Dog Scared Of Moving Around The House? 3 Ways To Encourage Exploration

Apr 10, 2023

If you have a pup who is afraid to move around the house, and instead mostly stays in their "safe zone", you might be wondering how to encourage them to start exploring a bit more.  Here I give three tips for encouraging your dog to move around the house. 

(If you're in a situation where you really NEED your dog to move somewhere, check out this blog on moving dogs without force.)


Tip #1: Don't Make A Big Deal Of It

If you see your dog venturing into a room they've never been in before, you'll probably be excited about it! And many of us naturally want to praise our fearful dogs for their bravery. "Look at you! So brave, coming into the living room! What a good boy!"  

Unfortunately, many of our fearful pups will find this kind of attention punishing rather than reinforcing, and will head right on back to their safe spaces where no one is looking at them or talking to them. So, unless you know your pup loves this kind of attention and praise, play it cool. Continue whatever you were doing when your dog enters the room, and avoid looking at them or talking with them. If you want to do something to reinforce the exploration, see tip #3 below. 


Tip #2: Keep Their Escape Route Open

Never close off your dog's route back to their safe space. There is a misguided notion that preventing a fearful dog from retreating or hiding is necessary for them to learn to interact with the world. In fact, not allowing a dog to retreat or hide when they need to can make them more fearful, and much less likely to be willing to explore in the future. 

Even if you don't purposely close off your dog's return route to their safe space, it can happen if other pets block the way, if another family member walks by the safe space entrance, or if a baby gate swings shut on its own. Take measures to prevent these things from happening while your dog is out and about. 


Tip #3: Make Sure Good Things Happen When Your Dog Explores

If you want your dog to come out and explore again, brainstorm ways to make sure that they experience good things while they're out in the house. Scattering treats on the floor is an easy option. Ideally, do this before your dog comes out of their safe space, so that the motion and sound of you tossing the treats onto the floor doesn't scare them.

If your dog IS comfortable with you tossing treats to them, you can do this repeatedly while they choose to be out of their safe space. 


If you found these suggestions helpful, or if you've tried different strategies for encouraging exploration that worked for your dog, we'd like to hear from you! You can comment below this blog, shoot us an email ([email protected]), or message us on Facebook or Instagram.