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A Dog That Won't Stay Outside

Dear WOOF:

My 7 month old Lab pup will not stay outside by himself. He will go out and potty by himself, but runs right back to the door after finishing. He will play if he knows I am out there, in fact he will periodically run to where I am to make sure I am still there! Will he eventually outgrow this? How do I make him understand it is ok to be alone outside?



Most commonly, dogs that are worried about being outside by themselves are so because of some scary experience they've had while they were out in the yard alone. Since you don't mention it, I'll assume that you are not aware of any such event. You also do not mention that he is destructive or otherwise acting upset, so it's not likely a fear induced problem. I don't think he feels unsafe outside by himself, I think he simply prefers your company, and has just learned to come to the door immediately after he's done doing his business because it rewarding for him to do so.

All dogs learn through behavior and consequence, and the association of events that happen closely together. In your case, your dog has learned that as soon as he goes potty, he should come directly to the door to be let back into the house. Perhaps you made it a habit during the housebreaking process to call him to the door for a treat as soon as he was done, or you've just continually let him in as soon
as he'd come to the door. It's a habit now, and one that in my opinion, is perfectly fine.

You ask if he will grow out of this behavior, and the answer is no. Dogs do not "grow out of" learned behaviors, in fact they get stronger as the dog ages. We can however, always teach dogs new
behaviors to replace ones that we don't like.

If you really want to change this behavior (and since there is apparently no stress or destructive behavior, I'm not sure why you would) - simply require him to be outdoors for a few minutes alone, before you go to the door to let him in, or go out to play with him. But understand that to him you are the greatest, and it is unlikely that being by himself in the yard will ever compete with that.

Many dogs, especially adolescent dogs, find outlets like digging and fence jumping when they're bored and lonely out in the yard all by themselves. Thank goodness you don't have that problem! People often
times mistake dogs as being space intensive or liking to have "lots of room to run". The fact is that dogs are a highly social species and would prefer the company of a social companion over being out in
the yard alone anytime!

One of the most common complaints that folks write or call us about is the dog that won't come in from the yard, or pay attention to them when they're outside together. The fact that he comes in willingly,
and seeks you out to "check in" when you're out with him, are both great "problems" to have....I wouldn't want to change a thing!

Best of luck and thanks for writing!


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