separation anxiety in dog - crate him or no?

shaunJanuary 13, 2009

I'm confused - I read up on separation anxiety in dogs and some articles say do not crate them, that they'll panic; and others say crate them.

What do you suggest?

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What exactly is your dog doing when you leave?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 7:44PM
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He's going potty in the house.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 8:07PM
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Go get a leash and take your dog for a good 15 minute walk before you leave the house.
Other than that why do you think your dog has sseperation anxiety? How old is your dog? How long have you had your dog? what is the day like? have you taken your dog to training classes and how about socialization??? MOre info please

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 8:19PM
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Is that the only symptom? How old is the dog? What's the routine in your household? Level of training? Amount of exercise? How long is the dog alone?

Personally, I'm a big fan of crates and use them throughout the dog's life. In all my years with dogs (I own 3-6 myself ... 5 currently... and foster others on a regular basis), I've had one with true wall-chewing, window-breaking, crate-busting separation anxiety complete with nervous diarrhea and urination.

You need to provide quite a bit more detail before anyone could hazard a guess as to whether or not this is your situation.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 8:27PM
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Our dog is taken for a walk before we leave the house. And again when we return. Then several times througout the day and night; final walk between 10 - 11pm.

The dog is a 3 1/2 yr old chihuahua, 14 lbs.

Our Vet told us that our dog has separation anxiety.

When I'm home he's fine. He knows to go to the front door to be taken out.

Yes he's been to training classes and yes he's been socialized.

Back to my question.......

Some people say not to crate a dog with separation anxiety and others say it's ok. What do you all think?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 8:40PM
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The answer is that for some dogs, a crate is a great anxiety-reliever and for some dogs, it creates further stress.

So the dog is 3.5 yrs old and has never been crated before? What did the vet suggest? Improper elimination is the only sign? No destructiveness, drooling, whining, barking, pacing?

My own personal case of SA was that the crate made things worse. She could not be crated and had to be heavily sedated if she was not with someone. I hired a babysitter for those times I couldn't be home and luckily I had a very good relationship with her vet and he took her home directly after any surgery rather than leaving her overnight in a kennel at the clinic. This was long before there were drug therapy options like there are today.

In my last obedience class, there was a rescue GSP with pretty severe separation anxiety - severe enough that I was surprised the shelter hadn't euthanized him. Instead, they allowed GSP rescue to pull him and the foster family started him on a very strict routine to give him some structure. A routine where he was only very gradually left alone (starting with 1 minute and building from there, an indestructible crate (military model) and Reconcile helped him tremendously. As of Christmas, 2008, he had had no further episodes of SA and could be left alone for up to 4 hours, which was major progress. For Ranger, a drug protocol coupled with a crate and behavior modification was literally a life-saver.

Regardless of whether or not you crate, you need to work slowly and systematically. You cannot simply purchase a crate, shove him in and leave. If you feel the SA is severe enough that you need to intervene, I suggest you consult with a behaviorist and your vet and explore a combination treatment.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 9:26PM
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Rather than crating, if you haven't been using one,you might try conditioning. Walk out the door and stay away for 5 minutes. Then 10,then 15,and slowly get the little guy used to your being gone. If he is 3 1/2 years old and not been crated,it seems to me that could be traumatic.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 9:40PM
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Heya Shaun!

If the only thing he is doing is potty in the house, then it's probably a housebreaking issue and not separation anxiety. With sep. anxiety, dogs will cry and bark all day and destroy things in the house. If he is only doing the potty thing, then I would try crating. Read up on it, because you will have to get him used to it for a bit, not just put him in there one day and leave. You have to teach him how to love, or at least like, his "den" first.

Another solution, and I think a better one, is to get your little guy a buddy. As you know, dogs are pack animals, and having a friend to play with or just sleep with makes a world of difference. Maybe you could adopt an adult female dog, like

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 9:41PM
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If he's just pottying in the house it may be as simple as change the time he eats. This will change the time that the food goes thru his system and he needs to poop.

Have you changed his food? Is he eating a different brand? A different food could be "richer" and going thru his system faster/slower.

If you feed him in the morning, don't feed until the evening. Or if you feed in the evening, don't feed until the morning. Just try changing his feeding schedule dramatically and then give him a few days for his system to change. I would also restrict him from whatever room he is now using for elimination. And use something strong to clean the smell of where he's left his mark.

The goal is to have him potty late at night before bed or early in the morning before you leave.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 10:10PM
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Hi Shaun - is that little Ricky? Cute boy.

Odo had some bouts of SA too, but he wouldn't potty in the house - just get worked up. I had to learn what to do.

First of all, don't give Ricky run of the house. Keep him in one room - away from outside noises, with the curtains closed and door closed. Put a doggy bed in there and some toys.

This worked great for Odo. With run of the house, he would hear outside noises and try to look out windows and bark and whine and carry on. (Neighbors told me.) Have himself a doggy tizzy. I started putting him in my bedroom with the TV on, and he would just be calm and sleep.

Dogs are territorial, so they may feel like they have to guard your whole house and stress over that.

If the one-room idea doesn't work, try a smaller room. If he likes a crate that's ok. But if he's not used to one at this point, try the room first.

Let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 10:17PM
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Thanks for the posts.

The potty issue isnt the only problem. He is destroying the house, follows me where ever I go, cries, barks when we're gone (I hear him when he doesnt know I've come back).

This isnt a housebreaking issue - it's definitely SA. I was given Cloipramine Hydrochloride for him but all that does is make him sleep all day.

I did crate him when I first got him at 12 weeks old. He did fine and would even go get in the crate on command. Then one day, for no reason known to me, when I'd tell him to go get in the crate he'd run away and hide under the couch or behind it and we'd have to literally move the couch to get him out. He was obviously frightened to death to get in the crate - this meant that he was going to be alone and he knew it. Then we got a metal play yard type of enclosure for him. I put a little bed in there and he was quite happy to be in that for about a month. Then one morning I came out, after a night of hearing him cry and whine and he had pushed that whole structure into another room onto the carpet leaving a trail of blood from his paws scratching to get out. He has clawed the weather stripping and paint from doors trying to get out as well.

At the Vets suggestion, we started letting him just sleep with my son at night. This worked out perfectly until we noticed that he was getting out of bed in the middle of the night and peeing on the carpet. So I bought a belly band (diaper) and he's been wearing that at night.

Now he's started pooping in the middle of the night.

I've stepped outside to talk to a neighbor for a few minutes and come back in and he's peed. Any time he's away from me he's unhappy.

What I've changed at this point is taking the food up at noon and removing his water bowl around 5pm.

He has a playmate, a kitten. They have become best friends and chase each other around and get along great.

I just dont understand the peeing and pooping at night. He knows it's bad. In the morning I'll come into the room to wake up my son and take the dog out and I'll know immediately if he's gone from his behavior, his ears will go back and his tail between his legs. Then I'll look and see that he's gone to the bathroom on the floor.

I'm wondering if I got a crate again if it would do him more harm to be in it. You know, start from scratch again as if he were a puppy but I dont want him to go into a panic and hurt himself.

I'm actually at the end of my rope concerning this dog. He so sweet but has such issues. He loves to come with me in the car but as soon as we pull out of the driveway, he starts shaking and whining. But he wants to go and gets all excited at the mention of "car".

Sorry I was so vague in my first post, just wondered what everyone thought of crating a dog with SA.

I feel sorry for the dog right now, he's a nervous wreck. Or maybe that's how Chihuahua's are, not sure.

I am this dog's 3rd owner. One girl bought him, she couldn't keep him, gave him to her sister and her sister couldn't keep him and she asked me if I'd take him.

Wish I would have said no now. He's getting worse, not better.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 10:27PM
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Please don't give up Shaun. I found this article that seems pretty good. It will take changing some habits, but please give the little guy another chance.

Separation Anxiety

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 6:58PM
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I also agree that you need to contact a behaviorist. My dog Wicket was exhibiting behaviors similar to your dog's behaviors. I was at my wit's end in what to do next. I wasn't getting much sleep and I dreaded coming home to see what she had destroyed.

Then I contacted an animal behaviorist and she came to my house and evaluated Wicket. The behaviorist developed a behavior plan, which I started following immediately. The change in Wicket was amazing!

Please contact a behaviorist soon. If there isn't one in your area you might be able to do a phone consultation. Also, the ASPCA has some great information on their website that you can read too!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 9:56PM
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Hi Shaun. I won't suggest to crate or not crate I can only tell of our experience. We moved from NY to SC in the early fall. Up until then, our dog knew of only one home. He developed severe SA and I started looking for help. He would actually howl for the time we were away. Drugs were not an option so I purchased a crate. He was reluctnant (?) at first but now, after a month he considers it his home, his space, and we have to force him to come out. He still barks a little and even will let out a howl when were gone but no where near the level as before crating. How do I monitor his progress? I use my web cam on him while I'm away. I'm not suggesting you to try it as you know your dog best, I'm just sharing my experience.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 5:49AM
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Been through it myself. And the answer to your question is, don't crate your dog. Crating your dog will still engage in anxiety responses in the crate. He may urinate, defecate, howl, or even injure himself in an attempt to escape from the crate.

When I tried crating my dog I came home to find him covered in feces and urine.

They only way 'I' could get somewhat of a handle on it was to get another dog. He still howled and urinated but it wasn't as severe. I took him for a brisk walk before I went out. He would carry on for about 10 minutes and then go to his bed and sleep. I left the TV on and a sweater with my scent on his bed.

There are also medications that can help.

I've attached an article.

Here is a link that might be useful: Separation Anxiety

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 2:47PM
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Three and a half years old. I wonder if this has been going on a ling time, or if it has just started. If you have had your dog for over a year, it could be something else. Here is the deal. You can buy a crate for your dog (enough room for it to stand up and turn around in and stretch out comfortably - with available food and water) or you can get a wired or plastic pen or you can block off a room. If your dog is being walked regularly and it is not going to the bathroom outside, then your dog is displaying alpha tendencies by not wanting to poop outside during the walkies. 3 and a half is reach maturity and if your dog is not cut, or if your dog is spoiled and is starting to take over your home with its behavior you will need to start curbing those behaviors. To say your dog has seperation anxiety without knkowing more just based on your dog poooping in the house is not good detective work. More information is needed.
Like - how long have you owned the dog? Have you lived in the same place its whole life? does your dog demonstrate alpha behaviors like growling at other people or dogs, nipping, not wanting to be picked up when on the couch etc. Did the pooping just start or has it been an on going thing? How long are the walks?
Can you walk your dog until it poops then give your dog the command to poop and praise him, this is a good way to train your dog to poop when you know he needs to go.
I am also wondering - do live in a place where winter has hit hard??? If so that could be the culprit. Your dog may be getting cold.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 6:06PM
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He did fine and would even go get in the crate on command. Then one day, for no reason known to me, when I'd tell him to go get in the crate he'd run away and hide under the couch or behind it and we'd have to literally move the couch to get him out. He was obviously frightened to death to get in the crate - this meant that he was going to be alone and he knew it.

This meant he was going to be alone and he knew it.....

only if the only time you ever put him in the crate was when you were leaving...

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 3:48PM
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Thanks for all the links, suggestions and support.

Mazer, I'll answer your questions as best I can.

I know puppies have accidents so I've just tolerated it until now. And by 3 1/2 yrs old, he knows better but I think he just can't help it. (SA kicking in) He just looks so distressed when he's gone in the house, I know he feels bad. You know that look when they look sorry?

I am this dog's 3rd owner. One girl had him for 4 days, she gave him up to another girl and she kept him another 4 or 5 days and then he came to me and I've had him ever since. He was about 12 weeks old when he came to me.

When I take the dog for a walk, he goes to the bathroom. If I say, "go potty" or "go poopie", he walks into the grass and goes. Then he is praised. So he knows the commands.

We've lived in the same place, he will growl at small children but not adults, if we go to pick him up from the couch, he rolls onto his back (submissive) and is dead weight, kinda cute.

The pooping/peeing has been an ongoing thing but recently gotten worse. He hardly ever pooped in the middle of the night; pee, yes, poop no. Until now.

So like I said above, I've since begun removing food at 12 noon. Water is picked up at 5pm. This way, he should have gotten rid of anything in his tummy before bedtime. So far, this is working out well. Two nights in a row, no poop and a dry diaper. Hopefully there will come a time where he won't have to wear a diaper.

Still though, he will pee if we leave him alone. So we always put a diaper on him when we have to go somewhere. I work from home so I'm here pretty much all the time and am available to take him out when he wants to go out, so he's not having to hold it all day. I've left the tv or radio on, lights on....a blouse I wore the day before next tohim. Nothing consoles this poor little guy when he's alone. I thought the new kitten would keep him company. They play and seem to like each other a lot.

Our walks are about about 10 - 15 mins a couple of times a day. Longer on weekends, my husband will take him out in the yard with him while he's doing things outside. Dog is always on a leash because he's run off before.

This dog is always cold, shaking, shivering. And we live in Sunny South Florida.

I don't know of any behaviorists but I'll look into it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 4:04PM
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Okay some how I missed your great answer. Seperation anxiety is a hard thing to deal with. Having your dog play with other dogs and long walks outside on a leash with you or any other one of your family members is going to be a good start to helping your pup understand you anr not the end all and his life wont end if you are not in it.
Have someone else in your family feed your dog and have them play more with your dog, including lots of leash walking. Then you have to help your dog work on moving its attention to something else while you are around. A treat filled kong put it in another room, have the treats you put in especially tasty.
Your dog has associated your leaving with crate time and unless you walk them good before hand or take them to the park for socialization and a good hour romp to wear him out, things wont change.
I dont know your schedule, but if you can leave a room, close the door, wait a minute, walk back into the room where your dog is, little by little extend the time you are out of the room. You should ideally be spending an entire weekend working on this. You might also want to check into doggie daycare. Which will help your dog with more socialization and take more of the focus off of you. Good luck. Little bits at a time and perserverence will work. Dont give up

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 5:36PM
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Couple of things:
If he gets up at night and needs to poop and pee, I would feed him at 6pm and nothing after that. Maybe just a little water so he's not dehydrated. Walk him so he empties out well.

He definitely has separation anxiety. The fact that the other owners abondoned him may be the issue. Most of his bad behaviours seem to be related to being abondoned by previous owners. "Wanting" to go for a ride, then panicking sounds to me that he's thinking it may be his last trip with YOU. Sounds as though he would like to go for a ride, but he's not sure where you're taking him....another owner, perhaps? Think about it. He needs re-assurance. Get a pet psychic. I'm not kidding. Google Netta Wittles ( I think).

You can try the crate thing. But you must give him food when he goes in there, so it's a positive reinforcement.
You can start when you're at home and give him really good treats while he's in there. Then extend the time....

My old dog, who was potty trained 100% and never had an accident, started having separation anxiety when we moved into a new house. I would watch her from outside through the window and would see how she would be barking and pacing. Then she would pee. Then she'd look at the pee and start licking it up(I guess after she'd realized what she had done, she was embarrassed). She would do that 15 minutes after we took her outside. Cripe, she only had three drops of urine in her!
She always asked to go out when we were home.

I knew it was separation anxiety. She would bark at us when we got home, as though she was yelling at us for leaving her alone. She also would cry if we would leave her alone on the couch and leave the room. All these behaviours were new because she was old and scared to be left alone.Moving into the new house was very stressful for a 16 yo dog.

I know your dog is young. But he had a rough begining with people abondoning him.

BTW- dogs are pack animals, so they like to sleep with humans, not in other rooms. That is why they cry.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 7:26PM
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Dabunch - a friend of mine contacted a pet psychic and she really learned a lot about her animals. I'll look up that name you posted.

Mazer, and everyone else thanks again for the help. Appreciate it.
*waving to Gina!!*

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 10:46PM
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Have you heard of the Thundershirt? It's a dog jacket that helps and puts a small amount of pressure on him to help calm down his nervous system.

Here is a link that might be useful: K9Traders

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 8:07PM
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We made up our own 'thundershirt' with a former dog who was terrified of thunderstorms and it sure did calm her down -- not completely, but a real improvement.

It was just a close fitting t-shirt.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 5:14PM
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I know this is an older post but please be careful about what advice you follow. One poster said they didn't think going in the house was a separation anxiety issue and I can tell you it absolutely can be. I adopted 4 year old Billy the Beagle 5 weeks ago. Naturally his first 24 hours were very trying for all of us but he quickly settled down. Billy has NEVER eliminated in the home with me here no matter the distance between his walks. However in the last week he really started having issues with going if left for even 45 minutes. I do spend a lot of time with him and work from home a few days a week. I am working with a vet (I have no problem with using meds in the short term) and have found a trainer that says she can help him. I diapered him which kept him from peeing, but didn't realize the hole was too big and allowed him to poop. Day two I fixed that problem and no mess! I am hoping he can become de-sensitized to my schedule and being alone and can loose the diaper soon. I don't crate him but he is now confined to a smallish bathroom. Also remember (I've been guilty of this) not to punish your dog. They live in the moment and if they appear "guilty" when you come home to an accident it's them being submissive. Better to use positive re-enforcement. Otherwise you create a vicious cycle and your problem never goes away.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 7:32PM
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Yes, I know this is an older post.. but I have to ask.. WHERE is the crate?

As the pack leader, you just absolutely cannot "ostracize" the dog from it's pack. The crate needs to be in the same room you are in always. A dog needs to be with its pack and its leader. That means if you are sleeping in one room and the crate is in another -- that is a no no. It means to the dog that you are putting him away from his leader for some unknown reason - for something he has done badly. Crating is fine if you know how to do it. But you have to think on the dog's level. A dog just must always be with his pack. Crate him fine - but crate him where you are. Especially with a new dog. Crate him in another room and he'll cry all night wondering what he has done to piss you off as his leader.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 12:52AM
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my little dog, the 1st 5 yrs of his life he went every where I went. I didnt leave him. the 1st time he was left allow he sat at the door and cryed . It sounded like I was killing him. a yr ago we went on vaction to see the family. we left him at familys house to go out to dinner. friend of family came over and said that our dog sat in the window barking and it sounded like he was saying OW OW Ow. Like he was in pain because we had left him. I have come to the point that I dont just leave my little guy , he is a part of us and he goes every where we do. the only time he is left home is if I have to go shopping. and then I bring him treats. but then I say all this cause my little man is not a young dog he is old man of 15.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:17PM
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Some tips we learned when we first got our puppy 10 months ago is to avoid being really excited when you leave or return. That just leads them to believe something different is happening. You need to act like your leaving is normal and just part of the routine. Another thing you can do is take him to puppy camp where he can play all day. There he won't be alone, but he won't be with you either. When you pick him up, pat him on the head to say hello but again, don't make a big deal of it. Eventually he will see that you always come back.

Before we went on vacation, we had our puppy at the camp 3 times a week for several weeks so she'd be perfectly acclimated to the people and routine. We were gone for a week and when we picked her up, it was just like any other time. There was a small hey, you're here greeting and off to the car we went.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 7:43PM
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lukkirish, thanks for adding that. I didn't mean don't ever leave the dog alone, I only meant when crating a new dog, crate him where you are. When I re-read my post, I thought, "Oops!"

I only meant, if a new dog, in a new environment, put the crate in the room you are in. And you are dead on about not making a big deal of it when you leave or come home.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 10:45PM
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cindyandmocha, I honestly wasn't referring to your post at all. I completely got what you were trying to convey and I totally agree. Something else about crating people often don't understand is it should never be used for punishment. It's supposed to be their safe haven, like a bedroom would be for a child. Punish them to it and they will not enjoy being there.

We don't punish our dog. We use positive reinforcement instead and as a result we'll often find her relaxing in her crate. We seldom ever close the door, but when we do, she still doesn't mind.

I think it really helped to make her feel secure in her new home. She was one of 11 so very used to company and we ended up having to bring her home at the young age of 6 weeks. From day one the crate has been her spot and she never cried once for her mother or siblings, not even at night. She also gets a little put out when the cat decides to give the crate a try. She knows it's hers and likes that. But I do have to say, she doesn't sleep with us unless we crash downstairs on a Saturday night. She sleeps downstairs and we're upstairs. If you have more then one pet, it does seem to help. Our cat seems to fill any void she'd have if she were alone instead.

I don't believe that one style will fit all. Our dog is a Lab, very even tempered and eager to please. The techniques we used may not work well with another breed or dog. You sort of have to customize each technique to fit your situation.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 10:15AM
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My dog gets anxiety when we put him in his kennel and we leave the house (chew kennel, chews bed in kennel, poops). If I put on my coat and hat, and my dog sees that I'm about to leave, and than I grab him and lead him to his kennel, he goes INTO his kennel with a high level of anxiety. But, if I put him in his kennel 15 minutes before I leave, while I'm still bare feet or in my socks, no coat, etc. and he sees and hears me walking around and I can tell him "Joey, quiet" when he whines, by the time I leave he's in a much lesser (or none at all) level of anxiety. Since I've started doing this. It has been no issue at all.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 11:54AM
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