Have you recently purchased a playpen for your new puppy? Perhaps you are in the process of buying one. Either way, you’re going to want to know how long you can leave your puppy in one. And along similar lines, you’ll also need to know when it’s time to take them out – including being aware of the signs they want out! Well, you’ll be pleased you came here. All of these very questions and more are about to be answered.
So, how long should you keep a puppy in a playpen? A puppy should not be left in a playpen for longer than 2 hours at a time, and even less when he’s very small. Puppies have limited bladder control, and they don’t do well in isolation, particularly when they have just left their mother and littermates.
Generally speaking, the less time you leave your puppy in a playpen, the better.
Of course, there are certainly benefits to playpens. And they’ll also be certain contexts where you may need to (or maybe a good idea even) break this rule a little.
Within reason, of course.
Nevertheless, playpens are supposed to be used temporarily, as we shall now see why.
Is It OK To Leave A Puppy In A Playpen?
There’s nothing wrong with leaving a puppy in a playpen, provided you don’t do so for long periods of time. You must also ensure your puppy’s needs are met, the playpen is set up properly and the appropriate precautions are in place.
How To Ensure Your Puppy Is Comfortable In Their Playpen
Provide Enough Space
If you are also using a puppy crate, you will want his playpen to be larger.
While crates are good for nighttime sleeping, a playpen can enable your puppy to have more space to play.
Your puppy’s playpen needs to be large enough for him to walk around and play safely.
Be sure to provide your puppy with a range of puppy-safe toys to play with.
Don’t worry about breaking the bank: there are lots of puppy toys that you can make yourself.
Prioritize safe chew toys to help him soothe his teeth and gums as he grows.
The more he gnaws at his toys, the less he’ll chew up your anything else they can access via the pen!
You’ll also want to provide water for your puppy so that he can drink freely while he plays.
He can’t tell you when he’s thirsty, so put a bowl of water in his playpen so he can help himself.
Make sure the bowl is very heavy so that he can’t tip it over.
You can also feed your puppy inside his playpen so that he can eat in peace without being disturbed by other family members (including other pets.)
Feeding your puppy in his playpen will also help him learn that:
- Mealtime is a time for quiet and calm
- His playpen is associated with good times and fun, including tasty food
- His playpen is the perfect spot for daytime napping (see below)
Other Considerations For Your Puppy’s Playpen
Ensure Maximum Comfort
Your puppy’s playpen needs to be comfortable as well as interesting for him.
Puppies often sleep for 18 to 20 hours a day (they have lots of growing to do!), so will likely spend some time resting during their time in the playpen.
So, make sure that your puppy has a place to lie down and snuggle to nap comfortably and securely.
Be sure to put in some comfy bedding for your puppy to rest happily.
Ideally, have your puppy’s playpen in a room where you are likely to be for most of the day.
Your puppy needs to be able to see and smell you to feel secure.
Make sure your puppy’s playpen isn’t right next to a heat source or a draft.
Puppies can’t regulate their body temperature until they are seven weeks old.
Avoid any spaces where the temperature is variable.
Even older puppies need to be kept in areas without too much variation in temperature.
An excited puppy might have an accident (either with urine or his water dish) and could catch a cold before you notice anything wrong.
Get The Right Pen!
If possible, get a playpen that comes with removable pieces so that you can adjust the size as your puppy gets bigger.
Some playpens can be folded up and carried, which is ideal: you can then bring the playpen with you so that your puppy can always be in the same room as you.
A portable playpen is also a good way for your puppy to get to go with you to see friends or family without you having to worry about him getting into something he shouldn’t.
Get a playpen that allows your puppy to see what’s going on around him so that he doesn’t feel isolated or cut off from the action.
This one from Amazon is a best-seller in its category. This is the one to get if you are yet to make a purchase:
Add Optional Items
You can also put a blanket that smells of his mother in his playpen if you have access to it or something else that reminds him of his mom or littermates.
How Long Can I Keep My Puppy In A Playpen?
You can only keep your puppy in a playpen for short periods, as puppies need to relieve their bladders often. They also need supervision, as they can get into trouble quite easily since they explore the world by chewing and biting on all kinds of items.
There are several factors that will determine how long your puppy can safely stay in his playpen.
Factors that Influence The Time A Puppy Can Stay In A Playpen
The biggest factor that influences the time a puppy can stay in a playpen is his age.
Below is a basic chart for you to see at a glance how long you can leave your puppy alone, depending on his age.
|Age of your puppy||Length of time you can |
leave your puppy in a playpen
|Under 10 weeks old||1 hour|
|Between 10 and 12 weeks old||2 hours|
|3 months old||3 hours|
|4 months old||4 hours|
|5 months old||5 hours|
|6 months old||6 hours|
|Older than 6 months||6 to 8 hours maximum|
This is of course just a rough guide, you will need to take into account your own circumstances and consider your puppy own unique needs too.
Another important factor is your puppy’s health.
Some common signs of health problems in puppies include:
- Sudden changes in energy levels, behavior, or personality
- Changes in stool (e.g., diarrhea) or frequency of urinating
- Dry or itchy skin
- Drinking more than usual
If your puppy has any health concerns, he should not be left in his playpen unsupervised.
A Word On Puppy Playpens And Toilet Training
Some people think that leaving your puppy for longer and longer periods in his playpen or crate will help speed up toilet training. It won’t!
On the contrary, puppies who soil their playpens regularly will eventually learn that it isn’t worth trying to control their bladders.
They can give up, leaving you to clean up their messes for much longer than otherwise necessary.
Regardless of the method you use, puppies don’t have full physical control of their bladders until they reach 6 months of age.
Other Things To Consider When Leaving Your Puppy In A Playpen
Remember to leave your puppy in his playpen for short periods when you are at home so that he can get used to it.
Puppies need to learn to spend some brief spaces of time alone, but they will resist this at the beginning.
By teaching your puppy that it’s OK to be alone for short periods, you are helping him build his confidence.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the longer you leave your puppy, the more confident he’ll become.
Puppies left alone for too long can develop mental and physical health ailments, in addition to picking up bad habits such as chewing on items excessively (or even on their paws.)
Puppies can literally cry themselves to death – so be mindful of your puppy’s cries. Go to him when he needs comfort (see below.)
Signs You Should Take Your Puppy Out Of Their Playpen
Puppies need lots of interaction with their human families. Your puppy wants to be where you are, whether you’re paying attention to him or not. He will let you know rather quickly when he wants to come out of his playpen, so the signs are easy to spot. He also won’t need his playpen once he’s toilet trained.
Signs Your Puppy Needs The Toilet
You want to avoid your puppy associating his playpen with going to the toilet, so it’s useful to spot the signs that he needs to relieve himself.
Some of these signs are more obvious than others, but basically, you want to keep an eye out for:
- Sniffing around
- Circling around
Signs Your Puppy Is Becoming Distressed
If you see your puppy doing any of the following, chances are he’s becoming distressed and needs to come out of his playpen for some interaction with you:
- Shifting his weight or tucking his tail
- Licking, gnawing, drooling (especially excessive licking or biting if he isn’t teething)
- Rapid blinking
When To Leave Behind The Playpen
A playpen is a good alternative for a safe play space while your puppy is small.
However, once he is housetrained and has settled into his home with you, let him explore more of your house.
Your puppy will be a fully grown dog before you know it.
He will enjoy exploring your home and accompanying you no matter what you’re up to.
Being able to access the rest of your house will help amuse him and keep his mind active.
From about 6 to 8 months onward, your growing dog will no longer need his playpen.
A playpen is an excellent daytime alternative to a crate (crates are more suitable for nighttime sleeping as they are fully enclosed.
That being said, playpens should be used strategically.
They serve a useful purpose, but should never be relied on too heavily.
That being said, what is most important is that your puppy is comfortable, happy, and safe.
So do not leave your puppy in their pen without checking on them regularly.
And be sure they have everything they need during their time inside.
Ultimately, the less time you leave your puppy alone in a playpen, particularly alone, the better.
And consider your own puppy rather than just follow numbers and guidelines.
You may find they do better with much less time than the recommendations suggest.
Busy learning about keeping a puppy safe and comfortable? Then my following related guides may be of interest:
- How Long To Let Puppy Cry In Crate
- Why Does My Puppy Cry When I Leave The Room?
- Can You Leave A Puppy Alone Overnight?
- Why Does My Puppy Wake Up So Early?
- Why Does My Puppy Growl When I Pick Him Up?
- Why Does My Puppy Lunge At My Face?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.