The right dog pen will keep your pet safe in one spot so they can’t get into trouble. They are also great for providing a safe retreat for an older dog, or as a tool for potty training your dog. Options range from simple metal enclosures to wooden gates that can double as room dividers.
“Pens are a helpful training tool,” says Melissa “MJ” Viera, founder and licensed groomer and trainer of MJ’s Pet Training Academy located in Acushnet, Massachusetts. “When it comes to potty training a puppy, setting up a pen outside can help speed the process along. This gives your puppy a small area with less distraction and eventually helps transition them to free roaming. Portable pens are an excellent training tool for puppies.”
We tested 19 different dog pens in our New York lab, evaluating a wide range of pens for qualities like versatility, stability, and how easy they were to set up. Several models were tested in at-home environments as well. We also spoke to long-time puppy fosters, rescue volunteers, and trainers for additional insight in what you should look for when shopping for a new dog pen.
After hours of combined testing, our overall favorite pick was the Frisco Wire Dog & Small Pet Exercise Pen with Step-Through Door. It’s easy to set up, can be used indoors and outside, and has two latches for safety. However, there are several other dog pens our testers also loved, which might work better for your dog’s circumstances.
Here are the best dog pens.
Frisco Wire Dog & Small Pet Exercise Pen with Step-Through Door
Easy to set up and take down
Coated metal material
Comes in five heights
Can be pushed around by eager dogs
Locks can be difficult to open
Exercise pens (sometimes called “x-pens”) are simple playpens made of metal or plastic. They usually have about six or eight side panels that connect together so the entire pen can be configured in a square, rectangle, or octagon shape. This Frisco pen comes in five different heights, which you choose based on your dog’s size and interest in climbing.
Unlike some pens, this one has a step-through door, which makes it easy to walk in when you need to feed your pup or clean up any messes. The door has two sturdy latches which are difficult for pets to open, but sometimes tough for people too.
It’s made of coated wire which should help it last, and make it easier to use outside. The pen is easy to set up: Just unfold and latch together with the enclosed clips. It folds flat for storage and to be moved, but it can be heavy, so it likely won’t be something you want to unfold and set up every day.
“This pen is somewhat heavy (about 25 lbs) and I wouldn't want to lug it around for a long period of time, but carrying it on my own is still doable,” said one tester. “The weight wouldn't deter me from purchasing. It has a latch to hold the ends together, as well, so I didn't have to worry about the doors smacking me in the face while moving. It would fit in most standard car trunks.”
The pen has metal stakes that can help hold it in place when you’re outside on the grass. But one drawback to these pens is that rowdy pups can push them around when they jump on the sides. If that’s the case, try using bricks or exercise weights on the outside of the pen to keep it from moving. That’s the best way to keep the pen in the shape you want. It’s smart to place the pen on a safe surface (like tile or synthetic wood flooring, or even a vinyl remnant that you buy at the hardware store. That will keep the pen from scratching your floor.
Some agile pups can also climb out, particularly when a pen is too short, so see how your pup acts before leaving them alone.
“It was intuitive to set up and take down,” noted one tester, “and it's still sturdy without being clunky or oversized.”
Price at time of publish: $53 (36-inch)
Dimensions: 62 x 62 inches x 24 inches, 62 x 62 x 30 inches, 62 x 62 x 36 inches, 62 x 62 x 42 inches, 62 x 62 x 48 inches︱Material: Metal
Amazon Basics Foldable Metal Exercise Pet Play Pen
Has attached latches instead of clips
Easy to set up and take down
More affordable than some
Door goes all the way to the ground
Can be pushed around by dogs
This metal pen is easy to set up and take down, but it’s even easier than some because there’s a built-in latch instead of clips. Clips can get wonky from puppy chewing and it’s easy to lose them when you store the pen. (Tip: Clip them all on the top.) Set-up instructions are easy to follow and it has a clip to keep the pen together when folded.
This pen comes with or without a door. Unlike some pens that have step-through doors that don’t take up an entire panel, this gate is one of the eight panels and goes all the way to the ground. That makes it a little difficult to use outdoors because it can get caught on grass or turf when opening and closing.
The medium and large sizes have three latches on the gate. That’s good for security, particularly with crafty pups who want to Houdini their way out. Not all our testers were fans of the hardware, however. “The three latches were also a bit cumbersome, and with more latches, it is more likely to get them misaligned and have difficulty opening the pen,” said one tester.
The pen is less expensive than some, comes in five heights, and has a rustproof black finish. It’s lightweight, so you’ll need to brace the sides to keep a pup from moving it around. You can clip two pens together if you need more space.
“Taking down this pen was very easy, and it was not too heavy so it was easy to carry,” one tester noted. “It also included a clip to keep the pen together while carrying which was nice.”
Price at time of publish: $40 (30-inch)
Dimensions: 48 x 48 x 24 inches, 48 x 48 x 30 inches, 48 x 48 x 36 inches, 48 x 48 x 48 inches, 59.06 x 59.06 x 42 inches | Materials: Metal
Richell Convertible Indoor/Outdoor Pet Playpen
Works as a gate, pen, and room divider
Has gate for easy access
Lightweight and easy to assemble
Not for very small or very large dogs
Bulky and hard to transport
Some dogs can open gate
This multitasking product does triple-duty as a pen, gate, and room divider. It’s made out of relatively lightweight molded plastic and is very easy to clean, as well as assemble and take apart. The panels lock in place at a 90-degree, 120-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.
The pen is “difficult to transport since it's big and clunky,” says one tester, who suggested keeping the original carton if you wanted to take it apart and use it somewhere else. “This pen is more for a permanent fixture in the home or backyard.”
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 up to 88 pounds. But because the pen is only 36 inches tall, a large or athletic pup could jump out.
It’s “lightweight, easy to clean, assemble and take apart with clear instructions,” said a tester. “It's made out of durable, rigid, plastic thereby avoiding any rust issues if one decides to keep this in the backyard.”
Price at time of publish: $333 (6 panel)
Dimensions: 63.8 x 33.1 x 36 inches︱Material: Plastic | Color: Tan
EliteField Two-Door Soft Playpen
Lightweight and easy to transport
Top and bottom zip off
Can be tipped over
Zippers, mesh, and canvas can be chewed
This pop-up playpen has soft sides, is foldable, and comes with a carrying bag, so it’s easy to take on the road with you or move around your home. There are two zippered doors, and a canvas floor and mesh top that can be zipped on and off. The floor is thin, but waterproof, so it’s helpful if your pup is prone to accidents or splashes in the water bowl. 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.
The EliteField 2-Door Dog & Cat Playpen isn’t all that suitable for rambunctious or big dogs. Energetic pups can tip the playpen over or climb out. Teething puppies can chew the canvas or netting. Because it’s so portable and lightweight, it might be a good option for young puppies or older small dogs, particularly at nap time when they need a safe place to stay.
“There are multiple velcro compartments on the sides of the pen that can potentially be used for toys and doggie treats,” said one tester. “And it's spacious enough for almost any dog to roam around in, roll around in and/or sleep within it.”
There are mesh windows for ventilation, handy pockets for storage, and stakes to keep it anchored outside. 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 eight sizes and a rainbow of seven colors.
It’s simple to pop open, but there’s a bit of a learning curve to folding it back up.
“It’s flat enough to pack into a car trunk or stow away in a closet,” said one tester. “However in order to pack it in the bag, it would require the owner to fold it in a certain pattern which can become frustrating for first time users.”
Price at time of publish: $100 (36-inch)
Dimensions: 30 x 30 x 20 inches, 36 x 36 x 24 inches, 42 x 42 x 24 inches, 48 x 48 x 32 inches, 52 x 52 x 32 inches, 62 x 62 x 24 inches, 62 x 62 x 30 inches, 62 x 62 x 36 inches︱Materials: Nylon, mesh, fabric | Colors: Brown and beige; beige and green; black and beige; maroon and beige; purple and beige; royal blue and beige; navy blue and beige
Iris 4, 6, or 8 Panel Plastic Playpen
Easy to set up
Latched door for dog access
Can make it smaller by removing panels
Awkward to move and carry
More expensive than many
No step-through gate
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 gray, black, and white, and is made of molded plastic that will never rust. The panels are easy to assemble and, depending on which version you buy, they connect with built-in latches or long rods.
“This pen was clearly made for people on the go. The setup was easy and intuitive and I could do it by myself,” said one tester. “The instructions were short and simple and I felt like I was able to really easily build the pen.”
Although the playpen is easy to put together and take apart, it’s bulky when disassembled and doesn’t have a carrying case. You’ll need plenty of storage space when you aren’t using it.
One segment includes a dog door that opens and locks with a latch. On the taller pens, the door is only half the size of one panel, so you have to either step over the side (not easy if you’re short) or remove a panel if you need to clean up after your pup.
“I think this would be best for a consumer with a small dog that definitely won't run away who brings the dog to outdoor events (like beach days or park days or backyard hangs) and wants to keep it in a limited area,” said one tester, “or just for someone who wants to keep a small dog/ puppy limited to one area of their house.”
Price at time of publish: $120 (8-panel)
Dimensions: 35.13 x 35.13 x 23.75 inches, 60.75 x 60.75 x 23.75 inches, 60.75 x 60.75 x 23.75 inches, 63 x 63 x 34.25 inches | Material: Plastic | Colors: White, black, gray
Best for Large or Rambunctious Dogs
Yaheetech Foldable Pet Pen Play Yard
Very sturdy and hard for dogs to move
Can be attached to more panels
Heavy and not easily portable
Assembly can take some time
This sturdy metal pen is so much more solid than pretty much every other kind of 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 24 or 32-inch tall panels for smaller dogs.)
The biggest issue our testers had was assembly. You don’t need tools to assemble it, but it takes some time and works better if you have a second person to help you.
“This pen is difficult to set up but once set up it is a good sturdy option for a larger dog,” said one tester. “The pins to lock the frames into place/connect them also serve as stakes to embed into the dirt/grass/sand for added stability.”
The heavy weight makes it great for big or rowdy dogs, but it’s probably not 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 step-through door is convenient for humans, but can be high for a small dog. Depending on the size of the pen, there are 1-2 latches on the gate. The gate just sits inside hinges, so it can come off if you move the pen or lift up the door.
“This is a much-better option for energetic dogs that push a traditional pen all over the floor,” said a tester. “Just plan on setting it up and not moving it a lot.”
Price at time of publish: $133 (32-inch)
Dimensions: 128 x 128 x 40 inches, 128 x 128 x 32 inches, 128 x 128 x 24 inches | Material: Metal
Best for Puppies
Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard
Easy to open, close, and pack away in the case
Water-resistant padded floor
Teething puppies can chew netting
Not for big or energetic dogs
No roof or door
This human baby playpen can be a good option for tiny, young puppies or even small, calm adult dogs. It's so easy to pop open, snap shut, and store in its handy carrying case. It weighs only about 10 pounds and is simple to stash away.
“This playpen was incredibly easy to set up with minimal lift. I am impressed by the ease of assembly and its lightweight structure,” said one of our testers.
The pen has a padded, water-resistant padded floor that can be wiped clean in case of accidents and a locking bar across the top to keep the pen from folding. Pets have to be lifted out over the top; there’s no door. But a more expensive version comes with a shade to cover the top.
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.
It’s easy to move and the mesh sides give you a clear view of your pup.
“This product would be great for dog owners who want to see their dog directly while they are within the pen, and for dog owners who may want peace of mind that their dog is maintained in a specific area,” said one tester.
Price at time of publish: $53
Dimensions: 48 x 48 x 28.5 inches | Material: Vinyl, plastic, and metal | Colors: Blue
The Frisco Wire Dog & Small Pet Exercise Pen with Step-Through Door is our best overall pick, thanks to a step-through gate, easy setup, and multiple available sizes. If you want something smaller and easier to move, consider the EliteField 2-Door Pop-Up Playpen instead.
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 with netting 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. “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. Bonus if there’s an easy-to-use carrying case. 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 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 nearly 60 dozen dogs and puppies. She has tried many different pens to keep them safe and out of mischief. For more than 25 years, DiLonardo has covered a wide range of topics focused on nature, pets, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place.