What’s a Good Alternative to a Dog Crate – 3 Options with Examples

exercise pen for small dogs

Ariana was over at my house recently (she’s my very AMAZING granddaughter) and her mom was asking how to get her to sleep in her own room.

The advice at the table from all the moms and grandmas was unanimous. You have to let the baby — who is 7 months old now– cry herself to sleep for about 3 or 4 nights.

It’s a terribly difficult thing to do and I could tell it was breaking my daughter’s heart to even THINK about it. She’s a fantastic mom and I understand how hard it is.

But… if she wants Ariana to sleep in her own room, it needs to be done.

Whether you are training a dog or getting a baby to sleep in her own room, sometimes your faced with tough circumstances and have to find safe alternatives to “traditional methods”.

In this article I’ll go over 3 good alternatives to dog crates and the pros and cons of each one.

Why You Might Want an Alternative to a Dog Crate

In an earlier post I wrote about the differences of opinions about whether it not it ‘s cruel to crate your dog at night and how to crate them.

Naturally some dogs hate to be crated and there are reasons for it.

  1. Cuts them off from dog’s best friend and serial food dropper, you.
  2. The crate has been owned by another dog making them feel as if it not really their own. (If this is the case, make sure the crate has been thoroughly wiped down with cleaning fluid that is pet friendly and try again. Might not work though. Dogs have great memories, so try to get it clean before you try.)
  3. They came from a kennel and were constantly caged until you came along. (Once again, dogs have great memories.) It is like getting out of jail and being told to stay there again after you have served your time.
  4. You use the crate as punishment which is a big no-no. Almost as bad as your dog peeing on the carpet.

Alternatives to Crating Your Dog

There are alternatives to crating your dog especially if you need to leave him alone for hours at a time.

  1. Doggy Day Care – There might be someone in your area who is willing to look after him while you are at work and who has other dogs. (Great for canine socializing, especially if he likes to bark at other dogs. That should teach him how to get used to them and you don’t have to deal with it the beginning.)
  2. Dog Fencing or Dog Gates – Pick a room in the house that is not too large and set up a simple gate at the door. Petco has several that you can choose from like the North States MyPet Paws Portable Petgate which costs $16.95 or you can go for something more fancy and expensive like the Richell One-Touch White Pet Gate II Wide at $193.79.
  3. Play Pens – Frankly, I prefer these because they are easy to take apart and reassembled and can be placed anywhere you want. They look great, and best of all, they allow you to see exactly what your dog is up to.
    Play Pens are a little more difficult to hide under furniture or under your staircases because of the amount of space required, but I am sure you can find one to suit your doggy’s needs.

Doggy Day Care

Doggy day care centers vary widely by location and can get quite pricey. However, Google reviews often have customer ratings.

You can also find a huge array of dog sitters and dog boarding services on Rover.com.

Playpens for Dogs

I’m going to start with the crate alternatives by looking at the various options for dog playpens

What to Look for in a Dog Playpen

These are the features I recommend looking for in any playpen for dogs.

  • Set up time – Play pens should take less than a couple of minutes to set up.
  • Should be easy to set up, otherwise you just wasted your money and will either leave it out all the time or not use it at all.
  • Durability – Dogs can be rambunctious when they play, so they should be able to last and not break due to your dog bouncing off them or knocking them over.
  • Materials – Naturally we want our dogs to not swallow parts or chew on poisonous materials, so be sure to check out what materials are used when purchasing one.
  • Height – Is your dog a jumper? If so, then you might want to get one with a ceiling on it prevent that Jack Russel Terrier from jumping out of it. It is my personal belief that they have springs in their legs meant for leaping out of play pens and yards. Play pens need to be at least as tall as your dog so look at measurements first.

Types of Playpens for Dogs

Now, let’s look at the two main types of Play Pens for Dogs.

Softsided Exercise Pens for Small Dogs

Softsided exercise pens for small dogs

These are great for that litter of puppies to get exercise in without getting into trouble or for giving smaller dogs space to play in away from the big dogs. Also good for those jumpers like Jack Russel Terriers because they come with a top.

This model by ToysOpoly had a zip off bottom, which is great when you want to use it in the grass.

Exercise Pens for Big Dogs

Now this one is tricky. What do you need most?

  • Lots of space of course.
  • A big dog that is not a jumper.
  • A big dog with a docile personality

These Playpens are not meant to stop big dogs from jumping out. As for you know large dogs such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers or German Shepherds can knock them down or jump over them.

While dogs do not really like to have anything falling down around them, it will happen so please be advised.

Exercise Pens for Big Dogs

If you can meet the above requirements, then the Penmate 8 Panels Exercise Pen with Step Through Door which comes in five different heights and may be just what you need.

Heights Available:

  • 24 by 24
  • 30 by 24
  • 36 by 24
  • 42 by 24
  • One Size Fits Most

DIY PVC Dog Pen

These aren’t easily commercially available, but here is an easy way to put together a PVC dog pen that is customizable in size and height.

Material List:

  • 3/4″ PVC Tee’s
  • 3/4″ PVC 90′ Elbows
  • 3/4″ Schedule 40 PVC Pipe
  • 3/4″ PVC 90′ Elbow with Outlet
  • 1″ PVC Tees
  • 3/4″ PVC Couplings
  • A vinyl remnant to cover the floor underneath
  • 2×4 non treated lumber to for your Bassett
  • Drywall Screws for fasteners
  • Galvanized L Brackets to fasten base corners

Instructions:

Basically determine the area you want to construct and divide that by the size of the 3/4″ Tees. Then take that number and double it and that will be the number of 3/4″ Tees you will need per side. The amount of pipe will be determined by two factors. First, how high do you want the sides to be and second how many Tees are required per side?

Thank you to the Making it Work You Tube channel for these instructions.

Wooden Dog Pens for Inside

Illustration of a wooden dog pen for inside.

You can make a really cute wooden dog pen out of Pallets.

Just make sure that your nails do not go through to the inside of the Pen and that the space between them is smaller than your puppy/dog’s head. We would not want them to get bored and start chewing through the wood.

How to Stabilize a Dog Pen

I have always been squeamish about putting rambunctious dogs in a Playpen that is made of wires and gates, but I found the perfect solution to that. Having the Playpen stuck to a foundation will work to keep most dogs away from knocking them over and getting out.

Here’s an excellent video that shows you exactly how to do this.

  1. Get a large peg board and lay in on the ground. The board should be larger that the Playpen.
  2. Cover the peg board with a carpet, plastic sheet and a drop cloth and place them on top of the peg board.
    • Carpet is for you. There is nothing more painful than kicking the corner of a peg board without shoes.
    • Plastic is for spills or little doggy accidents because you either waited to long to walk your little best friend or because he/she is not yet potty trained.
    • Drop cloth is there for chewers. Make sure it is pulled tight so that your dog will not take his/her stress out on it because you kept him in there too long.
  3. Place playpen on top of the drop cloth.
  4. Draw the outline of the cage on the drop cloth.
  5. Remove the cage.
  6. Poke holes in the drop cloth, plastic and carpet that run along the outline of the cage.
  7. Run zip ties through the holes.
  8. Place cage on top of drop cloth.
  9. Tie the zipties and cut the edges so that your best friend will not chew on them.
  10. Place your little best friend in there and don’t forget… your set-up will most likely last as long as you walk and play with him/ her often. Stressed dogs have busy paws and jaws.

Dog Gates

Another potential alternative to a dog crate is a dog gate. Gates can be DIY and really good looking or you can use a pre-purchased baby gate.

DIY Dog Gate for Bottom of the Stairs

A good way to keep your dog from going up or down the stairs is to install a simple gate. This project should only take an hour or so to complete.

Here are video instructions for making your own farmhouse style dog gate. The Shanty2Chic team are using it for a baby, but you can use it just as well for a dog.

Dog Gate that Screws into the Wall + a Better Alternative

This is What I Tried

Another reasonable idea that can be utilized in the house to keep dogs out of certain areas that they do not belong is the Primetime Petz 360 Configurable Dog Gate with Door which comes in sizes of 24” and 30”.  

Reasonably priced at $79.99 and $96.67 respectively, both have a span of 76” and are made with a beautifully, rich walnut finish with a two-way swinging door. 

Lightweight and flexible with 360 degree hinges, it can easily be set up in doorways, at the bottom of the stairs or wall to wall to separate big dogs from puppies or older dogs.

Okay, now this is something that a lot of people would love to know how to do. It looks easy enough, right? Wrong. 

Several years ago, I tried to screw a dog gate into the wall so that I could keep my dog from coming into the kitchen while I was cooking. Who wants to cook with a dog constantly under foot? More importantly who wants to trip over loving and obedient pooch and dump hot noodles all over the floor and them? Of course, nobody does. 

I put it together quite easily. I thought after I finished that I would stand their proudly admiring my craftsmanship as I opened and closed the gate over and over again victoriously, until someone told me to stop.

Boy was I wrong. Trying to line up the hinges with loving and obedient pooch licking at my ears proved to be a disaster.

One side was done perfectly and the other side…, well let’s just say after a few months I got tired of looking at it hanging there pathetically and took it down and was left with a holes in my walls, after which I headed back to the hardware store for the necessary material to cover my blundering craftsmanship. 

I learned a very important lesson. Don’t do it! Only the guy at the hardware store will be happy. 

  1. You can not move it to another room. 
  2. You could mess up your walls. 
  3. Loose hinges will prove to you that you are not the craftsman you believed you were. 
  4. You will be left with ugly holes in the walls.  

Here’s What Works Better

If you would like something to stay put at the top or bottom of the stairs, then this baby/dog gate it a good one to consider.

Dog Gate for Bottom of Stairs

This beautiful gate blends style with functionality in a very sleek design. Sturdy construction means that your mighty dog will not be knocking it over to get at those little tidbits of dinner that you might have left on the counter. 

And best of all, there will be …

  1. No hardwork and cursing as you try to line up the holes in the hinges perfectly. 
  2. No loose hinges.
  3. No holes in your walls when you decide to take it down. 
  4. The gate can be moved to any room in a matter of seconds. 

Why? Because the gate is pressure mounted. Just turn the screws and you are done. Now, you might have more luck than I did. But you cannot argue with having a gate that is versatile and will not leave you with holes in your walls if it breaks.

Summary on the Best Alternatives to Dog Crates

So, there you have it. Whichever you choose, whether it be a soft panel playpen, a fence inside the house or a gate at the bottom of the stairs, remember it is not to be used as a place for punishment nor a long-term solution.

One of the reasons why dogs are called “Man’s Best Friend” is not just because they will do almost anything for you, but also because they want to be around you as much as they can.

Being locked away for long periods of time can make them lonely and bored, two things that can cause them to get into trouble by tearing up their gates or cages just to have something to do, so remember to walk them and play with them as much as you can.

Please keep in mind that we may receive a small commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.