Guide to Selecting a Pet Pop-Up Playpen!

We are minimalists and have chosen to live in a moderate space to avoid accumulating more “stuff” than we need. Because the square footage is reduced every single item that comes into our home has to serve a purpose.  In fact multi-functionality is preferred.

But even in a small space, everyone should have a spot that is his or her own.  Somewhere others may have access to but everyone knows and respects as yours. A space of that nature makes anyone feel safe, special and unique, including canines.

“Dad” has his painter’s studio and “Mom” has her special chair.  I have my pop-up-play pen that is also referred to as my den.  It has been my “room” since I was a puppy and it is my sanctuary.  I will admit to you however, that I rarely use it at home anymore – having grown into a responsible adult, I have the run of the house and prefer my day bed and the top of the couch that offers me a view of my kingdom (a.k.a. the park).  So why keep it?  Besides being the storage space for my toy collection and a place I go to at night to sleep if I am feeling independent, it really is still a hugely useful item.

Guide to Selecting a Pet Pop-Up Playpen

The Den – When I was a Puppy

When I was a just a pup, there was a good reason for the playpen.  It was a matter of piece of mind for the bipeds.   It is common for a puppy to chew on things during the teething phase, and some puppies do not take well to being left alone especially when given too much space to “protect” too soon.  In addition although I was indoor potty trained, my bipeds wanted to “set me up for success” and avoid possible accidents.

At home, the door was always open if the bipeds were there.  As you may know, puppies sleep a LOT and at that time I would go there if I wanted a “do not disturb me” nap. If my bipeds were away for just an hour or two they often would just leave it open and I still chose to wait in there regardless – where I felt safe until their return. On a day-to-day basis you could usually find: My day bed, my toys, my antler chew, and extra snuggle blanket.

My parents do not like the crate training approach (we know however, that it works for many); small, dark and confined spaces for 8 or more hours a day was not an appealing option to them.  They wanted me to be able to use my indoor potty, have a little “wrestle” with a toy and move around somewhat freely so that I would learn to be responsible and in time have access to our entire home.

Dog with toys Guide to Selecting a Pet Pop-Up Playpen

What do you mean I have too many toys?

The pen allowed us the flexibility of giving me access to more space … slowly and gradually.  First I was given access only to the playpen itself (3-5 months); then the pen and bathroom (6-9 months), then the pen, bathroom and hallway (9-11 months) … etc. After a year I had the run of the place and knew that our entire home was one very large den.

Note: When looking at a playpen for a puppy there are some things you need to consider:

  • Make sure it is durable enough for your breed.  I was always a quiet puppy; I did not scratch things or even take to shredding.  So a mesh enclosure worked.  But if you have a larger or more active pup – you may want something sturdier.  Pens come in metal as well.
  • Make sure you buy the right size pen for your dog.  Your canine companion should be able to lie down, stand and turn around comfortably at minimum (also true for crates and carriers). Knowing the approximate size and height of your dog as an adult will be important when choosing the right size pen and always err on the side of larger.

The Den Now

The pop-up-play pen we chose is one of the most versatile because it can be used both indoors and out and is 100% portable.  We did not, as minimalists, want to purchase or own more than one pen.

It is great for play, exercise and house training as mentioned above, but its real value to us is when outside of our home environment. This “exercise pen” folds flat in seconds and comes with a matching storage bag for traveling! This quick and easy soft-sided playpen just twists and pops open.  Installation takes seconds!

In a new environment such as a hotel room or rental apartment; when I am left alone (for the first time especially); I am zipped up in there, with my bed (the sleepy pod base), water, some food and my indoor potty.  It’s all there and I can’t damage something before I know what my boundaries are in the new space.

The removable, washable liner (placed on the floor as a barrier) is invaluable since almost all hotels have wall-to-wall carpeting and most apartments feature at least one tantalizing area rug.  This base keeps food, “accidents” and possibly spilled water off he carpet.  I also can’t rip up or chew the corner of a rug.  Because this is my den at home since puppyhood and so familiar to me, I remain calm and tend to not bark allowing my bipeds to actually leave me alone for a few hours while they go to places I am not welcome (ex: museums, romantic dinner for two etc.) without disturbing neighbours.


Sorry it’s fuzzy …

This also solves the problem for hotel housekeeping staff that may be afraid to enter if I am loose in the room, although the bipeds always put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.  As we mentioned in our article on Hotel Canine Etiquette, many hotels insist that your pet be crated when in the room. The pen is an accepted substitute to the crate and easier to transport.

As you can see it is truly a multifunctional item and is likely one of the best investments we have made.  New uses for the den seem to keep “popping” up the more we travel and move around.  We would highly recommend it for anyone lucky enough to bring his or her pet to work for example.

Do you have a pen?  What is it like and why do you like it?

(UPDATE: We have since used the pen at the beach! It works wonderfully since it has a cover and thus creates shade. It comes with pegs that help the pen stay put in the sand, if windy. We have also used it when attending gatherings or events where some quiet time or a safe haven is needed.  The pen is NO LONGER out at home and only used for travel and outings now. – April 10th 2014)

25 Comments on “Guide to Selecting a Pet Pop-Up Playpen!

  1. Hi Monte, what a great little post! I thought I’d comment on it since I used the crate training technique.

    Mocha (a Labrador) was crate trained from day 2. On day one I let her sleep in my room with me, just that one night, because it was her first night home, but it was really amazing to find her in her crate in the morning!

    Mocha was crate trained up to a year, maybe a little more, and she got full run of the house after that, she was perfect, except for eating my socks lol, but she’s not one to destroy anything. We used crate training since it was more suited for us and it was a hand-me down (neighbour who had a puppy gave us her crate) so we didn’t need to make any purchases what so ever, which was a bonus. It really worked out for us. After letting her have full run of the house, my dad decided to get rid of the crate since he didn’t see much of a use. After we got into flyball, I realized how important and useful crates can be! This was about 4 and a half years later, but no disappointment, Mocha took to her crate very easily and she was always in it and still is.

    I have two crates now, a wired crate, where she eats and sleeps during the day, then I also have a mesh crate in my room where she sleeps at night (i do lock her in this one since I need my sleep and a big dog jumping on/off my bed on a futon/single bed isn’t very fun). I got the mesh/portable crate since it will be incredibly useful for travels. Both crates are portable or collapsible, but the mesh one is lighter and easier to install and put away.

    • Crates work for a LOT of people. I can also see how with a big dog it is an entirely different conversation – damage level is substantially higher according to Mom who owned Belgian Bouviers for years! Although we never used crates we can see why the system works well. Dogs feel safe. That is what matters. It just wasn’t for us! But really the pen is just a big crate!

    • Thank you for your post, I was wondering if it is good to have a wire one in living room with everything in it and the Mesh one for nite fir my chuihuahua . Your post helped a lot

  2. When I had a dog, he was crated from the time he was a pup. I’ve never been a big fan of the crate, but I understand the purpose. The dogs need a place to feel safe. For larger dogs the crate is the way to go. But for smaller dogs, the pen is a wonderful alternative. This gives the dog a little room to move but not enough room to get a running start to bolt over the wall. Plus, there’s room for the posse of friends. Talk about a win-win situation.
    It’s always interesting stepping into your world, Monte. It’s good knowledge for dog owner and non-owner alike.

    • Thanks for stopping in Brad!! Our Tag Line Sunday Champion!! LOL It is a win win as you say – the portability of this particular pen is an extra bonus!

  3. Thank you for another delightful post!! I haven’t had a pup for a long long time! When I did, people didn’t use crates except for in transport.  Ive had many shoes and expensive pairs of sunglasses distroyed by my four legged babies!! Would have loved to have had a nice pen like yours Monte!  For the last 15 years my dogs have been rehabilitaed rescued adults, very well behaved and already potty trained. If I do get a pup sometime in the future, I believe the pen den would be the way to go!! 

    • Out of curiosity, since we use this mostly for travel now … you own a small dog and travel …. what do you use when staying at hotels? Do you leave the dog free in the room?

  4. It was great to read your post about the playpen, Monte! Do you remember when I visited you at your house and you let me check out your den? Well, Mum saw that I liked it so she bought me one. Like you, my “house” is my favorite place. Mum keeps my house in her studio beside her desk, so I spend a lot of time each day playing in my house and just resting while I hang out with Mum. I also go there whenever I want a “do not disturb” nap, when we have lots of company or really active dogs visiting (I’m a quiet kind of guy), or when my ‘rents go out without me. I use my cuddle blanket to bury my bones in my house. And, like you, I use my house when we travel. Mum likes how my house all folds up flat into a canvas bag that fits beautifully in the bottom of her suitcase. I like how I have my space and smells for rest when I’m tired of or worn out by all the new smells and noises.

    Mum crate-trained me as a puppy, which made things easier for both of us. So nice to be helped to stay out of trouble and Mum was pretty relaxed ’cause she didn’t have to be watching me and guessing my moves every minute of the day. As I got older and more mature, Mum gave me more space in the house to claim as mine. Mum says that’s a major reason why I’m so relaxed and calm now. (I think Mum likes that!)

    I haven’t used a crate since I was a big puppy (about 7 or 8 months old), and Mum is glad to be rid of the metal. My playpen is a great replacement – all the comfort and security, light for travel, and Mum doesn’t get bruises anymore from banging into my house!

    • Do I remember?? I absolutely do!! we had SO MUCH FUN!!!!! remember running around? Dude – I think you surprised everyone! Especially when you went into my den with such confidence! So glad your Mom is a good Mom and got one for you. The practicality of it really trumps those metal ones … and *ouch* we all cringed when we read that last sentence! Indeed, if your Mom is half as accident prone as mine then yes, a soft pen is safest …. for ALL! Thanks for sharing your experience with me and everyone here. Sometimes it is nice to have that second voice that confirms it all. That way people will know it isn’t just me! Plus you are a bigger dog than I am – and this proves it works for more than just pocket dogs (why are we called that? never sat in a pocket … hmmm….). What size did you get? same as mine?

  5. We have a pen like that as well! Unfortunately, Wrigley was rambunctious when he was young, and we didn’t trust him not to scratch his way out of the nylon/mesh pen, so normally, we use a small wire crate. Last year, though, when he had surgery and had to be crated for almost 3 months, the pen was a lifesaver. I lined the bottom a million blankets, and it became his “hospital crate”. He couldn’t walk at all during his recuperation, and it was so much easier putting him into the pen and taking him out through the large, zip off top than to squeeze him, his splinted leg and his neck cone through the side door of his regular crate! I WISH we could use the pen as a crate when we travel — it’s so much lighter and easier to pack, but I don’t trust Wrigley enough to leave him alone in it. Even when he was recuperating post-surgery, and he had his front leg in a splint and his giant cone on, he managed to unzip one of the side doors and get out. That’s a Jack Russell mix for you. 🙂 Monte, your humans are lucky you’re such a well-behaved boy.

    • OMD – what happened to him?? poor boy! Well … maybe as he gets older? Ahahahahahaaaaa….. I say and realize he’s a Jack Russell…. yeah … never going to happen. Just glad he is better now.

      As for me – just a quiet one. Always was. *shrug* a reason I was chosen. The bipeds knew we would travel a lot and a bouncy high energy dog was not a good idea. Just glad they are happy with the choice – very win win!! 🙂

  6. Love the den! It’s a great idea! We have a metal one but it’s heavy and not as practical as this one seems. Definitely not something we bring along all the time, althought it’s good for outside and for blocking off rooms as it opens up and acts as a gate. Pepito was crated the first few weeks we got him. One day we came home, and he was out of the crate, so I assumed I didn’t close it right. So the next morning, I made sure it was well closed and latched. Got home from work, and guess what? yup, he was out of the crate AGAIN! After escaping the crate a few times, we obviously knew he figured out how to get out by lifting the latch and sliding until it opened the door. A little TOO smart for his own good. We started leaving him in the bedroom with the door closed so this acted as a “big” crate for him. Apart from shredding a few pee pads, he hasn’t really tried to do any damage.

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  8. Hi,very interesting post and very very interesting website.
    We live in Italy and travel a lot too. I Have a long coat chihuahua very similar to Monte and a rescue dog, probably a chihuahua mix, a little bigger than a chihuaha.
    I would like to buy a pen for hotel rooms.
    Please, wich size is the pen in your photo? I can’t decide beetween medium and large.
    Thank you very much. I read you very often!


    • Erika … for two dogs I would go with the large for sure. You want to make sure there is room for both in there. The small and medium are – in my opinion – a little too small. Especially if you want to include two beds/carriers and a pee pad or something. 🙂

      Thank you for reading!! We appreciate it a lot!

  9. Dino had a crate, but we should have started using it earlier. We had a largish kitchen we could block off, but I think he might have been better off with a “den”. I finally set it up in my office because even when I was in there with him, I couldn’t get any work done because he wandered around chewing on everything in the room—my plastic rolling file cabinets are still missing the pieces he chewed off. He also didn’t become fully potty trained until I started crating him at night to sleep. Once he got through his puppy phase at about a year and a half, we put the crate away at home, but the people he stayed with when we traveled wanted to have his crate. They left it open in their living room and he used to go in there on his own to chill. One time they had another cockapoo staying with them when Dino was there and they quickly became buddies. They’d exhaust themselves playing chase in the back yard and then would both go into Dino’s crate to snooze. How cute is that?

  10. Nice informative post.. I was looking out for some dog playpens for my pet when i came across your post.. thanks for sharing this article. Keep posting similar stuff.

    • Certainly will! I have one on the “pee” solution, on carriers, on the food and water situation … Do you think video on these topics would be useful?

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  13. I’m getting a chuihuahua in October . I want to crate train it and keep the tiny guy safe. Can I get a metal one for food per pad ext and have in front room all day and use a mesh one for his den in bedroom . Also I’m sure the first week will be scary for him so I thought I’d be in living room with him but should I use his den mesh one so he knows it’s bedtime

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