine companion will want to be with you throughout the day and will not want to spend their entire day inside of a playpen.

Just keep this in mind when deciding whether or not you would like to use a dog enclosure inside your home.

5) How long should your puppy be left in the playpen?

A dog pen is not the same as a crate when it comes to preventing potty accidents in the house. Dog enclosures are usually a much larger space for your puppy to play, meaning they can easily potty on the floor and play in another area without being bothered by their accident.

Unfortunately, this means you should only leave your puppy in the play area for a short amount of time. When crate trained, a young puppy can hold its bladder for up to two hours at a time, but with a dog pen, you will have to be more aware of your puppy’s need to get outside for a potty break.


Corgi in an heavy-weight crate.
Gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends in the crate until they get used to staying in it for longer periods during house-training.

Where should you set up a puppy playpen?

You can set up a puppy pen anywhere in your home anywhere you feel it is safe for your puppy to be left. Dog pens are a great option for many dog owners to give their fur babies a confined space to roam and chew without worrying about what the puppy is getting into or doing.

Do you need a crate if you have a playpen?

Puppy training usually involves crate training due to the effectiveness of the puppy enjoying the small space to enjoy sleeping, which usually will prevent a puppy from seeing a crate as a potty area.

On the other hand, a puppy pen is easily a way for your puppy to become confused about where they should relieve themselves, as they can easily soil one spot and play in another.

Where is the best place to put a crate?

For day training, the crate should be placed in an area of your home where the family spends a lot of time, such as the living room or kitchen. This will help your puppy feel less isolated and more comfortable in their crate.

For nighttime training, you can keep a small crate in your bedroom to help put your puppy at ease during those first few weeks while it is adjusting to its new environment.

What is a good alternative to a playpen?

The better option would be to have your puppy on a leash tethered to you throughout the day. This way you can include your puppy training into your normal routines.

If you use the hairdryer, vacuum, broom, or other household items, you can use positive rewards to teach your dog to become familiar with these routines and give them the socialization they need. Instead of having them alone in a pen chewing on a toy.

Remember that puppies also sleep most of the day and will not need to be with you 24/7 if you use a crate for their nap times.

Should you let your puppy roam the house?

Don’t let your puppy roam the house unattended.

Puppies are naturally curious, have a strong desire to chew, and cannot hold their bladder for very long.

Due to these natural urges, you should always supervise a new puppy or use a dog enclosure to protect them from harm.

Is a playpen worth it for a puppy?

The playpen is a great way for pet parents to keep their puppies safe and give them the playtime they need, but it should not be used as a crutch.

A playpen should not be used to confine your puppy for long periods as this can lead to behavioral problems. Additionally, your puppy will outgrow the need for a playpen over time.

Finally thoughts on puppy playpen vs. crate

Puppy playpens and dog crates are different tools that can be used to help train your new dog.

A playpen is a great way for pet parents to give their puppy a designated space to play and chew safely while also teaching them to enjoy some personal space and downtime.

Crate training is essential in puppy training to help your puppy become a well-adjusted adult dog.

Heather Lipson is a writer and lifestyle blogger at The Heather Lipson Blog where she provides advice on dog training, family life, and home improvement. 

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Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.


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