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Although a dog playpen, or exercise pen, may not be the first thing on your must-have list, this piece of equipment is surprisingly useful. Like a dog crate, they serve as a way to contain your dog. But unlike a crate, they give him plenty of space to move around and play. Most dog exercise pens are made of connecting panels that can be be set up for use and then folded for storage. They're offered in various sizes, to match the size of your dog. They also come in various materials, from nylon and plastic to metal. Some have mats on the bottom, some sit directly on the floor or ground. And, if your dog is an escape artist, you may want to try some of the exercise pens that even have a cover. See how useful they are:

1. We all know puppies must be closely monitored in the house to keep them out of trouble. Dog playpens give your pup room to explore and play safely when you're busy around the house. Pens are big enough to put food and water bowls in, as well as your puppy's favorite toys.

2. Many dogs cannot be allowed outside except on a leash, or they are diggers and their favorite digging spot is the flower bed. It's a shame to leave your dog indoors on those days you want to work or hang out in the yard. If you set up an outdoor dog playpen, your canine pal can join you. It's not as much fun as a romp in the park, but it's better than having him watch you sadly from the window. There are a few things to consider with an outdoor pen to keep your dog safe:

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• Set the pen up where your dog can get some shade and relief from direct sun.
• If you plan to put his food in the pen, dry kibble is probably best since it will stay fresh longer. Be sure to bring the food bowl inside with you or you may find some unexpected critter guests.
• Make sure he has plenty of fresh water.

3. Exercise pens are great for traveling with your dog. Whether you're camping, visiting the beach, or staying in a hotel, a dog playpen is an efficient way to manage your dog. Since most pens fold flat, they're easy to pack and store.

4. There may be times when you need to separate your dog from guests, children, or other pets. Rather than isolating him in another room or crating him, set up his dog exercise pen. He'll have room to move around comfortably, play with his toys, even eat and drink.

With such a variety of dog playpens on the market, one will be just right for your dog:

IRIS Plastic Dog Playpen

Heavy-duty molded plastic won't rust and can be used inside and outside. You can add more panels to make a bigger pen.

Metal Exercise Pen

This easy set-up, metal pen comes with ground anchors, making it perfect for outdoor use. It folds flat to store.

Cloth & Mesh Covered Dog Playpen
 

Waterproof and breathable, this pen is easy to clean and comes with its own travel tote, so it's ready to go anywhere! The mesh cover and cloth bottom zip out and are washable.

Zippered Portable Playpen for Dogs

This pop-up dog playpen has a zip-off top and waterproof bottom, making it easy to clean. It's ideal for newborn pups and their mother, and it folds up and packs into a carry case for travel.

Heavy-duty Metal Dog Exercise Pen
 

Higher than most dog pens at 40″ high, this sturdy pen will keep most fence-jumpers contained. It attaches to the ground securely with metal stakes (bought separately), and you can add panels to enlarge it or change the shape.

Indoor/Outdoor Petyard

The sturdy panels interlock easily, and the skid-resistant pads work in the house to prevent scratches on your floors. It's lightweight, with a carry strap, so you can take it with you anywhere.

Two-Door Soft Dog Exercise Pen

This cloth and mesh playpen with high heights available makes it virtually escape-proof. The zippered floor mat and top are removable for easy washing. And the accessory pockets and water bottle pocket make it an ideal travel accessory.

Wire Dog Exercise Pen

The plastic bottom slides out of this durable metal pen to make it easy to clean, and you can attach extra panels to make it larger. The price point is easy on the budget, too.

Coleman Dog Playpen

Made of canvas, mesh, and nylon, this dog pen is perfect for travel. It's lightweight and folds flat for easy storage or packing.

Indoor/Outdoor Dog Playpen with Removable Top

The removable mesh shade cover will keep your dog comfortable and cool. This portable pen can be set up almost effortlessly. It's foldable, lightweight, and durable.

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