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Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Going Outside?

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If you have noticed that your dog is suddenly scared of going outside, then it is essential to find out why this is happening. There could be something that is making your dog feel afraid, and if you can find out what this is, then you might be able to retrain their behavior so that they can get back to enjoying the great outdoors.

Why is my dog suddenly scared of going outside?

Some dogs can experience fear and anxiety when going outdoors, which is particularly normal for dogs that have been through traumatic experiences. This is commonly the case for rescue dogs.

Although, if your dog has always loved going outside up until recently, it is likely that they have been through something recently that has caused this behavior.

In this article, we are going to explain some of the most common reasons why your dog is suddenly scared of going outside, so you can get to the bottom of the problem. You should know that dogs often have strong associations with places, sounds, and sights, and these are some of the most common triggers.

Find out more about this below.

Why Is My Dog Suddenly Scared Of Going Outside?

Many things could explain why your dog is suddenly scared of going outside, and you will need to find out what is causing them to feel this way if you want to solve the problem. It might be that something outside is causing them to feel anxious or that a particular experience has left them shaken.

Either way, your dog should be able to look forward to going out for walks or exploring your backyard, so it is important to focus on helping them feel safe again. The first thing that you will need to do is determine what is causing this fear.

How To Tell What Your Dog Is Scared Of

How to tell what your dog is scared of

It is important to note that not every dog will show that they are feeling scared in the same way. One of the ways in which they will show that they are scared is by flat out refusing to go outside, no matter how much you try to persuade them.

Other dogs might cower low to the ground or tuck their tail in between their legs. Some dogs might even show signs of anxiety or stress by panting heavily or appearing restless.

There are many different ways in which your dog might show that they are scared of something, and being aware of these tells will help you understand when your dog is feeling this way. We will explore some of the most common reasons to explain why your dog is suddenly scared to go outside below.

They Are Sensitive To Noises

One of the reasons that could explain why your dog is suddenly scared of going outside is that they are sensitive to loud noises or things that they haven’t heard before. You should know that dogs hear sounds at a higher frequency range than we do, so something that might sound normal to you could be scary to your dog.

If your dog is suddenly scared to go outside during the night, or they are afraid of your backyard, then there is a high chance that they have been spooked by a sound that they have heard.

This could be various different things, but some of the most common causes of this are loud neighbours, the sound of other dogs barking, construction work, lawnmowers, or random unexpected noises like thunder or fireworks.

Your dog only needs to be spooked by a certain noise once for them to associate going outside with a negative experience. Even if you don’t know exactly what sound is causing their fear, there are some things that you can do to make them feel better.

If you think that loud noise has caused your dog to stop wanting to spend time outdoors, then slowly introducing them to your backyard again is the best thing you can do.

The best method of doing this is through a process called desensitization. This is when you gradually introduce your dog to the backyard instead of forcing them to confront their fears by forcing them to go outside. This will take some time and patience, but it will be worth it in the end.

Traumatic Experiences

Something else that could explain why your dog is suddenly scared of going outside is that they have gone through a traumatic experience. Just like the way they will associate loud noises with fear, dogs can remember their negative experiences.

This could be anything from being stung by a bee in the backyard to encountering something scary.

Sometimes certain people or animals can trigger this response if they have been involved in a traumatic experience, and keeping your dog away from such triggers is a good start. Just like with the first issue, desensitization is one of the best things to do to solve this problem.

So, if your dog has sworn off going for their daily adventure outdoors, you can start by taking them for a quick walk around the block and work your way up from there. Some dogs will even start to calm down after just one walk. Although, others will need a bit more time than this, so it is important to be patient with them.

Make sure that you observe your dog just in case they start to show any signs of great distress, as this will indicate that too much is happening, and you should take them back indoors. You can keep practising this until you show them that there is nothing to be afraid of on their daily walks.

Lack Of Socialization

Socialization is something that is really important for puppies and rescue dogs, as they are not used to seeing the world in a positive light yet. This means they can often feel scared and overwhelmed by the simplest things.

So, when you first get your dog, you should be sure to introduce them to as many different things as possible, including the great outdoors. Take them to new places, and introduce them to new people and dogs.

Exposing them to the word in various ways will help ensure that they don’t often encounter new things that can make them feel anxious or scared. This should be a positive experience that isn’t rushed.

If your dog has not been socialized properly from a young age, then it is possible for them to develop a fear of the outdoors or certain things that occur when they go outside, like meeting new people or seeing other dogs.

A dog can be socialized at any age, but the older they are, the more difficult this experience will be, as they will already have developed their own view of the world.

Not Used To Walking On A Leash

If you have a new dog that is a recur and they are scared to go outside or go for walks, then it could be because they are not used to the experience. Dogs that have not yet been trained to walk on a leash can be intimidated by the experience if they have to learn how to do this when they are older.

It might also be the case that they have already had bad experiences with previous owners while being walked on a leash. It could be that they were pulled too hard or that their previous owner was rough with your dog.

Whatever is causing your dog to not enjoy being walked on the lead, it is important to retrain them so that being walked on a lead becomes a positive and rewarding experience.

If this is something you will try, you will need to take your time. Perhaps you could start with a calm walk around the block. If your dog is particularly struggling with getting used to the lead, then it might be worth getting them a harness instead.

You Have Moved To Somewhere New

If you have moved house or adopted an older dog that is not used to the area, they may be more likely to refuse to go outside. It could be that other dogs have previously been in the backyard or don’t like the change of new surroundings.

Many things can cause your dog to feel scared and anxious when they are brought to an unfamiliar place, and it will take some time for them to get used to their new surroundings.

So, if you have recently moved house, then you might want to try slowly introducing your dog to your new home and environment. This can be a stressful time and experience for your dog, and it is going to take them some time to get used to being in a new place.

It might seem like they are scared of everything, but there are lots of new sounds, sights, and experiences that they are not used to yet.

You should try slowly introducing your dog to new parts of your backyard and neighbourhood, and be sure to try and avoid overwhelming them with new sights, sounds, and smells. Make sure that they feel safe and allow them to mark their territory, and they should start to feel safe if you give them some time to adjust.

Your Dog Is Unwell Or In Pain

If your dog is not feeling very well, has a health condition, or is in pain, they can present a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the issue at hand. It could be something as simple as an upset stomach or an underlying health condition.

If something is wrong with their paw like if they have a splinter, they might be unwilling to walk on it because it causes them pain.

If you notice that your dog is lethargic or not eating or drinking like normal, it might be worth taking them to see a vet for a check-up. Your vet will be able to rule out any serious health issues and find out what the problem is.

It could also be that something outside has hurt them, like if they have been bitten by an insect or stepped on something sharp, as this can make your dog not want to go outside.

Your Dog Is Getting Old

Senior dogs do not have as much energy as younger dogs and puppies, and they go through many mental and physical changes as they grow older.

A senior dog may not want to go outside for various reasons, including finding it difficult to adjust to new surroundings and situations or even that they have negatively associated something with going outdoors.

It can be more difficult for older dogs to adapt to change or to let go of a fear troubling them. This means that it will take more care, time, and attention for them to conquer their fear than it would for younger dogs.

Their fears could also be caused by the ageing process because older dogs can develop blurred or impaired vision, making them even more anxious, especially outside.

Some older dogs can develop canine cognitive dysfunction, which can lead them not fully understand things or remember past experiences. This can make them feel very scared and anxious, and if this is the case for your dog, then they will need a lot more praise and encouragement.

It is important to keep on top of any changes in your dog’s health when they get older, so they can get the extra help they need.

Home Environment

It could also be that there is something at home that is troubling your dog and preventing them from wanting to go outside. It could even be as simple as walking over a slippery floor to get to the door. If your dog doesn’t want to walk over this, then they will likely just avoid it altogether.

The same thing can be said about having to go down steps to get outside. If your dog is intimidated by this, then they might want to avoid going outdoors, so they don’t have to take the stairs.

There are lots of things in your normal daily routine that could be troubling your dog, and you might have to pay extra close attention to find out what they are.

If you can take a different exit to get outside, this might be beneficial for your dog. Otherwise, you will need to combat their fears by slowly getting them to do what they need to do.

This could be making it down one step before running back indoors or managing to get one paw at a time on the laminate flooring.

It is important to try and take things slowly rather than rushing your dog into things they are not ready to do. After some time, you can teach them that what they are afraid of isn’t so scary after all, but be sure to have some treats to hand to give them some extra encouragement.

Thunder And Lightning

Even if your dog is wonderful and acts normal when there is a thunderstorm, and they are snuggled up with you indoors, if they have even been outside during such a time, then they might associate going outside with this experience.

Something as simple as rain can be a trigger for such an experience, which can make your dog not want to go outside at all.

Thunder and lightning can be terrifying for dogs, and they can also over-stimulate them. Even the rain itself can be scary, as some dogs don’t like being outside in heavy rain. Rain during stormy weather is loud, wet, and cold, so you can understand why it might give them an aversion to the outdoors.

The first thing to remember is to avoid letting your dog out during a storm if you can, as something as simple as a few seconds of thunder is enough to traumatise them. If your dog has been left fearing the outdoors after a negative thunderstorm experience, you will need to introduce them to the outdoors again slowly.

Be sure to practice this when the weather is dry and sunny at first, so they can slowly work up to facing their fears.

What Not To Do When Your Dog Is Scared Of Going Outside?

What not to do when your dog is scared of going outside

Most of the reasons your dog fears going outside can be resolved with patience and training. However, you will need to make sure that you are going about this training in the right way if you want your dog to make positive improvements.

You should never force your dog to do something that they are not yet ready to do. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is trying to drag or carry your dog outside.

You will only succeed in getting them outside, but you could also be contributing to even more trauma. Instead, you will need to slowly work your way up to getting your dog to go outside.

You should also never punish your dog during this retraining. After all, your dog is feeling scared and anxious, and shouting at them or providing punishment is only going to make them even more scared.

They won’t even understand what they are being punished for, and it is only going to make the experience even more difficult.

Don’t try to do too much at once. Your dog is facing their fears, but trying to get them to do too much at once is going to make them feel overwhelmed.

You should break up their training over time so they can make little progress at a time. Dogs that are given time to overcome trauma and negative experiences are more likely to recover.

Tips For Getting Your Dog To Not be Scared Of Going Outside

Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to make the experience easier. You can do things like leave a trail of treats leading to the outdoors or put some of your dog’s favorite toys in the backyard.

You could also try giving them small amounts of food in their bowl and slowly move the bowl closer to the door each time until it is eventually outside. They will learn to associate going outside with getting food, which is usually enough to motivate most dogs.

Keep in mind that the whole point of this exercise is to make going outside a positive experience for your dog. So, you could try to make the experience of going outside a fun activity by playing games with them. Try to do some of the things that your dog loves to show them that going outside isn’t so bad after all.


No matter what is causing your dog to be scared of going outside suddenly, you can do many things to help them overcome their fears. You can take a look through our list of reasons why this might be happening and observe your dog’s behavior to find out what is causing them to feel afraid.

Once you are able to find out what is causing their fear, you will be able to start working towards helping them conquer it. You will need to replace any negative associations of going outside with positive ones, and you can do this through gentle training and encouragement.

Hopefully, this will help you get your dog outside on their own.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.