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Your Questions: 'Do I need to "crate train" my puppy?'

I'm getting a puppy soon and have been reading up on training. One idea I can't get my head around is 'crate training'. Do I need to do it? I was wondering if you could give me a bit more advice. Leonard, South London

Crate training for puppies is a new development, and it divides opinion. The crate is basically used as a safe place where the puppy can go and relax. You need to introduce him to a crate by leaving its door open and putting some treats inside. After a day or two, when he's going in and out, put his bed in there and when he falls asleep, shut the door. But please note, it shouldn't be used as a punishment.

I use crates a lot to help with house training; sometimes you can't watch the puppy so I'll pop him in while I carry on with my tasks. Some people find them cruel but I believe it's because they don't understand the principle of how to use a crate. It is a training tool! However, you need to put effort in as well. You mustn't just leave the puppy in there all day; he has to want to go in there.

Personally, I don't like to leave a puppy in a crate for more than two consecutive hours during the day. At night they can sleep comfortably in there, between 10pm and 6am, for example.

Before you start, make sure the crate you buy is the right size. Your dog must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. Don't forget to leave water in there with him! If you are going out, put their food in a kong (rubber training toy) so they have something to eat and play with at the same time. Good luck!

Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort, an early visit to the vet is always recommended