You are here:

Dog Training/Fear of being outside near apt


I adopted my dog about 5 months ago. She was about a year or two at the time. She has always be shy, submissive and fearful, but after a few months she really was starting to open up.

We were in central park in july when she got hit by a slow moving bicycle while off leash. She is physically ok but now very fearful of going outdoors. We used to go the park for 2 hours each morning and run around and chase squirrels.

Now she has little interest in going outside. I can only get her out if a friend holds the lease and i walk a bit ahead. Sometime alone we get around the block but she most sits in the bldg lobby and right on the street outside.

I have taken her on trips out of NYC and she has been fine and happy.

She also now is more fearful of new people and has taken to barking at some, clearly out of fear.

Any suggestions?

Hello Deb:

When dealing with any Fears, your attitude is key.
You need to remain clam and cool, do not try to sooth your dog using gentle soft voice, a in some cases this can be interrupted by the dog as a reward for being fearful.

The basic start point for dealing with fears is to start slowly and work into upto the flight point.

Distract Your Dog:
This method works best when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Get his attention and distract him from behaving fearfully. Play with him fetch or practice some commands that he knows. Give him a lot of praise and treats for paying attention to you. If you can’t keep his attention and he begins acting afraid, stop the process. If you continue, you may inadvertently reinforce his fearful behaviour.

Medications :
Alternative therapies with Bach-Flower-Essences have been used with success. ‘Rescue Remedy’ takes effect within an hour of administration, and should be given before the fear-producing situation.
Try to behave normally, as if you don’t notice his fearfulness!

BAT Training and counter Conditioning are the most common methods for dealing with Fear and/or Aggression, so below you will find the guidelines on working BAT.

Here is the BAT protocol for aggression or fear in its simplest form.
1.   Expose: Start sub-threshold and remain below the dog’s threshold as you increase stimulus intensity a little (e.g. student dog moves closer to stooge (a.k.a. helper/decoy/actor), stooge moves closer, or both). If dog is getting worse instead of better, abort.
2.   Wait for or manufacture acceptable alternative behaviour in a non-aversive way. Be sure to take very small behaviours, like blinks or head turns. Waiting is preferred, whenever possible.
3.   Mark using a verbal Yes or a clicker.
4.   Functional Reward: Decrease stimulus intensity (but not to zero). ex. Student gets to walk 20 feet away, but stooge remains in view.
5.   (optional) Give a treat or toy as a Bonus Reward (best to use on Walks, not usually necessary or desired for set-ups).
This need not be a big, long set-up. It can just be a single repetition, in the middle of doing something else, like TTouch ground work or passing by a gardener in front of her home. Whenever the dog is in a slightly stressful situation and they do a nice appropriate signal (instead of aggression) you could mark with “Yes” and retreat with them as the reward. What’s very cool about BAT for reactivity is that the dog starts to actually become friendly to the decoy, even though all they wanted, at the beginning, was more distance. It’s as if they now have the locus of control and the world makes sense again. Their peaceful choices are controlling their environment, and having an internal Locus of Control feels good!
Unlike counter-conditioning, which assumes that emotions drive behaviour, BAT acknowledges the theory that behaviour and its consequences can also drive emotions. I think both are probably true, so I use both CC/DS and BAT, in combination or in different circumstances. Key points to remember when doing BAT for aggression or fear:
•   Above all, stay sub-threshold. Take frequent breaks, especially when the dog asks for them.
•   If the dog becomes agitated (breathing heavier, looks like he might have an outburst), interrupt the dog or counter-command (give the cue for an easy incompatible behaviour) and then decrease the stimulus intensity (for example, walk away from the decoy or have them go away, whichever is least reinforcing). If the dog has an outburst and you just stand there, you’re wasting time, because he’s more sensitive to the stimulus for your next trials, and the rate of reinforcement goes way down. Barking/lunging is also hard on everybody else’s stress level, including the stooge and the student dog’s owner.
•   Shape for a nice big set of clear cut-off signals. Don’t go for variety too soon. The student dog (or horse or goat or person or whatever) should experience rapid success. You can repeat this later to look for variety. Replacement behaviours include: blinking, jaw loosening (being able to pant again), looking away, turning away, ground sniffing, air sniffing, tail carriage getting looser.
•   Reinforce calmly gathering information with allowing the dog to continue doing so, or with quiet praise.
•   I really like having the student dog able to move, rather than being tethered, and able to walk away from the situation (safely leashed or behind a barrier, but not tethered to a wall). If the student requests a break by checking out, she gets one. Dogs should have control of their exposure to the trigger during the session (your job is often just to keep them from getting so close that they go over threshold).
•   For most dogs, especially fearful dogs, I prefer for them to retreat from the Scary Monster as their reward when they’ve done an acceptable alternative behaviour, versus only having the monster leave. Fear is the emotion of ‘get me out of here!’ so it makes more sense to me that the student dog gets to leave versus chasing off the bad guy. You do need to have trials where the stooge approaches and retreats, but I think the bigger reward for a fearful dog is being able to leave. So even if the stooge approaches the student dog, the student dog still walks away as the reward, simultaneously or just after the other dog leaves. Even dogs who are offensively aggressive (angry, territorial, whatever you want to call it) benefit from learning how to just walk away. Lateral/tangential retreats work well for them, at first.
•   If the student dog barks on retreat, continue to retreat, but remember that next time you’ll need to tone down the stimulus (a bit farther away, less motion or whatever).
•   It is totally reasonable to pre-train some of these behaviours via clicker training without the decoy there.
•   What about regular walks between BAT sessions? Any time you encounter triggers that will hold still (dogs behind fences, people out gardening, etc.), you can do BAT by approaching and retreating based on the dog’s behaviour.
•   On walks where you don’t control the triggers, follow the steps on BAT Handout PDF Document by Grisha Stewart. The core of BAT is simply that you use environmental rewards when you can, to change A -> B1 -> C to A -> B2 ->C. When you can’t use environmental rewards, at least give the dog a chance to earn reward somehow, even by just looking at the trigger!
•   You don’t need to do a marathon session to complete switchover (where you can tell trust has built and the dog is seeking social contact), although you can.
•   The first session of BAT may take a long time to switchover (the point where the dog wants to be near the stooge versus only leaving), the second will take less time, and so on. Eventually it’s like the real world, with no time to switchover. That’s how you know the dog has been rehabilitated (assuming it’s a generalized response). If you don’t get to switchover in the first session, that’s fine. Just try to end each session with some down-time, hanging out at whatever distance feels comfortable to the dog. You can use the same stooge again and work up to socializing with them, unless that’s not safe.
•   Remember that we’re teaching new skills to negotiate with the Scary Monster, so the first several times that you do this will take more time than, say, counter-conditioning, or simply parallel walking. But as I said before, the time-to-switchover shrinks rapidly. And now the dog has a new set of skills.
•   This involves some negative reinforcement, because ‘relief’ is the treat. While I would never apply pain in order to remove it, this kind of negative reinforcement is very natural, and done right, need not be too aversive, and we need not apply anything aversive to the dog in order to take it away as a reward. In many cases, their own species is the unwanted stimulus and in most cases, they are walking themselves up to the approach line. They will be exposed to other dogs all the time anyway. They are already learning behaviours anyway. We are just teaching them different behaviours, using their natural environment.
•   The marker signal of “yes” becomes a classically conditioned safety cue for the dog, because it has signalled the end of a trial and a retreat.  

Dog Training

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


The Dog Nanny


Any Training or Behviour questions in regards to dogs.


Over 25 years as Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor and Certified Canine Behaviourist.

Canadain Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers International Positive Dog Training Association Canadain Kennel Club Therapeautic Paws Of Canada

NuBowWow CAPPDT News Letter Happy Dog Connections

Certified Professional Dog Training Instructor Certified Canine Behaviourist Accredited Dog Trainer Director of Evaluators TPOC Certified Therapy Dog & Cat Evaluator Certified Canine Good Neighbour Evaluator

Awards and Honors
Certificates of Appreciation from various local organisations for Volunteer work as Guest Speaker on the subject of Dogs, Dogs & Children, Canine Behaviour, Mentor, Therapy Dog Programs etc

©2017 All rights reserved.