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Canine Behavior/dog terrified of the outdoors


We have a 1 1/2 year old beagle mix rescue (mixed possibly with hound...she was 10 weeks when we got her).  She has always been skittish, especially with thunder, lightening and fireworks (shakes uncontrollably, tries to hide).  Her fear of noises is getting worse and worse, to the point that we are having terrible difficulty taking her for even the shortest walks to pee/poop and she is hiding at night and doing it in the house when we are sleeping.  If we manage to get her off the front step, and she hears anything--a car door, the garbage truck, a motorcycle in the distance, the wind blowing, etc.--she freaks out and pulls so hard she chokes herself (and almost pulls our arm off).  It has gotten so impossible that we oftentimes can't get her out or she will just pee on the corner in front of our house and run back in the house.  We have tried the thunder shirt, the calming scented collars, treats, distractions, etc. and nothing seems to help.  I did see if I could recreate her fear of motorcycle noises on my computer, and she didn't even flinch.  It's outside, real sounds, absolute terror.  Thinking about what has ever happened, we did have a bad storm about a year ago.  While my husband was walking her, a bolt of very loud lightening struck not far from them.  She freaked, but then seemed to get over it.  Only recently has her fear exacerbated to the point it is at today.  Otherwise, she is the sweetest, friendliest, most loving dog and we just want to be able to help her get over this extreme fear of noises.  As an aside, she does love the dog park, and will sometimes walk around our neighborhood when all of our neighbors are walking their dogs because she loves to be around a lot of people and other dogs.  We would appreciate any help you could give us!

Your dog appears to have no fear of anything when surrounded by confident dogs (i.e., dog park).  I suggest your first step be a VETERINARY BEHAVIORIST.  You will then require a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) who will assess the dog, observe the behavior, have access to the Vet Behaviorist's analysis (and possible medication: AVOID SSRIs - doggie prozac).

You can find a Veterinary behaviorist by calling the veterinary college in your area or:

You can find a CAAB either by referral (as suggested above) or:

Giving a dog treats while the dog is in fight/flight is rewarding her response, there is no cognition in a fight/flight response; attempting to console her in any manner is also rewarding the fight/flight response.  I think a short term medication, coupled with two or three visits from a CAAB, should set this dog straight once again.  I can't see anything from here.

Do not allow her free run of the house right now; confine her to the kitchen with strong baby gate (you can buy them cheaply at Walmart), even one on top of the other (spring loaded) if necessary.  FEED HER on any spot in the kitchen she chooses to eliminate (and she will try various spots).  Being at loose in the house is, right now, far too much responsibility for this fearful dog.  There might be a physiological cause for this fear, that's why you need to start with the Veterinary behaviorist.  I wish I could be of more assistance but without seeing the dog all I can do is point you in the right direction.  This is a very young dog; she requires immediate and expert assistance.  The cost notwithstanding, it will be well worth the expense AND the work involved.

PS:  IF SHE EXHIBITS THIS BEHAVIOR INDOORS IN YOUR SIGHT, get her leash; attach it to her harness (do not use a collar); sit.  Say nothing; no eye contact, do not address her by name, call her "dog" to one another.  When she is calm (IF she calms), ask for "sit", unhook leash, behave normally.  The leash is not only a physical restraint: it is also emotional and psychological.  Often dogs with serious problems such as persistent circling, etc., respond well to indoor leash restraint.  NOW:  she will anticipate that the leash means she is going "out" into the "world" where she is terrified.  THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN.  She's young so response perseverance (continuing to see the leash as the portal to terror) should not be a problem.  You will be counter conditioning her 1. to the leash restraint; 2. to what happens when her fight/flight response kicks in; 3. to what YOU DO when her fight/flight response kicks in.  God bless.

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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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