Dog Behavior Advice Column – 3 Tips for a Someone Who’s Dog Goes Crazy Outside

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 22, 2023

Dog Goes Crazy Outside

If your have a dog who goes crazy outside, you are going to love this Dog Gone Problems Dog Behavior Advice Column. In this week’s column I share some tips to teach dog impulse control and share tips to manage having a dog who is over excited when outside.

I answer dog behavior advice questions like this each week; sharing the tips and secrets I teach our in home dog behavior clients. If you have a dog behavior or training question, you can email it to me (along with a pic of your dog) to

3 Tips to Help Someone Who’s Dog Goes Crazy Outside

Dog Gone Problems,

I adopted a three-year-old Border Collie Springer Spaniel mix from “death row” last year. I learned that I was his fifth home and that he was a former farm dog.

For the first few months, he would follow me from room to room but hide in that room (under the bed, under the end table, under the piano, etc). Now that its been close to a year, he handles our kids getting silly and everything else in our inside the house life just fine.

But when we let him into the back yard its like he is a completely different dog. He races around the fenced yard, barking madly at birds, leaves, the wind, everything, nothing, nonstop. This lasts for about the first 20 minutes he’s out the door. If our other dog Tucker is out there with him, he will run at him, growling and grabbing him, like super excited rough play, but not aggressive.

During this entire 20 minute time frame, I do not exist. Nothing I say or do breaks into this ‘manic’ mode. He just loses his mind. After this initial energy burst, he calms a bit, unless I try to approach him to take him back in the house….he refuses to come back inside on his own. He races from me and barks madly at me like I’m the boogeyman.

On walks, he’s lovely on a leash…until we see another dog. He freezes, turns his head from them, hides behind me…seems totally afraid of them. If the dog approaches and gets close to him, he snarls and leaps at them. He makes no action to ‘go after’ them, it seems more like a ‘defend my personal space’ type of thing.

I have no idea how to reverse that fear since logically it seems that he thinks ‘another dog, something bad is going to happen’, then he snaps. If I give him a harsh correction, then doesn’t that reinforce that something bad did happen (Another dog showed up and he got scolded)? 

I spent years teaching agility and advanced obedience, and this guy has me stumped. His basic obedience in the house is flawless, a very dependable recall / stay / sit / down / heel. Once you get out the door, everything goes out the window and I can’t get his focus to even try to work with him. I tried doing some basic agility with him (jumping a 2×4 on the ground, walking over the rungs of a ladder lying on the ground) to try to boost his confidence a bit and no matter how I coax or encourage, he lays down, rolls over and cries.

I’ve been told that only an e-collar will help him, but I’m not sure how zapping him will help what seems like fearful behavior.


Dear Libby,

I’ll start off by agreeing with the last sentence of your question. Do not use a shock collar on him for this, or anything else.

A shock collar, sometimes referred to as an e-collar (so it sounds better to humans), is a suppressive, aversive training tool designed to allow someone to deliver a shock (negative reinforcement) when a dog makes a mistake or engages in an unwanted activity. But suppressing a symptom isn’t addressing the root cause of the problem. And for dogs, punishment based training often leads to fear, stress, anxiety or worse.  Some of the worst cases I have had were trying to help a dog who developed behavior issues after being exposed to aversive training.

Instead, its best to look at the root cause of a behavior problem, then address the issue there.

In your case, you have a former farm dog used to running in wide open spaces who likely didnt have much exposure to many of the things we experience daily when living in an urban environment. Its a safe bet that many of these things are scary to him or at the least, cause him anxiety when on walks. So you have a combination of a dog who is probably bored and scared of many things in the new environment.

When he is in your back yard, that isnt so scarry for your dog, so you are seeing him let loose, albeit with more enthusiasm and energy than you want to see.

Now lets share some tips that will help your dog listen to you better when you are outside.

Tip One: Exercise

If you were an in home client, I would ask how much exercise he gets on in a day. Your average dog needs a good hour of exercise a day, ideally spread out throughout the day in small sessions. Higher energy breeds like Dalmatians, Australian Shepherds, Heelers or Border Collies may need quite a bit more than that.

If your dog isnt getting the exercise it needs, its very common for other behavior issues to pop up. Its also likely why your dog doesn’t want to come inside when you try to call him in. Since you have experience with advanced obedience and agility im assuming you are getting him a good amount of exercise, but want to point out that it needs to be spread throughout the day. Three, 20 minute walks done a few hours apart are much better than a single one hour walk in a day.

So if he isnt getting enough exercise, make sure to add that to his daily routine. Im going to focus the rest of this column on tips to get him to listen to you when outside, but exercising him beforehand (and giving him 10 mintes to catch his breath) may help with these suggestions.

Tip Two: Food Distraction

If your dog is food motivated, try feeding him his meal outside. This forces the dog to stop and stay in one place, essentially practicing settling down. A good way to do this is get him used to it in stages. If you have a glass back door to your yard, feed him inside, but right at the door so he is facing the door and outside world as he eats. Do this for 1 to 2 meals, then the next time, feed him right outside the door facing the house.

Id keep your other dog away and let your rescue dog eat by himself, with you watching. If he runs around in the yard and ignores his meal, try feeding a higher value food or warm it up. Also, the temperature of food is more important to dogs than the taste. You may have to doctor his food up a bit for now. Don’t worry, this isnt forever. We just need to “reach him” and find a construct outside he will stay interested in.

Another option would be to exercise him first, give him 15 minutes to catch his breath then present his meal. Hopefully giving him a chance to let off that energy will allow him to focus on his food.

Once he gets used to eating his food outside, you can switch over to a snuffle matt which will slow down the feeding process. This is helpful as the longer he stays outside focused on eating his food, the more he practices impulse control.

Tip Three: Training for Attention

Another way to get your dog to focus on you is to do some rythmic training. Pick the best three or four cue’s your dog knows. For most dogs this is sit, lay down, sit up and hand targeting, but any three or four cues will work. I prefer to use a marker word or clicker when training dogs so they are clear when they did what you ask.

Find a place in your home near the door or window where your dog will listen. Get some high value treats and roll though those three to four exercises as many times as you can (in different orderes) in one minute. Most dogs should be in the 20 – 50 cues range in a minute (provided they are practiced at those cues). Do this in different parts of your home, 3 – 6 times the first day so your dog gets the concept.

When you finish each time, go somewhere in your home and spend a good 2-4 minutes petting or playing with your dog as a reward / desert.

The second day, practice this exercise inside the house at the door to your back yard with the door closed the first time. Your dog should be on the leash although for now, you shouldnt need it. If your dog does well, the next time, practice in the same locaiton, but with the inside door open (outside door is closed) also on a leash.

When your dog is moving to the next step quickly and easily, the next time you practice you will do it twice. Once inside the door as you did before.  As soon as you finish, open the door and practice again. You and your dog still inside, just the door is open. Make sure to go to the next cue as soon as you can. Delays between cues will allow your dog to get distracted.

Keep practicng that step until your dog performs as well with the door open as when its closed. Its important to not go to the next step until your dog responds well. Moving on too fast is one of the most common mistakes people make when training a dog.

Once your dog is able to perform inside with the door open, the next practice session repeat the process. But after you finish, take one step outside the door leaving the door open and run through the exercises again quickly for 60 seconds. If your dog struggles making it a full 60 seconds, do a couple cues outside then step right back inside and pracitice again with the door open.

As your dog gets better, you will start practicing inside then out then back inside. Eventually your dog will be able to do this exclusivly outside, just right next to the door to your home. When your dog is good at that, the next practice session, take one more step outside and practice there.

Think of it as a series of waves. We want to gradually get him used to listening outside and being rewarded for doing so. You may have to move back inside for a few reps then back outside, thats ok. Training is not a liniar process so you will have good. and bad days.

By moving in a slow process, your dog will practice listeing to you while gradually further and further outside the home. Dont be afraid to head back in when your dog gets distracted, but after a week or three or practice, you will notice your dog listens to you better and better.

A bonus tip, have treats in your hand when outside. Every time your dog check in with you (looks your way) on its own, say your marker word and give him a treat. If you are observant and have taste treats, you should find him checking in more often and listening when you call for him.

Good luck and remember; everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.


Submit your pet questions to Dog Behaviorist David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and question to

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This post was written by: David Codr