Choosing and Using a Puppy Playpen

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Choosing the right puppy playpen can make a big difference to how happy and safe your puppy is. Make sure you're well-informed before you purchase a pen for your puppy. There are a few important aspects of a puppy pen to consider before you buy.

Reasons You Need a Pen For Your Puppy

Puppy playpens are excellent for keeping your puppy out of harm's way when you can't be around to keep an eye on her. You can't leave your puppy in her crate for long periods of time, so you need a more spacious place for her to play while still being in a contained area. The puppy pen is the answer to the problem.

A puppy pen will:

  • Keep your puppy away from danger areas when you're not around to watch
  • Act as a safe haven where your pup can be comfortable and secure when you have to leave her alone
  • Provide all she needs (toys, food, water, bed) all in one place
  • Help keep her under control when she gets too excited - but don't use it for punishment, as you want her to have happy associations with her pen

Use It, Don't Abuse It

Don't overuse the puppy pen. You should try never to leave your puppy alone in his pen for more than an hour and a half. The exception would be when the puppy is sleeping. It's okay to leave him in there at night - in fact I recommend it, as you obviously can't keep an eye on a wandering puppy while you're asleep. If you leave the puppy alone for too long, it could lead to separation anxiety problems.

Make sure you stock the pen with food, water, and a variety of chew toys before you leave the puppy alone. Never leave him alone with cheap plastic toys that may break up, or chews that have small parts that may be swallowed. Use sturdy, quality chew toys and digestible food chews. Take your puppy out to the toilet before you put him in the pen and place newspaper on the floor underneath

to make cleaning up easy.

Puppy Pen Size

The size of your puppy's pen will depend on the size of the dog to some extent, but remember that Jack Russells are very active, so a bigger pen is a good idea. The pen needs to be big enough for the puppy to have separate areas for eating, sleeping and going to the toilet. In the wild dogs are den animals, and they don't like to soil the places where they sleep and eat. A square pen, 36 by 36 inches, or an 8-sided pen with 24-inch panels should do the trick.

There are also pens available now which have roofs and handles, so they effectively act as a 2-in-1 pen and crate. I'd recommend getting a crate separately as I don't feel these provide enough room to act as a playpen for an energetic Jack Russell puppy.


There are a variety of pens on the market now made of different materials. The standard metal pen will be fine if your pen is going to be fairly stationary. If you think you're need to move the pen around, you might consider a collapsible pen. These are more like a tent. The only drawback of these is that they can't really contain a Jack Russell after a certain age, but by that point you shouldn't be dependant on the pen anymore.


The height of the puppy pen's walls should also be appropriate to the dog's size and activity level. Jack Russells can jump higher than most people would expect. I'd recommend getting a 30 inch high pen to be on the safe side. You could get by with a smaller pen, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Besides, if you buy a small pen your puppy may outgrow it.


This is more for you than for your puppy. Remember, the puppy playpen will be sitting in a prominent part of your house, probably a living room or bedroom. Make sure it's a color you're happy to look at.

More Information

There are a few more things you need to know about leaving a puppy alone in a puppy playpen or any confined space. Read about crate training puppies and dealing with puppy separation anxiety.

My free special report The Top Ten Jack Russell Training Mistakes, is a short guide written specifically for Jack Russell owners. It contains lots of information which will help you avoid some of the stress and anxiety involved in raising a puppy.

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