Updated at: 12-01-2022 - By: petstutorial

If your dog is afraid to go outside, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do to get it to stop.

So, why is my dog afraid to go outside? Possible reasons why your dog is afraid to go outside are that it thinks it won’t be allowed back in, it has separation anxiety, it’s too wet, cold or hot outside, it hears other animals or it hears noises outside.

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Since there are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the main cause, it should become a lot easier to get your dog to stop doing it.

Reasons why your dog is afraid to go outside

Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.

It thinks it won’t be allowed back in

The cause could be that it thinks it will not be allowed to come back inside. This would be more likely if you tend to shut the door, when it goes outside, and do not open the door for a number of hours. In this case, it could help to temporarily leave the door open so that it can come back inside when it wants to or to try to make sure to open the door back up when it wants to come back inside.

Separation anxiety

The cause could be that it has some separation anxiety. This would be more likely if it does go outside when you go outside and if it shows signs of anxiety when you are about to leave it.

Coldness, heat or wetness

The cause might also be that it thinks that it is too hot, cold or wet outside. This would be more likely if it does go outside when the weather is nice but not when the weather is not nice.

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Other animals

The cause might also be that it hears other animals outside. This would be more likely if it does go outside during the day but it is hesitant to go outside at night when other animals are more likely to be in the backyard.

It hears noises

The cause might also be that it hears noises outside. This would be more likely if it only refuses to go outside when it is noisy outside.

What to do about your dog being afraid to go outside

Below are some options you have when dealing with the behavior.

Positive reinforcement training

Positive reinforcement training is where you encourage the behaviors you want to see by rewarding your dog when it shows signs of displaying them. To use it to get your dog to be more willing to go outside, you could go outside and reward it whenever it shows signs of coming out with you.

Don’t force it to do so when it does not want to

If it often has to wait a long time to come back inside, it would likely help to allow it to come back inside whenever it might want to. It would also likely help to avoid forcing it to go outside since it will likely just cause it to be more hesitant to go outside. Instead, it would help to reward it whenever it shows signs of being willing to go outside.

Get help

If you cannot get your dog to stop doing it or it has been behaving very unusually, it would likely help to get the help of a professional dog behaviorist in your area. By doing so, you should be able to get expert advice tailored towards your particular dog and to see what you can do to get it to stop.

How to Help Your Dog

The most effective way to help dogs feel more confident outside is to change their association to the great outdoors through a combination of desensitization and counter-conditioning training.

The first step is desensitization training, which allows the dog to experience the scary stimulus at a level that doesn’t evoke stress. For example, a dog who is nervous about encountering garbage trucks could be exposed to a truck that’s several blocks away, parked and silent, so that he can see it, but he’s far enough from it that he won’t react to it.

Counter conditioning, which works in tandem with desensitization, helps the dog form a new association to the stressor through positive associations. With the garbage truck at a distance, feed your dog a series of high value goodies when he notices the truck, like bits of cheese or hot dogs, so that your dog starts to make a connection between the scary garbage truck and the wonderful goodies. Then, gradually bridge the distance between your dog and the garbage truck, always rewarding him with the goodies for his calm responses. In time, your dog should be able to pass garbage trucks without a fearful reaction

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Using a training process called “shaping” can help dogs that are afraid to go into their own yard. This type of training breaks down the process of walking outside into manageable pieces and rewards the dog for successfully navigating each one.

Pet parents can begin the process by standing just outside the door with a handful of treats. When your dog takes a step towards the door, mark the behavior with a click from a clicker or verbal marker like “good!” then toss a treat to your dog where he’s standing. Don’t force your dog to come to you to get the treat or try to lure him to come to you with it. Allow him to make his way out at his own pace, and mark and reward each step of the process until he’s confident crossing the threshold.

Keep in mind, any dog that suddenly balks at walking or going into the yard can benefit from a medical evaluation. Ensuring your dog’s physical wellbeing and taking steps to train him to increase his confidence can help make outside time a joy for both ends of the leash.

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