Training a dog to inhabit a crate willingly for extended periods of time requires that the owner slowly introduces the dog to the crate in gradual steps. Positive reinforcement is the key to successful crate training. In addition, crate training is an important part of house training, as dogs prefer to keep their dens free of waste and tend to avoid soiling their crate.
Owners should not use crate training as a way to punish the dog. If the dog associates the crate with negativity, it is difficult to train them to occupy it on command. The crate should be large enough that the dog can stand up and turn around. The first step is to place the crate in a social room, such as the living room. The dog should be introduced to the crate by using pleasant tones, treats and toys to establish a positive association.
Next, the dog should be fed in the crate. It may be necessary to place the food dish at the front, so the dog does not have to stand fully inside the crate. The bowl can be moved back over the course of several meals until the dog is comfortable standing fully inside the crate while eating. After the dog willingly eats in the crate, it can be enclosed for brief periods of time while the owner is home. When the dog is comfortable being confined for a half hour at a time, the owner can crate it when leaving the house. The final step is crating the dog at night and gradually moving the crate from a social area to a more isolated area if preferred.