Playtime is the best time for a dog. He gets the chance to stretch out his legs and play with his favorite person ever—you! However, a pet parent's home can be filled with some hidden dangers and it’s important to exercise caution before it’s time to let your canine run wild. Many owners often consider getting dog playpens or pet gates for this reason, and they're not wrong.

Loose wires, cords, sockets, sharp objects and steep stairs are all potential pitfalls that can really injure a dog. Not unlike we do with human children, we occasionally have to take measures to ensure that there are no ways our dog can get hurt throughout the house. “Dog-proofing” your house is something that covers many different grounds and requires many different products.

One of the most common examples of protective measures taken by pet parents is purchasing dog playpens or pet gates.

Playtime Protectors Dog Playpens or Pet Gates
Photo: OxGord via Amazon

When it comes to which ones are better – dog playpens or pet gates – it all depends on what kind of a dog you have and what their particular needs are. Every dog is different and every owner and home is different. If you have a room that can be completely dog-proofed and secured with a pet gate at the entrance, a gate could be a good choice. However, some homes have a more open layout and a dog playpen may be a better fit.

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There are pros and cons to both dog playpens and pet gates, but they both work very well at keeping a dog confined in the space you allow. Before you decide which is right for your pet, consider your dog's size, weight, their energy levels and daily activity requirements. If your dog isn't full grown yet, consider their size and weight as an adult. You don't want to purchase one product now and have to replace it in a few months when your pup grows out of it.

Playtime Protectors: Dog Playpens or Pet Gates?

Pet Playpens for Dogs

Dog playpens can go either inside or outside the home. They’re often made from wire, plastic, or some other reinforced material that keeps a strict boundary between the inside and outside of the pen. Some dog playpens are made with a wire frame and a nylon covering, but these ones do not hold up to rowdy dogs or chewers very well.

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Dog playpens are a way to delineate a well-defined area for your dog to play inside. They provide a way for you to have peace of mind while your dog is playing because you know he can’t run away or get into anything that will hurt him. Dog playpens are good for puppies and smaller breeds who don’t need as much space to run around in. You can put your puppy into the playpen, drop a few pet toys in there, and let him play.

Playtime Protectors - Dog Playpens or Pet Gates
Photo: IRIS USA, Inc. via Amazon
However, before you purchase a dog playpen…

…there are several things to consider. First, make sure that a playpen for dogs is convenient for you and your pooch. If you like to travel frequently you should make sure to buy one that folds up quickly and easily. If you'll be taking your playpen outside often, purchase one made of a material that won't rust quickly. Consider your needs as well as your pet's needs before making your purchase.

Quick tip: Playpens can be taken outside, pet gates cannot.

If you plan to put your playpen outside and leave your dog unsupervised for any period of time, be sure to buy one that has high enough walls so that he doesn’t jump the fence and run off. Also, the playpen should be spacious enough that the dog can explore the yard and play with his toys without feeling confined.

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In fact, much of the determinative factors involved in deciding whether or not to purchase a playpen revolve around your dog’s size and how active he is. If your dog is a larger breed, a playpen might be too small for him and a dog gate might be the better choice. You wouldn’t want a playpen making your dog feel as though he is boxed in—that would defeat the purpose of playtime.

A dog that is a medium to large and extremely active breed is probably going to get bored inside a playpen and may even divert his attention from playing inside the pen to trying to break out of it.

Top 5 best selling playpens for dogs on Amazon: 

  1. IRIS Indoor/Outdoor Plastic Pet Pen with 4 Panels
  2. Midwest Exercise Pen
  3. ESK COLLECTION Pet Puppy Dog Playpen
  4. Prevue Pet Products Small Animal Exercise Play Pen
  5. IRIS Containment Pen Add-On Panels

* The above top 5 picks for best selling playpens for dogs are based on Amazon’s Best Seller rankings [July, 2015].

Pet Gates for Dogs

For a larger, more active dog, dog gates are perhaps the better option. They are different from playpens in that they don’t create a defined circle or square shape for the dog to run and play in. Instead, the gate (usually made out of steel, wood, or some other reinforced material) is set up at the boundary where you don’t want your dog to cross.

RELATED: Top 5 Best Dog Gates

For example, if you want your dog to have the run of the second floor but don’t want him to come down the stairs, a pet gate can be attached at the front of the staircase to prevent him from wandering down and possibly getting hurt. Dog gates allow for a freer range of motion—instead of defining where the dog can play, you’re defining where they cannot.

Playtime Protectors Dog Playpens or Pet Gates
Photo: Carlson Pet Products via Amazon

Your choice to buy dog playpens or pet gates should be influenced by the actual state of your home. If you have a lot of sharp corners, wires, and other potentially hazardous things scattered throughout your house that could do harm to your dog, a dog gate might not be the best choice because it wouldn’t necessarily prevent him from being injured by things in your home.

If, on the other hand, your home is generally safe except for maybe one or two areas, a dog gate would be a fine option—your dog would still be able to roam freely throughout the house and you wouldn’t have to worry about him getting into the few specific areas where it wouldn’t be safe for him to go unattended.

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Dog gates also help your dog feel more included with the rest of the house. Keeping your pet locked away in a playpen during holidays or other functions might make him a little sad, whereas being given nearly free range throughout the whole house can help him feel as though he's part of the family and involved in the day-to-day activities in the house.

In the contest between dog playpens and pet gates, it’s not always a black-and-white decision as to which one is the “best.” It should be based on which one keeps your dog the safest. Puppies are likely going to be most suited for playpens because they are small and they may get into too much trouble if given free reign of the house.

Once you've decided which product would be better for your Fido, dog playpens or pet gates, it's time to begin shopping. For more detailed information on how to select the proper pet gate or doggy playpen for your canine companion check out our column How to Choose Dog Gates and Playpens for Dogs. You'll find in depth information on which gates are better for which homes, which playpens are the best for traveling, and how to choose just the right product to meet you and your dog's needs.

Top 5 best selling pet gates for dogs on Amazon: 

  1. Evenflo Position and Lock Wood Gate
  2. Regalo Easy Step Walk Thru Gate
  3. Summer Infant Multi-Use Deco Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate
  4. Regalo Easy Open 50 Inch Super Wide Walk Thru Gate
  5. Regalo Easy Step Extra Tall Walk Thru Gate

* The above top 5 picks for best selling pet gates for dogs are based on Amazon’s Best Seller rankings [July, 2015].

Featured image courtesy of Carlson via Amazon