There are many reasons why a puppy may be reluctant to come outside.
Fear and anxiety are the main factors.
- Transitioning to a new home can be overwhelming.
- Insufficient socialization can cause anxiety.
- Unknown dogs barking or arguing neighbors.
- Loud sounds such as a lawnmower or building work.
- New to walking in a harness and lead.
To a young puppy, all these things can undermine them from being their usual curious self. The way to overcome these fears is to slowly introduce them to your yard a little bit at a time.
Be there for them, be their backup person so it gives them a little bit of courage knowing you are there. Desensitization is what this practice is called.
You start with small steps, such as just getting your puppy to the outside door and peeking out. Once they are used to that, help them to step out into the garden… just a little way and keep the open door in sight, so that they can see an escape route should one be needed.
Heap lots of praise on them, and give them little treats so they get a sense of accomplishment. When it comes to fear, we all need a bit of a hand to overcome it and get on with our lives, and your puppy is no different.
Their lives have changed dramatically since leaving their birth home, so a little fear is natural.
Exploring The Great Outdoors.
Your puppy may have gotten used to your new home by now, but the outside is a whole new ball game. If you have children, the yard is the place where they can let off steam. They may run around yelling at the top of their heads which can be hard on the sensitive ears of a young pooch and confusing.
A very young puppy who is just being introduced to the outside of your home can find it a daunting task. They feel safer inside and have a real fear of venturing out.
To get your puppy confident to go outside, here is a list of things you can do to help them take that first step.
- Enlist the help of your kids- ask them to quieten down before your puppy comes out. Or take your puppy out at a quiet time when no one is home.
- Take your puppy out just for a few minutes at a time, rewarding them each visit.
- Tie up away out of sight, for now, any older dogs who may intimidate the puppy.
- Don’t have strangers around when you are desensitizing your pup.
- Make sure you stay with your puppy to give them confidence.
- Arrange to have a little fun – a ball to push around if they will.
- Don’t rush them. Let them sit behind your legs and just look.
- Be patient and don’t growl at them because they won’t go out.
- Make a quiet fuss of your pup when they venture out further.
- Remember, you are your puppy’s support and backup team – don’t let them down.
Overcoming Your Puppy’s Fear.
The first thing you need to do is to help your puppy to feel more confident outside is to change the way they think of the outdoor experience. Using desensitizing and counter-conditioning training methods, you can change the way your puppy sees the world.
- STEP 1. Allow your puppy to see what is scaring them at a level that won’t evoke stress. If they are scared of the lawnmower, let them see the lawnmower at rest, and from a distance, so that they can view it without reacting to it.
- STEP 2. Without the movement and noise, your puppy will become used to it. Try this several times and if they are willing to approach it, let them explore but don’t turn it on. While your puppy gets used to this, feed them some high-quality small treats so that they start to learn to associate that scary lawnmower with yummy treats. It changes how they view the lawnmower.
- STEP 3. Sit by the door with your puppy close to you, and get someone to turn on and off the lawnmower while it is as far away as possible. Allow your puppy to bolt inside, but tempt them back to your side with a special treat. You may need to do this many times before your puppy learns that the lawnmower is not out to get them.
- STEP 4. Once they accept stationary noise from the lawnmower, then start to move it around, but keep your pup with you at a distance. You will know that you are succeeding when they get brave enough to nose around outside while the lawnmower is in action.
You can use this method to introduce them to anything that they perceive as being a bit scary.
Once your puppy learns that your children are not being attacked during a game of ball, encourage them to get involved.
The hardest part is keeping the volume of the youngsters down. You may have to toss your kids a treat to get them to work with you!
Once your puppy realizes they are playing and they are having fun, your puppy will have made that giant leap forward in confidence.
Social Skills & Training builds Confidence.
Puppies just love having fun. When they were part of a litter, they acquired certain social skills. But now they have a new home, they need to work on those skills a little more to become a confident dog.
This involves learning to walk quietly on a leash, venturing outside and even going away from the comfort of home.
Puppy school is an ideal place for your puppy to learn about mixing with other people and dogs and getting to know what is socially acceptable behavior.
Puppy school offers a safe environment where your puppy can learn to mix with other puppies and people. A timid pup may cling to your leg at first (mine took several lessons before she got confident enough to venture out and meet with the other pups and people). Just let them adjust at their own speed. They will come to love it and will soon be leading the pack!
Puppy school also teaches a puppy to walk on a leash and listen to their owner’s instructions, regardless of other pups and people being around. It gives them the confidence to mix socially yet still be a well-behaved dog despite the distractions.
The skills your puppy will learn here will be the basic building blocks to a confident, well-rounded dog.
The greatest gift you can give a shy timid dog is confidence. Teaching them that they can cope outside, that the big outdoors isn’t such a scary place, and that they can handle it all is the most priceless gift you can bestow on them.
Adjusting to Loud Outside Noises
Your dog is blessed with exceptional hearing. But to a new puppy, the sounds in the yard can be so loud that it causes them stress. Venturing out into a noisy yard can be challenging for the timid pup, they don’t have their mum to teach them that noise is not necessarily a bad thing.
A puppy who is nervous about going outside needs plenty of reassurance and support until they come to realize that the noise will not hurt them.
While a game of chasing or cricket in the backyard may seem normal with your children yelling and running everywhere, to your puppy it may seem like chaos. The volume goes up when a group of children gets together.
But your puppy may be confused. Are the children being hurt? What are they running away from? What is causing all that noise? There is just too much going on for a timid puppy and they will try to hide under the nearest seat or race back to the safety of the inside of your home.
Introduction to your outside living area needs to be done when the place is quiet. Choose a time when the traffic is low, and when the rubbish bin collection is over for the week.
The first thing you need to do is to help your puppy to feel more confident outside is to gradually introduce them to the outside world with you there for support. It’s tough for a puppy, there is so much to learn. But patience and guidance from you will help them through it all.
Manage Pet Greetings Involving Your Puppy
For a timid puppy, meeting and greeting other pets can be daunting, especially if the other animal is big and boisterous. A small puppy can feel vulnerable if you have larger dogs as well and may cling to you in fright.
You need to be your puppy’s protector when the ‘play’ gets a bit rough. Without intent, the larger dogs can hurt a small puppy, so only introduce grown dogs to your puppy when you can be there to protect them.
Dog parks where owners let their dogs run free can be a nightmare for a young puppy. In another dog’s eagerness to greet your puppy, someone may get hurt, and it probably will be your small puppy. When this happens, your puppy will be traumatically stressed and will not want to meet other dogs or leave your side again. Before this happens, pick them up and walk away when a situation looks like getting out of hand.
If you have other dogs at home, make sure you are always around when the dogs interact with your puppy. Chaperone your little one until they feel comfortable with the bigger dogs and they have grown enough to hold their own.
The larger dog may not have the intent to injure, but in the excitement of play, your puppy can come off second best.
It may be that your puppy doesn’t want to come outside as they feel bullied by your larger pets. Teaching the older pets to play ‘nicely’ takes patience, and your puppy should be supervised at all times.
Puppy Love and the Final Word
Being a little puppy facing the challenges of the big outdoors can be scary. Puppies vary in nature; some are intrepid explorers, some are quiet, some shy, while some are quite timid. But all are adorable.
All it takes from you is patience to support them as they step past that doorway into the unknown.
It may seem like a trivial fear to you, but you are bigger than they are. You know what is out there and how to handle it.
Respect your little puppy’s fears, and show them the way to handle things. Your support is a huge factor in training your puppy to trust themselves and gain the confidence to venture forth.
Patience while they learn all about this strange place you call home is necessary. But once your adorable puppy gets over its fear, it will be so worth the effort you have put in.
So take up the baton, run with the process, and your little puppy will be bouncing to get out that door and into the garden before you know it!
Writer: Jean Brewer