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Finding the right dog pen will depend on your dog and what they need, whether that's a place for an older dog to feel safe, or a pen to keep a puppy out of trouble when they can't be closely monitored. Options range from simple metal enclosures to wooden gates that can double as room dividers.
We talked to trainers, dog fosters, and rescue workers, both seeking recommendations and listening to what they look for in an outstanding dog pen. We searched in particular for dog pens that combined durability, useful configurations, and easy-to-use gates.
Ahead, the best dog pens.
Best Overall: IRIS Open Wire Dog Pen
Open top but secure bottom
Three sizes, including tall
Not very big
This is a great cross between a crate and a pen. It has the security and sturdiness of a solid wire crate, but it doesn’t have the feeling of confinement because there’s no top. This is a perfect solution for puppies where you need to reach in often to change potty pads or for senior dogs who need a safe spot. It’s also a good choice for dogs recovering from surgery when you might have to lift them in and out but still need to limit their movement.
Set up requires no tools. Plus, the latch is easy to use, clasping directly on to one of the wires, so it's easy to confirm it's been securely closed. Instructions for using the latch with a padlock are also included. Its molded bottom tray is a separate piece from the enclosure, with guards on the bottom to prevent it from scratching floors.
Plus, the IRIS Open Wire Dog Pen is one of our favorite dog pens aesthetically, with faux wood trim and white epoxy-covered wire, making it a lot more attractive than traditional crates and pens.
The pen comes in three sizes: medium, large, and large tall (for the climbers in the bunch).
Best Heavy Duty: Yaheetech Heavy Duty Pet Playpen
Very sturdy and hard for dogs to move
This sturdy metal pen is so much more solid than your standard basic metal exercise pen (sometimes called an “x-pen”). It’s made of metal tube frames and wire panels, covered in a rust-resistant coating. There’s a very convenient step-through gate and eight panels that can be moved around to create a square, octagon, or rectangle pen. (You can also buy it with 16, 24, or 32 panels.)
The pen is easy to assemble with no tools required. But it is very heavy so it might not be the best choice for traveling. It’s available in a couple of different heights so you can choose based on the current (or projected) size of your puppy. The rods used to connect the panels can double as anchor stakes to help keep the pen in place if you want to use it outdoors.
Best Convertible: Richell 3-in-1 Convertible Pet Gate
Works as a gate, pen, and room divider
Has gate for easy access
Not for very large or very tiny dogs
Some pets can open the gate
This handy product is attractive, functional, and versatile as it does triple-duty as a pen, gate, and room divider. The panels are easy to lock in place at either a 90-degree or 180-degree angle. There’s a lockable gate so it’s easy for owners to move from room to room or get inside the pen to clean, however, some owners say that clever pets can easily figure out how to unlatch the gate.
The gate is available with four or six panels and you can attach more if you need a larger pen or want to block off a bigger room. The manufacturer says it’s meant to contain dogs that weigh between 8.8 to 44 pounds.
Best Traveling Pen: EliteField Two-Door Soft Playpen
Easy to fold
Top and bottom zip off
Can be tipped over
Zippers, mesh, and canvas can be chewed
This pop-up canvas playpen has soft sides, is easily folded, and comes with a carrying bag. It’s simple to tote with you on the road if you travel a lot, whether it’s camping or taking your dog to grandma’s house. It will give them a familiar, cozy spot to sleep and feel safe. The playpen has a zip-off canvas bottom and a zip-off mesh top. You can take off the bottom if you want to put your dog in the grass and can keep on the top if you worry about an escape artist. (I worry about teeny puppies outside and predators like hawks.)
There are mesh windows for ventilation, handy pockets for storage, and stakes to keep it anchored. Rambunctious dogs can learn how to tip this over and clever ones can unzip the zippers so it’s best for less energetic pups. It comes in six sizes and a rainbow of seven colors.
Best Budget: MidWest Homes for Pets Folding Metal Pet Playpen
Easy to set up and move
Can configure in different shapes
Some dogs can climb out
Can move across the floor
This standard x-pen doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but is a reliable and cost-effective way to keep your dog safe and out of trouble. It is quick to assemble: just unfold and affix the segments together with the included clips. There are also anchors to help stabilize this pen if you are going to use it outside.
The MidWest Homes Foldable Metal Dog Exercise Pen comes in five different heights, ranging from 24 inches to 48 inches, so you can choose based on the size (or climbing ability!) of your dog. You can also clip more than one of these together if you need a bigger space, making this a good option if you're looking for something expandable. They can be arranged into an octagon, square, or rectangle but the right configuration often depends on how rowdy your dog is and what will hold together best.
Best Indoor: IRIS USA, Inc. 34-Inch Exercise Playpen
Easy to assemble
No step-through gate
Bulky to move
This pen is a great-looking option when you need to keep a pet out of trouble in the middle of your living room. It comes in two shades of gray, as well as white, and is made of molded plastic that will never rust. The panels are easy to assemble with long full-length rods that keep them connected.
Although the IRIS Exercise Playpen is easy to put together and take apart, it’s a little bulky when disassembled, so it's best for those with plenty of storage space. One segment includes a door that's about 20-inches high and 15-inches wide and accessible via a metal swing latch.
Best for Tiny Puppies: Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard
Easy to open and close
Water-resistant padded floor
Teething puppies can chew netting
If you have a teeny, tiny young puppy, a human baby playpen can be a good option for naps and playtime. This playard is easy to pop open, snap shut, and store. It has a locking bar across the top for safety and a water-resistant padded floor that is simple to wipe clean in case of accidents.
This may not be the best choice for older, rowdier puppies, who may try to climb up the sides or gnaw on the netting. But it’s an excellent option for very young puppies who need a safe space to hang out after naps or between feedings.
What to Look for in a Dog Pen
The most important factor when choosing any dog gear is safety. You don’t want to put a tiny puppy in a pen with wire bars that are too far apart where they could get their head stuck. Or you don’t want to put an aggressive chewer in a canvas pen where they could gnaw their way out or swallow a zipper.
Watch your pet and see how they behave inside the pen at first. Make sure they’re not able to scramble over the top or tip it over. It should be a solid, safe, comfortable place for them to hang out.
“Use pens with supervision instead of long durations,” says Melissa “MJ” Viera, founder and licensed groomer and trainer of MJ’s Pet Training Academy located in Acushnet, Massachusetts.
“If you have to leave your dog contained for a longer duration without supervision, consider options made for this purpose, such as an appropriate size crate or a dog-proof room. When your dog is in a pen, consider taking off collars and equipment so that the dog does not get stuck on anything.”
Depending on how you plan on using the pen, you’ll want to make sure your pet has room to move around. If it’s for a puppy, make sure there’s room for a separate sleeping area, a place to play, and a potty spot.
Height is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a pen, says Viera.
“A dog that jumps high and taller dogs will need a pen tall enough to keep them contained. Any dog can learn to escape a pen, so it's important to teach dogs how to settle in their pen and be respectful of the boundaries instead of jumping up at its sides,” Viera says. “Jumping is not the only way dogs escape their pen. Some dogs will also climb over. Spend a little time working with your dog and buy a sturdy and tall pen to prevent these issues."
You’ll want something that’s easy to fold and relatively lightweight if you’re going to move your pen from room to room, take it with you on trips, or move it from indoors to outdoors. Some playpens are harder to collapse than others and awkward to set up.
What size pen should I get for my dog?
Most pen manufacturers will offer size recommendations based on your pet’s breed, weight, or height. Keep in mind that rambunctious puppies or rowdy breeds will be more likely to jump against the sides or try to climb out of a pen than calmer, older pets.
How can I keep my dog from climbing out of the pen?
Make sure your pen is tall enough for your dog, especially if you have a climber. Some playpens have detachable tops made from netting or other materials to keep your pup from making a break for it. You can also make your own top by attaching a bed sheet or some garden mesh to the top. If your pen has a door, always open it and take your pup out that way. Once dogs figure out they can go over the top, they can realize climbing is one option to get out.
How can I keep the dog pen clean?
Check out the cleaning instructions that come with the pen. Many coated metal pets can simply be hosed down with water and dried with a towel or allowed to air dry. Because canvas pens might stain, it would be smart to put down a washable pee pad (view on Amazon) on the floor to help with accidents.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
We have a team of pet-loving writers, editors, and experts who suggest and test products for Spruce Pets. Our team relies on many years of expertise in training, fostering, veterinary, and pet ownership and considers safety, usefulness, and durability when selecting great pet items.
The proud mom of a rescue dog, Mary Jo DiLonardo has fostered more than three dozen dogs and puppies. She has tried many different pens to keep them safe and out of mischief. For more than 25 years, Mary Jo has covered a wide range of topics focused on nature, pets, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place.