Puppies are the best. Fun, hilarious, sweet, and snuggly. Until they’re pooping in the corner behind your back… or biting your feet while you’re working on your laptop… or doing any number of havoc-wreaking behavior while you’re just trying to get through your day.
This is exactly why you need a puppy palace! A puppy palace is a safe way to contain and entertain your puppy when you can’t directly supervise and manage them. This keeps them out of trouble and allows you to do what you need to do and keep your sanity.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to create a puppy palace for your pup
- How a puppy palace can make life with a puppy easier
- Tips on getting your pup used to their puppy palace
For more help surviving puppyhood, check out the Pandemic Puppy Podcast. We’ve got a podcast episode for just about every concern you could possibly have with your new puppy! You may specifically want to check out the following Journey Dog Training Resources:
- Surviving the First 24 Hours of Your New Puppy
- Tether Training for Puppy Problems
- Ep. 07: Bringing Home Your Puppy with Sarah Dixon
- Ep. 09: Crate Training with Sarah Stremming
What is a Puppy Palace and Why Do I Need One?
A puppy palace is a secure pen with a variety of items and activities to occupy your puppy when you are unable to monitor them. Rather than letting your puppy roam the house and become destructive or obnoxious, they are contained and entertained. Simple, yet so very helpful.
A key part of raising a puppy is active supervision. This means two eyes on your puppy and the ability to step in quickly and redirect your puppy to something more appropriate if needed – not just being in the same room while you wash dishes or scroll your phone.
Puppies are going to do things like nip, chew, jump, shred, dig, pee, and poop. As their human, it’s up to you to supervise them to prevent them from developing unwanted habits.
Without supervision, your puppy will undoubtedly engage in destructive and frustrating behavior. This doesn’t make them bad, it just means they are, in fact, a puppy.
But it’s not possible to supervise your puppy all the time. It’s also not realistic to wait until they fall asleep and then try to live your life. You have to shower and cook. Perhaps you just want to watch a little TV in peace or fold laundry without your puppy trying to snatch socks. Heck, maybe you just need a break from your puppy. You love them, but they’re kind of a lot.
So that leaves you in quite the predicament. You can’t supervise them at all times, but you also don’t want them eating the carpet or playing tug with your pant leg while you’re doing other stuff. This is where the puppy palace comes in handy!
How to Create a Puppy Palace
Your puppy palace can be tailored to your specific puppy. Consider your puppy’s preferences and personality when putting together their puppy palace. Also, it’s called a “palace” for a reason! You want it to be a space your puppy really enjoys, so incorporating these elements will help make it a fun and interesting spot for them.
Picking a Puppy Pen
You’ll need a pen to contain your puppy. There are lots of options when it comes to pens, but you’ll want to think about your puppy’s size and climbing ability. If your puppy can hop or climb out of the pen, or simply push it over, then it will not be effective. I suggest buying a tall size of whatever pen you go with, so that they can’t escape easily.
Another option is a pen with vertical bars. This makes it harder for puppies to climb out.
A plastic pen could also work well for some puppies. These tend to hold their shape well, so even if the puppy jumps up, they stay rigid.
If you need something heavy duty, this metal pen is a good choice.
I don’t recommend the cloth pop up pens, as even tiny pups can push those over.
Some pens are designed so that you can connect two pens together, to create a larger space for your puppy. This can be an excellent solution if you have a large puppy, or just want to give your pup a little more room.
Tips for Setting Up Your Pen:
Some pens will slide around and change their shape if the puppy jumps up on them (though this one has nice locking joints). This can be really annoying. To help the pen stay in a square or rectangle, zip tie a broom handle, wooden dowel, or similar object to each side of the pen. This will keep it rigid.
Puppies can also push the pen across the ground by jumping on it. To keep the pen where you’d like it, set heavy objects around it. With my last puppy, I used a couple bags of sand placed in tote bags, in case any sand leaked out.
Lastly, if you’re worried about your puppy pushing the pen into a wall, cabinets, or furniture, empty cardboard boxes make great buffers between the pen and your home.
Keep Your Puppy Entertained, or a Palace is a Prison
Once you’ve got your pen, it’s time to fill it with fun things to keep your puppy entertained while they are confined. Remember that any toy or chew can be a potential choking hazard, though some are certainly more durable than others. You can always test out a toy or chew while you are supervising your puppy to ensure they use it appropriately before putting it in the pen.
Interactive Food Toys
These toys are great because they offer fun physical and mental stimulation. Your puppy has to work to get the food out of the toy, so they’re burning energy even while inside the pen. Here is a list of some of the best interactive food toys. I also really love the Planet Dog Snoop, which comes in different sizes, and licky mats.
Puppies need to chew, so give them several options for them to sink their needle-sharp teeth into. Bully sticks, Himilayan Yak Chews, and Farm Hounds Duck Jerky are all long-lasting chews that most puppies love. Frozen Kongs or Toppls can also be great for chewing, especially if you’re worried about your puppy potentially biting off a big piece of an edible chew.
Many puppies enjoy playing with toys by themselves, so you can include some dog toys in their puppy palace. West Paw makes some very durable rubber toys. Tuffy’s has lots of strong stuffed toys, like this boomerang. The JW HOL-ee Roller ball is a hit with lots of pups.
Carboard boxes, paper bags and empty plastic waterbottles can all make super fun (and free!) activities for your puppy while they’re in the pen. Many puppies love to shred paper and cardboard, and so long as they aren’t trying to ingest it, it can be an amazing outlet for their energy. Some pups are crazy for empty water bottles and are content to crunch them and bat them around with their paws. (Remove the cap first, as that can be a choking hazard.)
You can also turn these items into DIY puzzle toys. Throw some treats in a paper bag and then roll it up tight. Fill a cardboard box with junk mail and packing paper, chuck in some kibble and then let your pup forage around for the food in their pen.
Some puppies love a nice cushy dog bed to lay in. Others enjoy a blanket to make a little nest. Some are happy with an old towel. And then other puppies really prefer just to lay on the floor with no padding. Take note of what kinds of surfaces your puppy tends to lay on around the house so you have an idea of what their preference is.
In most cases, it’s best to just give your pup a few options! They may have different preferences throughout the day.
Often you will hear to not give puppies any bedding because they might destroy it or potty on it. And that might happen. But some puppies have a really hard time relaxing without a comfortable place to lay down. My Whippet puppy was this way. If he didn’t have a cozy place to curl up, he was super whiny in his pen. I gave him a faux fur blanket, and he was content and quiet.
Optional Puppy Palace Features
If you’d like, you can include a crate to the puppy palace set up. Depending on the size of your pen, you could simply put the crate inside the pen. Or you can attach the pen to the crate, so it’s like a separate, cozy room off the side of the pen.
This can help your puppy learn to love their crate, as they have more opportunities to chill out in their crate on their own will. If you do incorporate a crate, you can put the whatever type of bedding your puppy seems to like best in the crate, to make it even more enticing as a resting spot.
If you plan on leaving your puppy in their palace for longer periods of time when you’re away from the house, a potty area is a good idea. Potty pads are popular, but I prefer a litterbox. These dogs litter pellets have worked great for my own puppies, and these grass patch boxes are also a good choice.
You can also put something under the pen to protect your floors. This can keep both carpet and hard flooring safe from potty accidents as well as puppy teeth and nails. Metal pens may also scratch hard flooring. A simple tarp can work well, but my personal favorite is a cheap scrap of vinyl flooring from a store like Home Depot or a rubber garage floor mat.
How to Utilize a Puppy Palace to Make Your Life Easier
Here are some tips on how to use your puppy palace, so that life with a puppy is more harmonious.
Have Puppy Entertainment Options Ready
An empty pen is no fun for a puppy, so have plenty of fun stuff on hand so that you can keep the pen interesting for your pup. Spend a few minutes in the morning filling your interactive toys and stuff your kongs and licky mats and stick them in the freezer. Save any recyclable materials that your puppy finds fun. That way you have an arsenal of activities to occupy your puppy when you put them in their pen.
Keep It Fresh
Rotate through different toys and activities so that your puppy doesn’t get bored with the setup. Old toys can feel new again when your puppy hasn’t seen them for a few days.
Use the Pen When You Can’t Supervise
Whenever you cannot supervise your puppy 100%, put them in the pen. This keeps your puppy out of trouble while you’re doing what you need to do. It’s humanly impossible to actively supervise your puppy during their every waking moment.
If you simply let your puppy entertain themselves while you’re working, eating, cleaning, or using the bathroom, it’s very likely they will do some less than desirable behaviors. You can avoid all that frustration by putting them in the pen with plenty of activities at times you can’t manage them.
Puppies are always learning and so it’s important to shape good habits from an early age. The pen limits your puppy’s options when you can’t supervise them, so they can’t make poor choices when you’re not supervising. Then when you are able to manage them, you can work on teaching them good habits.
As a bonus, your puppy learns how to self-entertain with their toys and be okay without constant interaction and proximity to you. They learn that they can just hang out nearby you and that’s a very useful life skill.
Getting Your Puppy Used to Their Puppy Palace
Some puppies take to their play pen right away, and others need a little assistance to get accustomed to it. Here are some tips to help your puppy love being in ther puppy palace.
At first, it can help to stick nearby when your puppy is in their pen. If you simply put them in, and then go upstairs for an hour, they might get stressed out being alone. You can even sit right by the pen while you work on your laptop or read a book. As your puppy acclimates to the pen, you can start to move further and further away.
Leverage Your Puppy’s Sleep Schedule
If you put your puppy in their palace when they’re full of energy, they might have a hard time settling in. At the beginning, it can help to use the pen when your puppy is winding down for a nap. They aren’t passed out yet, but they’re not full of wild puppy energy. This way they can play a little in the pen and then drift off to sleep for a nap.
As they get used to the pen, you can use it at times when they are more awake and alert, but just remember it’s not a substitute for playtime with you.
Feeding your pup their meals in the puppy palace can help them create a positive association with the pen. You can even get creative and serve their food using interactive food toys and DIY puzzles to extend the length of time they spend in the pen.
Puppy Palace Pitfalls
While the puppy palace has many benefits to puppy raising, it is possible to misuse the pen. Puppies need plenty of quality playtime with you, as well as potty breaks, exercise, socialization and training. Too much time spent in the pen can be stressful for a puppy, so just make sure that time in their palace is balanced with consistently meeting all their needs.