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Hi all

We've got a 2-year-old Shih Tzu. He is, of course, incredibly clingy. A decision was made not to crate-train him when we got him at 4 months. There were a few accidents, and then, after about a year, we replaced our flooring, and everything was cool -- pretty much no accidents.

We stopped coming home in the middle of the day to walk him when he hit 20 months. This seemed OK at first, but then he began occasionally pooping on the carpet in the room where we leave him witht he door shut. We replaced the carpet, but the behavior repeated; it even seemed to me that he was pooping less when I walked him in the morning. We moved him into the bathroom during workdays, but he's started destroying the molding -- something he used to do in his old room but mostly stopped. It's really very impressive, but not at all safe for him.

I've finally gotten buy-in to crate-train him. He went in there last night and stayed in for 30 or 40 minutes to eat the meat off a bone I put in there. My plan is to leave the crate in his old room -- crate door open, room door shut -- and let him explore it.

My question is this: How do we reinforce crate attachment while we're home with a Shih Tzu, especially an adult one? He follows my wife around everywhere, or me if she's not home. Only sometimes on weekends does he get enough of us and go off by himself for a little while. It seems unlikely to me that he will remain in the crate if the door is open and one of us is home, and obviously I don't want him to feel trapped in it by closing the door while we're there.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

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First, a question, when you leave him in a room, do you leave the door shut, or do you use a baby gate to block off the door? Some dogs get anxious when they are totally shut in a room, with the door shut, as they feel very isolated. Anxiety and boredom can lead a dog to be destructive. So, you might try leaving him in a room, with the door open, but the doorway blocked with a baby gate.

Second, crates are great for teaching a dog some independence. But, you can't just put them in and leave them for extended periods of time, when they're not used to it, because it could backfire and cause them to HATE the crate.

If he's really ok in the crate, door shut, with a bone, for 20-30 minutes, there's no reason you can't make that part of your daily routine. You could also use a frozen, stuffed kong. Or, you could alternate the times, maybe leave him in the crate 5 minutes, then, later in the day, leave him for 15 minutes, then later for 2 minutes. This will help him learn to tolerate the crate better, because no matter how long you are gone, he'll know you always come back.

All that can be done while you are in the home, and when you leave. If he is NOT ok in the crate for that long, you can always take baby steps, and do 1-2 minutes at a time, several times a day, and then gradually build up the time. But, always give him something to do in the crate. And, it also helps to tire them out before you put them in the crate, as exercise relieves stress, and, if he's tired, he may sleep.
 
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