Jake is Perfect but He's Terrified of Visiting Neighbors

by Christopher
(California, USA)

My Jake!

My Jake!

Jake is a rescue dog. He's a perfect young Lab. Jake is friendly with other dogs, people, children, even cats. The problem arises when we go for a walk. Sometimes I stop to talk to a neighbor and we walk up the driveway toward the neighbor's home, Jake panics and pulls the opposite way against his harness!

What could possibly frighten him like this? In the canine world is there such a thing as fear of strange houses?


Jake looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing that picture with us.

I have never heard of "fear of strange houses" in dogs. I think you need to start searching for clues to figure out what is really going on. Here are a few questions that can help you solve the mistery:

  • Does Jake pull away from houses at the beginning of the walk? at the end of the walk? or both times? If he does it only at the beginning of the walk he could be just telling you that he is not interested in chatting with neighbors, he just wants to go on with his walk! At the end of the walk it could mean he is tired and wants to be back, although this is more unlikely because dogs usually just sit or lay on the floor.

  • Is Jake afraid of certain houses but not all of them? Maybe he doesn't like a certain house because of other dog or animal that lives there.

  • Is Jake OK with your neighbors on the side walk? or does he also pull away when you meet someone on the street? Maybe he simply doesn't like some of your neighbors and it has nothing to do with their houses.

  • Is Jake OK walking towards another houses door step when the door is closed and nobody is around? Again, answering this will give you a clue as to whether he is afraid of the actual house, your neighbour or both.

Try to think like a detective or a scientist to first find out "what" is he scared of. Another useful tool to learn is dog body language. You mentioned in your question that "Jake pulls away" does he look afraid? Are his ears down and backwards, tail between his legs, head down? or is he happy wagging his tail and pulling away? Learning to read dog body language can help you better understand how your dog is feeling and act accordingly.

Once you figure out that your dog is afraid of something, you need to help him overcome those fears slowly. Never push your dog to interact or approach something he doesn't like. this will make him even more scared. Instead reward every little step towards the right directions. For example: Give your pooch a treat just for standing in the sidewalk right in front of a neighbors house. When Jake is comfortable doing this ask him to give one step towards the front door and reward him with a treat, then back away and repeat. And so on...

This process is a mix of two techniques called Systematic Desensitizationt and Counterconditioning. They are really useful tools to help dogs be less afraid. Try them!

Keep us posted on Jake's progress!

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