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Pen Training | Go Into Your Pen and Stay Quietly

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

exercise pen

This Australian Shepherd is waiting patiently inside his pen.

All pups should have a crate. Some pups should also have an exercise pen (ex-pen, for short), especially pups who are being taught to use a litterbox, which obviously doesn't fit well inside a crate.

I also use an ex-pen beside my desk for dogs who are well-housebroken but not yet ready to be loose in a room. When I'm working on the computer, these dogs can be given more space in the pen than they would have in their crate.

Finally, since you can unfold an ex-pen to form a straight barrier, I'll use them across open doorways or room entrances to keep a pup confined in, say, the kitchen or mud room.

Ex-pen options and choices

An ex-pen is a pen made of heavy wire/metal or heavy plastic/vinyl.

Typically you get eight panels hinged together to make a pen 4 foot wide by 4 feet long (16 square feet), which gives a pup room to stretch his legs while still keeping him safely confined for a few hours. You can arrange the pen into a circle or a square.

You can get a pen 30 inches high (small breeds), 36 inches high, or 48 inches high. I like a brand called Midwest. You can search for Midwest exercise pen on Amazon.

If you don't like the look of wire/metal, makes a handsome (but very pricey!) pen out of white PVC pipes. If you're handy, you could build it yourself for much less. Just make sure your pup can't fit his head through the pipes or he could break his neck!

Most of my advice in the previous chapter on crates applies to ex-pens, as well: Where to place the pen, how to put your pup into the pen, how to take him out of the pen ("Wait" and "Okay"), and how to handle barking.

If your pup jumps on the sides of the ex-pen

It's not uncommon for a dog to jump up on his hind legs and paw at the sides of the pen with his front paws. If he's young enough or small enough that the ex-pen stands firm, you can ignore this behavior at first. He's simply curious and exploring. Hopefully he will settle down and play with a toy.

But if he's larger and might knock over the pen with his jumping, you should correct it right away.

And even if he's small, he shouldn't be repeatedly jumping. You want your pup to be calm and relaxed in his pen, not excitable. Say "No!" or "AH-ah!" AS he jumps and use a corrective technique like the ones I recommended for barking in the crate.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

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