Exercise pens are useful for corralling dogs for a short period of time; supervising puppy play groups; or simply creating a barrier in your home so your dog can play without getting into mischief. But different dog exercise pens are better for different dogs. Choosing the right playpen for your dog can be surprisingly challenging!
Before you buy an exercise pen, consider the following:
- Size of your dog. Larger dogs need larger pens, whereas puppies or small dogs are fine in smaller enclosures
- Your dog’s escape abilities. If your dog is a real Houdini, or prone to chewing, you might need to consider a more heavy-duty x-pen.
- Where your dog will play. Some x-pens are made for indoor-only use, while some can move in and out. Do you want a dog exercise pen to use indoors, outdoors, or both?
There are a lot of options to choose from, but we’re here to take on some of the work for you. We’ve made a list of desirable features, read through countless online reviews, and we’re ready to recommend some great options. From heavy-duty wire x-pens to portable fabric playpens for dogs, we’ve rounded up four of the best dog playpens available.
What makes a good exercise pen for dogs?
In general, a good dog exercise pen will be durable and secure, and easy for the average dog owner to use. In looking for the best dog exercise pens available, we considered the following criteria:
- Ease of set-up. It should be relatively quick and easy to set up your dog exercise pen.
- Durability. If you’re going to invest in an exercise pen for your dog, you want it to last!
- Materials. Exercise pens come in metal, mesh, and plastic. Not every dog needs the same material, but we’ve done our best to consider what works well for different types of dogs.
And now, onto our top picks for dog exercise pens!
1. Best all-purpose dog exercise pen: IRIS Exercise 8-Panel Pet Playpen
IRIS pet playpens are bestsellers in the dog exercise pen world, and it’s not hard to see why. Constructed of durable, heavy-duty molded plastic, the IRIS Exercise Panel Playpen can be used indoors or outdoors. It’s weather-resistant for use in the yard, but has rubber feet to protect floors in your home.
The base model comes with eight interlocking panels that you can position in different shapes to suit your pet’s needs. You can remove a panel or two for smaller space; or, as your puppy grows, you can increase the size of her pen with add-on panels (available for separate purchase). And at 34″ high, this is one dog exercise pen that your dog won’t be able to jump out of!
- Affordable! The IRIS playpen costs under $100.
- Available in seven bold colors to match your decor or brighten up the yard
- Each panel has nonskid rubber feet to protect flooring
- Easy to assemble, with rods that drop in to connect panels. Folds flat for storage when not in use.
- A few reviewers complained that the panels are too tall for the average person to step over. That’s good news for jumpy puppies, but may be an inconvenience for some dog owners.
- Some reviewers noted that plastic caps on the metal rods don’t stay in place, and could be chewing or choking hazards for curious pups. They can be affixed with glue.
- Super-smart pups may figure out a way to open the door.
Most helpful review: “It’s easy to assemble, portable, and well designed. You can easily remove panels to adjust the size according to your specific needs, and the access door is a nice convenience for the pet. If we need inside the pen, we simply remove a rod adjoining 2 panels…The dog is happy, and we’re happy!”
2. Best exercise pen for large & energetic dogs: BestPet Heavy Duty Pet Playpen
This strong, secure dog exercise pen is made of steel fencing panels coated to prevent rust and corrosion. Each panel is 40″ high, so your excitable large-breed puppy won’t be able to jump out. The secure gate makes it easy for you to get in and out of the pen without letting the dog escape. And the accompanying steel stakes let you secure the pen in the yard so your dog can safely enjoy the great outdoors (supervised, of course).
- It’s versatile! Panels can be set up in a variety of configurations, from an octagon playpen to a door-blocking fence.
- Drop-in pins make it easy to set up and take down.
- Online reviewers love how easy it is to assemble, saying it takes only 10-20 minutes to set up.
- Fencing allows for visibility but prevents even the smallest puppies from escaping or getting caught
- Some reviewers note that the assembly rods may bend if improperly used
- The enclosed space is not huge, so dogs who need a lot of room may need a bigger pen
Most helpful review: “I love that you can configure it many different ways and adjust the size. It is very easy to set up and break down, and does not take up a lot of room when storing. You can buy multiples and add them to make them even bigger to put outside.”
3. Best basic dog exercise pen: MidWest Homes for Pets Foldable Metal Exercise Pen
A classic x-pen, the MidWest Homes for Pets exercise pen provides 16 square feet of enclosed space for your dog to relax and play. We like that the eight, two-foot-wide panels can be arranged in several configurations, including a divided space to keep two dogs “together but separate.” And online reviewers love the variety of heights available, ranging from 24″ to 48″ to suit all sizes of dog.
- Reviewers praise the flexibility of this pen, as well as the secure but easy-to-operate step-through door
- The black electro-coated fencing is durable indoors and out.
- When not in use, pen stores flat under the bed or in the back of a closet.
- Can be topped with a sunscreen for extra security and shade outdoors
- Panels are lightweight and flexible, so may not hold up to strong/heavy dogs
- Clasps that hold panels together may be easily lost when disassembled
Most helpful review: “It has quality construction, it is easy to assemble and collapse for easy storage and travel, it is easily adjustable to form customizable shapes, and all at a reasonable price.”
4. Best soft-sided dog exercise pen: ESK COLLECTION Pet Puppy Dog Playpen
If you need a lightweight, roomy, and portable playpen for your puppy, look no farther. This soft-sided dog exercise pen from ESK is perfect for creating a safe play space on the go. It sets up in seconds, and packs into an included travel tote to move from space to space. This portable dog exercise pen is best for small dogs and puppies. The fabric is waterproof and durable, but too lightweight for heavy-duty chompers and runners. Online reviewers love the zip-off top and bottom panels. You can zip off the bottom so your puppy can play in the grass, and zip on the top to keep them from jumping out.
- Lightweight and portable, perfect for travelling with your small dog
- Comes in an array of bright colors
- Great for pets of all kinds. Many reviewers say they use it for their cats or bunnies as well as dogs!
- This pen is best for small and/or older dogs only. Will not stand up to large, rambunctious pups.
- Some reviews note that zippers stick or break with frequent use
Most helpful review: “I wish I could give it 10 stars. It is very light weight and setup takes all of 2 minutes. Just pull it out of the bag, open it up (it will pop open with very little effort) and zip the top and bottom into place. Putting it away is just as easy,”
Remember to always supervise your dog during playtime, whether you use a heavy-duty x-pen, a soft-sided puppy playpen, or something in between. Dog exercise pens are a great way to give your pup some space while keeping them safe!