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Canine Behavior/Newfoundland doesn't like going places


Hi - We have an almost two-year-old Newfoundland female who is fearful of any new place, or perhaps of going for walks. When we drive to a new place to go for a walk, such as a park, she'll seem excited on the way, and she'll get out of the car - but that's where the excitement ends. She won't let the car out of her sight, which leads to some very short walks! I don't want to show my frustration because she seems to get quite anxious, so I let her lead me back to the car, and tell her she's a good dog. Then we come home. And it's not even a 'new place' issue: going around the block with her is a challenge sometimes. About 33% of the time, we'll get a few houses away, and then she'll sit and refuse to go further, even though she went successfully around the block the day before. The only way she'll move is if I turn around to go home. One way to almost always get her to go is to bring my 10 year old daughter with me: when the dog is getting balky, I'll have my daughter run in front of us, and then the dog seems compelled to follow. But I can't always bring my daughter. Bringing my husband along also works. We've had dogs all our lives, but this is our first Newfie. Everything I've read online indicates that Newfs should be great walking companions. She is in good health. I don't think the breeder we used could be called 'reputable', for various reasons, so I'm wondering if our dog could have experienced something frightening before we got her (at 8 weeks)? When my husband tries to walk her around the block,she will also stop, but he will yank on her choke collar and she will generally keep going. I am only successful doing this some of the time (my yank is not as strong as his), and then sometimes she'll continue without a problem, and sometimes she'll stop. When we got her, I wanted a dog to go walking with. This is not that dog. We would never give her up, but I'm considering getting a second dog just for walks. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you for your time.

NO SECOND DOG.  Fear is contagious and you will be multiplying your problems by one thousand.

TAKE OFF THE CHOKER COLLAR AND PUT IT IN THE GARBAGE.  If something frightened you on a walk, and I hit you with a stick to force your forward, wouldn't your fear then become even greater and your trust in me become less?  Of course it would, and you are Human with a great deal more cognition than a dog!

This is a large dog.  When she stops, she stops, period. Take her and fit her with a Halti (head collar).  Train her to wear it in the following manner and use a DIFFERENT lightweight leash for the head collar; DO NOT LEAD HER BY THE NOSE as you would a horse.

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As you put it on at home, feed the dog tiny bits of cheese or chicken frank.  Repeat this several times a day over the course of a few days until the dog anticipates the head collar and reward, then take the dog outdoors with TWO leashes: one on the dog’s  martingale collar and one for the HEAD COLLAR separately.  Keep your left hand lightly at the middle of the head collar leash while holding both in your right hand.  DO NOT LEAD THE DOG BY THE HEAD COLLAR, this is frightening to a dog and can harm the dog physiologically.  Go into your yard and do some exercises with the dog: walk in wide circle, then abruptly walk in a circle in the other direction.  Each time you plan to change direction, say, "Come along" and use the head collar GENTLY to turn the dog's head in the new direction, then pop a treat into the dog’s  mouth the moment the dog turns.  Keep walking in circles for a few minutes with the "come along" phrase and the reward when the dog follows the head collar in the new direction.  Then pretend there is a large, long ladder in front of you on the ground (or, if you have one, put it down.)  Walk in a zig zag pattern as if you are passing through the rungs of the ladder, weaving in and out; at the "end" of the "ladder", turn back with your "come along", GENTLY using the head collar, and treat, then zig zag back.  Then begin walking straight lines, occasionally doing an about face with "come along" and treat.  As dogs perform complex behaviors, their cognition increases (there is a change in brain wave patterns); the dog will not be afraid, the dog will be attentive and LEARNING.  When you are finished with this approximately 15 to 30 minute exercise, go in the house, praise the dog, take off the head collar.

ALWAYS use the come along signal when the dog is wearing the head collar and NEVER use it to force the dog into another direction.  If your dog lunges, attempts to pull, or demonstrates any problem behavior on a normal walk, use the come along command, gently turn the dog’s head with the head collar, walk in the opposite direction for a few paces, circle left or right, reward the dog (with tiny food treat) when the dog is obviously and freely following you (rather than attempting to reproduce the unwanted behavior) then go back in the original direction. Eventually the dog will respond to the come along signal and the head collar will no longer be used and can ultimately be removed.
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Take her for a short drive a few times a week (two blocks, maybe even one at first, lengthening as she begins to respond).  Get her attention as seen here (teach it first at home where she is comfortable):

Once the dog is responding to this, you can use it to "wait out" her panic attacks on walks.  If she panics, sits, refuses to move, (and she's wearing the Halti), turn your back on her and just stand there.  Do nothing.  The dog will have to begin to THINK through your new reaction.  She will, eventually, come to you and then you will reward "attention" and guide her, gently, using the head collar, in a large circle left, right, stop, ask for "sit".  Go forward.  Every single time she balks or refuses to go further, this is what you must do.  This is counter conditioning: whatever caused this we will never know but you are absolutely contributing to it and so is your husband by using a punitive method to force her forward while she is in a full blown fight/flight response.  Pain training doesn't work; brain training does.

Within several weeks, you will see a change in this dog.  Use a martingale collar for the primary leash, a strong one, you can find one here:

The restraint of a Martingale is more natural to the dog culture and does not hurt.  It is also impossible for a dog fitted correctly with one to slip out of the collar.  The second leash, used for the Halti, must be very lightweight and held slack unless you need to gently lead her in circles.

While you are leading her in circles, use an upbeat, very happy tone of voice "Come along, oh look how much fun we're having, very good, come along".  Never show displeasure, anger, frustration.  Bring Tic Tacs with you: the dog can smell adrenaline on your breath and knows you are stressed.  There is no need for anxiety or stress here for you: the dog is not aggressive, she is fearful.  This is most likely an inherited behavioral tendency but it might also have been created in one second at a time you cannot remember and do not understand.

Patience; careful counter conditioning; an upbeat and calm attitude, reward for attention, reward for "sit" after circling, and a general HAPPY ATTITUDE by you and your husband while walking her, will, over time, extinguish this problem.  Or, at least, minimize it.

If you see that within two months of your efforts the dog is worsening or not getting better, you will need eyes on by a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (NOT a dog trainer!!!)  You might find one in your area from the following lists:

I have worked with a few Newfies who had "superstitious behavior" (this means, you try to teach the dog something but in the process of teaching the dog learns something else that you do not want).  The Halti, used correctly, proper counter conditioning, compassionate training, rehabilitated each one.  This is a wonderful breed.  Her breeder may not be so wonderful, but she is yours now and you can, you will, fix this.

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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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