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Best Portable Dog PlayPens For RVs And Camping in 2021

(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)

We love our pets, don't we?

They become a part of us.  Part of our family. For some of you, they are the only family you have.

Dog sitting in front of RV

Photo by @WilliamTrinklePhotography

It's no surprise that when we go camping, we want them to come along with us for the adventure.

If you are in a campground, rules will definitely be in place saying your dogs have to be restrained in some manner.

Often, they are not permitted to be left outside on a tether. In such cases, portable dog playpens can come in handy.

Portable dog playpens come in large and small sizes to accommodate almost any breed or size. Keep in mind, even the best dog playpen is no substitute for proper walking.

To them, it's still a boring small space without TV, a book, or ANYTHING else do do.

Already know all about this subject? Just looking for the reviews? Click the button below to jump down to the product reviews.

Guide To Portable Dog Play Pens For Camping

These pens can make the chore of potty time easier for you as you can let them out in the playpen area to relieve themselves. 

Still, we cannot stress that you give your dog plenty of walk time as it is the key element in taking care of your dog's basic needs as an animal.

The most essential ingredient to a happy and mentally stable dog is plenty of exercise.

Why A Portable Dog Playpen Or A Crate?

Three possible reasons:

  • Containment/ sleeping area
  • Potty time
  • Playtime

When you are camping in a campground, rest assured you will not be permitted to let your dog roam free.

This is, of course, for the safety of your dog and for the safety and comfort of other dogs and people in the campground.

No-one, and we repeat, NO-ONE likes when a strange dog comes bounding up to them. It's scary. No-one can predict what that dog's real intention is. 

IF they are not aggressively advancing, they often jump on people, or proceed to sniff crotches, and then possibly pee all over their stuff.

At best, your loose dog is a general annoyance. Dogs also don't appreciate other gregarious dogs running up to them either, leashed or not.

These things can cause a dog fight and/or a human fight to break out. Therefore, you need to keep your dog contained, be it on a leash or in a portable dog playpen or a fenced in area.

If you are boondocking, you can likely allow more freedom for your pet. But it should still always be watched by you and UNDER YOUR CONTROL 100% of the time.

Jack Russell Terrier dog looking through fence

No, there's no getting out to pee on that tire over there...

These portable dog playpens can also be used at home. They can be used to teach a dog to go potty in a certain area of the yard.

You can also use them indoors as a place for your dog to sleep, or to contain them when guests come over, or for whatever other reason you may need it.

These pens should NEVER be used as a form of punishment.

Types Of Portable Dog PlayPens

Indoor Pens

An indoor doggie playpen is going to be made out of materials that should not get wet.

There can be hybrids of this, of course, you just want to be sure you don't use one outside that can rust, or that is made of non-waterproof materials.

People usually use this type of playpen for dogs to keep their pet safe from harm, from destroying something in the house, or for them to use as a sleeping place or a den, feeling safe and secure.

Leaving your dog in your RV for the first time can be pretty traumatic for them if they are not used to living there.

Why?

Because they don't know where they are and when you leave, they don't know if the routine of you coming back applies to this new space.

Midwest Pet Crate
To a Dog, You Are Their Pack

If that dog feels that they are the pack leader and you leave, your dog thinks they were just separated from their pack.

This dog will do anything to get back to you, their pack, if they think they have been abandoned in a foreign place i.e. your RV.

How can they possibly know that you are coming back?

This creates separation anxiety and sure, your loyal dog will possibly try to tear the RV apart to get out.

Having a place that your dog knows and is comfortable living in will help them to feel safe and secure in your RV or tent.

If they have a space at home, like a crate or small pen, then you can have it in your RV as well.

If they know that you come back when they are in their little personal space when at your home, then they could connect that you might also come back when they are in their bed area in your RV.

Precision pet soft sided play yard
Other Good Uses

Having an indoor dog playpen could also be a good place to put your pet(s) when they come inside after it has been raining.

It will let them dry without getting your RV wet and dirty as well.

If you have gregarious dogs when guests come over, a playpen for dogs is a good way to keep them out from under foot.

This is also good if you have guests who don't like dogs.

Simply put them in their playpen.

People also use these pens for their cats.

If you have a playpen at your home for a place of rest or playtime for your kitties, and you decide to bring them along camping, they will appreciate the familiarity of having a place to call their own in your RV.

Family walking dog

Yes, we know many people who actually full-time with their cats.

They even let them out off-leash at every destination! (If deemed safe enough, of course)

I, Kelly, was shocked. These are very happy traveling kitties.

Outdoor Dog Playpens

This type of pen should not rust or be damaged by water.

Waterproof would be a better playpen material for longevity.

You can get a dog fence to let your dogs do their business outside of your RV or tent, or it can just be a place to let them watch the goings-by in the campground.

They can possibly stretch their legs in the dog fence a little depending on the size of the enclosure you purchase as well as the size of your dog.

If you buy a portable dog pen for outdoors that can rust, you can bet your bottom that it will, over time.

Eventually, it will fail, while potentially causing your dog harm if they get caught on a damaged section of your rusty pen.

Dog drinking water from bottle

Even worse, they could escape and get hit by a car or someone might decide to keep them if they find your cute little dog.

Just find portable dog fencing that is not going to rust, gives your dog the room you intend for him to have, and allows them to enjoy the outdoors without being on a cable where they can get all tangled up.

That's no fun for them or for you. 

Puppy Training Pen

If you get a puppy, whether you are camping or not, it's a good idea to have a playpen for them for a few reasons.

1. You can use a bottomless one to teach them where to go in the yard.

2. You can use it inside to contain them when you aren't home.

If you are taking your puppy on a camping trip, you are going to need a portable playpen for the same purposes.

You don't want them to poop all over or tear up your RV.

Dog pooping on grass

Never mind me. Just doing my thing.

Having a place to sleep that is familiar to your puppy is also a good idea, whether it's your puppy playpen or another bed or crate. Dogs in general like having a regular schedule.

It's especially important to have your puppy on a potty schedule so it learns to go outside on a regular basis. 

Training Your Dog To Like Their New Portable Dog Playpen

You cannot just buy a portable playpen or a crate for your dog, stick them inside, walk away, and expect them to not cry and want to get out.

For all they know, they just got stuck inside a box and will never be able to get out. They have no way of knowing they aren't stuck in a life-threatening situation and therefore shouldn't try to escape.

To them, they think that they will never get out and will die if they don't escape.

Survival instinct is healthy and it's a natural reaction to being stuck in a small space. You must introduce them to it slowly and by using positive reinforcement.

Watch this great video on how to get your pet to love their new little space.

This Video Is About Crate Training A 'Puppy', But Will Work Just The Same On A Grown Dog

How To Choose The Right Portable Pet Playpen For Your Pet

Now that you know the types of uses a pet playpen might be good for, it's time to decide how exactly you will be using yours.

You can hardly go wrong as these things aren't super complicated.

Still, picking the right one will likely make your life a little easier now and down the road.

You will need to consider the size, the material it's made of, the height, whether you need a door or not, how narrow the rungs have to be, will you need stakes, and more.

Let's look at the how's and why's behind why you may or may not want some of these features.

Poodle on paddleboard

Material

This is a big one.

Does your pooch chew to get out of a crate-type environment? Will it be an inside or an outside portable dog playpen?

If you have a chewer, you will not be able to get a soft-sided playpen or your dog will likely destroy it.

If you are using it outside, you will need it to be a waterproof material. Here are some common types of materials that you will find:

Plastic: Good for outdoor use as it won't rust.

Lasts a long time. Dogs may be able to chew through if it's a big dog.

These pens are pretty good about not scratching delicate floors.

Woman holding dog

Metal Fence: This is the most rugged type of pen you can find.

If you have a dog who chews, they will have a very difficult time eating this gate.

These are ok for outdoor use, depending on the type of metal fencing the pen is made out of.

Look for a metal fence that has been coated to protect against rusting.

Polyester and Mesh: Playpens that are made out of material are typically made from polyester with mesh 'windows'.

The bottoms of some are waterproof so if you use it indoors and your pet has an accident, it will stay contained.

This material is obviously destructible and will be of no use if your pet hates to be contained. 

If you have a jumper, these can work well because some of them come with a zippered top for full containment.

Size

Most dog pens aren't very big. 

One COULD purchase more panels for some models to make a larger pen, but if you are in a campground, your space could be limited anyway.

dog sitting in grass

Photo by @WilliamTrinklePhotography

Consider whether you are going to have your pet contained by the gates the second he goes out the door of your RV/tent, or if you will have the pen in a circular position standing on its own.

If you are trying to make a fence surrounding your door, you may need a few more panels.

Most dogs will want to be as far away from home as possible to go to the bathroom.

If you have large dogs, of course a portable dog run with 4 panels won't be large enough.

Make sure your pet can at least sit, stand and turn around with a little room no matter what use you are getting it for.

Dog lying on back in grass

Happy dog... happy dog... happy dog...happy dog...

If you want them to relieve themselves in the pen, they will want a lot more room than to just be able to turn around in it.

They want to get away from their excrement as quickly as possible, and not have to step in it right after they have done their business.

To Door Or Not To Door?

That is the question.

Well, if you have a small dog that is easy to pick up, maybe no door is just fine.

But remember, if they are using the bathroom in it, you are going to have to go into the enclosure to pick it up.

If the panels are not easy to take apart, you will want a door, depending on your physical health and the height of the panels.

If you have a large dog, you probably want a door. Keep in mind that most doors have a 'lip' at the bottom for stability.

If you have teeny tiny Yorkies, the lip should be small enough for them to get over it.

Also, dogs' feet can get caught in the lip, so be careful if you are trying to pull them out of a metal crate with a lip at the bottom.

Great Dane dog lying in grass

Not going to have a problem with a door lip.

Storage

Where will you store the portable RV dog fence while you are on the road?

Also how much does it weigh?

Most don't weigh a lot, but if you are near your RV's maximum weight, you may have to keep it on the lighter side.

Some people store their portable RV dog fence in their tow vehicle.

Others keep it right inside of their RV or camper until they get to their destination, immediately setting up 'shop' for their pup upon arrival.

Then there are the people who have attached a carrying area in the front or the back of the outside of their rig.

Storage probably isn't a huge factor here unless you are toting Great Danes around with you, hence huge and heavy pens.

Using Your Portable Dog Fence For Camping

Keep in mind a few things while you are using your playpen outdoors.

Presence

First, it's not a good idea to put your babies out in the outdoor dog fence then go inside and take a nap.

A lot of bad could happen. What could happen? Well, your babies could be stolen out of it.

If you have tiny dogs, a bird of prey could make away with them. Your pup could dig and get out.

Some kids could come along and do something mean to your babies, or feed them something they shouldn't have.

Their collar could get caught on the gate if they tried to jump out, hanging them to death.

Or, someone could reach into the pen to try to pet your dog and they could get bitten.

It could start raining on them.

It could get super hot outside leaving them vulnerable to heat stroke. We could go on.

We're not out to scare you here, we're just being honest. These are just a few things that could happen.

Puppy dogs on table

It's just not a good idea to leave them out in a portable dog pen unattended for any length of time.

You could be risking a lawsuit. Or worse, it could cost your pups their life.

Be careful when you are using your outside dog pens. Make sure your pets stay safe.

Indoors

If you are using the portable dog playpen indoors for a place to play and/or rest, keep some blankets and toys in there for them.

Also, they should have access to water in their pen so they can drink at will if they will be there for quite a while.

If you have a puppy or a dog that is puppy pad trained, you CAN put a pad in the dog fence area, but only if it is large enough for them to get away from it.

If you force them to 'go' and then have to stay near it, it may dampen their natural instinct to not go in their bed area, making it that much harder to potty train.

Below the summary, we feature the best dog pens we could find. 

Summary

Taking your dog or dogs with you camping can be a rich, rewarding experience.

Naturally, our pets can become part of our family, so it's natural to want to bring them along with us.

Therefore, having a dedicated space indoors and out for them to have to themselves is an important part of having them on the trip.

Finally, keeping them safe with an outdoor portable dog playpen, away from other dogs, is a great idea. It keeps the leash at bay until it's time for their daily walk.

Dog sitting with leash in mouth

Walk me! Even a big yard gets boring after only a few days...

Remember, exercise is the #1 ingredient to keeping a dog mentally healthy. Even the little dogs need walks to stay sane and balanced.

However, please remember that a small outdoor portable playpen is NO substitute for daily walks.

Portable RV dog playpens are best to have for your dog's chill time and/or to let them be outdoors while you are staying in a campground OR at home.

Get a portable dog fence for camping, and go camp with them for as long as you can! Next, we show you the best playpens we found and why we think that they are a good bet.

The Best Dog Playpens Reviewed

There are a few different types of dog pens for RVers out there.

Picking a certain type of material will greatly depend on the personality of your pet when in an enclosed space.

If you have small dogs, you may need a roof to protect from birds of prey.  

Metal playpens can be expanded. A soft sided pen is chewable. Take these things into consideration while shopping to keep your dog safe. 

Best Soft-Sided Dog Playpen

Precision Pet Soft Side Play Yard

Precision pet soft sided play yard

Pros

  • Ground stakes included
  • Water resistant for indoor or outdoor use
  • Comes with carrying case
  • Bottom floor panel and cover removable and washable
  • Zippered top and bottom panels

Cons

  • Not good for larger dogs or dogs that chew

The Precision Pet Soft Side Play Yard comes in small, medium and large sizes. It's the perfect, totally enclosed portable pet playpen for your dog, cat or other pet to safely play in or rest. 

Choose Size

Continue Reading Precision Pet Soft Side Play Yard Review

Best Metal Dog Playpen

MidWest MaxxLock Split Door Dog Pen

Midwest portable dog fence

Pros

  • Split door for easy access to inside without dog running out
  • 16 SF of space
  • Black electro-coat finish (Rust resistant)
  • Multiple heights to choose from

Cons

  • None that we can find

The ever popular Midwest portable doggie pen has been around for over 90 years. They are well-known in the dog show and breeder worlds for their dependability. 

5 Available Heights

Continue Reading Midwest Dog Playpen Review

Best Metal Dog Playpen With Topper

Advantek Pet Gazebo

Advantek pet gazebos

Pros

  • Topper for shade and escape protection
  • Three sizes available
  • Can attach more to make bigger run area
  • Offers accessories to provide extra shade

Cons

  • None that we can find

This is a very well-designed pet pen that has useful features not found in most other pens. No more jumping out of the pen or chewing at fabric.

3 Available Heights

Continue Reading Advantek Pet Gazebo Review

Conclusion

Your dog can be kept happy and safe when enclosed (temporarily) inside of a playpen while you are camping.

They can do their business here, or just use it as a place they can relax outside while you are at the campground.

If you have big dogs, this can give you a little more footroom inside of your RV. (But please give them enough space in the playpen to be happy and able to move around themselves.)

There's nothing better than bringing your furry friends camping with you instead of dropping them off at a kennel.

They want to be with you, too!

Camp On, Addicts!

Kelly Headshot
Kelly Beasley

He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona.


Marshall Headshot
Marshall Wendler

Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing from April 2014 - December 2020 (now RVing about 50% of the time), Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle. Marshall spends the majority of his RVing life boondocking. He is the part of Camp Addict that knows 'all the things'. He's good at sharing his technical knowledge so you can benefit. 

  • Hi, we often go for picnics with our 2 little dachshunds. We usually just sit at the back of our car with our picnic chairs. Is there any kind of pen that we can put around the car to keep the dogs penned in but still beside us?
    I know this sounds a bit complicated but hopefully you know what I mean!????

    • Hi Sharon,

      Doxies!!! I’ll bet they are cute. So I apologize, but I am not exactly sure what you mean. So you sit in picnic chairs behind the car? Wouldn’t a regular wire pen work? Do you want it to enclose the car, or just your dogs and yourselves? Thanks.

  • Hi, Would like to add a particular product to the the playpens you considered. We discovered a pet “gazebo” from Advantek that comes in sizes from 3′ all the way to 8′. This gazebo is a great compromise between a dog crate and the soft-sided playpens. It is easily assembled and disassembled, has a roof for shade and protection from the elements, and it has a door that allows for easy access. And yes, it can even be used for cats (with minor modifications at the base to discourage sneaking out)! We actually have 2 gazebos – the small, and the large. The large stays in our backyard (when we aren’t RVing), set up under a shady tree. It is the perfect place to contain a pet when gates have to be kept open, or we have guests over who aren’t dog people (rare, but it HAS happened). The small gazebo is set up inside the house, and is used whenever a dog needs to be contained in a smaller space, but still has space to get up, move around a little, have a snack, etc. Perfect size for when one of our dogs had surgery, and had to have her movement severely restricted. We purchased the large gazebo at a farm supply place (Big R), and the small one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Have been very pleased with both of them; the quality is good, and both have been put up and taken apart many times with no problems. You can even get a tote bag for the gazebo, which is what we use when we are RVing. Just another possibility for those looking for a portable solution to safely contain their pet when RVing!

    • Hi Sue,

      Thank you for the recommendation! We didn’t find much out there when we did this page, so we didn’t offer many choices.

      I do like that it has a top on it.

      We will look into it and may even add it to this page. Thanks again! Happy to hear you like yours.

      (And happy to hear you don’t have many ‘non-dog people’ friends, lol!! ????)

  • Excellent article and very informative! I am looking for a soft-sided pop-up style (or other easily portable) play pen/play yard for my little 4 pound Chihuahua. He goes everywhere with me, but there are times I do have to leave him, sometimes at a friend or family member’s house. When we do go camping, he goes along. He has a travel backpack that I usually carry him in, but have been looking for something bigger that I can bring with me. I hate to leave him too long just in his backpack.
    A google search of the best portable/travel play yards brought your site up, and I’m so happy it did!

    • Hi WB,

      That’s great, we are happy you found our site! Are you going to get a pen for your chi then? I’m sure he will be happier in it than being a long time in the backpack. Hope you get to use it often because that means you are camping a lot. Enjoy!

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