Afraid of backyard - help!
Mitty, my German Shepherd mix, has suddenly become afraid of going in the backyard. He has always been sensitive to sounds, but he has not had a problem with our noisy backyard until a week ago. We moved in a few weeks ago, but while we were renovation our house we brought the dog over quite a bit and he was well acquainted with the house and yard when we moved in. Our backyard is fully fenced (8 foot fence!), and it backs up to house with a basketball goal that kids are frequently playing at (it's sort of a house for troubled kids/kids waiting to go into foster care/etc. so there's a lot of people in and out). When my dog hears these "neighbors" talking or playing basketball he freaks out. The backyard is where he uses the bathroom, so it's pretty important he gets over this fear! We don't have much of a front yard, and he won't go on walks because he's scared of traffic.
I've tried giving him treats every time we go in the backyard and trying to distract him and playing with him when people are outside, but nothing has helped. If he hears people he absolutely loses it, and I can't really distract him. I don't want to cause him anymore stress, but I hate letting him immediately inside every time he gets nervous. I feel like I'm teaching him to avoid the sounds rather than get used to them.
I think his background in pretty important:
We got him 4 months ago (although it feels like forever!) as a rescue. He's about 2-3 years old, and was found in an alley with a man's belt duct taped around his neck as a collar :-( At some point he's had a home because he's just too smart. He knows many commands, is house broken, etc. He bonded with me immediately (feels like we've always been together!), but it took a couple months before he fully trusted my husband. He's definitely on the anxious side and will not go for walks because of passing cars. I first noticed he was nervous about certain sounds when we were at a park that he loves and was very comfortable with. He was having a good time when a car backfired and he went absolutely nuts. He raced back to the car and went crazy trying to get in. Since then I've noticed him afraid of similar sounds. If he hears one he immediately wants inside.
He's the perfect dog, and I love him so much. I hate that he's so scared of these noises, but he has to get over it. The backyard is the only place for him to go to the bathroom. Does anyone have any advice to help him get over this fear??
Last edited by jfrzr; 08-21-2014 at 06:58 PM.