My Dog Is Scared to Go Outside: What to Do

Recognizing that a dog is afraid of the street is a more complex task than it seems at first glance. Here are the keys to help you.
My Dog Is Scared to Go Outside: What to Do

Last update: 25 May, 2021

When a dog is scared to go outside, this feeling can manifest itself in ways that aren’t always obvious. It’s important to know how to recognize it and act accordingly so that the walk doesn’t become a source of distress for the animal.

In the following lines, you will find the keys to identify this type of fear and some tips for your canine companion to overcome the situation. If you’re reading this because you suspect that your dog could be suffering from this, then read on.

Fear of going outside: how to recognize it

It is easy to recognize fear in a dog: their tail between their legs, whining, shaking, barking and running are some of the signs that indicate it. In any case, when going outside, there can be so many stimuli that terrify a dog that the displays of fear tend to lean more towards the side of anxiety and nervousness. Some of them are the following:

  • Constant barking at people, other dogs, or even inanimate objects, such as cars.
  • Constant pulling on the leash or attempts to escape.
  • Staying still and not wanting to move forward.
  • Nerves and rejection when putting the dog on the harness or leash.
  • Sniffing everything in its path without lifting your head.
How to detect if your dog is afraid to go outside?

Reasons why a dog may be afraid of going outside

First of all, it’s important to emphasize that each dog has its own personality. This may seem very obvious, but keep in mind that this means that the manifestations of this fear can vary from one dog to another.

Therefore, before taking the following lines at face value, you should consider how they could fit into your dog’s personality. Here are some of the reasons why your dog might be scared to go outside.

  • A bad experience: Events that are insignificant to you – such as a fight with another dog or getting lost – can trigger an anxiety response in a dog. Try to remember if something has happened that may have caused this fear.
  • Poor socialization: Dogs that haven’t been able to socialize properly may develop a fear of going out, due to problems that appear with other dogs, such as fighting.
  • Poor adaptation to the environment: if it’s a puppy or an animal that has just arrived at your home, the large number of stimuli that arrive at the same time may overwhelm it. A particularly sensitive dog could develop agoraphobia as a result of a poor adaptation.
  • Specific causes: an illness, and very cold or very hot days are examples of why the dog may not want to leave the house. This does not necessarily mean that it’s afraid, but this is something to rule out before diagnosing a psychological cause.

What to do if your dog is scared to go outside?

As always, the first thing you should do is consult an expert to make any diagnosis. If you decide to help the dog on your own, here are a few tips to help you. However, if it’s a serious case or you don’t feel capable, then there’s no harm in asking for help.

The essential thing here is to become a good example for your dog when it comes to walking. Behave naturally when the stimuli that frighten the dog appear and you’ll set an example for them. Don’t reward or punish its fear either, as it’s an animal that’s free to show its emotions and it’s best to let them run their course.

Avoid comforting them, even if it’s intuitive. Doing so implies that there was indeed something to be concerned about.

The systematic desensitization technique is very useful in these cases: it’s about creating a progressive approach to the aversive stimulus, so that the dog gradually loses its fear. In order to do this, you may have to find a place where your canine companion isn’t afraid and give them a few days of calm.

Something that also works well is to divert attention from the stimulus that is scaring the dog. However, try to do it in as neutral a way as possible, as it can easily be misinterpreted as a reward for escape behavior.

A happy dog during the walk.

Patience is the key to education

Be patient. As a good sentient being, you know what it feels like to be really scared. Overcoming fears requires a process full of ups and downs that you have to go through.

In addition, you’ll create a very special bond of security and support with your dog. We all need a friend when things go wrong.

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Dog Walking Regulations in Your Area
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  • Eric Rodríguez. (2019). Adiestra en positivo: Guía completa para educar a tu perro desde cero. Vergara Ediciones
  • Roa, A. B., Espinosa, J. A. L., González, C. G., García, K. J., Barreto, J. A. U. L., Pena, H. Z. P., & Pérez, O. E. P. (2016). Problemas comportamentales asociados a miedos y fobias en caninos y felinos. Revista CENderos, 37.