HEALTH & CARE

Dog Pen Ideas: How to Build Rover’s Perfect Playing Space

Dog pen
John Walton
Written by John Walton

I’m not going to lie, it is often very amusing to be an experienced dog owner and trainer, and just sit back and watch new and inexperienced dog owners try to figure out how dog owning works. Most of the time it’s hilarious, and it can brighten my day, however there are people out there that take it one step further and actually try and make money off of these poor souls.

Let me preface this by saying that having a dog is not exactly a walk in the park, and there are sacrifices that must be made from time to time in order to make sure that your dog lives a healthy and active life. So in a way it is actually easy to see why inexperienced dog owners opt for these solutions, but then again this is not exactly an excuse and the one left hurting in the end is the very dog that the owner is supposed to take care of.

The exercise pen

The exercise pen has been, and is still being marketed as a more comfortable alternative to dog exercising. So instead of running with your dog, taking your dog on walks, actually getting out there and getting some exercise yourself and having fun with your dog, you simply put the dog in the pen and come back later.

Exercise pen

The concept is not a bad one, don’t get me wrong. Not everybody has an active lifestyle or the time necessary to have said active lifestyle, so this option might be a valid one. The execution, on the other hand, is abysmal to say the least.

Steering clear of marketed dog pen ideas and why you need to do so

As mentioned earlier, certain businesses try and take advantage of our need for comfort and try to offer us solutions that sound more and more comfortable in the long run. Sure, they are comfortable for us, but the poor dogs that we own and love so much are actually the ones that get the short end of the stick with this deal.

You see, these businesses are in it for the profit, and as such they are designing smaller and smaller pens, but are marketing them for medium or even big dogs. In fact, these very play pens and exercise pens were not designed for adult dogs, but for puppies to roam around in and play with each other.

That being said, more and more people buy into this idea and actually purchase these overpriced insults for their dogs, depriving them of their freedom and exercise, and more or less confiding them to their hexagonal fenced area where they can stand, sit, and maybe chase their tail if they are lucky.

Commercial dog pen

Sure, one can argue that they are made for puppies, which they are, and that the bigger dogs are just there for show, however how can one justify the need for a 40 inch high pen in order to handle puppies that cannot possibly dream of jumping that high? Avoiding these marketing ploys is very easy, simply not buying them, not thinking about them and dismissing them from the very beginning.

However what if you are actually in need of a play pen for your dog? What if you actually need an exercise pen for dogs and you are not willing to sacrifice your dog’s dignity and freedom in the long run in order to obtain it? First off, I personally applaud you if you are not willing to buy in to the marketed products of this sort. Second, you will have to man mode it and make a DIY project out of it.

Don’t worry; it is not complicated at all. You can have your entire family help out, making the dog feel like an actual member of the family, and at the same time making this DIY project a lot of fun.

Understanding your dog’s needs

Something that all dog owners and dog trainers should low by default, regardless of how experienced they are, is the fact that, much like a human, a dog needs exercise in order to live an active and healthy life.

Unlike a human, however, dogs need daily exercise, they need that daily walk, that daily run, and even more so in their development years, they need that exercise and play time at home.

Dogs needs

Now, it goes without saying that not all dogs need the same amount of exercise. Some breeds, like toy dogs or the English Bulldog require rather less exercise, while other breeds like the Siberian Husky, The Doberman and The Rhodesian Ridgeback require quite a lot of daily exercise in order to keep the happy, entertained and most of all exercised.

That being said, some of these dog breeds will be capable of playing and exercising in these pens, but never alone, so you either consider buying or adopting a play mate for your dog, or you bite the bullet and get into the pen with the dog and actually help the dog exercise and play.

Of course, at this stage you are trying to figure out what the perfect exercise pen for dogs would be the best in your dog’s case, and even though that might be a bit hard at first, it is actually easy if you go about it the right way. First and foremost, the size of the actual exercise pen.

Take a nice good look at your dog. What size and what breed type is your dog? That alone will not be enough to determine the actual size of the pen, however it is a good place to start.

What you will actually need to know is:

  • Size of your dog
  • Type of breed
  • Weight (this helps you figure out what the fence needs to be made out of)
  • Daily level of energy
  • Daily exercise needs
  • How much the dog needs to run daily
  • How active the dog is

Ok, this might seem like a lot of tedious information, but it is not.Generally you are looking to find out how big you need the play pen to be. A general rule of thumb, for active medium dogs that require a lot of exercise per day, is that you will need the actual enclosure or pen to have an area of about 120 – 130 square feet, roughly the size of a small room.

Another thing that you will need to add is something for the dog to exercise on. I’m not talking about bench pressing or anything along those lines, but rather ramps that the dog can freely run on, certain obstacles that require the dog to jump over, and so on. This is not exactly expensive, and it can be done with simple lumber and wood panels. It takes around 15 – 20 minutes to set up provided you have the disposition for it, and the wood itself can be reused later on if you decide to scrap the project.

Dog space

You will also need to incorporate a dog house, a place where the dog and eat and drink, and a place where the dog can simply lounge around. Indeed it is starting to sound a bit more complicated, but then again chances are that the dog will spend quite a lot of time in here, and the exercise pen will actually function as a full blown dog pen in the future as well.

It is great to be prepared in advance, and quite a few good projects started out this very way. Another thing to look at is the grooming needs that you dog sports, the reason for this being the fact that your dog will be sitting, lying down and rolling around in the grass and/or dirt. That being said, a long bushy coat, or a rough shaggy one could very easily turn into veritable mops ad brooms, sweeping all the dust and all the parasites with it.

A general rule of thumb is that this type of dog pen is ok for dogs with short fur, the dogs with medium fur will handle it with regular scrubbing and checking, while the dogs with long coats and fur will not be able to handle it and they will become a magnet for dust and creepy crawlers.

Dog pen ideas for a basic model

After all that is said and done, after you have checked your dog’s needs, figured out the dimensions, even went as far as to plan out how to customize it and make it perfect for your dog, it is now time to see a few dog pen ideas and how to put them into practice.

A basic model should not take you more than a few hours to set it up. Granted, the dog house might take more time to assemble, but overall it is not something that you will spend several weeks working on.

What you will need is as follows:

  • Diamond wire fencing
  • Metal pipe fence frame
  • A lot of C rings and C clips (100 – 200)
  • A wooden dog house
  • 2 x 12 wooden boards, enough to enclose the area in
  • Metal hinges
  • A latch
  • Optional roofing

The first thing you do is define the area in which the dog pen will be placed and dig a small trench around it. The trench needs to be deep enough to perfectly fit the wooden boards placed on their sides. The idea behind this is that the dog will dig at one point, and the board will deter him or her from digging any further.

Building a dog pen fence

Assemble the fence by welding the metal pipes together and attaching them in order to form the frame. Make sure you leave room in the frame for the actual gate that will allow you to enter and leave the dog pen. Grab the spool of diamond wire and unroll it over the frame, cutting the diamond wire with a pair of wire cutter or pliers to the size and shape of the frame.

Using C rings, attach the diamond wire fence to the frame, and do so by using every single diamond shape that comes into contact with the frame. Using the pliers, tighten and close all those C rings that you have used to attach the fencing to the actual frame.

Pace the fence in the trench and pour cement around the main structure elements, locking them into place. Insert the boards mentioned earlier next to the fence in the small trench. Pour dirt back into the trench, burying the boards, cement and the lower part of the fence, into the actual ground.

Ideas for the dog house

Next, start assembling the dog house. Make sure that it is the proper size for your dog, there are no splinters sticking out, it is properly insulated and that it will protect the dog from the elements.

Optionally, you could grab 3 pieces of excess lumber, screw them together to form a rectangular shape, like a square without the bottom side, and using a saw blade you can cut holes into the top part where you can place the food and water bowls more or less integrating them into the boards.

Ideas for the dog house

If you have done so, take the time to attach this assembly to the front of the dog house, right next to where the opening for the dog is, using screws and a screwdriver. Ok, so the dog house and other optional assemblies and ideas are completed.

Fencing ideas

Grab the pair of pliers or wire cutters that you were using earlier, put the dog house right next to the fence, on the outside of the dog pen, and cut the diamond wire fencing around the front of the dog house.

After you have finished cutting the fencing, connect the diamond wire fencing to the front of the dog house using C rings and C clips. You will have to use a hammer and you will have to hammer the C rings through the dog house, but it should not affect the integrity of the dog house so the dog will still be comfortable.

Roofing ideas

The best way to go about roofing is to go half and half, as in half roof half opened up. The way you go about this generally is to grab one of the metal pipes used to construct the frame earlier and welt it across the middle of the dog pen. Make sure it is parallel to the side with the dog house, it will help the dog out a lot more.

You have 2 choices here, you can either go for wooden panels which offer a lot more protection but are generally harder to install, or for textile covers that are a lot easier to install but don’t offer much protection in the long run.

Dog pen with roof

If you choose to use the wooden panels, put them on top of the frame and the bar that you have welded on earlier, and using a powerful screwdriver, screw it into place. Keep in mind that those screws will have to go through metal as well, so you might want to drill holes that are slightly smaller than the screws in the frame before placing the screw.

Whatever you do, do not climb on top of the panels, use a ladder or a very tall chair and do it from the outside of the dog pen.

If you choose to go for the textile roof, simply make sure that there are laces sewed on to the cover, and that they are plentiful and on all 4 sides as well. If that is the case, you simply need to roll it up like you would a carpet, using a ladder simply unroll it on to the top of the frame and tie the laces to the frame.

If you did choose the textile option, make sure that you have bought the right stuff. It is useless to use a thin textile cover, like bed or couch covers; you are going for something thick, preferably with multiple layers in order to make sure that it will stop the rain. Some could argue that nylon would also be a good choice, however depending on the type of nylon cover that you are choosing you might end up annoying the dog.

Build a roof on dog pen

Another little thing to mention here is the fact that regardless of which choice you opt for, make sure that the half of the pen that you are covering is the part with the dog house. Optionally, you could consider attaching some privacy slats to the fence, giving your dog that extra bit of privacy as well as protecting him or her from the annoying sun and providing a bit of extra shade.

I you opt to do this, be sure to match the slats to the roofing, as in if you chose to use wooden panels for the roofing, use the same kind of wooden panels for the privacy slats.

Gate installation and ideas

Last but not least, it is time to install the gate. The gate is created the same way as the rest of the fence is, simply welt the metal pipes together to form the door frame, unroll the spool of diamond wire over it, cut the diamond wire to size and lock it into place with C rings.

Dog pen gate

Grab the metal hinges and weld one side of the hinges to the gate. After that, simply lift up the gate and put it in its place in the empty gap in the fence and weld the other side of the hinge to the fence. Attach the latch to the gate, test to see if it works and presto, the simple yet elegant basic dog pen is ready, and it took you less than a day to complete it.

Before your dog can move in though, there are a few things to check out:

  • make sure you give it a quick look once over
  • make sure everything is clean
  • check that there are no residues remaining,
  • the grass has been trimmed,
  • make sure you placed some soft materials or even bedding inside the dog house to make sure the dog will be comfortable
  • make sure you have filled the bowls with fresh food and water.

Small additions make the difference

Now your dog is ready to move into his or her very own dog pen. You can add more things from here, or even go for more expensive materials if you so desire.

This is the most basic and at the same time most reliable dog pen design, however you can alter as you wish. You can add small ramps later on, and even clear the grass off of a small area from inside the dog pen, make sure it is within the area that is covered by the roof preferably right next to the entrance to the dog house, and lay down something along the lines of fine gravel or even rubber – something that the dog can sit and lounge on in peace while enjoying the breeze and the light.

In conclusion

A dog pen is not exactly complicated to design, and it is by no means expensive, unless you go for the marketed pre-built versions, in which case you are definitely paying too much for too little.

Dog pen

If you choose to build one yourself from scratch, you will see that the costs are fairly small, the work involved is not one that demands a lot from your body and that the time spent is average at best.

In the end it will all be worth it when you are sitting there watching your dog live in comfort, lounging around or chasing his or her tail in the dog pen that you have built. Make sure you take the dog out of the pen frequently and that you still go for walks and runs daily, not to mention the fact that you will also need to clean the pen regularly, but then again this is to be expected.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • MaryJohnson000

    Can you recommend a dog pen for 2 large dogs? They weigh 50 lbs. and 75 lbs. I just moved into a new rental and the landlord prefers them to be kept in the basement. Please help.

    • You can use the roofless ones. If your dogs are really required to be in the basement, ensure that ventilation will not be compromised.

  • Robin James

    Nice photos, love the idea about a trampoline for a dog. Is it safe for them? Where can I get such small one?

  • Some pet supply stores offer the mini-size trampolines that can accommodate specific dog breeds.

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