Fear of the Outdoors

Dogs that are fearful outside will often walk with a lowered body, hug the sides of buildings, dart back and forth or pull strongly on their leash. They may startle at noises, tremble, refuse to walk or pant excessively. They often won’t eat treats or respond to known cues such as “sit.” Some dogs may be so fearful outside that they resist going for walks altogether. These are all signs that your dog needs your help! 

Here are some tips to help with fear of the outdoors:

  • Walk your dog during times when there is less likely to be a lot of noise outside. This may mean taking walks in the early morning or later at night.
  • Stay close to home. This may mean not leaving the area outside your front door or exploring a little further.
  • Be patient! Overcoming fear can take time and it is important to go at your dog’s pace. 
  • Pair walks, especially outings to unfamiliar places, with extra yummy treats to help your dog learn that being outside isn’t so scary. Before you head out with your dog, prepare lots of pea-sized pieces of their favorite treat. 
  • Avoid putting your dog into situations that they are not ready for—too much too soon can make things worse. Newly adopted dogs probably aren’t ready for brunch with your friends or outings to busy parks just yet. 
  • Monitor your dog’s body language. If they begin displaying signs of distress such as refusal to eat their favorite food, trembling, whining, excessive panting or frantic behavior, take them back home.
  • If you live on a busy or loud street and have access to a vehicle, consider driving your dog to a quieter location such as a park and taking long walks in this area. You may find that your dog is much more relaxed in a quieter neighborhood. 
  • Some dogs gain confidence in the presence of another dog. Consider recruiting a friend or neighbor with a calm, social dog to help.
  • Offer to play with a favorite toy. Playing games can help dogs relax and have fun!
  • For dogs who display fearful behavior such as running away or hiding when you pick up their leash or put on their harness, you can help them overcome these fears by pairing the picking up of these items with treats. Do this several times a day when you do not plan on taking a walk. Over time, your dog should feel better about seeing the leash.
  • Never pull your dog if they refuse to walk. If your dog becomes afraid and refuses to walk, take them back to where they are more comfortable. 

If your dog exhibits signs of severe fear, anxiety or stress when outside, we recommend working with a certified behavior professional.

Still have questions? We are here to help!

Contact our Behavior Specialists at [email protected] or (212) 876-7700 x4191

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