How to Help a Dog Afraid to Go Outside in 2 Steps

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 7, 2023

dog afraid to go outside

For this Marina del Rey dog training session we worked with a fearful Dachshund named Bowie, sharing tips to help a dog afraid to go outside.

I had the guardians bring Bowie outside to meet me since he often barks at people who come into his home. This is a tip that I wish more people would utilize. When you have a fearful dog and someone comes to visit, to the dog that person is invading their space without their permission.

By bringing a dog outside to a human who is already there, you change that dynamic from invading the dog’s home to the dog approaching the new person on their own. Add in some treats and you have a positive dog training tip that can help tremendously if you have a fearful dog.

Once we got inside we sat down to discuss general dog behavior and modern dog training. Bowies guardians are very determined to help him and had reached out to multiple trainers who used various techniques over the last few years. I gave Bowie a collagen stick from Best BullySticks to chew on as we talked dog and dog training methods. Giving dogs something to chew on is a Dog Behaviorist trick as chewing and licking can release fell good endorphins for dogs.

As Marina del Rey’s dog behavior expert who utilizes dog psychology, I am 100% force and punishment free. In my opinion, if you have to use force or punishment when working with a dog, that’s usually an indication of a lack of experience or knowledge. Punishment based training often leads to insecurity, stress, fear, anxiety and in some cases aggression.

The guardians already had a marker word in place but they had not been using it recently. I suggested that they go back to using the marker word anytime that Bowie does something that they like. I call this celebrating. Its one of the easiest ways to train a dog and can also help build thier confidence. By rewarding desired behaviors the dog offers voluntarily like sitting, coming to them, laying down, etc you can help a dog know what the humans want from them. This can be very helpful when you are trying to help an insecure or fearful dog.

I went over cookie in the corner and recommended the guardians do a little bit of research into scent games. Being a Dachshund, Bowie has an incredible sniffer. Coming up with some scent games that the guardians can play inside the home can help keep Bowie mentally stimulated without rtriggering the anxiety that he currently gets when he goes outside.

Next we addressed Bowie’s barking problem. Bowie barks to make things he doesn’t like go away. Sometimes he barks for attention and sometimes he barks at things he see’s passing by the windows of his home. Since he is barking for different reasons, there are different approaches that should be adopted.

I shared a number of management tips such as of reducing his vision outside of the windows. This is an incredibly important and often overlooked part of rehabilitating a dog with a barking problem. If the dog sees something and barks at it to make it go away, and the thing goes away, the barking is validated. That’s why it is so important to make sure the dog cannot see the thing go away, otherwise the dog is constantly being trained to bark at the window.

The guardians can use counterconditioning to address Bowie’s barking at sounds outside of the home. I recommended that the guardians get recordings of all of these sounds so that they can systematically desensitize and counter condition Bowie so that he no longer barks when he hears those particular triggers.

Desensitization and counter conditioning are easy, but they do take a dedicated and consistent effort to work. Many people get frustrated because the progress seems so slow or the extinction burst fools them into thinking that it is not working. We discussed all of these elements and I recommended that the guardians play a recording of one of the triggers for each Bowie meal so its easy and built into a positive.

I recommended they only focus on two triggers at a time. Since there are only 2 meals Bowie eats a day, by focusing on two triggers at a time, they wil gradually work up to playing the trigger sound at full blast with Bowie is eating his food and ignoring the sound. Once this happens the nussance barking problem should diminish and eventually stop.

How to Help a Dog Afraid to Go Outside

To help Bowie feel more comfortable going outside, I showed his guardians a few exercises they can implement. No one wants to see a dog afraid to go outside as there are so many wonderful and enriching things for dogs to do out and about.

Anytime you’re helping a fearful dog, you need to make sure that you change their emotional response from whatever it is they are fearful of. If your dog is scared to go outside, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

This is an easy way to help a dog get over a fear of going outside, but you need to practice regularly and at the dog’s pace. For some dogs, they may be able to do this exercise for 30 seconds once a day. Other dogs may be able to do it five times a day for 30 seconds. Others more frequently and for longer periods of time. Its always inmportant to go at the dog’s pace when helping a scared dog.

I asked the guardians to reach out to me with progress reports as we may need to adjust the number of times they practice this tip to help a dog get over a fear of going outside or the length of time they practice each session. Its common to need to adjust things when you are modifying a dog’s behavior.

I wanted to over emphasize this with Bowie’s guardians who have been trying to help him as they ran into a few trainers using methods that are out of date. Seeing how much time, effort and love they are investing in Bowie, I want to be the last dog training professional they have to turn to.

It will take some time and effort, but since I was successful in getting Bowie to go outside and eat a treat, I know this method will work. His guardians had previously mentioned that they had not been able to get him to eat anything outside so eating that treat outside the home is proof of progress.

Granted, we were only a few inches outside of his home, but that’s the name of the game when it comes to modifying dog behavior. Small steps that lead to big changes. Same thing for treating dog aggression, anxiety or a dog afraid to go outside for a walk or fun. Slow and stead wins the race.

Based on his movements and sound sensitivity, I’m pretty sure that Bowie has cortisol in his blood. Cortisol is the stress hormone that helps us when we are in extreme situations. It slows down and stops many bodily functions so that you can put all of your energy and effort into fighting something off or running away from it. This is why dogs lose their appetite when in stressful situations. But being in that intense state of mind for too long can create issues.

Anyone who has cortisol in their blood for too long can develop PTSD, including dogs. It can take up to three days of complete relaxation for a dog to fully filter the cortisol out of their blood. But if Bowie is going for multiple walks a day and hearing the sounds that trigger a barking or fear response, it’s likely that he has never able to go back to a completely calm and balanced state of mind.

Since his guardians had been working so diligently to help him with these problems and had not made as much progress as they would like to see, we spent the last part of the session discussing the benefits of medication’s.

Fluoxetine, which a lot of people refer to as Prozac, can be very helpful in lowering the intensity level of a dog’s anxiety. I recommended that the guardians speak to their vet about incorporating this helpful medication to Bowie’s daily routine. When you have a dog afraid to go outside or any dibilitating behaior problem, turning down the intensity of the fear or anxiety can do wonders.

I suggested that the guardians do a couple of controlled exposures to common things that cause Bowie to become arounded and run a timer for how long it takes him to stop barking, stop pacing or lay down. Knowing the length of time a dog generally takes to calm down, then trying it out again 4 or 5 weeks after the medication starts can help you determine if the dosage or medication is correct. You want to see a difference. It’s very common to need to adjust the dosage but it takes up to four weeks to take affect which causes many people to forget that very important fact.

At the end of the session I was a little bit disappointed that we did not do as much hands on training as I would’ve liked. This is one of the drawbacks to not seeing the dog before I work with them. But in order for a dog to make progress, we have to go at the dogs pace. Instead I spent most of the time sharing dog behavior tips in detail and asking the guardians to call or text if they have any questions later. Having over 14,000+ dog training videos in my library, I can share exmpaled with them later if needed.

To help the guardians remember all of the dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home Marina del Rey dog training session, I recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr