Why I Love Pet Enclosures (and So Should You)

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated April 21, 2021

Pet enclosures are a necessity if you are adopting or purchasing a small animal such as a rabbit or guinea pig, but do you really need one for your little dog? 

I honestly thought that anyone with a dog shouldn’t need or want to keep him in an enclosure as if he were a hamster until I got my first puppy.   My life changed overnight when a puppy took up residence in my home. 

Small puppies are great; they are pure love and their entire raison d'être is to fill your heart with joy.   Playful, curious, often clumsy and funny, puppies are a joy, but they are also a living being that needs care, love, and protection from you, the owner. 

Pet Enclosures:  A small girl is interacting with a small dog in an enclosure

They also deserve an education, err, housebreaking, training basic skills, socialization and so much more.  I got my first puppy years and years ago when pet enclosures were not readily available, but once I found out about pet enclosures, I would never have a puppy or even a small dog without one. 

I have come to love the peace of mind knowing my puppy is safe and secure within his little enclosure. 

But don’t take my word for it.  What do other pet owners have to say about pet enclosures?  Here are some real quotes from Amazon buyers about pet enclosures.

Love this fence; we needed an easy way to gate off my mother's porch for her little dog.

My Pekinese developed painful neck spasms and was having difficulty walking. I needed something smaller to confine her in to help her heal.

We recently added a puppy to our household. She loves to play but is really little, and we wanted to make sure she had a safe place to play.

There are many reasons why you might want to use a pet enclosure for a puppy or adult dog.  These four comments come from verified buyers on Amazon, but I’d like to discuss a few more reasons why a pet enclosure might be a good idea for your dog.

10 Reasons to Have a Pet Enclosure for your Small Dog

  1. If you have a new puppy, the easiest way to housebreak him is to keep him in a confined area until it is time to either take him outside or interact with him in some other way such as training, grooming, and playing

  2. An enclosure will keep your puppy safe while you are away even if you have puppy-proofed your home.

  3. A containment area is necessary to keep your belongings safe from a destructive puppy while you are out of the home.

  4. Injured or debilitated dogs often need to be kept calm for healing to occur.  A small enclosure will speed up the healing process.

  5. A foldable enclosure is perfect for travel or camping.  It can fold flat to be stowed and set up quickly. 

  6. Outdoor enclosures are useful for people who do not have fenced yards but want their small dog to get some fresh air and enjoy some off-leash time at the same time.

  7. Even fenced in yards may have some areas that are off-limits to a puppy.  An enclosure comes in handy to allow the pup to enjoy the outdoors while still staying safe.

  8. Senior dogs that have become incontinent can be safely housed in an indoor pet enclosure when it is impractical for them to be given free access to the entire home.

  9. If you have a dog that could injury himself (jumping on and off furniture) while you are away from home can be kept safely in an enclosure. 

  10. If you have a female dog with a litter of puppies, you will need to confine the litter until they are old enough to go to their forever homes.

Types of Enclosures

As I mentioned previously, pet enclosures were limited when I got my first puppy nearly a half-century ago.  Today, we have many containment choices. 

The most popular types of pens are made from hard plastics, coated wire metal, waterproof cloth, stainless steel, wood, or a combination of several kinds of materials. 

Enclosures also differ by size dimensions and height, some being more appropriate for outdoors and others that can be used indoors.  Some are fold-able and can be used either inside or out. 

For the truly handy person, different custom enclosures are a possibility, but for the rest of us, we need to rely on what is available commercially.

How to Choose the Best Pet Enclosure

Before your purchase, you need to be clear why and how you will use the enclosure.  If you are planning to use it to secure your dog while you’re away from home for an hour or so, a small crate may be your best choice.  A metal crate or a crate with a wooden case may be all you need.

If you plan to restrict your puppy while you are away for the entire day, a bigger enclosure is your best bet because confining a small puppy to a crate while you work is not only impractical, but it is cruel.  A portable mesh playpen works well for small puppies and then can be folded and stored when the puppy no longer needs containment.

If you enjoy gardening and want your puppy by your side, a portable outdoor enclosure is perfect for keeping him safe. Likewise, you may need an enclosure if you camp or travel. A coated metal enclosure works great outdoors and can remain there if necessary.

A dog recovering from an injury or surgery can benefit from being confined to a small area. A small molded plastic design may be perfect.

Each type of enclosure has Pros and cons.

Portable Playpens Made of Cloth and Mesh

These playpens use a panel design made of a washable cloth and some have mesh window openings to let in more air and light.  They come in a variety of colors and sizes.


  • Lightweight and compact
  • Easy to set up and take down
  • Waterproof
  • Easy to wash
  • Reasonably priced


  • Not appropriate for medium or large dogs
  • Some dogs can bite and destroy the mesh
  • Powerful dogs can end up causing the pen to collapse and trap the dog

Molded Plastic Panel Design

This design uses uses panels made of heavy duty plastic that interlock securely.  Different brands use different locking mechanism, but all hold the panels in place.  They come in different heights, sizes and colors.  Enlarging the enclosure is easy by combining two pens.  Some companies sell extra panels to enlarge the area.


  • Comes in different sizes (heights) and some models sell panels separately so you can create the size enclosure best suited for your needs
  • Durable; Most dogs can’t chew through the plastic
  • Plastic won’t rust or stain
  • Washable
  • Can be used by larger dogs
  • Panels allow for different shapes such as rectangular or octagon


  • Some models have dog doors that are the appropriate size for the dog, but people can’t get in or out.
  • Less portable
  • Heavier than the cloth playpen design
  • Not a good choice for travel due to the large size of the panels

Coated Metal Folding Enclosures

This type of enclosure uses the panel design also, and is made of rust resistant metal that works indoors and out.  Most companies state that their products contain a rest resistant coating to protect them from moisture.  After using these enclosures for a year or more and kept outdoors, they will rust.  Most metal folding pens are either black or the color of stainless steel.


  • Can be folded flat and stored or transported
  • Coated to prevent rust
  • Easy to customize to change shape or size
  • Most models allow you to choose the height
  • More expensive models are very sturdy
  • Works well indoors or out
  • Reasonably priced


  • Some dogs can climb over the top
  • The coating will eventually wear down and rust over time especially if left outside in the rain
  • Less sturdy than plastic panel design
  • Rather drab in color and design

Enclosures Made of Wood

Wooden Enclosures are often found in the infant departments and can be used for both babies and dogs. This type of product can be used as a stand-alone enclosure or opened up and used as a gate or barrier.

Another popular crate option consists of a metal crate surrounded by wooden frame and top.   These decorative enclosures can double as an end table or nightstand


  • Well made products are Durable and long lasting
  • Easy to clean
  • Suitable for small spaces as they can double as furniture and blend into the decor
  • Many designs and color finishes available


  • Watch the quality.  Low prices may mean inferior quality
  • Puppies like to chew so they may not be practical for puppies
  • Not portable
  • Costly

Stainless Steel or Heavy Duty Metal Enclosures

If you want something that will last, this is the way to go.  You will find these types of enclosures in veterinary hospitals, grooming salons and boarding facilities.  They are also practical for the multi-dog household.


  • Strong, sturdy, long-lasting
  • Meant to stand much wear and tear
  • Many come with wheels
  • Easy to clean
  • Some come as units of multiple cages


  • The industrial item which is often hard to find
  • Very expensive
  • Large groups usually are too big for the average household


Sure, you need a pet enclosure for your rabbit, backyard chickens, or pet guinea pig, but small dogs need one too.

With so many different styles, sizes, and colors from which to choose, anyone can find the perfect pen for their puppy or adult dog.

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, beagles, English bulldogs, carin terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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