My Old Dog Wants to Stay Outside – What Should I Do?

When an old dog wants to stay outside, it could be a sign of CDS (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome). When a dog has CDS, familiar rooms inside the house may feel like a maze, so they prefer being outside where they are more comfortable. Of course, it could be the simple fact that your dog enjoys the great outdoors!

Older dogs can be challenging to look after. Odds are, you have known the dog their entire life and have some great memories together. As our dogs near the twilight of their life, they may develop health issues that make things difficult. 

Old age often brings with it particular behavioral quirks that puzzle owners. Since dogs are such social animals, seeing your dog want to spend more and more time outside and away from you can be troublesome. 

This is often a sign of something deeper going on. If your dog wants to spend all their time outside in self-isolation, get them looked at by a vet. This can be a symptom of many issues.

Possible Causes of Outside Isolation

Older dogs will self-isolate when they feel uncomfortable in social settings. There are many reasons a dog would do this, but the root problem is almost always medical. 

Self-isolation can come with other behavior, such as not listening to commands or general lethargy. This combination is something that you should address. Elderly dogs can quickly develop medical issues, so it is always best to monitor them and consult your vet if you have questions.

Psychological Issues


It’s difficult to talk about, but dogs can develop psychological problems just like humans. 

Anxiety can occur when a dog has been through some form of trauma. This covers a variety of experiences, including abuse and poor socialization. 

If your dog has an anxiety disorder, it can develop a series of nervous behaviors. Along with self-isolation, you may notice them excessively  whining or grooming themselves non-stop. 

Related:  My Dog Keeps Stretching - Is Something Wrong?

Fortunately, there has been some great research into how to treat anxious dogs. You can get them a weighted vest to help them feel secure, or your vet may prescribe medication.

Anxious dogs should not be put in situations that make them uncomfortable, such as noisy events or crowds. 


Your dog may also suffer from depression. Just like anxiety, depression can come from trauma. This can be as simple as someone in the house moving away or can come from something deeper, like mourning one of their companions. 

Depression affects each dog differently, but can cause your dog to lose motivation and energy and disinterest them in social interaction (which is why they want to spend time outside).

Just like humans, this could be caused by a chemical imbalance. As dogs age, they could have a shift in their chemical balance. Ask your vet if they would recommend medication for your dog if you think they are depressed.

Medical Issues

The list of every medical problem that older dogs have to face seems to be never ending. As their bodies age, they slowly become less efficient and able to keep up with younger dogs. 

Heart Disease

It is very common for dogs to develop heart disease when they get old. The heart has been continuously pumping since your dog was in the womb, so it is only natural that it may show signs of wear as your dog enters its golden years. 

Heart issues can lead to low oxygen levels within the body. If your dog has a heart problem, you may see them cough or gag, lose their appetite, and self-isolate. 

This can be quite serious, and you should bring your dog to the vet if you believe they are experiencing symptoms of heart failure. 

Physical Discomfort

Simple physical discomfort can also cause your old dog to self-isolate outside. Your dog may not keep up physically with its playmates anymore. 

Physical discomfort can also lead to a reduced appetite. This often happens when dogs are trying to focus on healing themselves. 

Wild dogs will commonly separate themselves from their companions if they are trying to recover from an injury or illness so that they do not have to keep up with the others or hunt while unable to move like they usually can. 

Related:  Do Dogs Ever Get Tired of Barking? Barking Burnout

This behavior has been noticed in domestic dogs as well. This kind of discomfort can have many causes, such as poisoning, cancer, disease, or infection. 

If your dog is old, they probably suffer from some form of joint pain. Larger breeds may have more bone issues than others as well. 

When your elderly dog develops arthritis, it will not be able to move like it used to, so it’s more comfortable staying outside, away from all the action.

How to Address Outdoor Isolation With Older Dogs

When your dog is isolating themselves, it’s hard to know what to do. You may feel frustrated with the whole situation and not know how to address the problem. 

Combined with other symptoms, self-isolation can be very scary to deal with as a pet owner. If you see your dog losing interest in social interaction, or changing typical behaviors, take them to the vet ASAP. 

There is no way to know for sure what is causing your dog’s issues if you do not have a professional look at them. 

A vet can run the necessary tests to determine what is going on with your dog. They may require blood work, x-rays, or stool and urine samples. 

Hopefully, the vet will determine the problem relatively quickly and suggest a treatment. 

Behavior Changes in Older Dogs

If you see your dog changing its behavior, be safe and make sure that you get them in for a checkup. 

Regular medical checkups can catch problems before they become too severe and even prevent certain medical conditions. 

Schedule an appointment immediately if your dog shows signs of rapid cognitive decline. This can include incontinence, inability to learn or understand commands, lack of responsiveness, gets lost, or loss of spatial awareness. These can be very serious if left unaddressed.

Nearing The End of Their Life

The next reason your older dog may choose to stay outside is difficult to discuss. In the wild, it is common for animals near the end of their life to remove themselves from the pack. 

Related:  Why Does My Dog Lay By The Door? Should I Be Concerned?

Your dog may sense that their time is coming and may be trying to remove themselves from the  “pack”.

If this is the reason your dog is isolating themselves, you will probably notice other issues as well, such as trouble breathing or moving. 

Your dog will always think of you as their best friend. You have provided them with food, water, shelter, and love, but sometimes it is simply time for them to go. Don’t forget that your pup will always love you back, even if things may get difficult towards the end. 

Isolating Outside Can Also Be Completely Natural

Aside from the reasons already discussed, your dog may simply enjoy the fresh air outdoors. 

If your house is too hot or cold for your dog, they may go outside to seek temperature regulation. 

They could also simply be investigating something new outside, such as a new smell or animal in the neighborhood. 

You should speak to a vet if your dog is self-isolating, but it is not always an indicator of something serious. 

Recommended For You