My 13 month old dog is petrified when outside his home environment. He walks fearfully along, & as soon as we turn to return home, he pulls ahead trying to get back as quickly as he can. He is full of confidence at home, with people & other dogs. He was adopted from the pound at 5 mths so missed out on socialisation at an important time. I socialised him a lot, and he did get a lot better, but seems to have become much worse over the last few months. His sister who has been adopted by someone else is the same, although not as bad. They are both much more fearful outside than normal dogs. I have tried taking it very slowly, creating positive experiences when he is out with treats & pats, adaptil collar & thundershirts. Any suggestions as to what else I can do would be appreciated.

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    Expose him but in a much more controlled environment, I want to think that taking him out over and over again to the place he fears won't be of good use. Take him outside but instead of being on the streets take him to your yard, its much more controlled and he will still feel at home. Introduce some new factors (new people, new noises, etc) and don't move on to the next one til the pup gets used to the current added factor. It's going to be a slow process
    – Just Do It
    Oct 13 '15 at 14:45
  • Thank you very much for your suggestions. He is fine in his own house/yard & car, anywhere else he is nervous
    – user5933
    Oct 14 '15 at 1:32
  • A dog training class can help you to bond with your dog, better understand him, and also help him build up confidence. Once he knows a command, work with him outside in the yard, and then out on your walk, and then someplace new. Make it fun, be happy, but don't exhaust the dog, because they can become tired of training.

  • Doggie daycare can be quite affordable and help your dog with socialization. Because you won't be there, this is a good way to weed out if it's actually you or your attitude that's creating the fearfulness.

  • Try to connect with other dog trainers or dog clubs in your area so that you can get specific tips on how to help your dog

  • Structured walks. Keep walking, and try to create a route that includes less new scenery - perhaps a shorter distance with multiple laps, and try to make that a routine, going at the same time every day, stopping at the same places, going the same way. Be calm and unconcerned with your dog's behavior, and consistently hold an attitude that you know exactly where you're doing and where you're going and everything's just fine. This is basically called a "structured walk". I am not sure how you are walking now, but try these tips to refine what you have already.

I'm sure there are more things that you can do but these are my main thoughts

  • Thanks so much for your suggestions. Unfortunately, he is too scared outside the home at this stage, to be able to attend dog training. Luckily I foster dogs, so have been able to keep up his socialisation at home. He loves other dogs :) Will definitely try the structured walks. Thank you
    – user5933
    Oct 14 '15 at 1:40

What kind of home is he in? House? apartment? Is there a yard? Fence? Is he OK in the yard?

If your space allows for it, just sitting outside the boundaries and extending the boundaries a little each day might also help. It will give him time to fully explore the new area while having the reassurance of you being there. This is a step back from the "structured walk" rlb.usa suggested.

Also, what is your demeanor like on these walks? I know that can be really hard to assess but you want to have a confident, relaxed demeanor all about yourself. If you are hurried, anxious, worried or even overly concerned for your dog he can pick up on that and misapply your negative energy to being outside his boundaries. In his mind you are alpha and if the alpha is worried about something then he needs to be worried about something even if he can't tell what that something is.

That's why I suggest just sitting outside his boundaries. You set aside time to sit, be relaxed and confident and he will move back and forth from you as he explores.

  • Thank you very much for your suggestions. We are in a house with a fenced yard. He is confident in his own house, yard & car. Anywhere else he is petrified. I keep a calm demeanor on walks, tho it can be difficult when he pulls when we turn to head back home. I am unsure what to do when he does this, as as it is because he is scared & trying to get back to home/car where he feels safe, I wouldn't think correcting him would be the right thing to do, as he wouldn't learn anything whilst in a state of panic? But letting him pull me home, wouldn't be right either?
    – user5933
    Oct 14 '15 at 1:30
  • We only go for very short walks at the moment, as I have been trying to gradually build up his confidence. He did improve a lot, but seems to have gone backwards again, I don't know why. I have tried the sitting outside the boundaries before, so maybe I should return to this & start at the beginning, & then hopefully move on to the structured walk? Thank you
    – user5933
    Oct 14 '15 at 1:31
  • It sounds like you have a good handle on what to do. It's down to the details. Try to put yourself in his head, see as he sees and hear as he hears. In the book "Animals in Translation" the author talks about getting down on all fours to see what cows are seeing. That allowed her to see the flash of light that was spooking them. Oct 14 '15 at 3:01
  • When he turns to go home, all I can suggest is to kneel down, give him a big reassuring hug, hold him there a few moments and then go home. See if you can get him to calm a bit before you return. You're right, though, "correction" can't serve any purpose in this case. This is about confidence, not behavior. Oct 14 '15 at 3:01

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