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Canine Behavior/Great Dane suddenly terrified of going outside


I have a 11 month old Great Dane who is terrified of going outside. He has always been a little on the timid side but almost over night he has become terrified. Yesterday morning when we were on a walk, he was startled by some construction noises down the street. Now, 2 days latter he still seems terrified. We live on the third floor so I practically have to drag him outside. I've tried treats, taking a different route and nothing seems to work. I'm at a loss for what to do next. I obviously can't just carry him outside but I'm afraid I'm making it worse by forcing him. Once I get him outside he immediately does his business and then will not walk any farther. Tonight he threw up his dinner almost immediately after he ate. I'm not sure if he is so stressed out he is getting sick or if there could be another issue. All his other behavior seems normal. He has not had any accidents but he seems like he is holding it too long to avoid going outside.

Thanks you so much for any help! I hate seeing my boy so upset!

Strongly acquired conditioned fear response in a breed which is known for its courage, suggests temperament flaw (breeding problem).  At least the dog is not urinating indoors.  You're correct: dragging him outside is not the best approach but, in this case, you can't carry him, and he MUST go out at least (minimally) twice daily (morning, early night).

There might be another issue: vomiting his dinner could be his fear of what comes next (if you routinely take him OUT after dinner) or could be a sign of illness.  First stop: veterinary behaviorist.  Dog needs total evaluation and then, perhaps, some short term medication (if no biologic cause is found).  At this age, low level seizure disorders can appear and are quite hard to diagnose, orthopedic issues, your own fear and anxiety contributing (naturally, who can blame you!)  Either call the veterinary college in your geographical area or look for a veterinary behaviorist at the following sites:

This is a very large dog that can easily drag you anywhere he wishes so I suggest you fit him for a padded, well and safely constructed body harness (they can be purchased online, most supply sites will have measurements).  In this manner, you can resist be dragged without choking him (furthering his fear).  Until you are able to see a specialist, do not attempt to "lure" him with food (even sirloin steak!) since a dog in a fight/flight/freeze situation will RARELY "bait" (accept food) and the offer of reward could (even slightly) reward his condition.  Instead: stop and wait.  Of course you must set aside quite a bit of time for the first few walks.  If he stops on the way out, you stop; stand, do nothing, no eye contact, simply become a statue.  The moment he LOOKS at you (engages you fully), in that moment cognition has returned, have a five second "party", take a few more feet forward, expect him to freeze, repeat as often as you have to until he is outdoors.  Once outdoors he WILL "do his business" because he must and then he will attempt to force you "back" from whence you came.  He's wearing a harness; you can resist without harming him.  Stand still, turn your back, wait for him to CHOOSE to solicit your attention, reward calmly and pop a high value treat into his mouth (small stinky cheese bit), take another step.  Do not allow yourself to be dragged.  All of this will help the dog to see: you are calm; you are in control; he cannot "force" you; he must "pay attention" to you; to get where he wants to go, he must give that "attention" to you.  This is counter conditioning.  It's only been three days but you're freaked out also and the dog SEES this by scent and reading your body language.

If you are secure and serene (pop a Tic Tac into your mouth to mask the adrenaline) and consult a specialist to rule out physiological causes and perhaps introduce short term medication, it may take weeks for the dog to lose his fight/flight/freeze response or days, hard to predict, can't see anything from here.  But don't panic.  This can be fixed.  Use followup feature to further advise.

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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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