The following is a crate training program by which older dogs can be introduced or even reintroduced to crates as a place of refuge. The goal is to systematically desensitize the dog to the experience of being enclosed in a way that even to the uninitiated could not conceivably be construed as aversive.
Step 1 – Position the crate in a high-traffic area of the house (e.g. kitchen).
Step 2 – Make the interior of the crate comfortable and inviting.
Step 3 – Enrich the space with food treats/toys.
Step 4 – Initially always leave the door open.
Step 5 – Feed the dog progressively closer to the entrance to the crate – reward its proximity with praise.
Step 6 – Eventually, move the food bowl across the threshold of the crate.
Step 7 – Place the dog’s food bowl just inside the crate so that it has to put its head and shoulders inside in order to eat its meals.
Step 8 – Move the food bowl progressively further towards the back of the crate so the dog has to go in further in order to feed.
Step 9 – Always praise the dog for being in or near the crate.
Step 10 – Do not confine the dog in the crate until it shows that it will enter willingly and of its own accord.
Step 11 – If things go well with the acclimation, the next thing is to try fastening the door for brief periods while you are there. Gradually, the duration of confinement can be increased and eventually you may be able to leave the dog confined for considerable periods of time as long as tranquility prevails.
Step 12 – Do not leave the dog alone in the crate while you are away until it is perfectly comfortable being in it while you are there. (i.e. following successful completion of Step 11)
The crate training program may take time but in many instances, it will work.