On the car ride to pick up my new puppy from the city of Anchorage, Alaska last November, I played soft Christmas tunes over the radio. “We’re going to get our new puppy!” I told my toddler, barely able to contain my joy. I’d picked out a special name for our Alaskan malamute/German shepherd puppy: Eira Violet. Eira means snow in Welsh—a fitting name for an Alaska dog. Violet is the name we gave to one of Clancy’s babies way back when, and I wanted to link this new dog to the dogs of my childhood.
I’d prepared a cozy nest on the front passenger seat for Eira to sleep in on the ride home. Once we arrived at the grocery store parking lot where we’d be picking Eira up from her breeder, I smoothed the blankets and pillows. It had been over a year since my last dog, Bella, had died of bladder cancer. I couldn’t wait to be a dog mom again.
A Separation Anxiety Problem
The breeder handed a fat black-and-white puppy to me with tears in her eyes. “She’s a special one,” the breeder said. “We all love her.”
“Thank you so much for entrusting her to us,” I said, cuddling the sweet puppy in my arms. I showed her to my son, who said, “Look! Wow!” and pointed to the car to show me that he wanted to bring her home.
I shot a quick text to my husband: Toddler loves puppy. Coming home now!
The Christmas music cheerily played on. I laid Eira on her soft next of blankets and kissed her furry forehead. My dreamy Christmas car ride was coming true. Eira crawled off the blankets and onto the car seat and seemed about to snuggle down for a nap. Ah. How perfect!
Eira on her car ride home with us just after we got her. This picture shows the calm before a long, loud storm.
And then I started the car and drove out of the parking lot—away from the only family Eira had ever known. She began to howl, and loudly. My toddler screamed in response.
All the long way home, Eira howled and my son screamed and cried. The Christmas music drowned under the noise. I had to reach my hand back to help my son plug his ears, and with my other hand I drove and tried to keep Eira from crawling onto my lap and causing a crash.
Eira bonded to our family within a day. But that then meant that she didn’t want us to leave the house without her—ever. We didn’t have a crate at the time, and she was chewing things she wasn’t supposed to. In order to leave the house without her even for an hour, we decided to close all the doors in our main hallway and put up a baby gate left over from my son’s baby years.
I left Eira screaming in the hallway so I could take my son to gymnastics without having them both cry in the car the whole time. But all through gymnastics, I fretted about my poor puppy.
When I got home, she was still behind the baby gate. But she’d pooped and peed everywhere, and I spent the next hour bathing Eira and then cleaning the poop out of all the cracks in the baby gate.
A couple days later, she was so big that she jumped over the gate while we were gone. After asking our friends, we found several solutions to our problem.
Even just a few days after we got her, Eira knew where home was. She also knew who her people were, and she hated being left behind.
The Best Indoor Gates for Big Dogs
If you have a puppy who hates being left behind like Eira and who isn’t yet potty trained, consider an indoor gate that creates its own enclosure for your pup to play in, or one that splits your dog’s safe area off from the rest of the house. Or—as in the case of our first recommended indoor dog gate—one that does both.
Richell Convertible High Pet Playpen
Our friend from Oklahoma recommended the Richell Convertible High Pet Playpen, a plastic gate/fence that doesn’t make it easy for dogs to climb it or push it around. It’s also tall enough for bigger dogs like Standard Poodles (which my friend has), German shepherds, labs, and of course, Alaskan malamutes.
We loved the idea of this fence and nearly purchased it ourselves, but it’s on the pricier side and our house is small. If we ever get another dog, we will definitely purchase it because it will be helpful in getting Eira used to a new puppy! Our friend raves about it, so we know it’s well worth the price.
This pet gate can be used as a room divider, or it can be set up into a hexagonal playpen. You can even take it outside if you need to use it when you have guests over for a barbeque. The Richell Playpen includes a locking gate door so that you and your pet can always move into and out of the gated space with ease.
Fill the playpen with a cozy dog bed, a Kong stuffed with peanut butter paste, and a strong Nylabone. Maybe even a patch of fresh grass or a potty pad for your dog to (hopefully) pee on while you’re gone. Turn on some soothing tunes or a kids’ TV show and leave your dog knowing that, at the very least, she won’t be able to get out while you’re gone.
Internet’s Best Traditional Dog Gate
If you’re just looking for something to block off a hallway or a set of stairs, this classic dog gate from Internet’s Best will work well. You can choose from two sizes—standard, 24 inches, or tall, 36 inches—and two colors. The gate has a stylish, classy look and is easy to move out of the way when you want to go into the enclosed space—but it keeps your pups out.
We could’ve used this type of gate when Eira was a puppy, because she was a big puppy who could already jump a small baby gate. Also, its smooth bars are easier to clean than the many tiny plastic holes I had to wipe free of poop after Eira’s accident that day I first left her home.
Giantex Free Standing Wood Dog Fence With Gate
If you want to divide your living room or kitchen into two separate spaces—say, one side for a baby, the other for your overeager dog—this free-standing dog fence is tall and sturdy enough to do the trick. Plus, it’s got rubber pads on the bottom part of the fence to prevent the gate from scratching your hardwood floors. The rubber also keeps your bigger dog from pushing the gate around.
What About Gates for Smaller Dogs?
Right now, Eira is once again camping in Denali National Park with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law while I visit my own in-laws in California. I’ve known my in-laws since I was a pre-teen, and back then they had two little Yorkshire terriers named Vinny and Sophie. Now that those two puppies have passed on, they have two one-year-old toy dogs: Rosemary, a vivacious Yorkshire terrier, and Walter, a sweet Maltese.
It’s a lot of fun to spend time with dogs so much tinier than Eira! But even though they’re tiny, they tend to scare my toddler with their yipping and jumping.
Rosemary’s on the left, Walter’s on the right. This sweet pair is a lot of fun to visit with!
My in-laws have long made use of indoor (and outdoor) dog gates for their toy dogs in this type of situation. Here are the products that have worked the best for them.
Richell Wood Freestanding Pet Gate
With two of this type of gate, my in-laws are able to easily create a small pen or block off the kitchen so the dogs can run free inside without having access to the living room.
An example of how the two freestanding pet gates can create a small pen. In this case, the pen allows access to the dog door and half of the backyard—so the area is not as small as it seems!
Back when they had a house with stairs, these pet gates blocked stairways and were low enough to easily step over. The Richell Wood Freestanding Pet Gate is designed for small dogs, not big ones, and it does a fantastic job of keeping small dogs contained. None of my in-laws’ toy dogs have ever been able to jump it—although Rosemary, the tiniest dog they’ve ever had, comes close!
Rosemary is full of boundless energy.
Rosemary can jump higher than the gate when she’s excited, but she can’t get over it! Also note how my in-laws use a simple zip-tie to fasten the two gates together, creating a small indoor pen that leads to the yard via a doggy door.
Here’s the gate itself, if you want to take a look. It’s a lifesaver for managing a household that includes sweet, bouncy toy dogs.
PAWLAND Wooden Freestanding Foldable Pet Gate
For a step-over gate that you can use to block off wide or small areas of the house, try this foldable freestanding pet gate from PAWLAND. It’s got a classy curve on the top, but is still easy to step over—but not easy for your small furry friends to hop. This is a great gate to have on hand for travel with your small pups: it’s easy to fold and store in the car for a road trip to a friend’s house.
North States MyPet Petyard Passage
This 8-panel pet enclosure with a lockable pet door is a fantastic choice for giving your small dogs freedom indoors (without buying two freestanding gates). It also has rubber on the bottom to keep the gate from scratching your floor, and it works on carpet or hardwood. Your little dogs will get 7 square feet of space to run around in when the gate is crafted into a playpen; if you instead want to use it as a room divider, you can!
What about REALLY Big Dogs?
Some dogs defy expectations when it comes to height: they’re nearly as big as horses. Great Danes, mastiffs, Saint Bernards. Are there any playpens or indoor dog gates that can contain these dogs when you have a passel of children over for a playdate, or when you need to leave home for a couple hours?
When these dogs are puppies, the gates I featured in the “indoor gates for bigger dogs” section will work well. But when they’re full-grown dogs, you’ll need a special type of gate.
This is the best gate I’ve found for super-big dogs: a 48-inch-tall indoor/outdoor gate that even a Great Dane won’t be able to knock or jump over. Of course, it takes up a lot of space in your home, but you probably expected that would happen if you fell in love with a huge puppy. This playpen allows more room than a crate and is ideal for containing your dog when guests are over or when you leave the house.
Remember: Dogs Shouldn’t Spend All Day in an Indoor Dog Gate
While indoor dog gates are amazingly convenient, they don’t replace daily walks or time with family. Used wisely, indoor dog gates can save your sanity and keep your dog safe while you’re running errands. Then, you can come home, let the dogs out, and cuddle away.
Laura Ojeda Melchor grew up with two beloved German shepherd dogs—Clancy and her daughter, Bella. From the time her family brought Clancy home, Laura took on the duty of pooper-scooper and potty trainer. As a teenager Laura helped her mother care for Clancy during her pregnancy. She still remembers fondly the exciting, frigid winter night when the seven special puppies were born. Laura kept the youngest puppy—Bella—and potty trained her, too. She taught Bella important commands, took her for long walks, and spent hours throwing tennis balls for her.
In November, Laura brought home a sweet new puppy, Eira Violet. Eira is half Alaskan malamute and half German shepherd, and Laura loves her deeply. She chose not to use a crate to potty train Eira and was pleasantly surprised at the results. She now has a sweet, energetic dog who always uses the potty outside, plays well with Laura’s toddler, and enjoys long family walks in beautiful Alaska. If you were to meet Eira, she’d bound up to you with a wagging tail and get you running around the yard with her in no time.