Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
My Dog Is Afraid to Go Outside—What's So Scary About Going Outside?
There may appear to be nothing scary in a yard from a human's perspective, but things may look very different to a dog.
With noses containing more than 220 million olfactory receptors (humans have only a mere 5 million) and powerful ears capable of detecting sounds in the ultrasonic range, dogs are much more attentive to their environment than humans.
So, as humans, we may be missing all the multi-sensorial stimulation dogs are exposed to. A few examples of what dogs may find to be scary in the yard include, but are not limited to, the list below.
Things Dogs Are Afraid of Outside
- The neighbor's dogs barking
- Your slippery floor before going outside
- The stairs that lead to the yard
- Distant sounds that you may not hear
- Fear of the unknown and new places
- Fear of windy conditions, rain, and thunderstorms
- Fear of bugs (if your dog got stung by one)
- Fear of invisible fences (if you use them-not recommended)
In many cases, the fear is unfounded and may stem from a lack of socialization and fear of the unknown. In other cases, the fear is known, such as when the dog runs back in at the sight of something it fears or as soon as a scary noise is perceived.
In any case, the message is clear: the dog does not feel safe at all outdoors.
What Not to Do When a Dog Is Afraid of the Outdoors
If your dog is reluctant to go outside or is simply terrified, it is important that you take the right approach to training. There are, however, certain techniques that, while effective with other humans, may make the dog's behavior worse.
Don't Flood the Dog
To "flood" a dog means to force the animal to face its fears in the hope of overcoming them. While flooding is a form of behavior therapy, it comes with substantial risks, and there are not many guarantees it will work. Tossing a child who's afraid of water into a pool fears water into a pool may make that child more afraid—and it's the same with a dog. While flooding may yield fast results when it works, it is also more traumatic and less effective.
In the case of dealing with a dog fearful of the outdoors, flooding would entail taking the dog outdoors and blocking the escape route so the dog is forced to face its fear. However, unlike humans who can rationally talk themselves out of a fear, dogs panic until their brains shut down. In such a state, the dog's cognitive functions (ability to learn) are impaired and there is no room for learning. There are better methods and we will see them below.
Whatever your dog does, never punish him for being fearful. Doing so is totally counter-productive. Last year, there was a dog who was terrified of walking on slippery floors. When I asked the owner what he had done so far to help the dog overcome his fears, he told me he used to scold the dog for being fearful. When the dog ran over the shiny surface and slipped on the floor he used to tell him "bad boy"! No wonder this dog was terrified! Dealing with fear and then having an owner scold on top of that created the perfect concoction for terror!
Don't Carry the Dog Outside
Some dog owners may feel compelled to carry the dog outdoors if their dog is not too keen on visiting the yard. But doing so doesn't teach the dog a thing. In order for a dog to learn and overcome its fears, he must go out to the yard on its own. If you carry your dog outdoors, you are causing two big problems:
- Your dog may become reluctant to be carried because he starts associating it with being taken out to the yard.
- The dog is then placed in the yard, which is a scary event that may cause more fear and stress.
How to Help a Dog Who's Afraid of Going Outside
Your dog's fear of the outside may manifest in many ways. It may start as a simple reluctance to go outside accompanied by fearful body language (tail between legs, ears back, head carried low, uncertain gait). Then one day your dog may decide to put on its brakes and will not budge. What to do?
As seen, pushing the dog outside and or scolding him will only make matters worse. Here are some tips to make the great outdoors an appealing place to be without overwhelming the dog.
Desensitization is a form of behavioral therapy that is the opposite of flooding. Instead of forcing the dog to face its fears, which may be traumatic, the dog is exposed gradually to keep its anxiety and fear below the fear threshold. The threshold is an invisible line that separates fearful reactions from non-fearful reactions—or at least reactions where the dog is under better control.
Often what makes the difference is distance. Therefore, if the dog is carried outside and put in the middle of the yard, he will certainly be over the threshold, causing him to panic, whereas, if the dog is placed in front of the opened door that leads to the yard, the dog would feel more relaxed and would be under the threshold.
Through a process of desensitization, the dog is gradually exposed to the yard and its noises. This process takes quite some time and much care must be taken to make sure the dog stays below his threshold level.
Dog owners must be able to recognize early warning signs of stress so as to make sure they're not asking for too much at once. If the stimuli the dog is exposed to is too intense, the dog may become increasingly sensitized to his fear. So, for example, you would take care to not practice desensitization when your neighbor is outside using a chain saw.
While desensitization is a powerful behavior modification program on its own, adding counter-conditioning on top of it will double the effectiveness. Counter-conditioning means changing a dog's physical and emotional response to a particular stimulus. If your dog does not like the outdoors, he may have been conditioned to act fearfully.
In counterconditioning, we are changing the dog's emotional response and attitude towards the outdoors, flipping it upside down. In other words, we want to change the negative associations and create positive ones. So if yard=fear, we want to shift it to yard=fun! No need to worry, dogs do not need a math degree to understand this equation!
We will see desensitization and counterconditioning at play in the steps below.
Tips for Making Your Dog Love the Yard
The following tips are a mix of desensitization and counterconditioning meant to help your dog overcome his fears. If your dog does not show signs of improvement in the first week or two, or if the behavior worsens, consider consulting with a veterinary behaviorist or certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB).
Items Needed to Train Your Dog to Go Outside
- High-value treats
- Food bowl
- Tape recorder
- Access to outdoors
Exercise 1: Outdoor Noises Are Great!
- Identify what makes your dog fearful. If you know your dog runs for cover the moment he hears a noise, try to replicate that noise. It would be a good idea to record the noise and then play it at a low volume (desensitization).
- Add some counter-conditioning. To make this process more effective, try to feed your dog while the recording is playing or give tasty treats every time you push the "play" button and the recording starts (counterconditioning). Do this until your dog starts looking at you for a treat the moment it hears the recording of the noise.
- Ramp up the desensitization and counter-conditioning. Open the yard door and do the same exercise, only instead of using the recording as a prompt for treats, you use the actual noises to give treats.
Keep your dog inside with you at first, at a distance from the door where the dog won't be overwhelmed by fear. As soon as you hear a noise, toss a treat. You can even put the noise on cue after a bit, for instance, you can say something like "good noise!" With time, the noises will become a friendly reminder to get a treat and the dog should start being desensitized.
Exercise 2: Feeding Station
A good way to make the outdoors less intimidating is to put the food bowl near the door and then gradually move it outside.
- Start feeding next to the door when the door is closed (if your dog is uncomfortable, feed a few feet away from the door).
- Feed a few feet away from the door, but this time with the door open.
- Feed closer to the door with the door open. Keep moving the bowl closer as your dog adjusts.
- Feed with the food bowl facing the outside but with your dog still inside.
- Gradually move the bowl farther and farther outside.
Exercise 3: Trail of Treats
Leave the door open and make a trail of treats that leads to outside, the end of the trial should contain increasingly high-value treats which ends with a pile of treats or a valued bone or pig ear. Do this frequently, and once your dog is outside, make sure your dog sees a bunch of toys scattered in the yard.
Exercise 4: Outside Is Play Time!
If your dog is play oriented, scatter lots of toys on the lawn and entice him to come outside with squeaking toys or bouncing balls. If your dog is shy, sit on the lawn and try to call him in a happy voice, using an irresistible toy. If it helps, tie it on a string and move it erratically like prey. If your dog comes outdoors, praise lavishly, have a fun upbeat play session, and then invite your dog back inside.
Once inside, make the day boring. In other words, make sure your dog learns that all the fun is outdoors and indoors nothing really great goes on. If you have another dog, let your fearful dog see how much fun he is missing.
Exercise 5: Use Clicker Training
If your dog is clicker-trained, make a target to click-treat and gradually move the target more and more outdoors. Give jackpots for when the dog steps outdoors.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dog is 100% potty trained and will not go on a pee pad (she just tears them up and eats them). Also she is not afraid at all outside, just scared of my noisy apartment complex. If she knows it is a car ride she is fine, if I have my moms dog with us, or my friends kids she is good. But if she is just going to pee she refuses to walk into the hallway. Once in the hallway she is generally fine and walks downstairs and outside to pee. How do I get her out the door without pulling her?
Answer: It sounds like your dog is worried about something in the hallway, but sort of forgets about it if something exciting distracts her such as going on a car ride or having guests or another dog. I would not pull her as when dogs are pulled we are forcing them to face their fears in a way that is not very productive, leading to her putting on the breaks more. I would instead try to find ways that she voluntarily walks by through positive associations. For instance, perhaps you can try talking to her in an exciting tone of voice as you drop high value treats by the area she is reluctant to walk. You can read about this strategy here: https://hubpages.com/dogs/Using-the-Jolly-Routine-... It is also helpful to troubleshoot what may be in that area that scared her to help reduce the fear. For example, maybe she slipped there and putting some mats to walk on can help or maybe there is some reflection or noise that can be buffered. Make sure to make being outdoors super rewarding and fun too so she can chain the hallway with the outdoors just like you like kids start acting happy when they catch a glimpse of the entrance to Disney World.
Question: In the meantime, while the dog is so afraid to go outside, what do we do about to help our agoraphobic dog when he needs to go empty his bladder or bowels? If we're not supposed to force him out, and he absolutely refuses, he certainly can't be expected to hold his waste for several days while we're trying to condition him to go back out. I certainly am not going to let him become un-housetrained by having him get used to going inside.
Answer: These are certainly difficult cases. What I tend to do in difficult cases as such is to temporary place pee pads nearby the door so that the dog can be trained to use those and then gradually, as the dog builds confidence and goes more and more outside, I start weaning their use off and praising and rewarding with high value treats for going outside. Since the pee pads are placed by the door, the dog is advantaged in learning to go outside to potty so that should help in the potty training process. We certainly cannot have the dog hold it if the fear is so much that going outside is not feasible.
Question: I have moved to a new area and my dog is now so fearful of going outside that when I reach for his leash he pees. What do I do?
Answer: Your dog needs some time to adjust. You can try to create new positive associations with the leash for now (don't force him to go on walks for now until he is more comfortable). Simply, keep the leash next to you, reach for it and toss a high-value treat. Do this several times until the peeing is replaced by anticipation for the treat. Then progress daily to clipping the leash to her collar, give a treat and then remove it, without going anywhere. Repeat several times, then progress gradually to walking to the door, give treat, remove leash and sit down. Repeat several times. Then, put his leash on, open the door, close the door, toss treat, remove leash and sit down. Progress them to walking with your dog one step outside, then back in etc. Go at your dog's pace. You may need calming aids or the help of a professional if your dog is so stressed there's no progress or he won't take treats.
Question: How do I train my dog to use a ramp?
Answer: Many dogs are not comfortable with ramps because of their unfamiliarity and inclination. There is a step-by-step guide with an accompanying video in this article: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Train-an-Older-...
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli
Rebekah on August 22, 2020:
My dog in the past few weeks has become reluctant to go outside a second time in the late afternoon/early evening. She has been doing ok on early morning walks - usually about 30 minutes. But in the past few weeks, she just won't do evening walks. We had at least a month straight of fireworks that started at 4/5pm and went all the way into the night. They've stopped (well for the most part) but I worry that maybe what's put a pause on her. She will go maybe a block or half block away at best, but barely piddle, and then turn around. That said, if there is a car ride and a new park involved, she will hop to it. I don't want her to become un-housetrained but also am concerned that this means there's a huge gap of time between her breaks. I also don't want to drive her to a new park every night because that creates a different problem. I've only had her since April and am a new dog owner too and worry that I did something wrong as well. Lastly, I live in an apartment, have a small side yard, but it'd a matter of getting past the front of the building and on at least a 10 minute stroll. I don't know what to do.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 25, 2020:
I would start with a vet visit as some dogs who become scared of going outside at night may be starting to manifest eye problems or may suffer from some other medical issue related to aging. If he seems more at ease with the torch on, I would consider having lights on in the yard (we have motion sensor lights at night that turn on automatically) and reassuring your dog.
Dee Grantham on July 07, 2020:
Two and a half weeks ago, we adopted a rescued 6y/o male Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. He is very gentle natured and there has only been one small, less than 30 second outburst (3 days after he moved in) with our 7y/o female Lab. Our major problem is he is fearful of most everything, his shadow included, the worst is going outside. He stays to himself in our back bedrooms 90% of the time - he is not treat, food or water driven - he will let us pet him, but not for very long at a time. I know that you say not to immerse them in what they are fearful of, but we have had no choice but to carry him out - he will not use pee/poo pads - I can only get him to move about 5ft on a leash, but when we get to the hallway, his brakes come on full force. He has been holding in his pee and poo because of this fear and we knowthis is not good for his bladder or bowels. How do we overcome this one issue in orrder to then be able to help him with the so many other concerns. Also, since he won't willfully come out of the bedrooms, where should we try feeding him - should we be carrying him into the other rooms forfeeding and ?
Jackie Alexander on July 06, 2020:
I just adopted a 3 year old German Shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix a few months ago. For the first 3 months we loved going on walks together, sometimes miles a day. All of a sudden a flip switched and now he is terrified to go outside at all. I can't figure out the trigger because generally nothing ever bothered him and even if it's completely quiet outside he's incredibly fearful. He slinks to the ground and crawls back inside. I've worked with a trainer who has suggested I hold my ground until he relaxes and try to get him used to being outside again by leading him from the door to the grass over and over, however my dog is the same weight as I am and I can't prevent him from running back inside. He's pulled out of his leash before as well. He's never had an accident in the house and I'm really concerned that he can't go to the bathroom now. I've resorted to taking him to the dog park everyday but I obviously can't keep that up. He is now on anxiety medication but it doesn't stop his fear it just takes away his personality. I don't know what else to do to help him, I find myself getting frustrated even though I know it's not his fault. He is not treat, food, or toy motivated either, I've tried coaxing him out that way and his fear overwhelms everything.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 01, 2020:
Hi Uma U,
The walks without you can certainly play as an aggravating factor, making her fear of being outside worse if she depends on you and feels safer with your around. Sometimes, when the fear is so paralyzing, calming aids may help. This may be something as mild as calming supplements/anxiety wraps/DAP collars to meds prescribed by your vet to help take the edge off. Once in a calmer state, you can work on creating positive associations with being outside a little at a time with high-value treats.
Uma U on July 01, 2020:
Hello! So my dog is 3 years old and we rescued her only a few months ago. She'd always been agoraphobic, but lately she has stopped walking completely. We tried putting pee pads by the door and using a "go here spray" but she refuses to even smell them when they're indoors. She is food motivated depending on her mood and when she last ate, but she's definitely too scared of even the thought of going out and won't take treats inside if a walk is on the table.
For now, we are carrying her until we feel she is relatively calm and then letting her walk back home and peeing along the way, but that's not sustainable and it just puts her into a blind panic most times. It's heartbreaking to watch her. We think a previous owner was abusive, but with Covid we are unable to see a trainer to help in person. How do we get her to feel safe outside again?
Side note: she does have bad separation anxiety from me specifically, and my family has been insisting on taking her on walks when I am unable to join. Could this be a factor until we are able to ease that anxiety?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 23, 2020:
Hi Robbie, why not go outside with her? This way you are there to praise and reward her for going and she will feel reassured by your presence.
Robbie on May 27, 2020:
My dog can go outside with a leash but she hates it. When we put her out there on her own she just lays down
Rose on February 19, 2020:
My dog has been having accidents in the house and is afraid of going outside. The only thing I can think of is that the neighbors cat comes over t9 our house all the time, and my dog can smell her. What can I do?
Monica on February 16, 2020:
My 1 year old female German Shepherd cross barked alt outside. She is not very good with other dogs, except our Berber. She annoyed neighbours, barking no-stop. I started walking her on a leash around our property controlling her behaviour. She got out one day under the fence ran over to neighbour’s 9 at night barking. Before I could catch her neighbours either shot a shot gun or a flash bomb. Very Big Bang bright flash of light. Since then she is terrified to go outside. She has now become in-housetrained. I am using puppy pads but she is unpredictable. I’m worried about her what can I do?
Elaine Eyer on December 09, 2019:
my one doxie was never afraid of going outside in fact sometimes it was hard to get her to come back inside. now she is afraid to go outside unless we are out there with her what can I do to remedy the problem?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 28, 2019:
Tracey, severe cases of fear may require the intervention of a behavior professional and possibly, the use of calming aids. If your dog is going to the bathroom everywhere, you may find it helpful, confining your dog on an easy to wash area like bathroom or kitchen floor or train your dog to use an indoor litter box for dogs or pee pads.
Tracey on July 25, 2019:
We have moved to a new house, we had to carry our adult dog out of the old house and carry him into the new home. He has always had a fear of the outside but it was always the front door he wouldn't go near. Now he won't go outside at all. He is ruining our new home by going to the bathroom everywhere. Don't know what to do, have tried all suggestions on the site and none work for him. Please help!
Yazz on July 07, 2019:
i have a 2 1/2 year old labrador/collie mix,my problem with her is that she wont go and stay outside to go to the bathroom unless someone is outside with her,also ill been trying to let her be by herself and she will just sitting by the door and drool.If someone can tell me how can i helper i will appreciate
Ron on April 15, 2019:
I have a 7 month old gsd i just got she will not go outside when you can get her outside she hides behind bbq with her tail between her legs and shaking.
Ashley Bilyk on April 08, 2019:
Hey all! We just got a 13 week old rotty. She's been doing really good about going outside to potty. Up until today. She will not venture out of where the light shows in the dark. Walking her around to do her business and she literally b lines for the house.
We live in the country. So many sounds, but all sounds she's heard since we brought her home. What could be causing it? She did pee this morning, but then immdiately ran for the house. Tried again about 25 min later to see if #2 would come but that's when she refused to move or when she did, it was to run for the house.
Maia on February 12, 2019:
My 8 month gsd is fine with the yard in fact she loves it but is fearful of going outside the gate to certain directions. For example to our rigjt of the gate is a playground which she isnt afraid of but to the left is path/road towards the park we usually go. she wasnt afraid of it before but somehow she is fearful of it now.
Lonny chalk on November 16, 2018:
My 7 month old bull mastiff does not like going in the garden his older brother dog loves it but he does not like being apart from us he has got worse since the older one has tried to dominate him even though they love each other we got him from a farm and was locked in a barn away from all the other dogs and will still not cock his leg I have tried the food and playing but he walks while wee in and I don’t no what to do please help
Ally on July 10, 2018:
I adopted a rescue dog who is 8 months now. I live in the middle of a busy city. At first he would go to the bathroom on pads. Now when i take him for a walk with my other dog, he refuses to do anything and is so scared of everything. He will not go potty outside. Then comes in and goes in random spots in the house. I have given him to my grandmother for a while to see if she can get him over this scariness. Any suggestions?
TO LANA! on June 26, 2018:
Hi, I have a border collie as well! She's a rescue and recently will not go outside unless she has to go terribly. Which just so happens to be at 5am. Did anything work with your pup?
Constance Mawyer on April 11, 2018:
I like the way the article broke down the counter conditioning is simple terms and comprehensive.
Clark363 on April 02, 2018:
Dog's sometimes know more than us! My friend's dog was afraid to go outside. One day, his wife looked out of the window and saw a fox stalking the dog. The dog was small, and old and knew it had little chance fighting a hungry fox. This happened in a fenced yard in a residential area.
Lana on March 08, 2018:
My Border collie pup is 15 weeks and won't go past the garden gate, We got him almost two weeks ago I have carried him to the car to take him to the park and when he's there he is fine. He just freezes and won't move if I try to take him on his lead past the gate and even if he sees the lead in the house he goes straight into his crate. Do you have any advice on how to get him over this fear? I've tried with treats but he ignores them! Thanks
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 22, 2018:
Diana, you can try training a "go to mat" to settle with a stuffed Kong.
DIANA DANIELS on January 08, 2018:
I have a problem with constant barking, giving him treats is a waste of time he just goings back and barks again. at the TV is the worst, our commands dont work he just gets snarly and barks again. Im at my wits end
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 15, 2017:
Heather, the article lists several causes of dogs scared to go outside.
Heather Wales on October 13, 2017:
My dog is acting scared for some reason she is scared to go outside and go for a walk and go to the rest room why is that?
Sarah on July 18, 2017:
my goldendoodle is 8...and just started putting the brakes on to go outside after it gets dark. She just won't go in the backyard. I can clip her leash on and she will walk nicely out front at least, butI want to know what's bugging her so I can help
angie avila on July 12, 2017:
My dog is a yorkie and since yesterday shes been afraid to go outside. My mom and I dont know what happened to her while she was outside that made her so scared of it. Please help me!
CLS on June 24, 2017:
I HAVE A 4YEAR OLD DOG WHO LOVES GOING OUTSIDE AFTER IT IS PITCH BLACK DARK OUTSIDE....BUT WHEN IT IS LIGHT HE REFUSES TO GO OUTSIDE. HE JUST PUTS OFF USING THE BATHROOM TILL IT GETS DARK....AND I KNOW THIS US NOT GOOD FOR HIS KIDNEYS.....HELP❓
Benjamin on June 09, 2017:
This past week my dog Prince wont stay outside, he will whine at the back door to go out but as soon as i let him out he is trying to rip the door down to get back inside he wont potty outside. I dont know what to do.
Maureen Hackett on April 25, 2017:
Just got rescue dog which won't go outside and seems scared of everything, rushing from room to room when u approach her. Looking through all the helpful tips but feel it is going to be a long process
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 17, 2017:
Candis my heatr goes out to you, it's quite challenging now that your female dog "helper" has gone to another home. Dogs don't do well with changes and that dog may have been what instilled confidence in both of them. You may need to take baby steps to get this dog to go out. Maybe take out the male dog in hopes that this dog will follow? Once out, shower them with affection, praise and many high-value treats in small pieces given in a row. Once back inside, make all the fun stop.
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Candis Wilson on April 12, 2017:
My dog just recently is terrified to go outside. We have another male dog that kind of picks on his before the two are supposed to go outside. I used to have a female dog that used to actually get him to go out, now that she is with another family member of mine, she isn't here to have him go out, so now he just refuses. I don't know what to do.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 09, 2017:
Kim, if you have had your dog for all these years and this is a new behavior that started out of the blue, I wonder if it can be attributed to a decline in eyesight/hearing or some cognitive dysfunction. As dogs age they go through changes and things may be perceived differently at during the day time and night. Also, if a dog feels pain while walking out one day (like from arthritis or abdominal pain), there may be chances the dog associates going out with the pain felt. There are many possibilities.
KimWCC on March 07, 2017:
Thanks for the reply.
It's quiet out here in the country. Just animal noises, like birds, chickens, sheep, goats, and horses from neighboring properties.
The properties are spread out, with at least an acre between us.
The road is very quiet with not much traffic at all. It's a dead end cul-de-sac.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 07, 2017:
Maybe there are certain noises during the day that makes your dog nervous?
KimWCC on March 06, 2017:
my 11 year old dog is now refusing to go outside during the daytime, but has no problem going out at night. I am perplexed.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 24, 2017:
Janis, challenging cases may require the help of a professional and sometimes calming aids or prescription medications are needed to lower threshold levels and open up the lines of learning that there is nothing to fear.
Janis Bailey on February 22, 2017:
My french bull dog puppy is fine in the garden likes nothing better,but when I take her for a walk she appears terrified and will not walk,she stands and shakes and always wanting to turn back for home.
I try and encourage her and even her treats have no affect.
What next I ask myself.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 21, 2017:
Scared Puppy hope this helps your pup.
Scared Puppy on February 16, 2017:
This article was so helpful. My dog is deathly afraid of going outside and we were dragging him out just to get him out the door. We are definitely going to stop that and start trying the methods and examples given here. Thank you.
D Hoppe on February 15, 2017:
yeah my wife and I moved about 4 days ago and to a new house and my beagle is fine but my Australian Shepherd is afraid to go outside and will hold his business until he's just about ready to explode and then he'll go outside do his business and run back in the house. he used to go outside and spend hours outside all day long in and out back and forth and now we can barely get him to go outside once a day.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 05, 2017:
Miguel, this can be quite a challenging situation you have on your hands. It would take baby steps with lots of praise when you are out, treats and play so to make the outside less frightening. You want to work hard on making the outside so special that she'll want to badly go. Do you have a yard?
Miguel Carangan on January 02, 2017:
Hi. The article is really helpful in understanding why my pup is afraid of going outside. I have a question, though. How can I housebreak her if she's really afraid of going outside? I usually carry her to the yard but since it's a bad practice, what other alternatives are there? She already has a spot in the yard where she poops and pees. She is really terrified whenever she's outside, and I can't make her go outside by herself. However, I have to carry her since it's clear that she's about to pee or poop. I would really appreciate any inputs about this matter. Thank you very much!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 31, 2016:
Laurie, slow and steady wins the race. Use the highest value treats you have and use them to your advantage. Have you already tried the tips suggested in the article?
Laurie Iannucci on December 31, 2016:
I could really use some help. At home we have a fenced in yard and the dog is fine. However, we go down to the shore on weekends. For 5 years there were no issues. My dog now gets excited to go out (happy wagging of tail when I get the leash) but as soon as she gets outside she is fearful. The tail goes between her legs and she pulls me back to the door to go in. She is having accidents in the house because I can't even get her to move once we get outside. We don't have a fenced in yard here and I can't get her to walk. I'm not sure what to do with this situation? It happens in all sorts of weather and I don't know what sound if any is disturbing to her. Any suggestions on what to do would be appreciated.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 15, 2016:
Sounds like a plan! Also, you may find targeting exercises helpful (where the dog is trained to touch your hand) and you may want to give clicker training a try too as it's a big confidence booster. The noise of the clicker may be too much for now, but even the click of a ball point pen may work. Lucky dog has found a great owner willing to work over the issues. Kudos to you!
Mark Cuban on December 10, 2016:
I have 3 dogs at home and one of them doesn't want to go outside so great advice.
Julie on December 09, 2016:
Thank you Alexadry! I really appreciate you taking some time to post some advice for me. I've been doing lots of reading and research about nervous and fearful rescue dogs (which he certainly seems to be, he is fearful to go to the bathroom in front of me, he will take a treat from me and then scurry backwards, and I am also working on his separation anxiety). I don't know his history, but I don't think it was a very pleasant one. :-(
Right now I've been rewarding him heavily with treats and love when he uses the Pee Pad to help with that training (I am thinking of making an Indoor Pet-Grass tray for him so that he still understand that Grass is a good thing to go to the bathroom on...and not on everyone's rugs! LOL). I am also trying to set up a bonding routine that allows us lots of time together, but also a little bit of time with me away at my computer so that he gets comfortable going to his soft crate bed too and being "alone" (which he's beginning to do).
For now, I will accept that going for a walk just isn't for him (he doesn't "play" either right now...all he really does is rest/sleep...preferably on my lap or beside me). I will try your suggestions and go slowly with him, it could take him a long time before we are ready for something like a Dog Obedience Class. I will also try the balcony door too since I don't have to have him on a leash for that one like I would for the hallway. I will slowly work on both kinds of doors. Thank you again! :-)
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 09, 2016:
Hello Julie! Thanks for adopting a rescue a dog and opening your home and heart to him. These fellows need some "acclimitization period" and it's great that you are recognizing the fact that he needs some time.Yes, forcing into things can make things much worse, so you may find it helpful splitting things in baby steps for now until his body language tells you he is ready for the next challenge. Like for now, work in the next few days on making going in and out the door fun. Use high value treats, perhaps try to step outside first and try to entice him to follow you just barely out the door, the moment he moves in your direction, praise the moment he moves closer to you and toss a treat inside. Repeat several times for taking a step out and then go back in.. Do this repeatedly until he seems more confident going out. Then work on making going on the elevator a fun experience. Use praise and high value tasty treats and use them to reward going in and out the elevator. Yes! going in and out is so much fun! Then go back inside. No more treats for the rest of the day. The treats happen only when stepping out and going in the elevator for now. Also may be worth to put on the leash not always when you head out to prevent the associations with going always outside. Put the harness and leash on before feeding his meal or when you are playing together. Then when it's time for the walk, put it on half hour prior. It takes time. Another option, some find it helpful to carry their small dogs down and then go on a car ride. Park the car near home and then walk together home. Many fearful dogs walk better if they know they are going back home versus going a place first and then walking back and the final ending of going inside is reinforcing. Best of luck!
Julie on December 09, 2016:
I just adopted a rescue dog 3 days ago (a 5 year old male Chihuahua who was rescued from Texas and brought to Ontario). I plan on enrolling both of us in obedience and training classes, but I think I need to wait a month or so until a stronger bond/trust relationship is formed. Until then, I have a specific question with regards to walking him. He is very nervous and fearful of many things, including leaving the condo unit (he pulls back when it's time to walk out the door behind me and whimpers and shakes) and going for a walk (he REALLY doesn't like the elevator and pulls back from entering it and shakes the whole time). I am wondering how much and how quickly I should "push" him on the topic of taking a walk? I don't want him to associate the harness and leash with a "horrible experience" (he REALLY hates the cold too and can't relax to go to the bathroom outside). So far I've just been acting super calm and relaxed and walking ahead so that he has to follow me out the door and into the elevator, but I don't want to "force and push" too much too soon and damage our chances for calm and happy walks later.
He doesn't necessarily "need" the walks for bathroom purposes since his foster mom said that he was Pee Pad trained so I am using one right now in the condo unit (we're still working and adjusting to that and there have been some accidents). But I WANT to take him on walks (ideally twice a day, but I would settle for once) since it's healthy for him to be outside.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 27, 2016:
Yes, any changes like a vacation can bring things a few steps back, so you'll have to re-start and hopefully you can get back and pick from were you left. Do you have a trainer helping you? Good luck!
jmcbr on September 27, 2016:
this is so funny but if i were you id get help
Debbie on September 02, 2016:
i have a 9 month old Sheltie pup. When I first got him he was great going out to potty, about at 5 months the brakes went on he will have no part of it. I also have to other shelties . I called the vet because he's a pup and I feel so bad he's missing all the outside fun and run time I do have a fenced in yard also she started him on a calming med he was improving but I went on vacation and have to start all over he didn't move the whole time I was gone
Norma Moy on August 09, 2016:
Our bit bull is scared to go out side she won't come out of her room my husband would carry her out we see her running around the yard we just don't understand I don't like our baby girl that way it makes me sad
SocaliJae on July 24, 2016:
I have a 13 year old Belgian Tervuren, I rescued her 10 years ago (she was abused), she has alway loved her walks i would take her at least 2 miles per walk 3 times a day, and short walks just so she can relieve herself, two weeks prior to the 4th of July she is now refusing to even walk half a mile, if she does walk she won't leave my side and very rarely relieves herself! i live in an apt. so she does not have a yard that I can step out into for her to go (not sure she would anyways), we are now going on July 24th a month and she is still not wanting to go! I am unsure what to do, I am considering trying to find her a home with someone who has a yard so she is not uncomfortable or get infections due to not going? Unsure how to clear this up, I have tried running with her, it worked for about 5 walks then she stop, she searches for places to hid instead of places to go potty! I get that it was due to the fireworks but they are pretty much gone at this point yet she seems to be hearing what I am not!? When I attempt to get her go further she acts like she is being abused, shivers, won't let me touch her or if she does she flinches, not sure if this is due to her past? We did move in November so this is a new area for her, I am unsure if she just doesn't like the area or if there is a scent that brings up a past for her? I don't know what to do for her, I have never had a dog that would not go potty when taken outside, I am puzzled!
Tanya on July 08, 2016:
my shepherd mix a few weeks ago started screaming when we take her outside she refuses to go out to potty and sometimes she goes no problem. i dont know what to do?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 29, 2016:
It's a starting point if you got her to stay in front of the door. For very severe cases though, you may need to work along with your vet and a trainer. In some severe cases, dogs may need a calming aid or even medications to take the edge off and to implement behavior modification.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 17, 2016:
It's great that you have a helper (your daughter) to get this dog to walk with no fear. Keep walking the dog with your daughter and provide lots of praise and treats on these outings.
John on June 14, 2016:
Our 3yr old dog Nessa gets real nervour and anti socialable when my wife or I take her out for her daily walk, but when my 10yr old daughter is with eighter of us when we walk our dog she is a totally different dog, she becomes somewhat fareless and our neighbors all seem amazed. Although some look at us as if we beat her but I assure them that is not the case and we so ashamed to the point that we don't want to walk her. Please help her.
Paula Fitton on June 09, 2016:
Hi, I have 2 Northern Inuit dogs,one,5yrs from puppy and no problem but this gorgeous,big,powerful,almost 3yrs bitch,has refused to leave front door since I rescued her 3months ago. I train her every day and have done everything you have suggested,I get her into garden where she's spending a little more time,but NOTHING will get her to go on a walk.She dashes' in n out of front door with tons of encouragement but that's it, now I just don't know what to do. PLEASE PLEASE can you help me PLEASE,it's breaking my heart and she's so big she needs the exercise. Once she was pushed out and nearly had the person on the floor desperately trying to get back home,the other dog adores her and she cry's when he goes out,but she'd rather run upstairs than follow him on a walk. Thankyou Paula Fitton Lancashire England.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 06, 2016:
Also, look up my "hear that" method by googling alexadry hear that method. It has helped many owners!
Brigitte on May 25, 2016:
My dog is scared of wind, rain and all the noises outside even though I conditioned him to it as a puppy. He simply can't settle when he is outside. The worst is the sound of the rubbish removal truck. His whole body shakes and he is desperate to go inside even if I'm outside playing with him. I will try your method and hope it will go better soon!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 23, 2016:
You can try having a friend/family member mimic the banging noise at a very low volume from a distance and feed high value treats. Noise, treat, noise, treat, noise, treat. Make it a fun game as outlined in exercise 1. Here are some more details on a similar program:
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 23, 2016:
Is this dog spayed or not? Sometimes female dogs that aren't spayed exhibit a false pregnancy and get very attached to their toys, as they are perceived as their pups.
JoelC on May 18, 2016:
Hello we have a 1.5 year old German Shepard who since a output was extremely hyper abs loved outdoors and was very protective of our yard and would bark fearlessly at night, would chase after her ball whenever thrown be it morning or night. But suddenly on 5/15/16 she became extremely fearful and has been crying almost non stop. A toy she really liked got ripped (we wrapped it up and it still works), whenever she barks she is half-barking half-crying... Its pretty darn heartbreaking but we dont know what happened...
Brenda on May 16, 2016:
Tried to take my dog out but he heard banging when he was out and just lay down and would not move he just wanted to go inside and the same when he hears the bucket men he start to shake and his touge hangs out can you please help me
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 27, 2015:
A new home won't do any good to a dog who is fearful, and most homes have doors. Try to look for a professional to help you out. If I had this dog, I would try to desensitize and countercondition to the movement of the door.
AndreaS on September 12, 2015:
My 6 yo lab suddenly will not go outside. We went on vacation and we believe our pet sitter left her outside so she wouldn't have to walk her. She's been going downhill ever since (2 months). It's the door that scares her. If she knows she is going for a ride or going to see her dog friend, she has no fear and willingly goes outside. There are no long walks, no playtime outside, will not spend anytime with me outside, does it get the newspaper, won't do anything! It's tiring, frustrating and I feel very badly for her. Can she ever get back to being herself again? I feel like she needs a new home.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 21, 2015:
Not necessarily. If I can give a dime for every dog owner who says their dog is not food motivated or toy motivated, I would be rich! When I meet that dog then, owners are surprised how easily I got his interest. However, for very severe cases, calming aids may be needed along with the aid of a professional.
Fmj on August 16, 2015:
Great advice...if you have a dog that is food motivated and trainable with treats...or likes to play. We have an ex bait dog who is neither of those.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 31, 2015:
Dear Charley, here are some tips to help your dog out. Best wishes! https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Helping-Dogs-who-are-A...
Charley on July 31, 2015:
Hi, I have a similar problem in a way - my mother's dog is perfectly fine going outside into the back yard, but is absolutely terrified of going for walks. He gets on with it when out but it's as though he's going as fast as he can just to get it over with, he doesn't seem to have any enjoyment from it he just seems scared of being there and fearful of other people and dogs. He gets so nervous that he defecates :( It's a shame because in the house he's a lovely dog but just always seems highly strung. How could we start making him a happier, more relaxed dog?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 22, 2015:
Welcome to the fearful dog world! I don't have enough space here to share some suggestions as there would be too many to list, but if you take a peak at some of my hubs, I have over 30 on fearful dogs. Of particular interest may be "exposure therapy for fearful dogs" "using food for behavior modification" "using the jolly routine for fearful dogs" and "exercises to build confidence in dogs." Otherwise, from my profile, you can go to my Pinterest account where I have a fearful dog board with all my fearful dog hubs in one place.
Carrie Peterson from Colorado Springs, CO on June 22, 2015:
lol ... my dog is afraid of EVERYTHING. Going out, then when you get her out she's happy and afraid to come back in. Afraid of her food dish, afraid to come to anyone for food, afraid to stand next to people .... so, just basically, terrified of her existence. Most of the time it's not a big deal but occasionally it is incredibly disruptive and/or annoying. Any suggestions? (And yes, she's a shelter dog.)
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 12, 2015:
It could be something happened there that scared him, perhaps a dog has intimidated him?
nancy on May 12, 2015:
I have a pug, he used to go to the park with me but now he wont walk there at all, he is all happy in the back yard but once i try to walk to the park he gets so terrified!!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 17, 2014:
Please see a reward-based trainer to help you out. Your dog needs help to increase his confidence levels. See my hubs of counterconditioning and desensitization. Kind regards, alexadry.
Daybreak4at icloud .com on September 17, 2014:
My deAr 22months puppy is afraid of some outdoor situations ? People's hands stroking him or a sense of unfriendly Dogs he darts between my legs for sacurity?? I got him at 10 weeks old Has he got a bad memory he's not aggressive in any form and he's never been scalded with me I love him and I'm worried for his nerves
Bill Aikman on May 11, 2014:
Haha really interesting! My Shih-Tzu is super scared of going outside too for some reason, but these are some great tips. He's also afraid of the vacuum machine in our house, as well as whistling o.O You can see my pup in the hub "Dog Gets Pranked" :)
Ky Canine on April 10, 2014:
Suddenly to say the least! Austrailian Shepard scared to death to go outside. Husband used chainsaw on Saturday. On Tuesday, barks to go out - when you open the door - he backs up like he's seen a ghost!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 03, 2012:
Yes, many dogs are scared of slippery floors, I even made a hub about it, and putting a rug was part of the way to help!
Angela Michelle Schultz from United States on April 03, 2012:
I thought my dog was the only one scared of the the outside. Also of the dark. LOL
wetnosedogs from Alabama on April 03, 2012:
my dogs are not afraid to go outside, but my male dog developed a fear of my kitchen floor! I put an old piece of carpet down and he is fine now. Maybe he slipped on the floor one day when i wasn't home. I'm assuming. it just came sudden. Just wanted to comment since one thing you mentioned was a slippery floor.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 03, 2012:
cloverleaffarm, yes, unfortunately there are several scared of that as odd as it sounds!
Squirrelgonzo on April 03, 2012:
Food For Thought! Kudos!
Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on April 03, 2012:
I have never heard of a dog afraid to go outside. Great information. Voted up.