My dog is afraid of the outdoors

debbiep_gwJuly 27, 2008

My basset Lucy that I normally post about with the allergies is afraid of the outdoors now.Its been going on for a few months and she seems to be getting worse.Shes always been afraid of loud noises and I never made a big deal about it,shes always been afraid of flying insects to and to my knowledge she has never been stung.She goes out to do her potty business and hurries back inside.If a insect flys by she panics,looks for a way out of the fence/gate and has managed a few times.She trembles all over and is clearly upset.I just put her back inside and I don't make a big deal of it but she is getting worse.She almost acts as if the buzzing sound bother her ears,she will shake her head/ears.We can't get her to sit outside with us and she use to patrol the property and loved smelling everything.I now have to make her go out.Anyone else have a dog that is afraid of outside?Any ideas?Debbie

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she use to patrol the property and loved smelling everything.I now have to make her go out.

Not to be glib, but it sounds like something happened to her that she connects to being outdoors. Maybe you can build some positive stuff out there for her? Play, treats, etc? I am interested in how the experienced owners will respond, because I know making a dog do something it fears is not good for the dog and does not desensitize it, but builds fear.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 3:47PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

My dog (JR)is also afraid of the outdoors too. She does not want to go outside at night to potty. She is scared of all the bug noises, cicadas at the moment, and the ....who knows? I find it works best if I try to distract her and make her forget about her fears. Sometimes I throw chicken pieces out into the yard that she will have to go find. Then, she might smell something in the grass and do her business. Maybe. Of course, if she sees a rabbit! Not scared anymore!

I have no answers only to say I commiserate. We go through some sort of scared of the outdoors almost everyday.
However, she also loves being outside when she feels like it. Running around, digging, just sitting in the grass chewing on a nasty thing she dug up.

If it is raining, however, is cloudy, or if rain is eminent, I don't bother. My dog will hold it for hours and is terrified of all moisture from the sky.

But distraction and food seems to work best to make her want to go out. And I or dh always have to go with her.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 4:18PM
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I just wanted to add that I can get her out there I just can't get her to stay.Right now it seems the insects that make the buzzing noise are the problems.Theres no distracting her once she has seen or heard one..Debbie

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 5:50PM
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Oh, poor Lucy!

Have you ever looked at the website They have experts on every conceivable topic. You have their names and they share their credentials. You can look at the various people there offering their wisdom and choose the one you think fits your needs the best. There is a pet section with trainers of various backgrounds available to answer questions.

I have used the science section several times and gotten great help.

Here is a link that might be useful: all experts

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 6:04PM
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Since she has a history of allergy problems, I'd probably have her ears checked........and by a specialist if needed. Ear infections can cause sensitivity to noises.

For dogs that show a reluctance to go out at night, that can often be due to loss of eyesight. In the early stages, daytime vision can be perfect, but in the low light of evening and night a dog can feel as tho its blind.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 6:09PM
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I agree that something has happened to your dog that has made her this way. I have a mutt, a Shepard/Hound that is very timid, probably because she was traumatized before I came along.

My experience with this type of thing is this. Correction can be very difficult. You need to make sure you don't reinforce what is happening in any way. Also, you need to build on very small successes, giving tons of praise and favorite treats when ever she does something very minor, like just stepping outside to do her business, stepping outside etc. It's very important that you don't try and push things to quickly. Build on small successes gradually to larger ones. Your dog needs to associate going out with treats and praise. Try and use some favorite treats for this purpose only.

This may or (may not) be the way to go. It is a very time consuming experience trying to reverse a negative (ask me, I've been working on it for 2.5 years). I would say that if you don't start to see some improvement, even minor improvement within two or three months, you may need to consult with a behaviorist.

You really have no way of knowing what is going on. Poor doggie!


    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 6:12PM
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First things first, your dog has long ears and is susceptible to ear infections, pick up one of those huge ears and sniff in there. If it smells bad, go get your dog to the vet. This could be a part of your dogs problem. IF you have determined that your dogs ears are okay, there are other ways to help your dog than spending lots of money.
You ARE good to ignore your dogs behavior, and it is possible your dog was traumatized while outside by itself at one point. So, here is my recommendation (I do have a dog that is a super chicken in a dog suit - they can be tiresome to deal with, especially if not motivated by food or other reward) you need to take your dog out somewhere else other than the back or front yard. A dog park might work wonders, Your dog has instincts which it needs to get back into touch with. I suggest finding a nice park wher you can walk your dog on a daily basis. A good 15 minute walk, and hopefully another dog to play with or just sniff on would be great. Try and end on a good note. Can you tell me, is your dog motivated by food? You can use treats to distract your dog is needed. I would like to know how it goes if you find a place to take your dog, in order to get some new smells and new stimulations. IF your dog resists getting out of the car at the park, or will refuse to move once out of the car, repost and we can go from there.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 8:07PM
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No bad smells in her ears.She did have symtoms of ear mites a month ago.I treated her.I'm thinking she may have a reoccurence of them now.She was somewhat traumatized in the fall outside last year.I just now thought of it.We were(myself and the two dogs)almost shot in our front yard by someone deer hunting.The shot was close enough that I actually heard it whiz by us.That was the beginning of the being scared of gun shots but now we have moved on to insects sounds.She is very food motivated and she does like to play with other dogs.I have three grand pups that come to visit.She will only tolerate them for a short period of time.No dog parks here,I'm in a rural area.She has no problem going somewhere in a car.She loves to ride.I just feel like she can't be let outside any longer because if something scares her she tries getting out of the fence,I'm usually in another part of the garden,she can see me,hear me but yet she tries forcing her body through the squares in the fence to get to where I am.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 10:26PM
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Unlikely that an adult dog has ear mites, more likely a bacterial or yeast infection requiring specific medication. Infections don't always smell bad. My lab Max gets ear infections and I can't smell anything. He is *very* sensitive to even the smallest amount of infection and will shake his head so much that he gets a hematoma.

I'd be a bit traumatized about being almost shot too! Whizzing of bullets and buzzing of bugs probably sounds about the same- I don't know as I've never been shot at thankfully. There are CDs you can buy that have Tstorm noises, fireworks noises, etc. that you can use for a desensitization program. The directions are generally included with the CD. This may help her. She may need additional help such as medication (NOT acepromazine) to decrease her anxiety (diazepam, clomicalm) in the short term.

As far as working in the garden, I've tethered my dogs while working (well, one at a time LOL). It does make gardening a little more difficult, but for the peace of mind knowing that she won't run into traffic it may be worth it.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 8:41AM
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Some dogs simply have hyper acute hearing and can be extremely sensitive to high pitched noises such as birds and even bees, if the dog was ever stung prior and now assoiciates the bees with the pain felt from the sting it could make the problem worse.
Never ever force a dog to confront these fears when he's already showing panic or high anxiety. remember they hear so much more than we do and if they have hyper acute hearing all they can think to do is get away from the sound. Sometimes if you listen hard enough you can actually hear what they are and pin point the problem. Some triggers are aiports that shoot off guns to keep birds away from landing strips, beeper noises as in construction vehicles, birds, wind chimes, batteries going dead that beep beep beep, Ice makers..are just some of the problems I have come across with dogs and this condition.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 10:14PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I understand not wanting to make a dog confront fears or put them in a place that would make them even more afraid...but what to do when it's bedtime and they need to do an evening potty? And won't? I have made it perfectly clear a bazillion times with rewards and language that as soon as she pees, we will run back inside and party. Immediately after bathroom business. We won't spend one minute more outside than she needs.

But she won't potty. However she WILL get me up at 5 am whining and needing to go out. Which wouldn't happen if she would go at 9:00 the night before.

Sometimes I take my flashlight and saltshaker and go hunt
slugs. She will either huddle by the door or forget she is afraid and walk around waiting on me and maybe go potty.
Sometimes she will run up to me and jump up on my legs than run back to the door. In case I don't know she wants to go inside!
I do turn all the lights on outside too.

I really am sorry I am hijacking the thread!

I have often wished for doggie litter boxes. It would be less time consuming. I did try the puppy mats at one time years ago but she wouldn't use them.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 10:33PM
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OP - is it possible to just have her with you in the garden? Or I suggest trying some rescue remedy just to take the edge off. Good luck, you have one tough problem on your hands, and just to let you know, I have been shot at, those bullets sound like insects flying close to your ear, any problem with your pups ear is going to make her skiddishness worse, so you might try and keep an eye on her ear (some visual!!) rescue remedy might help. You can desensitize most dogs, by leaving them little bits at a time. IF your pup is food oriented, go get yourself a kong or other food puzzle toy form the pet store (or on line) and fill it full of carrots and other goodies - hopefully she will start messing with that while she is outside. Sit with her for awhile before going off. Make the times you go off little bits at tfirst and then little by little longer and longer. To effectively use the kong or other puzzle toy, you can not just put the to down and take off, they are too smart for that. PS - I still have issues with my pup during a hike or nice walk in the woods, a high flying plane will put him in a state which is hard to break out of, be patient, try not to get frustrated and most important, work slowly. good luck.
Bumblebeez - let me guess you are taking your dog out into the yard to let it do its business, try leash walking your dog, it is very important. They need the structure of the leash walk, the stimulation of walking will help with her intestinal tract and the smells will also assist your dog in figuring out what it needs to do, good luck

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 11:55PM
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I understand not wanting to make a dog confront fears:

That was directed for the OP, as she was describing a dog in a flight type panic in trying to get inside. This dog is showing true fear of "something" in her own yard. Until she can get a handle on exactly what it is bothering the dog, forcing the dog to stay out amongst that fear while the dog is showing panic/anxiety at the moment is never a good thing.
As far as the second poster with the dog that won't go night potty, sometimes just taking the dog to the front of the house where there are other doggie or animal smells will help them go quicker. Usually a dog that is showing fear they will go real quick so they can get back in. My guess with this dog is the fear ( if it is fear) is actually brought on by the mere suggestion that it's time to go out and the dog simply doesn't want to. I've seen dogs actually hate to get their feet wet from the night dew ( the same dog would think nothing of running in the rain after a squirrel though), go figure? Sometimes females will not like going the bathroom in small areas and need other scents and smells to get things moving so a change in potty designation often makes a huge difference. Than of course you might have the dog that knows as soon as it goes it has to come back in and doesn't want to so they will sniff and smell and make a project out of it to delay having to go back inside. That's usually a dog that doesn't get enough outside time though, not one that shows fear.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 7:18AM
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but what to do when it's bedtime and they need to do an evening potty?

Put the dog on a leash and take them outside and stay with them until he has done his business.

I was wondering does the dog still want to go inside the house, even when you are out in the yard? Usually the biggest motivator for my dogs is me... they will follow me wherever I go.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 10:01AM
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Thanks everyone.I just want to say I don't make her stay out or confront her fears.Once she starts getting upset I put her inside.I know one of her fears are the bees flying around.I watch her when she notices them,I do think its the sound they make. She has never been stung or stung where they have left a mark on her anyway.I check both dogs daily.I'm now thinking its her ears,maybe its time for a vet visit.I can tether her by me in the garden.I can hear husband now,he has fenced in almost two acres for the dogs,these are connecting fences so when I want them in a small area I can shut a gate.He said all along they were going to want to be wherever I was!
Joepyeweed,yes she wants in even if I stay outside.Getting her to go out is not much of a problem just staying out for a few minutes is not going to happen right now.
Bumblebeez,I believe your problem is a little worse than mine but putting her on a leash to go potty will probably help you alot.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 1:28PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Thank you everyone for your advice. Actually the leash thing has two drawbacks: first, she thinks we are actually going on a real walk, and we definitely are not, and two, sometimes she puts the brakes on and won't budge.

We can't do walks at night because it's too dark (no lights),buggy, jungley and snakey. One evening at dusk I saw 4 different snakes on the driveway!
But we have a long driveway and sometimes, when I feel brave, I carry her out to the end of the driveway, about an acre away from the house and she often just runs all the way back to the door.

What actually works best is when dh takes her out and he will pee in the yard. We have no close neighbors and she will always go right on top of it.

The being afraid of the outdoors is not limited to nighttime either. Right now she is hiding from me because she thinks I might put her out, and I do at this time of day (for 5 minutes!) and it's hot outside. She hides underneath the king size bed, against the wall in the middle so I can't reach her.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 1:53PM
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I would have the DH take her out then.Luckily I have two dogs and they mark each others pee.Also will she not just go back to the spot your DH used without him being there?Mine go on every spot they think another animal has been by.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 2:11PM
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...I don't make her stay out or confront her fears.Once she starts getting upset I put her inside...

Debbie, this is exactly why this issue is not getting better. You are rewarding her upset-behavior by letting her get what she wants (back inside).

In the future you need to not let her back inside until she is calm. You can accomplish this a number of ways. If it were my dog, I would bring a small handful of kibble or dog treats out with me, allow her to go potty, reward her for going potty, and then do a training session (sit, down, stay, etc.), until she was paying attention to me and not "upset". Once she was calm, I would just return to the door, not making a big deal about it, call her to "come" and go in, like it was no big deal. Make the lenght of time calm-before-going-inside longer and longer.

This will not happen quickly, and you may have to stay outside for some minutes before she calms down. Also, do not make the mistake of trying to pet her/console her until she is calm, because this is also rewarding the unwanted state of mind (if I am upset, "mom" will pet me).

I hope this helps you. I, too have a very fearful dog and this method has worked well for me.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 3:47PM
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Yup, DH is walking the dog at night from now on!

Our Bina is afraid of the outdoors because she lived her life in a cage in a barn until a year and a half ago. Neighbors outside, birds singing, trucks going by, basketball bouncing in the nex block - you name it, she is afraid of it! She seems more comfortable going out at night, when it is quieter. Plus, Casey (the middle of three dogs) will actually go out just to get her to go out and pee. He doesn't like her whizzing in the hall any more than the rest of us, so has taken the responibility to go out the door ahead of her when she is reluctant to go. I will usually go out too. Her motivation these days are the ripe grape tomatoes. She loves them, and I am using them to treat her after she does her tinkle thing. Vine-ripened, right from the bush! See, there are good things outside, too!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 11:07PM
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There's different advice here being given, and unfortunetly not seeing the dog/dogs it is hard to give correct advice. For example regular conditioning to help builds a dog's confidence for a dog that's just a little nervous some of the answers given here are correct, however on dogs with serious sound phobias that may or may not have a medical reasoning for, the same advice would be incorrect. This is where I like to see people get on board with a certified behaviorist as many of them are educated enough to spot medical verses temperament situations.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 8:28AM
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My dog has never been afraid of being outside in the past. In fact, she used to run away to get to be outside. But, now that we moved and have a big backyard, my dog doesn't want to be out there by herself at all. She shakes and freaks out! She will go pee, and maybe poo if we're lucky, and then she comes right to the sliding glass door to wait to be let in. I don't want her to be an indoor dog except for at night, or in extreme weather. So, how do I get her to stay outside without jumping on the door and whining? Did any of you find any solutions to this problem? I just don't get why my dog is afraid of everything, and why she doesn't want to be outside! Any advice would be greatly appreciated. :)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 4:17PM
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Sorry,Niki, but I think the answer you are going to get from most of us is that your dog does not want to be outside by herself because she is a pack animal and she wants to be inside with her pack - you. We can be a judgemental bunch, so don't take it personally if you get some heat about wanting the dog to be outside all day.

The unfamiliar surroundings in the new home are my best guess about why she does not like being outside. If the yard is a lot larger than the old yard, she could feel insecure - like the yard is not "her" space. Maybe if you leash walk her around the perimeter everyday for a while she will get to know that it is a contained space and that she will not get lost out there without you. Use the yard with her and she may feel better. (Or just let her in where she wants to be....)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 2:13PM
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My black lab Dakota is detecting an odor outside that terrified her. She has lived in this same house since she was a pup. Have never had this problem before. And it doesn't happen every day. Some days she is fine. Other days she will go out and right away stick her nose straight up in the air sniffing. Then she gets visibly afraid. She will go to the back yard as normal, but then will freeze in place and look back to the east, always to the east. She is very scared and heads back to the front door. What could she be smelling?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 4:23PM
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I recently moved my lab/greyhoundish mutt to NYC and have been trying to train her to go outside (we used to have a small yard where she could pee anytime). She is almost 5, she has always been friendly and LOVED going to the park across the street from her former house. Now, there's only trucks and warehouses around and she doesn't resist to go out but she seems nervous and agitated all the time, even interfering with her peeing/pooping mission. She doesn't go inside the house, where I've placed pads in case she really needs to go and I don't know how to help her overcome the panic she feels while being outside. After 10-15 mins she starts pulling towards home and can't seem to think about anything else. She's even stopped saying hi to other dogs and yesterday at the dog park she wouldn't go in and play. Please help!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 9:16AM
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