11 Mental Enrichment Ideas for Your Dog Playpen

11 Mental Enrichment Ideas for Your Dog Playpen

A dog playpen can be a benefit to pet parents in many situations. They keep pups contained so they can’t get into trouble, and they can also be safe spaces where dogs can relax or even enjoy some stimulating play. If you’re looking to add more mental enrichment to your dog’s playpen time, here are 11 ideas.

A dog playpen is an enclosed area that provides a safe and secure space for dogs to play, exercise, and relax. They help keep puppies and dogs in a designated area, preventing them from wandering into potentially unsafe areas or getting into mischief. For example, you might put your pup in the playpen when you leave the house, at night, when working from home, when training a puppy, or when introducing dogs. Any time your dog is in the playpen, there are ways you can add mental enrichment. These 11 ideas will get you started!

1. Interactive Toys

Provide toys that dispense treats when manipulated, such as puzzle feeders or treat-dispensing balls. These toys encourage problem-solving and keep your dog mentally engaged.

2. Frozen Treats

Freeze dog-safe treats or toys in water or low-sodium broth. This creates a challenging and refreshing activity as your pup works to extract the treats from the ice.

3. Sensory Activities

Introduce different textures, sounds, and scents to the dog playpen. Scatter leaves, pine cones, or soft fabric toys for your pooch to explore. You can also hide treats in a ball pit or among various textures.

4. Training Games

Incorporate short training sessions into the playpen routine. Teach new tricks or reinforce basic commands using positive reinforcement techniques. Mental engagement through training can be highly rewarding for dogs.

5. Scent Games

Hide treats or toys around the playpen and encourage your dog to use their sense of smell to locate them. You can use scent puzzles or scatter the items in the pen.

6. Rotate Toys

Keep a variety of toys and rotate them regularly to maintain novelty. Dogs can become bored with the same toys, so introducing new ones keeps things interesting.

7. Safe Chews

Offer appropriate chew toys to keep your dog’s mind busy. Puzzle toys that dispense treats as the dog chews can provide mental and physical stimulation.

8. Interactive Feeding Toys

Instead of feeding your dog from a regular bowl, try an interactive feeding toy or slow feeder. This engages them in problem-solving and extends the time it takes for them to finish their meal.

9. Background Noise

Play calming music or leave the television on at a low volume to provide auditory stimulation. Some dogs find the background noise soothing.

10. Rotate Environments

If possible, move the playpen to different locations in your home or yard. Experiencing different environments can be mentally stimulating for dogs.

11. Make a Mini Obstacle Course

Although a dog playpen won’t have as much room as an outdoor space, you might still have room to include small tunnels, stairs, ramps, jumps, or other obstacles your pup can maneuver around.


Animal Wellness is North America’s top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.


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