Dog Afraid to Go Outside: How to Help Your Dog Overcome Fear of the Outdoors

dog afraid to go outside

Dogs can be scared to go outside for different reasons. Maybe they had a bad experience, or maybe they’re scared of being alone. Some dogs are afraid of the weather changes we see these days. If your dog is scared, don’t worry! There are things you can do to help them feel better.

One of the common challenges people have is that they don’t know how to make their dogs feel secure when going outside. Dogs might be scared of loud noises or unfamiliar surroundings. They might also be scared of other animals or people. When you’re helping your dog overcome their fear, it’s essential to take things slow and make sure they feel safe.

Caring for a dog inside the home is hard enough, especially if you live in an apartment, but it can be even harder when your dog is afraid to go outside. You might feel like you’re constantly carrying your dog or that you have to keep them on a leash all the time. Trust me. I know how challenging this can be. But don’t worry, there are things you can do to help your dog feel better.

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Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Is Afraid To Go Outside

Understanding the importance of your dog’s fear is the first step in helping them overcome it. Dogs can be scared for a lot of different reasons, so it’s important to try and identify what’s causing their fear. Once you know the reason, you can then start to work on a solution.

Some of the most common reasons dogs are scared to go outside include:

Bad Experiences

Rescue dogs, in particular, may have had bad experiences that make them scared to go outside. If they were abused or neglected, they might be afraid of people or other animals. If they were kept in a small space for a long time, they may be afraid of open spaces. If they were never taken for walks, they might be fearful of new environments.

Fear of the Unknown

Many dogs are afraid of things they can’t see or don’t understand. This is especially true if they’ve never been outside before. If your dog has never been on a walk, they may be scared of the leash or collar. Whenever you take them out, they may be overwhelmed by all the new sights and smells, and while this may sound simple for us humans, dogs take a lot longer to process all of this information. They don’t know what to do or how to react, so it’s no wonder they’re scared.

Fear of Being Alone

Dogs are social creatures, and some of them may be afraid of being left alone. This is especially true if they’re used to having someone with them all the time. If you’ve taken a pup out from their litter, or if they’re accustomed to seeing people around them all the time, they may get scared when they’re left alone. What does this have to with them being scared when going outside? Their anxiety may cause them to refuse to go outside, only making their fear worse.

Fear of Thunder and Lightning

Thunderstorms and lightning, snow, extreme heat or cold – all these things can make dogs scared. Some dogs may associate certain weather conditions with bad experiences, such as being left alone outside in the rain. Dogs also have a much more sensitive sense of smell than we do, so they may be picking up on scents that we can’t even detect. This can cause them to be on high alert, leading to them being scared.

dog afraid to go outside

Solutions for overcoming the fear

It’s important to help your dog overcome their fear of the outdoors because leaving them cooped up inside all the time isn’t good for their mental or physical health. Dogs that are afraid to go outside may become agitated or anxious when they’re near an exit and may refuse to eat or drink if they’re kept indoors for an extended period of time. They may also soil indoors out of anxiety, leading to further problems.

There are a few things you can do to help your dog overcome their fear of the outdoors. Depending on their behavior and what triggers their anxiety, you may need to try different approaches.

Dog Training

Start with basic obedience training to help your dog feel more comfortable and confident outside. If your dog is afraid of being alone, begin by teaching them the “stay” command and working up to leaving them alone for short periods of time. This will help them understand that you will come back and that they can trust you. Slowly, introduce them to new environments and noises outside so they can get used to the sights and sounds of the outdoors.

Rewarding Good Behavior

Whenever your dog does something brave or takes a step outside its comfort zone, make sure to praise them and give them a treat. This positive reinforcement will let them know that they’re doing well and encourage them to keep going. Additionally, make sure to avoid punishing your dog for any bad behavior. This will only make them more anxious and afraid.


If your dog is afraid of certain things outside, like people or other animals, you can try desensitizing them by gradually exposing them to those things in a controlled environment. Start with the thing that scares them the most and have them see it from a distance. As they get used to it, move closer until they’re comfortable with it. You may need to try this multiple times before moving on to the next thing.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is similar to desensitization, but it involves exposing your dog to the things they’re afraid of in a more natural setting. For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs, take them for a walk in a park where there are other dogs around. Let them see that the other dogs are not a threat and that they can ignore them. As they get used to this, you can move closer until they’re comfortable being near other dogs.

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is another approach you can try if your dog is afraid of certain things outside. This involves changing the way you react to the things your dog is afraid of. For example, if your dog is afraid of loud noises, don’t make a big deal out of it when they happen. Remain calm and act like it’s no big deal. This will help your dog understand that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Repeating this behavior will help them get used to the noise, and eventually, they won’t be afraid of it anymore.


If your dog’s fear is severe, you may need to talk to your veterinarian about medication. There are a variety of medications that can help with anxiety and fear, so be sure to speak to your vet about which one is right for your dog. Depending on the medication, it may need to be given on a regular basis or just as needed.

Natural Remedies

There are also some natural remedies you can try if your dog is afraid of the outdoors. One popular remedy is thunder shirts. These are vests that help calm dogs during storms or other loud noises. You can also try aromatherapy or Bach flower remedies. These are all-natural ways to help your dog relax and feel more comfortable in their environment.

dog afraid to go outside

Helping Your Dog Overcome Their Fear With These Easy Strategies You Can Try At Home

If your dog is afraid to go outside, you’re not alone. Many of us have dogs that are hesitant or downright scared to step foot outdoors. There can be a variety of reasons for this fear, but fortunately, there are also many ways we can help our furry friends overcome it. Aside from the solutions above, here are some tips and easy strategies you can try at home.

Make Gradual Changes

Dog training won’t immediately make them less anxious when going outside. If your pup is scared of the outdoors, it will take time, patience, and consistency to help them overcome that fear. Start by making small changes and gradually increasing the amount of time you spend outside. This could mean sitting near the door for a few minutes before taking them on a walk or playing in the backyard for a short while before coming back in.

Create a Routine

Dogs thrive on routine, so establishing one can be really helpful when it comes to overcoming their fear of the outdoors. Try taking them for a walk or playing in the backyard at the same time every day. This will help them associate those activities with positive things and make them less anxious about going outside.

Be Patient

Don’t expect your dog to overcome their fear of the outdoors overnight. Like with most things, it will take time and patience on your part to help them get comfortable outside. Be consistent with your training and make gradual changes so they can slowly but surely learn to enjoy being outside.

Include the Entire Family

If you have kids, involve them in the process of helping your dog overcome their fear of the outdoors. Show them how to be gentle and patient with the dog and have them help out with training. This will not only help your dog feel more comfortable, but this makes an excellent bonding experience for the whole family. However, remember that if the dog becomes agitated, it’s best to remove them from the situation and try again another time. Never let your kids try to force the dog to do something they’re afraid of, and never leave them unattended.

Incorporate Toys with Outdoor Time

If your pup is hesitant to go outside, try incorporating toys and playtime into their outdoor activities. This will help make the experience more fun and positive for them. Bring along a frisbee, ball, or some other favorite toy to make being outdoors more enjoyable. Additionally, make sure to give them lots of praise and treats when they participate in outdoor activities, no matter how long they last.

Seek Professional Help

If your dog’s fear of the outdoors is severe or you’re struggling to help them overcome it on your own, it might be time to seek professional help. Some many qualified trainers and behaviorists can assist you in getting your dog more comfortable with being outdoors.

How will you know if it’s time to seek professional help? If your dog is avoiding going outside altogether, has extreme anxiety or panic attacks when outdoors, or if you’ve tried all of the above and still can’t seem to make a dent in their fear, it’s time to ask for help.

dog afraid to go outside

Final Thoughts

Navigating the world of canine fears, particularly in relation to outdoor environments, encapsulates an empathetic and patient approach from pet owners. It’s entirely possible for dogs to develop apprehensions or fears regarding a plethora of stimuli, with the vast and unpredictable outdoors sometimes being a significant source of anxiety. Your furry friend’s reluctance or outright resistance to stepping paw outdoors might be disheartening, yet it’s vital to remember that beneath that fearful exterior resides a creature teeming with love and a potential zeal for life. Dogs, with their intrinsic affectionate and loyal nature, might only require gentle nudging, consistent assurance, and positive reinforcement to navigate through their fears and eventually, relish the joyous adventures that the outdoor world has to offer.

It’s paramount to underscore the fact that in the journey to aid your dog in overcoming their fears, you are not isolated. A plethora of support and resources is available, from professional dog trainers and behavioral specialists to online forums and communities of fellow pet parents dealing with similar challenges. Employing an amalgamation of patience, consistent training approaches, and perhaps professional guidance, you can transform the outdoor world from a source of fear to a playground of endless exploration and fun for your canine companion. While the journey may be dotted with challenges and setbacks, the eventual reward of seeing your dog embrace the outdoors with unabated enthusiasm and joy is immeasurably gratifying.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I calm my dog when going outside?

Maintain Calmness:

Ensure you are calm and composed to emanate a reassuring presence.

Comforting Interaction:

Use a gentle, soothing voice and provide reassuring pets or touches.

Use of Calming Aids:

Consider using anxiety wraps or vests that provide gentle, constant pressure.

Positive Association:

Reward calm behavior with treats or praise to create positive associations with going outside.

Create a Safe Zone:

Establish a safe and comfortable area outdoors where your dog can retreat if they feel stressed.

Incorporate Familiar Items:

Bring along a favorite toy or blanket to offer a piece of home and comfort while outside.

Short and Positive Experiences:

Keep initial outings brief and enjoyable, gradually increasing duration as your dog becomes more comfortable.

Use Consistent Tools and Routes:

Stick to the same leash, harness, and walking route to offer a sense of familiarity and predictability.

Desensitization Techniques:

Gradually expose your dog to outdoor elements in a non-threatening manner, slowly acclimating them to new stimuli.

Professional Assistance:

Consider seeking help from a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist for tailored strategies and support.

Why is my dog afraid to go outside and pee?

Your dog’s fear of going outside to pee could be attributed to a variety of factors, potentially stemming from psychological or physical elements. Psychologically, a traumatic or startling experience outdoors—such as a loud noise, an encounter with an aggressive animal, or a negative interaction with people—could instill a fear or anxiety related to the external environment. 

Physically, underlying health issues, such as a urinary tract infection or bladder stones, might make urination painful, causing the dog to associate the act of eliminating outdoors with discomfort. 

Additionally, insufficient socialization during puppyhood might render the outdoors and its myriad of stimuli—like traffic noise, unfamiliar scents, and strange people or animals—overwhelming and intimidating. 

Furthermore, changes in the environment, such as moving to a new location, alteration in the household dynamics, or even weather changes, might disrupt a dog’s routine and comfortability, rendering them hesitant to engage in previously normal activities like going outside to pee.

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