Fearful Rescue Dog

by Patrick
(Markham, ON)

From Patrick... I have recently adopted a 14 month old rescue dog that is extremely fearful. She will hide under desks & refuse to walk.


I often have to physically place her on her feet and nudge her butt to get her to move.

She will poop outside every few days but will not pee - she will only do that on the carpet inside. She is crated now when I am not home to try to get her housebroken.

She is only allowed on tiled areas at this point when she is out of her crate, so she hides in the bathroom.

She will sometimes go for short walks once I get her outside, but she will not pee outside.

If a dog is fearful of the outdoors, how do I get her housebroken?

Shannon Says...



Thanks for your question, Patrick. Fear in a dog is one of the harder things to help them get over. It takes a lot of time and patience.

You will need to desensitize her to the outdoors, and begin building a positive association with it in place of her negative association.

Since she is rescued, you likely do not know what happened to her in the past that has caused this fear.

Start small. Be sure that you don't overload her with too much all at once. Putting a fearful dog right in the middle of their biggest fear the first time you start to train with them won't accomplish anything good.

If you have a spot outside your house that is relatively quiet (possibly in your backyard), begin by always taking her to the same area on a 6 foot leash to do her business.

Praise her and give her a treat or a favorite toy (whichever she likes better) immediately after she has gone outside.

Do not ever scold her for going in the house - simply wipe it up with a clean, new sponge and take her out on the leash with you to the designated potty area. Wipe the pee on the grass and let her sniff it.

This might sound funny, but it's really important that she smells the pee on the grass outside where you want her to go.

Back in the house, be sure to clean the area well with an enzyme-based cleaner (nothing with ammonia, no bleach - it will trigger her to go again there).

If she does not pee in her crate, chances are that when you come home from work, etc., she will have to go.

Immediately clip on a leash and take her to the same area outside. Say "Go pee", or something similar, and give her a few minutes. Praise her verbally even if she begins to simply sniff the grass.

If she doesn't go, return back inside, but keep a close eye on her. If it looks like she may pee, or if you catch her in the act, try to rush her outside to finish the job, and then praise.

Whenever you are home, take her out at least every hour on the hour (or more often if she is still having accidents) to the designated potty area on leash.

Set a timer to make sure that you don't forget, and always take her to the same spot. Be consistent, and really lay on the praise when she does go outside, whether she pees or not.

Another tip that may be helpful is to start feeding her outside only. This will help to create that positive association we're aiming for.

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