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Canine Behavior/My dog is afraid of the outside world



I have a 2 1/2 year old Jack Russell Terrier/Chihuahua mix. From the time she was a puppy she was afraid of anything that created wind. The A/C, the ceiling fan, a space heater, the outside wind, just air movement in general. As she got older she got better about inside air movement but not about outside air movement. That's not my real concern, but I wonder if that plays into the problems I have now.

She's currently afraid to go outside day or night. When she does go outside, reluctantly, she sits at the back door and just shakes and she looks like she's on high alert and every little movement from a tree or our other dog makes it worse. At night I have to walk out with her or she won't go to the bathroom.

In the afternoon and evenings I'll open the blinds to let some light in and she will lay on the bed in my room and watch everything going on outside and shake the entire time. She always wants to see it but is afraid of whatever is out there at the same time. She'll even start growling when a person or dog walks by. However, the minute I have her outside and around other people and dogs she's perfectly content...but only if I'm out with her.

She's never been aggressive towards other animals or people. She's been afraid of other dogs since she was a pup. I took her to training classes and she stayed in the corner most of the time and would just watch everyone in that same high alert phase she has when she's put outside. I've walked her around pet stores and parks to expose her to people and animals and I think it helped her somewhat with dogs. She's weird with people though. At the vet she gets so happy she pee's a little bit every.single.time. At the pet store she's more skittish. When she's at home she's thoroughly excited by visitors and will sit perfectly and look like a relaxed sit, not a high alert sit, when I answer the door for the UPS guy or the pizza guy.

I would really like to know what I can do to help her. I'm fairly certain I've somehow helped exacerbate the problem without realizing it and would like to fix whatever that might be. Do you have any advice to help me, help my dog, be OK outside by herself?

Peeing "a little bit" is not a sign of happiness, this is submissive urination, a sign of high anxiety.

This dog needs to see a veterinary behaviorist.  Some fear is inherited but the type of high sensitivity to stimuli that you describe might be neurological or of biologic origin.  First stop, veterinary behaviorist:

How much of this fear is "nature", how much "nurture", how much acquired is not something I can determine without a very complete overview of the dog's life.  I am willing to help you but I want to see what a veterinary behaviorist recommends.  After complete exam (and this won't be cheap and will include full blood chemistry, stool and urine analysis, baseline neurological exam, opthalmological and auditory testing, etc.) re-post with results (including any medications the dog has been given, and I think she will be given medication of some sort) using followup feature (so I can see original question/answer).  When you re-post give a full account of this dog's life: when you acquired her, from where, under what circumstances, how old she was, how many litter mates there were, if you ever saw the dam (mother), what training you've done and how old the dog was when you began it, what sort of counter conditioning you've attempted: in other words, everything you can think of that can help me assess the problem.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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