As your pup matures, sleeps less and becomes more adventurous, they may start to fuss in the pen. The days of sleeping for hours are ending, and their tolerance for being restricted can diminish. There are four things to keep in mind to help your pup enjoy their pen or containment area moving forward.

Continue building value and making the pen a nice place to be.

There are several ways you can do this:

  • Feed meals in the pen
  • Use some part of your 50 A Day when your pup is quiet in their containment area 
  • As you move around in the area, drop a treat into their pen when you pass by
  • Offer special food toys (such as a Kong, beef chew, food puzzle) in the pen only
  • Keep up interest in their toys by not leaving the same ones out all the time. Put them on rotation
  • Pick toys that are appropriate for your puppy’s age. They may prefer different textures to suit their teeth and jaw development
  • Play mat games in the pen to train and build reinforcement in one step. I LOVE multi-tasking!

Offering items or activities not available anywhere else is an easy way to reinforce being in the pen and help your dog enjoy time there. But you may be unintentionally lowering its value. 

Be Careful Not to Use the Pen In a Way Your Puppy Will Not Enjoy

Depending on how you use the pen, you may devalue it. If your pup is mostly being put in the area because they are rowdy or mouthy, they will begin to see it as a loss of freedom or something negative. Be mindful of HOW you use it and how much time the pup spends there. Try to make it a spot where special things happen. 

If you or your pup need a break, calmly redirect them to the pen. They can still have toys and enrichment there. This may seem that you are reinforcing undesired behaviour rather than consequencing it. But if your pup is stuck in behaviour you don’t like or is over-aroused, there are better times for learning. It’s more valuable to move on and choose a better time to work on things.

And don’t think you can leave the area because they are OK in the pen with you near them. This is a context that your pup must learn to cope with. There’s no faster way to teach your puppy to hate the pen than put them in it and leave. Mat games will help gently introduce distance from the pup. You can then move on to desensitizing games to build tolerance to separation. Refrain from pushing them beyond what you have prepared them for. 

Life Is Too Exciting

The puppy may be OK to be in the pen when the home is calm and quiet. But when exciting things happen, that’s a whole different thing. Prepping them for that experience is just another step in their training, as with being alone in the pen. Fun training games will give them the emotional control they need so they don’t fall victim to FOMO. Active mat training in the pen will build your pup’s tolerance of various distractions, including people moving around and doing increasingly exciting things.

 And remember that most dogs benefit from a transition activity to prepare them (and their brain) to switch from a higher state of arousal (after they have returned from a walk or after some playtime with the kids) to a quiet, more relaxed state. Switching in the middle of something fun and expecting them to settle is a big ask.

So if your pup is starting to lose interest in their pen, don’t despair. This is pretty common. It is often just growing pains as they continue to learn about their environment and build habits as they mature. Provide interesting and reinforcing activities that make the pen or containment area special. And be mindful of not doing things that will make being in the area challenging or unpleasant. 

Check out A Day With Dogs for more information on setting your puppy up for success in a playpen or den.

Visit for more puppy information.