Do you dream of your dog being free in the house, able to quietly entertain themselves with toys and puzzles and not chew on you or other stuff in the household?
That’s a lovely goal for the future. But with a puppy on your hands now, it’s not practical or fair. Remember that you need to set your puppy up for success. You should have realistic expectations and provide adequate structure and management that meet them where they are now.
Too much freedom means you’ll be dealing with unwanted biting way too much during the day or cleaning up too many accidents.
Setting Your Puppy Up For Success in the Playpen
Instead, set up a safe zone for your pup. Although a crate is great for naps and short breaks, providing more room so your puppy can engage in more activities and stretch their legs is better for general use.
I like to think of the safe zone or den as a playroom for your pup. Set up and introduced properly, it should be a place that your puppy is happy to go into and spend time. It is best if you do not use the area for timeouts.
What should your puppy’s playroom include?
Choose an xpen, gated area, even a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room.
Be sure all cables and dangerous items are removed or secured out of reach of your puppy. Choose a location that will allow you to remain right next to your puppy for the first weeks.
Fill the area with a variety of items. For example, include toys of different textures and ones that allow your pup to engage in various behaviours and play styles.
Pups will quickly get bored if they only have stuffy toys to play with. Offer a couple of different food puzzles for additional interest and enrichment.
Have a crate with the door off or secured open for your pup to rest in.
Provide water and an indoor potty (if necessary).
Why Things Go Wrong With the Playpen
Many people start with the best of intentions, spending a bunch of money on fancy pens or gates only to have their pup launch out within the first couple of days. Any plan to use the area is then quickly abandoned. This situation can be avoided by following a couple of simple rules.
Don’t Leave Your Pup
- The pup must feel safe and secure while in the play area. If they feel lonely or left behind, the puppy will panic and try to regain access to you. Therefore, it is best always to be right next to the pen until your pup is ready to start developing some independence. Choosing the area where you spend most of your time will make this more practical.
Going in with the pup regularly and spending time with them is a great idea.
If you have to leave the area:
have another family member take over and stay with the pup
wait until your puppy is sleeping soundly and quickly do what you need to
take the puppy with you (they can follow you, or you can carry them or take them in a crate depending on their confidence and the specific situation).
Make It Great!
- Build value in the area. You will create a great association by filling the space with various fun items, including chews and food puzzles. Going in with the pup will also help with this. Your puppy must learn that the area is a fantastic spot to be. Providing the best stuff in the area, including meals, and interacting with your pup in the area, will give them no reason to want to leave.
Most parents fail because they do not prepare or introduce the area properly. By leaving the pup, before they have learned to LOVE that area, the pup’s first thought is to leave the playpen. At that point, rejoining the parent is more important than the area is valuable.
Taking the time to set up a fun and safe area where your pup will love to be is one of the best investments you can make in your home for your pup. It will allow your pup to develop great habits, learn to amuse themselves and get proper rest. It will also reduce the challenges associated with a pup that has too much freedom before they are ready for it.
Do you need help with this or other puppy challenges?
Join hipPUP Online to get the support and skills you and your puppy need.