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How to Make a DIY Dog Pen: A Little Extra Room for Rover!

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Dog DIY By Charlie Boag 12 min read April 20, 2021

Build your own dog pen

Dog pens can be awesome tools for managing your pooch, and they come with a whole host of benefits. So, if you feel like getting crafty, here’s your chance!

We’re going to discuss some of the benefits dog pens provide and share a few of our favorite DIY dog pen plans. 

We’ve also got a few tips and tricks up our sleeves so we’ll share those with you too. Let’s do this!

DIY Dog Pens: Key Takeaways

  • Dog pens are great management tools that give your pupper somewhere safe to hang out and enjoy some fresh air. Most pens are large enough to let your doggo play a bit, and they also offer plenty of mental stimulation, as your pooch will see, smell, and hear lots of interesting things!
  • You can buy a dog pen, but it’s not too difficult to make a DIY version yourself. Pre-fabricated pens are a bit pricey, and they’re made to pre-determined dimensions. By contrast, DIY pens are pretty affordable, and it’s easy to build them to suit your yard.
  • In addition to the actual DIY dog pen, you’ll have to add a few things for your dog’s comfort. This includes things like a comfortable ground cover, shelter, and water bowl, among other things.

What Is a Dog Pen?

Learn how to make dog pen

Dog pens are generally enclosed, dog-safe spaces where canines can hang out.

They’re not necessarily large enough for Fido to get good exercise (like a dog run), but they provide a lot more play space than your average dog crate

Typically, dog pens include a few key features:

  • Fencing — Fencing serves as the outer boundary for the pen, and it can  be made from wire or a more solid materials like plywood.
  • Posts — Posts provide support and structure to hold the fencing in place.
  • A door — A door is not totally necessary if you can step out of it or lift your dog up ‘n’ over! But, they’re pretty convenient and large-dog owners will find them necessary!
  • Floor or base — You don’t have to include a proper floor,  as you could utilize your existing floors or grass outside. But a rigid floor will prevent your dog from tunneling to freedom and help prevent your dog from digging holes and generally making a mess.

The cool thing about DIY dog pens is that you can make them what you need them to be! So don’t be afraid of tweaking any of these plans to suit your pup’s specific needs.

Point of Order: Dog Pens Can Go Indoors Too!

Most dog pens are situated outside, where your pup can enjoy the fresh air and defend your home from those pesky squirrels!

But you can certainly make a DIY dog pen for use inside your home too. In fact, this can be just as useful as an outdoor pen, particularly if you have small doggos.

Indoor x-pens are great for puppy management and giving your dog some extra freedom without full access to the entire house. Many owners use indoor x-pens instead of crates, as it’s more humane to offer some extra space.

6 Best DIY Dog Pen Plans

Many people go down the DIY dog pen route as it can be very cost effective (not to mention fun). But the number of guides and tutorials can become a little overwhelming! 

We’ve gathered a few great examples here, from easy to advanced, including indoor and outdoor versions, so you’re bound to find one that’s right for your needs. 

1. DIY Dog Pen from DatokaBusy

This indoor pen by DatokaBusy was created for a puppy using scrap wood to save money, so it’s great for budget-minded owners!

This instructional video shows you how to make everything, included a hinged door, making this is great pen for larger dogs that you won’t be able to lift in and out of the pen.

The builder even 3D prints his own hinges (snazzy!) but there’s no reason why you couldn’t just grab some from a hardware store. 

Difficulty: Moderate

Materials: 

  • ¾-inch plywood
  • Scrap wood
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • Hinges

Tools:

  • Saw 
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Measuring tape

2. PVC Puppy Pen from Dreamy Doodles

Dreamy Doodles Dog Pen Plans

Need an easy-to-make DIY dog pen? These plans from Dreamy Doodles may be just what you need!

PVC is an affordable and durable material that’s easy to clean, making it ideal for constructing dog pens. It’s also fairly lightweight and waterproof so you can use it indoors or outdoors. We love versatile dog gear!

Additionally, if you leave out the glue, you’ll be able to take this pen apart easily, making the whole thing portable.

Difficulty: Easy (the easiest set of plans on our list, in fact!)

Materials:

  • Ten or eleven 10-foot-long PVC pipes
  • Twenty 90-degree corner connectors 
  • 32 four-way connectors 
  • 8 T-connectors
  • 8 end caps
  • Duct tape or masking tape

Tools:

  • PVC pipe cutters
  • Tape measure
  • PVC glue (optional)
  • Rubber mallet

3. Cheap & Easy Dog Pen from Instructables

Instructables Dog Pen Plans

This project from Instructables is more of a dog “run” than a dog “pen,” but it’s a great choice for dogs who need more space to goof off (or if you have multiple large dogs!)

Just note that the creator of this design calls it “cheap,” but it’s probably going to cost a little more than some other options we’ve discussed.

Difficulty: Moderate

Materials:

  • Heavy gage wire livestock panels (20 feet long by 48 inches tall)
  • Aluminum wire
  • Standard chain link fence gate hinges (optional)
  • Old metal gate (optional)
  • Metal T fence post
  • 9 Safety latches or clamps 

Tools:

  • Sledge Hammer 
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Saw blade oil

4. Custom, Indoor Dog Pen from Instructables

Instructables DIY Dog Pen Indoor

This indoor pen (which is also from Instructables) is perfect for puppies or small four-footers, but there’s no reason you couldn’t tweak the measurements to suit your pup and the space you have available.

You’ll need quite a few supplies and tools to build this one, but it shouldn’t be especially difficult to put together.

Difficulty: Moderate

Materials:

  • Screws
  • Staples
  • 2 sheets of 4-by-8 plywood
  • Seven 2-by-3’s
  • 2ft tall chicken wire
  • 12-foot-by-4-foot roll of linoleum

Tools:

  • Chop saw
  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Staple gun
  • Box cutter
  • Other miscellaneous small hand tools

5. Chainlink Outdoor Pen from Family Handyman

Looking for something that’s a little next-level? The Family Handyman has you covered!

You’ll definitely need to be confident in your construction skills and do some careful planning to build this outdoor dog pen. But if you’ve got the necessary skills, this is one awesome DIY dog pen!

Family Handyman has put together a great comprehensive guide to build a super secure space for your dog to hang out in. 

Difficulty: Advanced

Materials:

  • Chain link fencing and gate
  • Concrete
  • Landscape fabric
  • Pea gravel
  • Privacy slats
  • Sand
  • Sunscreen and/or dog house
  • Treated 2-by-12s

Tools:

  • Shovel
  • Gloves
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Circular saw
  • Hacksaw
  • Level
  • Lineman’s pliers
  • Posthole digger
  • Spade
  • Tape measure
  • Wheelbarrow

6. PVC Puppy Pen from Making It Work

The team at Making It Work put together an 8-foot-by-8-foot indoor pen for their lovely litter of goldendoodles. Their warm, friendly personalities make for an enjoyable video on how they constructed their dog pen using PVC pipes.

This pen is great as it is easily deconstructed and storable. Additionally, this one shouldn’t cost you very much money. 

Difficulty: Moderate

Materials:

  • 3/4-inch PVC “T”s​
  • 3/4-inch PVC 90-degree elbows
  • 3/4-inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe
  • 3/4-inch PVC 90-degree elbow with outlet 
  • 1-inch PVC “T”s
  • 3/4-inch PVC couplings
  • A vinyl remnant 
  • Non-treated 2-by-4s
  • Drywall screws 
  • Galvanized “L” brackets

What Do I Put in My Dog’s Pen?

As if building a dog pen wasn’t rewarding enough, you also get to set it up for your furry best friend to enjoy by adding some additional items to it.

Some of these items are mandatory for your pup’s health, safety, and well being, but others are just fun ways to spoil your cutie!

Here are a few things we’d recommend putting inside the pen to make the most out of it:

  • A Water Dish — While some of the things listed below are optional, a water dish is not — it must be included. And, if you’re planning an outdoor dog pen, make sure it is put in a shady spot where the water can stay cool. 
  • A House or Shelter — Like a water dish, a dog house or shelter is mandatory if your dog is going to be spending any significant time in the pen. Come rain or shine, Fido needs to take shelter from the elements. A covered area will also help them feel safe and secure. 
  • A Food Bowl — It’s OK to put a food dish in your pup’s pen on a temporary basis, but we wouldn’t recommend leaving this outside as you don’t want to attract coyotes or other pesky critters! 
  • A Safe Dog Toy or Two — Toys will help keep your canine occupied and happy when he’s hanging out in a pen. You just have to make sure you pick safe toys. And by safe, I mean durable dog toys one that won’t get destroyed in seconds (yes, Jack Russell terriers, I’m looking at you!). You don’t want to include toys that’ll cause choking hazards while your pooch is left unattended. 
  • Bed or Laying Surface — Even if the dog pen you’re designing is for pure playtime, it’s still important to have a designated spot for downtime and catching some Z’s. You can just use a blanket if you don’t mind washing it regularly, but an outdoor dog bed will hold up better  

What Kind of Ground Cover Should I Use in My Dog’s Pen?

Use mulch or grass for dog pen

You’ll need to take your environment, the desired location, and the climate into account when trying to decide the best ground cover for your dog’s new pen. You’ll also want to think about what’s best for your specific dog and your budget. 

If you’re making an indoor dog pen, you can use whatever really (or nothing at all — you could just let your pooch walk on the tile or carpet).

Blankets or old bed linens are easy and affordable (you probably have some old ones in a closet), and they will protect your carpets.

Outdoors, grass is usually the best choice, but it could get ruined quickly if the pen is going to be left in one spot. Just be sure you select a dog-friendly grass if at all possible.

Here are a few more ground cover materials you could use:

  • Dog-Safe Mulch — Pine bark and cypress mulch are pretty good choices, but avoid things like cocoa mulch, which are toxic if eaten. 
  • Clover — Clover grows pretty readily and is hardy enough to withstand a lot of traffic. Plus, it feeds native bees! 
  • Pea Gravel —  Smooth pea gravel will essentially last forever, but it may get scattered around a bit as your dogs run, jump, and play. You’ll want to avoid gravel if your dog likes to munch on rocks or other inedible things. 
  • Interlocking Tiles — Sold under a number of brand names, interlocking tiles are another flooring option for your dog’s pen, and they’ll usually hold up well over time. They also look pretty neat!  
  • Pine Straw –– Pine straw may not look quite as nice as some other options, but it is affordable and safe. 
  • “Astroturf”Artificial turf looks pretty neat and you don’t have to worry about it dying. But it can be really difficult to clean, so it’ll  get smelly if peed on a lot. Just keep that in mind before you make this your choice! 

The Benefits of Dog Pens

There are a ton of benefits to both indoor pens and outdoor pens (which helps to explain their broad appeal). A few of the most noteworthy benefits include:

  • They can serve as safe spaces. Dog pens allow your puppy to explore and play, without having to puppy proof your whole house.
  • Pens — like crates — can help with puppy potty training. Just know that if you’re building a DIY dog pen for such a purpose, a relatively small pen will be more effective than a gigantic one.
  • Outdoor pens provide fresh air and a change of scenery. Most dogs love getting the chance to enjoy the great outdoors, and a pen makes this easy.
  • Both indoor and outdoor pens can provide enrichment for your canine’s cranium.  For indoor pens, this can be achieved through toys or puzzles. With outdoor pens, new smells and sites provide mental stimulation.
  • Pens can contain multiple dogs at a time. Unlike crates, which are best used for a single dog, pens can allow your pooches to play together in a safe way.
  • Pens are a great way to contain your canine while he dries off after baths. This will not only help save your sofa, but (if the pen is indoors) it will help keep your pooch clean while he dries too. 

If you’ve got a dog pen at home and we’ve missed a benefit off this list, please let us know in the comments!

Dog Pen FAQs

Still have a few questions about building your own dog pen? Don’t worry! We’ll answer a few of the most common questions below.

Can you leave a dog in a pen unattended? 

This depends on how secure the pen is and for how long you intend to be away — you’ll need to use your best judgment here.

For example, if it’s an indoor pen and Fido could potentially climb out, consider the space around him; are there any cables he could chew, or any unsecured furniture that could injure him?

If your pen is situated outdoors, take things like climate, the safety of the neighborhood, and the pen’s security into account. 

Does a dog pen need a roof?

Dog pens don’t need a roof for indoor use; for outdoor use, you’ll want to make the fence high enough so your dog can’t jump over it if you don’t want to include a roof.

Similarly, a high fence will make it difficult for predators or criminals to get into. 

What size should a dog pen be?

Obviously you’ll need to take your dog’s size into account, but generally we’d recommend making the pen large enough for a bed or place to rest, a water bowl, and room for your pooch to walk around and play a bit. 

What can I use for a dog pen floor?

For an indoor dog pen, you could use your existing hard floor (and build the pen without the base) or use typical floor materials such as linoleum.

For outdoor pens, grass is best, but otherwise natural materials such as pea gravel or dog-safe mulch is awesome. 

***

So, will you be getting out your toolkit and crafting your own dog pen anytime soon? If you do, we’d love to see your creations, and what benefits you’ve discovered since using a dog pen.

As always, let us know your experience and insights in the comments below!

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Written by

Charlie Boag

Charlie is passionate about animal welfare and has worked in multiple rescue shelters across Europe. She currently lives in the UK and is working towards her Veterinary Nursing qualification, so she can continue her travels and help animals across the world!

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