Dog Enclosures: Should You Use a Dog Pen or a Dog Crate?

By: Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSAUpdated:

Dog Enclosures: Should You Use a Dog Pen or a Dog Crate?

Dog enclosures are great tools for providing comfort and safety for pups as well as for preventing problem behaviors, such as housetraining accidents and inappropriate chewing. Different types of dog enclosures, like a dog crate and a dog pen, can be used to safely confine canines.

Both have benefits, but how do you know which is best for your four-legged friend? The first step is understanding the difference between these popular dog enclosures. Then you can choose the one that suits your home and your pooch’s needs.

Difference Between a Dog Pen and Dog Crate

The main differences between a dog crate and a dog pen are size and design.

A dog crate is basically a box with a bottom, four sides and a top, like the MidWest iCrate single door fold and carry dog crate. When choosing a dog crate, make sure it’s large enough for your pup to walk in, turn around and lie down. Get more tips on choosing the right size crate.

A dog pen, like the Frisco dog exercise pen with step-through door, is more like a child’s playpen and generally is larger than a dog crate. Unless you have a giant breed dog, most pens are large enough to contain the animal. Because most dog pens don’t include a top, you’ll want to make sure it’s tall enough to keep your canine from jumping out.

So, what kind of dog enclosure should you get—a dog pen or a dog crate? I recommend both, because having more than one type of dog enclosure on hand means you can choose the appropriate confinement for each situation.

When to Use a Dog Pen


There are several situations where indoor dog pens come in handy.

Confinement for More Than Four Hours

Like humans, dogs need to be able to change position regularly to ensure their physical health and comfort. If you must confine your dog for more than a few hours, use a dog pen rather than a dog crate, so your pup can get up easily and move around.

Restricting Access at Home

Rather than “puppy-proofing” a room, you can set up a dog pen. This allows you and your dog to be in different places without much advance preparation. It also takes the worry out of not being able to supervise him when you have to do things, like cook.

Restricting Access Outside of the House

If you’re bringing your dog to work or are visiting a friend with your dog, a dog pen, like the EliteField two-door dog pen, can make a great portable dog enclosure for a casual setting. With your dog safely enclosed in the dog pen, you don’t have to worry about your dog chewing on something he shouldn’t be or going potty at a co-workers desk.

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When to Use a Dog Crate


There also are many occasions where a dog crate is useful.

Emergency Situations

One excellent reason for crate training a dog is to make sure the pet is comfortable in a dog crate in case of an emergency.

Evacuation centers generally require dogs to be crated. Your friends and family also might appreciate it if your dog is crated while you visit their home during an emergency.

Also, dogs who crate well usually feel more comfortable when kenneled during visits to the veterinarian or groomer. Click here to learn how to crate train your dog.

Confinement for Up to Four Hours

A dog crate, like the Frisco dog crate, is a great place to confine a pup for short periods of time. For example, you can crate your dog when someone comes to read the water meter. You also can crate your pooch while you’re cooking so he doesn’t get underfoot or steal food from the counter.

Adult dogs can be crated for three to four hours in a row. Never crate young pups for more than two hours in a row during the day.

Sleeping Space

You can use the dog crate as an overnight sleeping space for your pet. Since dogs don’t need to move around as much while sleeping, they can spend the entire night in a crate, even though that’s more than four hours. Just be sure to let your dog out to potty as soon as you wake up!


A dog crate is an excellent housetraining confinement zone, since most dogs naturally will “hold it” in a dog crate. Just be sure to (a) use the right size dog crate, and (b) take the dog out to potty often enough. How often the dog needs to be taken out to potty depends on a lot of different factors, including the dog’s age, size, and history. I often advise new dog owners to take their dog out every 15 to 30 minutes until they figure out their dog’s pattern. If you are working on potty training your dog, check out these housebreaking tips here.

Note: Taking the dog out regularly is crucial. If you confine a dog in a dog crate for too long, he has no choice but to potty in there, and it can be very difficult to teach the dog NOT to soil the dog crate in the future.

Even if your dogs are well-behaved, you never know when a dog crate or dog pen might come in handy. You can use these dog enclosures when workers come to do repairs, when you simply need your pooch out of the way for a couple of minutes or in any of a hundred other situations.


By: Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSAUpdated: