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'You Should Restrict your Puppy'!

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Are dog playpens a good idea?

What is the purpose of dog playpen?

Why should I restrict my puppy?

Why does my Bonnies dog trainer suggest we restrict our dog when it is young?

Is using a playpen for my puppy a benefit or a problem?

You should restrict your puppy. Please do not give them your house or yard. They will think it is theirs. Restricting a puppy is not an issue when done correctly.
Playpens come in all different sizes and shapes.

A short story about a family - a puppy – a playpen!

Once upon a time, there was a family who decided to bring home a cute little puppy. They were all excited and couldn’t wait to add a new member to the family. However, they soon realised that taking care of a puppy is not an easy task, especially when it comes to keeping it safe and secure.

The puppy loved to explore everything around the house, which often resulted in it getting into dangerous situations. It chewed on wires, climbed up on higher surfaces, and tried to run out of the door when anyone opened it. The family knew they needed to find a solution to keep the puppy safe while they were away or when there was no one to watch out for him.

After talking with a local vet and reading articles written by Brisbane Australia Dog Trainer Peter Bonney, and after conversation with their friends, who also had a dog from a very young age, the family decided to invest the time and effort associated with getting a playpen for their puppy. They realised that the playpen was designed to keep the puppy confined to one area, whilst still allowing it to play and explore without getting into any trouble or dangerous situations.

They set up the playpen in the lounge area and placed the puppy’s toys in it, the scent of the family pack, in my Step by Step Guide to crate training for Puppies. a toy or 2 and a non-spill water bowl. They also added the puppy’s crate too.

The first few times the family put the puppy into the playpen it resisted and cried a little bit. By encouragement using positive calm engagement methods such as treats and praise, along with persistence and understanding they knew that this effort was going to be effective and really is the safest place for them to be. A real Safe zone.

The playpen gave the puppy its very own place to play, explore and rest. It was fantastic too because now the puppy learnt to leave the older dog and the cat alone. The family was finding the puppies interactions with other animals in the house becoming more difficult to control but now life was manageable and calm. They can also leave to go to the shops or school and work anytime as they have peace of mind ‘the puppies fine’.

In the end, setting up a playpen for their little puppy was a one of the best decisions the family made. Not only did it provide a safe space for the puppy but it gave the family a safe place to be a family, without stepping on the dog, without the kids having to shut their doors, without yelling and screaming or being over excited.

It made all the training the puppy needed to make it a member of this NEW Pack more manageable for everyone and every animal too.

With some more training, understanding, and building a positive and balanced relationship - they all lived happy ever after.

Great playpen setup
A great home setup. Playpen and Crate in the same location

Why do I want to restrict my puppy?

Why should I restrict my puppy?

Instead of thinking about this as "You should restrict your puppy" rather think of it as, having your puppy in ‘Their Safe Zone’ which is a very positive view. In many ways giving a new puppy the run of the house, apartment, back and front yard, or other spaces generally only leads to a growing dog which is out of control.

They need rules – they respond to rules – they like the rules to be there for life. Too much space is not a great idea. You may not be doing them any favours by giving them everything upfront. If you were to do a survey of the best dog trainers in Brisbane or indeed anywhere in the world they may say that "Too much space for a new puppy is not good".

Please remember the incredible changes your puppy is going through. They have no idea about anything, anyone, or indeed about themselves. It can take 6 weeks or more for an older dog to familiarise themselves when they move into a new house. A puppy’s brain is in overdrive trying to take in everything being thrown at them. This doesn’t even include the new things called humans.

They MUST have THEIR Safe Place too. Time on their own. Time to absorb without being patted, picked up, yelled at, fallen on etc. It also extremely valuable to the puppy’s mindset and balance so ‘Separation Anxiety” doesn’t become a real issue. It is very important to understand that 'reducing and recognising stress in dogs' is very important too.

Safety. Young puppies are very curious and will get into many things they shouldn’t, like chewing on electrical cords, chewing on furniture, chewing on family members arms and legs, or ingesting toxic substances, dropped food or children’s toys. Further it keeps them clear from jumping up and pushing over TV’s and other furniture inadvertently.

Often puppies really do get under your feet. We train all our puppies, not to go into the Kitchen. An incredible number of dogs worldwide are seriously hurt or killed in the kitchen of the family house. Accidents happen when the puppy keeps moving around. Believe me, you won’t see them right before you stand on them.

Familiarise. Often families or individuals may have more than 1 animal in residence. It is not unusual for a family to have an older dog at home already. They may have cats, birds, chickens, Guinea pigs etc. The interactions with other animals must be very carefully managed and cannot be done effectively by letting them roam around the home.

By being in a playpen your puppy will learn what is in the house, and who is in the house, and how you want them to behave. Further – Using a playpen when you have older dogs, cats and other animals can be extremely valuable to everyone and every animal. Please don’t let your new puppy jump all over your other dog and annoy them or even chase the cat. It's not they don't like cats, they simply don't know about them. After all, the senior animals may not even like this new interloper being in their space.

Puppies should eat separately, sleep separately, and play separately when you are not there to supervise. Never accept other people’s advice when they say, “It’s OK, let the dogs sort it out for themselves”. “The Alpha dog will dominate and all will be OK”. We suggest this is an incorrect assumption – YOU are the ‘new pack leader’ and it is up to you to manage and control as well as correct and encourage – NOT the Dogs or indeed Cats.

Housetraining. Limiting a puppy’s access to certain areas absolutely helps with your puppy learning where they can go and where they can’t. This house training is essential to get right from the very start of their education. It is easier then, to supervise them when they are toilet/potty training and taking them out to the toilet. Toilet training is in another article.

At our Puppy Magic courses, we always ask these questions – “When someone comes into your home, where is your puppy”? "Do you have your puppy in their playpen, crate of on lead?"

The answers are really mixed but often the answer is “At the front door barking and getting over excited”. This is generally given with a smile. We teach our dog ‘How to behave as a puppy’ when people come into the house. Using a crate and a playpen allows us the necessary time it takes to train our puppy ‘What we want them to do in the future, when people come over’. It is NOT their house. It is NOT cool to let puppies do what they want when they are young and run up and bark and jump up on people. Then everyone laughs at them and it’s all fun and games. Until it’s not. How ‘Meet and Greet’ training is achieved I will do in another article.

Training. By restricting a puppy’s access to certain areas such as Bedrooms, Kitchens, lounge rooms etc, you the owner, can manage and control their behaviour. It allows you to take the time required to train them not to go into different rooms whenever they want. Train them you should. When we discuss this, we always suggest there are some very valuable life lessons that we can train them for. We manage their natural and sometimes overwhelming excitement. Yelling at them is a waste of your time and effort. It is not training to yell.

Many homes are quite chaotic in the mornings with kids and getting ready for work. Lots of noise, running, jumping, yelling at each other and high-pitched voices. All these things can and does, overwhelm the puppy. Having a ‘Safe Place’ is their place to chill and relax.

Kids rules of the house
Rules for Kids and Puppies

Here are the simplest rules for kids under 12ish – Generally under 8s may not understand this living animal. “When the puppy is in their crate, the puppy is in their Playpen, or the puppy is onlead – the puppy is OUT OF BOUNDS.

In fact this is written in Black and White on my fridge/refrigerator to remind them all. I will do an article on home manners.

When approaching a crate or a playpen to get the puppy out, we always do the same thing. Smile – tell them to sit and use the appropriate hand signal. When the puppy does, we give them a reward. A toy, a pat, a treat. A treat is a great place to start. We are not treat trainers per se, but we do use treats to get the puppy to engage, to look at us. Indeed, to focus on us. We should always be very calm ourselves. If we open the door excitedly – which kids often do – we set them up for failure. We need our puppy not to be triggered into an excited state but a relaxed one. After all we are not ‘rescuing them from a prison’ but simply doing something different.

At ‘Bonnies Dog Obedience and puppy school’ we always talk about the big 3.

What are the Big 3 Safe places for a puppy? Crate – Playpen – Beside your foot.

This is the start of getting your puppy time to learn the basics. Lots more to learn as you go on such as place training, touch training, calming and lots of other things. At the start of their home life the BIG 3 make a difference.

We use a crate for life, we use a playpen till the puppy has been trained in the things they need to learn to be a valuable and loving part of this pack. We have our dog on-lead beside our left foot for their lifetime. We are not living in a canine world. We know canines will, if allowed take over their environment particularly when a handler is not being the boss. This can only ever lead to issues with behaviour ongoing.

Please have a look at the link to Val Bonneys’ 3 books. ‘Who’s the BOSS’ – ‘Are you still the Boss? – 'Hey Baby, Who’s the BOSS’? They are a tremendous help in understanding the psychology of your puppy and older dogs too.

Science. There has been some scientific based research done on the effects of using a playpen. It is considered as non-harmful to restrict a puppy to certain areas of the house and home. In fact, it can be beneficial for their safety and training. It is important then to provide them with adequate space, exercise, and social interaction. Gradually as they learn and grow, they can be given more access to other parts of the home and environment. It is essential to train your puppy properly to understand boundaries so they can learn to be well behaved. In the wild dogs are always managed by the pack when they are young. Unlike their human counterparts who are not with them 24 hours a day and managing them – a pack leader. They are far more things to teach a dog to be aware of at home than there is in the wild. A puppy’s DNA is built on what things there are in the wild. Everything else must be taught.

The science notes that restricting a puppy to certain areas of the home is NOT harmful if done in a controlled and responsible manner.

It is OK to manage your young dog by restricting them
Perfect outdoor setup for a dog.

Water Bowl etc are inside the Puppies wooden room. The roof also slides completely across to give complete shade.

A playpen is a tool. A valuable tool. It is an aid to training your dog. It is not a place to lock your dog into and not give them the exercise and time to train them outside. It is NOT a jail – it is THEIR SAFE PLACE.

This article does not go into everything there is to know about playpens and puppies, but it should give you a great start. Much of teaching a puppy is understanding, that we must overwrite their hard wired DNA, and natural behavioural instincts, so they can live in this new world of Humans.

Peter Bonney Brisbanes Best Puppy and Dog trainer
Master Puppy Trainer Peter Bonney

Article written by Director of Training and Director of Bonney’s Canine Group Pty Ltd, CEO of Bonnies Dog Obedience and Puppy School and Master Puppy Trainer Peter Bonney. Peter has received several awards and the most recent was as “Australian Influencer” in Pet Industry Magazine Australia. Peter and the Bonnies team also supports Dog Clubs and Assistance Dog Organisations.

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Nov 15, 2023

Very much worth the read. Great😀


Oct 07, 2023

Thank you


Aug 17, 2023

Thanks. I am reading more so thanks for your information.Worth it for sure.


Jun 28, 2023

I enjoyed the read and found this very informative and interesting.

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