Anxious Dog Doesn't Like To Go Out? 5 Tips

fearful dogs May 08, 2023

For many fearful dogs, going outside to "do their business" can be a harrowing experience. There might be traffic noises, dogs barking, leaves moving in the wind, rain or snow... the list of potentially scary things outdoors is endless. So it's no wonder that many sensitive pups are reluctant to go out the door. 

Previously I've talked about ways to train your dog to go happily out the door for a walk. Here I give you five suggestions for making an outdoor "potty" outing more attractive to a fearful dog. Combining these two things (training your dog to go outside, and making the outing as pleasant as possible) could be the fastest way to get your dog to go outside to eliminate.  


Outdoor Potty Area Suggestion #1: Fence A Small Area Near The Door

A smaller area can be less intimidating to some dogs, than the whole backyard, or the world outside your front door. There are lots of relatively affordable, portable fencing systems available. We use Ex-Pens or fencing made for children's playpens in our house. Just make sure that your fencing is secure and will contain your dog. 


Outdoor Potty Area Suggestion #2: Provide A Covered Potty Area 

If you have a covered porch or balcony, you already have a good setup for providing your dog with a covered potty area that will keep the rain or snow off of them. You could also consider putting a cover over a small fenced area in your yard. There are fabric and metal covers available for some Ex-Pens, or you might be able to use a tarp to keep the potty area dry and protected from the elements. If you use a tarp cover, do your best to stretch it tightly over the top of the pen, and to secure all loose edges. The tarp flapping on a windy day could convince your dog to never enter that potty area again. 


Outdoor Potty Area Suggestion #3: Provide Visual Barriers Around The Potty Area

Some dogs will be more comfortable in an outdoor potty area if the walls of the area are opaque. This can be achieved by covering the sides of an Ex-Pen with towels or a tarp, for example. Experiment with blocking the line of sight from the potty area to the rest of the yard, or the street, or the neighbor's dogs... whatever your dog seems worried about. For some dogs this makes a big difference in their willingness to go outside. 


Outdoor Potty Area Suggestion #4: Go With Your Dog (Or Give Them Space)

If your dog likes being near you, and is more willing to go outside if you accompany them, then go with them! It can be inconvenient, but maybe not as inconvenient as cleaning up messes inside. 

If your dog isn't comfortable around you or other family members yet, try opening the door and then moving away, even to a different room. For a long time, Pancake wouldn't go out the back door if my husband was standing near it after opening it.  For him, space was key to getting him to go outside. 


Outdoor Potty Area Suggestion #5: Use Treats

There are a few ways that you can use treats to reinforce going outside to eliminate.  You could scatter treats on the ground before you let your dog out, so that they find good things when they get outside. (Be aware this might delay their potty duties however!) And/or, you can provide treats to your dog after they do their business outdoors. 

If these tips helped you get your dog to go outside, or if you have other strategies you find helpful, 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.