Crate Training, Back to Basics

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crate training, dog pees in crate

Puppies can Love and Choose their Crates! Thanks Richmondvets for the photo (always take caution only to leave safe toys with unattended dogs or puppies!)

I am so embarrassed.

I have been a dog trainer for over 20 years and I recently got a phone call from my neice.

She has acquired a long haired Chihuahua and she was in need of some potty training advice.

Potty training is one of those subjects that I have written most, well not most, but MANY articles on so if you need help I will add some links but here is one now if you need it click here.

But along with regular potty training advice, I recommended crate training.

I think I almost had a stroke when she asked what crate training was, and how to do it…

I guess I just take certain things for granted and assume they are common knowledge.

Leave it to family to take the wind out of your sails, knock you down a couple of rungs and teach you a little humility.

So, I figured if my niece didn’t know anything about crate training, there are probably other’s out there with some of the same questions!

Why Use a Crate?

crate training, dog pees in crate

Crates can even be FUN!! Only leave Safe Toys with Puppies or Dogs when they are Unattended

Crates keep dogs and your things safe!

  • Crated dogs can’t chew electric cords, get into your medication, chew batteries or anything else that might kill them.
  • Crates also keep your expensive and sentimental things safe.
  • When your dog is crated he can’t chew your lap top, or your Channel purse.

Crates also help with potty training.

  • Provided that the crate you got for him is not too big crates making going potty uncomfortable.
  • If you pee or poop in your crate; you are going to have to lay in it until someone comes along and lets you out.
  • And, let’s face it as long as you keep your dog clean, chances are he is going to desire to be clean.
  • Almost no dog wants to sit in his own urine or excrement.
  • And, once he has an accident in his crate he realizes this; and it gives him motivation and teaches him to hold his bladder etc.
  • Please note that he has to be old enough to hold his bladder etc.  It is unfair to crate young puppies for long durations because they are incapable of being potty trained when they are little infants.
  • And, if you crate young puppies until they poop or pee on themselves… it simply desensitizes them to being clean.  They learn that being dirty and stinky is just part of life!
  • Be sure to get puppies out often!  And, it is recommended that puppies only be crated however many months of age they are plus one.
  • So if you have an 8 week old puppy (2 months old) he should only be crated a maximum of 3 hours.

Getting Started

What to Purchase

When you are thinking about crate training and purchasing a crate I recommend getting a crate that will be big enough for your adult dog.

Unless you have oodles of money laying around, I would not necessarily get a crate the size of your puppy and then continue to get bigger crates as he ages.

And, don’t think you aren’t going to need a crate when your dog is full grown, because crate training has its benefits throughout the lifetime of your dog!

Instead I would recommend getting a crate big enough for your adult dog and partitioning it off to be smaller depending on the size of your puppy.

If the crate is TOOOO big, chances are your puppy can have an accident at one end of the crate and lay at the other end, which mostly defeats the purpose of crate training.

UNLESS…

crate training, dog pees in crateUnless you have a small dog or young puppy and you need to be gone for many hours at a time.  In which case, your dog or puppy will need somewhere to go potty and then be able to lay down somewhere else.

I don’t always like using a big room, like the bathroom or a laundry room because it teaches the dog to go potty in the house.

There are times I would rather use a very large crate, which when your dog gains bladder control will help with the potty training process and is not developing the habit of going potty in the house.

So if I had an 8 week old Chihuahua puppy and I was going to be gone for 3 hours or more at a time and I couldn’t get someone to come and let him out, and I couldn’t take him to daycare somewhere… I would get a large or XL crate so that he could potty at one end (on a puppy pad) and lay at the other.

I would prefer this to having my puppy think it is okay to potty in the bathroom, or laundry room which is likely to carry over to when I am home.

It is unlikely that he would run to his crate to potty when you are home.

Wire or Plastic is up to you… however most of the time I like plastic crates because they feel more like a den and most dogs seem to like them better because they are less visually stimulating.  However each dog is different!

Acclimation to His Crate

crate training, dog pees in crate

This is How Comfortable You want Your dog to be. Notice the OPEN door!

You want to get your puppy use to his crate before you leave him for 3 hours or more.

The best way to do that is to provide him with a hefty amount of exercise prior to crating him so he will be too tired to care that he is in a crate.

If he has just woke up from a nap and you slide him into a crate he is much more likely to have a terrible fit and a bad experience; which will make crating him next time more traumatic.

When he is exhausted, he might have a small puppy fit; but then he is probably going to take a nap which will help make his experience more pleasurable.

I also usually start crate training, the first night they come home, (after I exercise them) and I put that crate next to the side of my bed.   This way I can hear the puppy if he stirs at night and he can also hear me breathing.

Remember that if he is a puppy, he has probably come from an environment where he is used to hearing his littermates at night and going into a totally sterile environment with no noise at all is going to be a bit terrifying for him!

I have found that putting him next to the bed, helps us both sleep and helps with potty training!

Crate Games

During the day I play crate games with my puppies or new dogs.  I believe all dog training should revolve around games.

I toss treats inside, I throw their toys in and encourage them to run inside and get whatever I have tossed in.

I also never put them into their crates without giving them a substantial treat.

If you get a piece of chicken every time you get into your crate, you are much more likely to enjoy running and putting yourself into your crate and this keeps owners from having to grab and shove dogs in crates; or try and catch them to crate them.

I want my dogs to enjoy their crates!

So I play games  and the longer you (the dog) choose to stay in your crate the better and more treats you get.

If you sit at the back of your crate, with the door open… I will dispense treats to you through the bars to reward calm behavior.   This is also crucial when I open the door for helping teach my dogs not to charge straight out!

Leaving Them…

crate training, dog pees in crate

Beware! Soft Crates are Easy to Break out of!

Whenever I leave my dog, or puppy for the first time I want to make it as pleasurable as possible.

So I stuff a large Kong (never leave anything that your dog could choke on in his crate) with peanut butter or liverwurst, freeze it and only give it to my dog/puppy when I leave him in his crate for a substantial period of time.

I also make sure to leave some kind of music, TV, or other noise on while I am gone so my pup doesn’t panic.

Very few of us live in an environment of “quiet” most of the time.

We have the TV or our music, or chatter amongst ourselves going on for our dogs to hear.

So it is no surprise that it causes some panic when we leave and our dogs/puppies have no back ground noise that they are use to.

Instead they hear the neighbors, or the sounds outside, the mailman and other noises that may scare them and cause them to bark.

To avoid this, I leave the TV or my IPOD playing quite loudly so that my dog can relax without hearing outside stimulation.

Remember crate training is like any other kind of dog training, you must teach them through good experiences!

Practice!

Practice makes perfect!  So I crate train my dogs even when I am home.

I don’t want them to associate my leaving with crate training or spending time in their crate, or this can create fears or bad feelings with my leaving.

Instead, I crate my dogs before I train with them (so that crating is associated with something positive) and I also crate them periodically during the day.

This way I can hear what they are doing, and I can reward good quiet behavior and just get them used to it on a consistent basis.

Crate Training is Importantcrate training, dog pees in crate

It keeps your dog safe, your things safe and it gives your dog (who is a den animal) a safe place when you travel or no matter where you go!

And, if you do it right, you will find your dog crating himself throughout the day and night!

For more on Potty Training click these articles

I Used to Teach to Pee and Poop in the Bathtub

My 9 week Old Puppy is Potty Trained  

For indoor potty training, The Grass is Always Greener INSIDE the House

Teaching Your Dog or Puppy to Ring a Bell for More Successful Potty Training

What Other Questions about Dog Training or Health do You want Answered?

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There are 44 Comments

  1. Susan Ellsessor says:

    Minette,

    I just read the crate training article and I want to share something. I probably bought the wrong kind of crate( a wire one) but I had the same thinking on purchasing a crate the size for my puppy to fit in when she would be full grown and save on money. Well my little puppy got her mussel caught in between the wires somehow and it was a very traumatic experience for her and me and it happened because the squares on the crate were larger in the big crate and she was able to fit her nose where it should not have been. So my thinking now is to buy the appropriate size for age even if it does cost more in the long run or buy a plastic crate…

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    That is another reason I like a plastic crate.

    It is like buying a crib for a baby, make sure parts can’t stick out and get stuck!

    [Reply]

  2. Tena says:

    I rescued my dog who has a ton of bad habits. Before we could get her spayed she got pregnant. I adopted out 3 of the 5 puppies but will have 3 of them until they are 3 mos. Old. We are keeping 2 and my daughter is coming from out of state to get hers. The mom has her appt for spaying. She is crate trained we had a plastic crate for her and ended up giving her a wire crate. It was too much stimulation for her until I wrapped it in a heavy blanket leaving only the door part uncovered. She loves her den♥♥ I am now crate training the puppies. Funny thing is that they started training themselves to puppy paper at abt 5 wks of age! They would whine or bark at 4 or 6 am so I would let them out of mommy’s crate to potty on the paper. They take 3 naps a day in their own crate now and sleep in a puppy plastic crate. They’re very small pups so I let them sleep together for another 2 weeks. They do still have accidents, but I figured out that they don’t like their puppy paper to get very soiled…once it does they potty on my hardwood floor. They will be limited to our livingroom for quite some time. I understand training the pups to go potty outdoors, but we have very little grass. We are nestled in the woods with a lot of fallen leaves and a sandy frontyard. I am going to aim them toward the sandy sideyard. Any tips?
    Thanks,
    Tena

    [Reply]

  3. sakura says:

    Thanx to u guys my puppy is finally potty trained.I got him when he was abt 10wks old and for the first few months it was terrible as i didn’t know how to train him… a few months back I found this blog in the internet n ever since I have had better control of my puppy. He is now 9mths old(german sheperd-boxer mix)and is completely potty trained.
    I admit crate training is the best.Potty accidents drastically decreased as soon i got him a crate. He did have few peeing accidents(not accidents really, i would say he did that on purpose)few weeks back, to get my attention.
    Here is what he did and this is how i corrected him.
    As soon as I took my other dog (mountain terrier 9yrs old)out for the walk,my new puppy would start barking (which i ignored) so by the time I was back he would have relieved himself in his cage even if I had just taken him out before taking my other dog out.. At first, I thought I didn’t give him enough time to relieve himself so i started giving him longer breaks to relieve himself but then he would just fool around n would just pee a little bit once or twice. I would get tired n take him back to his cage. He too would sit comfortably in his cage(as long as he couldn’t see me) but as soon as i open our main gate to take my other dog out he would start yelping n barking n peeing. so one day I literally cut short my other dog’s walk so that I could reach my puppy before he peed in his cage..
    THAT’s when it clicked me… I was unknowingly encouraging the puppy.. coz everytime he yelped or barked i’d go check on him n on seeing pee in his cage i would again take him out for another break thinking he needed more breaks.
    So from next day, I just gave him specific time to relieve himself (no extra time) and I completely ignored him when he started his tantrums.. I didn’t even go to check on my puppy after completing my walk with my mountain terrier..and when to him only on my own time like for dinner or for playing but never in between. Yes, he did pee in his cage for a few more times.. but then now, it has stopped completely. no more peeing in his cage, althou he still yelps whenever i take my other dog out.. but i know very soon he will stop that too. 😀
    I guess now I have finally started to think like my puppy n I am able to understand him better. All the credit goes to u guys. 😀

    [Reply]

  4. Angelo Gentile says:

    My Havanese pup goes to the door when she needs to relieve herself, however, at night she is peeing and pooping in her crate. How can I train her to wait until morning?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Try feeding and watering her earlier…

    But she may just need to go out in the middle of the night, depending on how old she is.

    [Reply]

  5. Maxine says:

    My minPin is about 8 yrs old and has never been crate trained. Is it too late to try it now?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    It’s never too late!!!

    [Reply]

  6. I used crate training to train my dog. She seems calmer in her crate and now I let her roam my apartment without being confined and she still seems to go lay in the crate when I leave. Creature of habit I guess 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

  7. Linda Berger says:

    Hi I got my min pin. and she was already put in a cage when young.She now potties in her cage and her bedding. She is fixed and over a year old almost two. I cant brake her from potting in her cage she will do it the min i go inside the house. She is in the garage right now because im staying with my daughter and no room for cage. She will also potty in the house if i leave her alone cant trust her at all. I have to watch her all the time and then she will not potty. What to do? Linda

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    i would crate train her and get her out as often as possible, if you get her out often enough and watch her eventually she will go potty outside, it just takes a lot of effort.

    [Reply]

  8. Pat Kleindl says:

    We have a 9-week old English Golden Retriever. We have a small kennel for her where she goes when we sleep or gone. She keeps peeing in her kennel. I left her for 2 hours and she peed in the kennel. She was very tired when I put her in there and fell fast asleep. Any suggestions on breaking this? Thanks.

    [Reply]

  9. patty says:

    I have a 12 week puppy. Got her when she was about 8 weeks. I didn’t have a cage for her when I first got her. So I would put her in my spare bathroom at night. She would pee everyone even on her blanket. I got a cage about a week ago and have and got her a dog pillow. And she still pees on her pillow. I was always told that don’t go where they sleep but this one does.

    How can I get her to stop with out having to get up all hours of the night to let her out. PS I don’t give her water before she goes to bed and I don’t leave food or water in her cage. Just a chew bone and a toy.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I’m guessing she equates the pillow to a potty pad or where she is suppose to go potty. I would take it away, no pillow, or blanket or anything else and get her out at least every two hours or so!

    [Reply]

  10. Debbie says:

    I have a Bichon Frise who is a year old. He was fully house trained you could leave him all day in the house would never go on the floor.We also have our old dog but 1 year old was fine with that. Now have a bichon puppy and 1 year old who was fully house broke is now pooping on the floor never pees on floor . Now have gone back to crate at night because this is only happening at night. Want to have him back in bed with us but I don’t know how to stop this. Have you any ideas why he is doing this. Puppy is in crate old dog is not but sleeps down stairs.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/suffering-doggy-accidents-night/

    [Reply]

    Neil Reply:

    If it were me, I would just leave him in the crate at night. My dog sleeps in her crate, in my bedroom every night. Give her a few treats when I put her in at night and see is fine. Go for a walk with her first thing in the morning and she does her business outside then. A dog sleeping with you in your bed is more a comfort for the owner, usually, than for the dog. They are fine in their crate once they get used to it. At least mine is. She slept with her former owner but now seems to be fine in her crate at night. Don’t feel guilty for making your dog sleep in his crate at night. He may be fine with it once he gets used to it.

    [Reply]

  11. LoRae says:

    Ok! Wait a minute. I have an 8 mo. Neutered, Havanese. Sleeps through the night with no problems. During the day I have no guarantee of no messes. Some days good some not so. I leave my sliding glass door & screen door opened 7″. He goes in and out but I do not follow to see what he is doing. Its winter and even in California we have cold windy days and also at night. Ok. CRATING….I’m tired of cleaning up. Do I leave the door open or closed? How long is he to be in the crate? And if door closed do I let him out only yo go potty and then back in the crate or?…
    Help me please, I want to try but don’t understand the procedure.
    Thank you sincerely.
    LoRae

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Crate and shut the door unless you are watching him.

    You MUST go outside with him for a while when you let him out to know what his schedule is like. It’s cold here too, it was -7 in Detroit last week and I still went outside and let my dogs out, went with them, and even played with them so they got some exercise and mental stimulation. Sometimes we have to be a little uncomfortable to give them what they need.

    So lock him in, let him out and go with him and if he goes potty he can have more access to your house, but still keep an eye on him for several months until he hasn’t had an accident for a very long time

    [Reply]

  12. Michi says:

    I have a 9 week old puppy we got at 7.5 weeks. He has taken well to holding his potty in for up to 4 hrs at a time. We were taking him out overnight (when he is fully crated) every 2 hrs and have incrementally increased that time to every 4 hrs. We keep his crate in the bathroom and sometimes leave the crate open when we are gone for long periods of time. He would consistently pee at two spots in the bathroom (which we now always have potty pads there) and only poop in 1 of 2 spots that is most hidden from sight.

    From this we know he wants to hide his poop and keep things clean. My question is, are we regressing in our potty training whenever we can’t watch him and have no choice but to leave him out so he won’t be forced to soil his crate?

    Should we move him to another part of the house where we could hawk eye him all the time when not in crate and just keep taking him out when he looks like he will potty? Is that better reinforcement? And then for those times when we are gone 4+ hrs to just put him in the bathroom with crate door open?

    He has also yet to love his crate. We put toys, treats in there but he associates the crate to us leaving him with the gate closed so he will try his best to not stay in. Though we have been diligent to put him in when he’s tired and to not shut the gate when he’s not relaxed. I’ve tried putting his meals inside the crate for more positive association but the bowl moves around when he tries to eat out of it from there and it scares him! Do you have suggestions for other ways to make it so we condition him to love that little plastic den? I am aware of the kong idea and will try this when we are out for dinner tonight! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    you need to use his crate more and crate him with the crate closed when you are HOME so he never knows when you are home or away. Leave loud music or tv on in the room with his crate so he can’t hear you and work on leaving him small periods of time while you are home so you can reward him for good behavior.

    I don’t use potty pads because they are confusing, I use my crate if I am gone or can’t watch my dog!

    [Reply]

  13. BobFinkelstein says:

    I have a 5 yr old female shepherd/lab recently acquirex from a rescue. Appears to have been mistreated by prior owner. Will not get in to t8he new plastic crate. Left in garage with crate open for 2 hrs then 3 hrs with door to house blocked. Made her way to and chewed and scratc hed wood and paint off 3ft of door trim. Will try kong to get her in. Thanks, Bob

    [Reply]

  14. Donna says:

    I just adopted a 7 week old miniature dachshund. Amazingly, he is great at not going in his crate. We take him outside often, and he goes almost immediately. My problem is nighttime, or if we have to leave for several hours during the day. It’s not a problem at night to get him to go to sleep in the crate because he’s usually worn out. It’s the waking up at all hours of the night that is just horriffic. The first few nights, I thought he was crying because he needed to potty, so I would get up and take him outside. He will usually potty, but I think the crying is more about being alone. I don’t rush in to him when he cries, but this little guy will whine, wimper and bark for over an hour until I give in because I need sleep! I am hoping this is just a temporary thing since he’s so young and just misses his siblings, but if you have any helpful hints, I would really appreciate it (and probably my neighbors, too!) I definitely do not want him to hate his crate.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    In human terms you are speaking of an infant. Would you expect a baby to hold it’s bladder or control when it needs to go potty? Imagine how small his bladder is? At 7 weeks he undoubtedly needs to go out a couple of times at night. And every 2 hours during the day

    [Reply]

  15. Debbie says:

    I have a 1 year old Bichon and want to crate train him. hes been a outdoor dog due to staying at my mums but now moving I want him to be a indoor dog how to I make the change . Thanks

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Look up crate games articles and make it fun.

    [Reply]

  16. Ashley says:

    Hi! I have a 7 month old cattle dog rescue that habitually poops in her crate. I let her out, watch her do her business and then even if I crate her for 20 minutes she will poop (never pee) in her crate. The worst part is, she also sometimes eats her poop, but you can tell she’s had an accident by the smell if she’s eaten the evidence. I don’t know what to do anymore, i’ve tried every trick in the book and she willingly goes in her crate by herself, so i’m not forcing her.

    Please help!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dirty-puppy/

    [Reply]

  17. Crystal says:

    Hi I’m getting a little 8month old Pomeranian on Friday I was hoping to have the puppy sleep in the bed with me so how should I go about crate training

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Puppies shouldn’t sleep in bed. Start with crate training and once the dog is completely crate and potty trained then you can entertain the idea of the bed.

    [Reply]

  18. i have adopted a toy poodle. I have not used a crate with her and have had her about 9 months. She was supposed to be potty trained but definitely wasn’t. She usually lets me know she wants to go outside for pee pee but does bm on carpet. It is a firm stool and so far hasn’t done any harm but I must take care of this problem. I have a wire crate and can cover it . Is it too late to train her with it and if not please give suggestions. She was supposed to be about a year old but the vet says at least 5. I’m not thinking. Of getting rid of her as she has been abused enough. Thanks for listening and hopefully helping. Barbara

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You can crate train a dog at any age, it may just take a bit longer for them to acclimate. Read the article, make it fun, keep the dog on a leash in the house so she can’t sneak off and poop and treat her like you would a puppy until she is completely house trained.

    [Reply]

  19. Marylee Dobbes says:

    Is there ANY way to get my Lhasa to quit pulling ahead of me on her walks. She hates her nose leash but that seems to be the only way to control her.
    She also goes after anything that walks by! HELP and thank you!

    [Reply]

  20. Lois says:

    I purchased my Chihuahua s crate when she was 8 wks old. She is now 7 yrs and still pees and poops in it. She is outside most of the day with the other dogs she gets family time is let out before bedtime and I keep her clean. I dont get it??

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I think you answer this when you say she is outside most of the time. I think because of that she never learned to hold her bladder or potty train. When you are outside constantly you can potty whenever you want, you never have to hold it. And, at 7 years it is such an ingrained habit that it will be much more difficult to fix http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/bad-habits-hard-break/

    [Reply]

  21. Jessica says:

    Me and my boyfriend found a little long haired chihuahua and decided to keep her. She poops in her kennel every night, we’ve only had her for about 2 weeks. I take her outside before bed I just don’t understand why she poops where she sleeps… How long does training normally take? Are there any ways to help prevent her from doing that?

    [Reply]

  22. Katie says:

    Minette,
    I have read many articles that teach you to never “force” your puppy into a crate. While I have tried treating and positively reinforcing going into the crate, my puppy does NOT like his crate. We crate him overnight and during the work day, and during the day (since I work from home) I let him out every 3 hours. I do not see how you can’t “force” him into the crate when you leave, or when going to bed since if you didn’t, they would chew inappropriate items or relieve themselves inside the house. Any tips? My puppy is 8 weeks old and we have only had him a few days. I know this is a process – but I am concerned we are conditioning to fear/hate the crate. Thank you!

    [Reply]

  23. Jennie says:

    I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I leave him at home he pees in the house: on the carpet, on the bed, on flowers..
    My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Crate train! And we have many products to help with training online

    [Reply]

  24. Jade says:

    I have a 6 month old cocker spaniel mix who I have had since she was 3 weeks old. I have struggled with potty training her since the beginning. Although she can hold it longer now she will still pee in the house whenever she feels like it even if I’ve taken her out recently.. She stays in her crate when I’m gone and overnight and should be able to hold it for hours but sometimes I come home to laying in her pee. In the beginning I put a puppy pad in there and she would almost always pee on it and then I tried transitioning to blankets and towels but would always come home to them soiled. Now she is just laying on the plastic and still peeing on it sometimes. It’s not every time I leave which is why I’m having such a hard time with it. Her crate is a puppy training crate so it’s not much bigger than her but she still doesn’t seem to care that she’s laying in her pee. And I don’t know how to get her to stop going on the floor and in the crate. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I need all the help I can get

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Unfortunately putting something in there that encouraged her to pee in there, likely confused her and conditioned her to that behavior which will make it very difficult to change. Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dirty-puppy/

    [Reply]

  25. darlene says:

    when ever we got a young puppy or kitten. at bed time we would get a wind up clock and put it under the blankets the ticking kind of sounds like a heart beat. helps with them not feeling all alone it comforts them

    [Reply]

  26. Tracy says:

    I’m crate training my 12 wk old standard poodle, she barks and cries when I leave her in at night.
    How to I get her to stop, she’s downstairs should I move her up to my bedroom
    ?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I always keep my puppies in my bedroom

    [Reply]

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