How to Train Your Dog to Pee on Gravel

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

The Jones family live in a small townhouse, with an equally small backyard. Their 2 and 4-year old children love to run barefoot on the little patch of grass in their yard. Unfortunately, that is also where their Cocker Spaniel, Muffin, does her business, and the lawn has become brown and patchy, due to being burned by dog urine. The Jones’s do not want their children running barefoot and playing on dog-pee-damaged lawn! 

The Jones’s have an idea--to teach Muffin to use a gravel patch for a bathroom they will create in their backyard. The advantage of using gravel is that it allows dog urine to seep through, and prevents having to constantly hose down the bathroom area to clean it, which is necessary for concrete doggy bathrooms. A little bit of work creating the doggy bathroom and training for Muffin is going to be required for the plan to be a success.

Defining Tasks

Creating a gravel doggy bathroom and teaching your dog to pee on the gravel patch is a great idea to prevent unsightly dog urine burns on your lawn. Teaching your dog to pee on gravel can be accomplished by teaching your dog to pee on command, and then applying that command to the gravel potty area, or by teaching your dog to associate bathroom behaviors with a particular area, your gravel potty area. Training your dog to pee on gravel will require supervision and time on your part, to ensure that your dog learns to pee on the gravel area and stop peeing on other surfaces, like grass.  

Getting Started

Create a gravel area for your dog to use as a potty.  Lay down sand or other material that will drain well, and cover it with clean gravel. You should use gravel that is free of dirt, sand and other debris, that would become messy when peed on. When your dog pees on the gravel, urine should drain through the gravel and the sand below into the ground. This will eliminate the need to hose down the area as frequently. It will still be advisable to rinse the gravel bathroom area periodically. You may want to also put a permanent or temporary fence up to help direct your dog to this area and contain them while they are having their bathroom break. For a temporary fence, you can use snow fence or garden fencing.

The Pee on Command Method

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Step
1
Prepare
Choose a command for your dog to pee. Make sure your dog has access to lots of water so he has urine to pass. It's pretty tough to train a dry dog to pee on command!
Step
2
Go to gravel
Take your dog to go pee, on a leash, to the designated gravel potty area.
Step
3
Provide command
Provide the 'go pee' command and wait for your dog to pee. This may take quite a while. Ignore your dog while you wait. When he does pee, repeat the verbal command to reinforce the association, especially if a significant time period has lapsed since the original command. When he has finished, say “yes”, and give him a treat. If he does not pee, take him back inside.
Step
4
Repeat to establish
Repeat the process daily for several days. The time between giving the initial command and your dog peeing should decrease. When the behavior is well-established you can try taking your dog off leash. Call your off-leash dog to the gravel area, give the 'go pee' command.
Step
5
Remove command
Once your dog starts associating the command and the gravel area as his designated potty spot, you can give your dog access to that area and your dog will begin to choose that space to pee on his own. Supervise and provide the 'go pee' command on the gravel area if your dog looks like he is investigating the grassy area to pee in.
Recommend training method?

The Direct and Reinforce Method

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Step
1
Create gravel bathroom
Create a designated bathroom area for your dog in your yard, with gravel. If your dog already tends to use an area of your yard, and it is convenient, make that area your designated bathroom area, this will contribute to training success.
Step
2
Take dog to gravel
When you let your dog out to pee, do not let him run around on your lawn. Instead, take your dog to his designated gravel area on a leash, or carry him.
Step
3
Direct back to gravel
Wait with your dog on leash to keep him in the bathroom area. Or, if off-leash and the dog leaves the area before going pee, redirect him by calling him back or making a loud noise such as clapping to get his attention and redirect him back to his bathroom area.
Step
4
Reward for using gravel
When your dog pees in his area, reward him with attention and a treat. Then take him to the grass o play or have some free time. If your dog looks like he is going to relieve himself again in the grass, immediately take him back to the gravel potty area.
Step
5
Practice
Gradually give your dog more space and off-leash training in his gravel bathroom area. Continue to supervise and redirect him as necessary. If your dog has an pees on the grass instead of the gravel, take him inside to end playtime. Do not punish him, he will come to learn that playtime on the grass is a reward for peeing in the gravel area instead of the grass.
Recommend training method?

The Contain on Gravel Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Create gravel area with fence
Create a designated gravel bathroom area Put a temporary containment fence around the gravel area using snow fence or garden fence.
Step
2
Contain dog on gravel
Give your dog lots of fluids 1-2 hours prior to introducing the bathroom area.Let your dog out in the fenced gravel potty area.
Step
3
Supervise
Supervise and wait until your dog pees on the gravel.
Step
4
Reward and release
When your dog pees on the gravel, give him a treat and lots of praise. Let him out of the potty area.
Step
5
Establish and remove containment
Repeat until your dog has come to associate the gravel area with going pee and getting rewarded. You can then remove the fence and continue supervisor and direct your dog, if necessary, to use the gravel potty for peeing.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/09/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Buddy
Labrador Husky
18 Months
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Question
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Buddy
Labrador Husky
18 Months

Using pre gravel you didn't really mention how often to rinse or if we needed to put a certain product on it (natural options also) to help cut down on the odor, if there is one. Thank you. I'm a trainer too, we don't have Wag in Yuma, AZ so I'm working for Rover at the moment. Much appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
776 Dog owners recommended

Hello Michael, How often you rinse the area depends partially on your climate and how often it rains. Since you are in Arizona I would advise rinsing off the area once a week, possibly twice if the dog is pooping there too or if there are multiple dogs using the area, or the dog is very large. Obviously make sure you pick up the poop before you rinse though. If it rains a lot in one month, then you may not need to rinse it off at all during that month. Another option is to install a sprinkler head nearby, so that the area automatically gets rinsed off whenever you water the grass. As far as an odor eliminating product, many people find that they do not need one if you are just using the area for peeing, are rinsing it off with water regularly, and you have designed the area with enough drainage, but if you find that you need an odor eliminator or simply want to be proactive, then Simple Green makes an outdoor odor eliminator for pet smells that should work well. I would suggest spraying it on the area once per season. It's always great to meet a fellow trainer. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Hunter
Malamute mix
3 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Hunter
Malamute mix
3 Years

My dog has a larger bladder than I have patience. We are trying to train him to use a new gravel area we made in the backyard. He has used gravel areas before at my parents house and knows to pee on command. He is being so stubborn and will not use it. To the point of holding it in (sleeping all night, waking, breakfast, water, 8 trips to gravel) for FIVE hours before I gave in and let him pee on the grass. He will literally just sit or lay down and stare at me instead of using it. He just wants to feel the grass between his toes.

Help. My poor lawn.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
776 Dog owners recommended

Hello Justin, Go purchase a piece of grass sod and place the grass in the middle of the gravel area. Train your dog to "Go Potty" on that grass sod. Have him eliminate there until he will consistently always pee and poop on the sod whenever you take him there when you know that he needs to go. When he pees or poops there, then give him three small treats that he likes. Feed him the treats one treat at a time. When he is doing well with all of that, then begin to remove six square inches of the sod every week. Do this until there is no grass left and he will pee directly on the gravel. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Hunter
Malamute mix
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Hunter
Malamute mix
3 Years

My dog has a larger bladder than I have patience. We are trying to train him to use a new gravel area we made in the backyard. He has used gravel areas before at my parents house and knows to pee on command. He is being so stubborn and will not use it. To the point of holding it in (sleeping all night, waking, breakfast, water, 8 trips to gravel) for FIVE hours before I gave in and let him pee on the grass. He will literally just sit or lay down and stare at me instead of using it. He just wants to feel the grass between his toes.

Help. My poor lawn.

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Question
Trixie ++
cockapoo
13 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Trixie ++
cockapoo
13 Years

I am training my dog Trixie to use a large sand/gravel patch outside a doggie door in a large enclosed patio where she is safe from predators and there is no danger of getting out. I am also planning on getting 2 kittens in several months. Trixie's used to cats so I don't anticipate any issues there. What I would like to happen though, is for her to share her 'facilities' with the cats. What do you think my chances of success are? Do you have any tips for me?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
776 Dog owners recommended

Hello Inez, There is a good chance that all the animals could be trained to go potty in that spot. The issue is that she may eat the cat poop however. Cat poop is very tempting to a dog and a large percentage of dogs will eat it if given the chance. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Biscuit
Goldendoodle
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Biscuit
Goldendoodle
8 Weeks

I live in Colorado and will soon begin potty training. Can you use the gravel/sand method in cold weather and if it snows?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
776 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lisa, You should be able to. Sand will probably be easier to teach since it will feel better on pup's paws and not be as cold. Just watch out for slick ice patches. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Ruby
Cava-poo
4 Months
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Question
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Ruby
Cava-poo
4 Months

Ruby has had the run of the garden up to now so weed and pops on the grass. We have introduced a gravel area (last week at 17 weeks) but she will not do either on the gravel. She has literally held it for hours. After a week of trying, she has not had one wee on the gravel. Is it too late to expect her to do this now?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, you should be able to re-train Ruby. Take the Timing Method from this guide and adapt it: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside. Try the scented spray on the gravel and even clean up her poop from the yard and move it over the gravel, leaving it there for her to see and smell as an encouragement. However, do not let the gravel area get too soiled or she won't want to potty there. As well, take a look at the methods here: https://wagwalking.com/training/poop-in-a-designated-area. Keep trying and choose a method that you think suits Ruby best. Keep it consistent. Good luck!

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Luna
Chihuahua
2 Years
0 found helpful
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Luna
Chihuahua
2 Years

We are trying to train Luna to go in the back yard. However she refuses to go.
She only goes when we walk her. We are walking her once a day and my wife is worried that she is holding it for to long. We have only tried it a couple of times due to her not peeing enough. Should we keep it up for a while even if she doesn’t pee? Thank you..

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Question
Jack
pitbull boxer mix
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jack
pitbull boxer mix
2 Years

I am trying to get my dog to pee on the designated gravel. area rather than on the grass in my backyard. He is killing the grass. We have another dog who pees in the gravel are already, and jack has seen her do this. She is rewarded when she goes on the gravel. Jack just sits in the gravel area (we take him there on a leash) and he doesnt go pee. We have waited up to an hour for him to try, and he wont. When we open the gate to take him back inside, he pees on the grass. If we put him back in the gravel area right after we tell him no, he still stands there and wont pee.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
211 Dog owners recommended

Hello. This is a little tricky to answer without being able to answer follow up questions. The best place to start is to start fresh with potty training. Have him on some sort of schedule. If you have a kennel or crate for him, it will be wise to utilize that so he doesn't have a chance to go to the bathroom anywhere else. So what this will look like.... In the morning during his normal potty time, take him to the gravel area. Keep treats on hand just in case he does go. If he doesn't, do not let him go anywhere else but back in the house or to his kennel. You may have to keep him on leash. Repeat this process every 20 minutes until he finally uses the gravel. Then praise the heck out of him for going in the gravel. He will EVENTUALLY go in the gravel. This process shouldn't take longer than a few trips in and out before he goes for you. Continue taking him to the gravel like this everyday for a few weeks and he will learn to go there on his own to potty. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thank you for writing in.

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Atticus
Sihi tzu
5 Years
0 found helpful
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0 found helpful
Atticus
Sihi tzu
5 Years

He has been an outside dog. Now he is in an appartment
We have a big gravel area in our front yard that is easy for us as we are older. But he wont even go on the gravel help

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, the fact that Atticus is used to peeing outside is a step in your favor. I would go about it this way. Purchase a piece of real grass sod at the local home supply store. Place it in the middle of the gravel area and when it is time to take him out for a pee, head straight to the sod with him on leash. If you think a small sod will be hard to work with, buy 4 squares of sod and make a larger area. Take him there often as you train. Atticus will most likely have to go pee first thing in the morning, 10-30 minutes after meals, after a nap, etc. Once he pees or poops there, give him lots of praise and a treat. Use the large sod area for several days, praising and treating him with every success. Then you can reduce the sod area to a smaller space. Keep training, and the following week, make the sod area smaller again. Remove a bit fo the sod every week until there is none left. By then, Atticus should pee on the gravel. Good luck!

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Question
Mishka
Alaskan Malamute
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Mishka
Alaskan Malamute
1 Year

My dog is trained to eliminate on pea gravel. However, it recently snowed/is cold (gravel area is covered) & she refuses to go in the gravel. She doesn’t even want to touch it (even though it’s not wet). I can’t imagine it’s too cold b/c she’s an Alaskan breed & she’d rather pee/poop on the snow in the grass. I’m confused/lost. Please help.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
776 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessica, I suspect it has something to do with the bumpy feeling of the gravel mixed with the ice in between the pieces, or a similar feeling. I suggest either having pup wear dog boots with traction on the bottom to eliminate the sore feeling, or help pup overcome their aversion using food rewards. I recommend crating pup between potty trips to encourage them to hold it inside. When you take pup potty outside, tell pup to "Go Potty". If they go, give five small treats, one at a time. If pup doesn't go, go back inside after walking pup around slowly for 15 minutes to encourage the need to go, and crate for 1 hour. Each hour try taking pup back outside, repeating the process and Go Potty command, until pup goes potty. The rewards and teaching the Go Potty command are the most essential part of this. You may also have some luck with using a potty encouraging spray like Go Here or Hurry, sprayed on the snow covered gravel right before you take pup outside, to encourage pup to go there with the scent. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Tina
German Shepherd
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Tina
German Shepherd
3 Years

Dog was raised in fenced in area. Now lives with us in unfenced area and has to be on leach when outside

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
211 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am sending you quite a bit of information on potty and crate training just in case you want to use the crate to help with potty training. Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

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