You are here:

Canine Behavior/Dog afraid to go out of house/backyard


We recently rescued a 9 month - 12 month old pointer/dalmation (they think).  He was found at a dump with severe neck wounds from being chained up for quite a while.  We took him to a vet to have surgery and fixed.  He is a great dog considering what he has been through (oh, he has some bb's in him - near one of his eyes, leg and rib/belly section.  There are a couple of issues with him going outside.  He goes through our doggy doors, but will not go out into the backyard to go potty.  He goes through the one doggy door to patio and has just a couple of times gone to the backyard to potty, but will not go any more.  He had been going on walks, but last night when he came out of our garage there was someone down the street talking and he hurried back into the house.  Now he will not come out to go potty. He has been skidish with noises (which is understandable) but now he will not go out front or back.  He will go through the door from the house to the garage (sometimes) and then he comes back in or if the door is closed just sits at the door.  I imagine he has issues but we don't know what to do.  We have had him about 2 weeks.  He has a harness on because of the neck issues - it is completely healed and he will try and back out of the harness.  I just don't know what to do.  We have 3 other dogs and we even had them go outside and he won't go.  He will go into the garage to get in the car in the morning, but does not want to go out front or back.  He comes to work and there is a doggy door, but he will only go out if I put him on the leash to go out (not always).  Please help as I just don't know what to do!  The worst just happened last night.  I tried to give him treats but he only goes a few steps forward and then back to the door. Thanks!

Since the dog will get into the car willingly, you must use this ploy to get him to "go outdoors" to "eliminate" (four times daily) no matter how much of an inconvenience it is.  The doggy door is too threatening: what lurks behind it?  For this dog, a strong conditioned fear response (the equivalent of complex PTSD in a Human) makes venturing out alone impossible, no matter how badly he needs to eliminate.  He cannot go out without you.  He will not go out any door (apparently) and thus: the car ride (even down the block, walk around casually, praise every elimination, put him back in the car, go back into the garage.)

A dog under severe stress/anxiety will not "bait": this means the dog will not accept food.  The fight/flight/freeze response takes over (just as in Human PTSD), there is no cognition (mentation in Human parlance), there is no choice.  Do not replace the harness for any reason.  This dog will be most likely permanently rendered helpless with any collar restraint.

I suggest you find a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB) who can help you during this EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TIME PERIOD where he is attempting to find his "place" and unable to fight his "PTSD".  I think such an individual (a CAAB, NOT A DOG TRAINER) will be able to perceive the true problem quite easily and suggest various methods of training and counter conditioning that I cannot do from here because I cannot see anything from here.

You can find a CAAB at one of the following sites:

The "trick" involved in counter conditioning is to give the dog a 100% happy and relaxed experience outdoors, avoiding the stimuli that "warn" him and put him into instant fight/flight/freeze mode.  While it can be difficult, it can also be done, and sometimes quite quickly.  Your other dogs seem fine, secure, and this dog has only been with you for two very short weeks so he has yet to find his "place" among your other dogs.  Normally, a fearful dog surrounded by confident dogs will help the fearful dog.  Sometimes, it works the other way.  I strongly urge you find a CAAB.

Canine Behavior

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]