Bear with me here... I did a lot of research when Gally started going through his fear phase and came up with a lot of answers, some that were very helpful and some that weren't so much. We tried a lot of different things so if I forget something I'll add it in later.
Here is what we did that gave us good results:
1. Get her to the vet and have her thyroid levels checked. Unbalanced thyroid levels can increase fear and anxiety. A general health checkup is good too just in case.
2. It sounds like she is predicting going out and becoming stressed and anxious before you even go out the door.
Try to make going out to potty not a big deal and as stress free as possible. Put the leash on at various times of the day and walk around your house with your dog. Treat her when she's being calm. Then take the leash off and go back to what you were doing before. Put your shoes on and walk around like you're getting ready to go out, put the leash on, treat her, then take it off. Take your shoes off. After she is reacting calmly to these exercises then get the leash, put it on, treat her and then walk out your apartment door (to the common hallway) and walk around with her in the hall, treat her, come back inside and take the leash off. If you live above the ground floor, practice going up an down the elevator, into the lobby, treating and coming back upstairs.
If she gets becomes fearful and stressed at anytime then stop the exercise and try again later with more treats.
3. Don't take her for a walk if she is afraid. Just take her out for a quick potty and try to make it as positive as you can. Use treats or a game with a toy to make it fun.
1. It's really important that you figure out what your dog is specifically afraid of so that you can avoid that stimulus temporarily while you counter condition.
2. The first step is so important because you need to make sure your not putting your dog in a situation where they are going to go over their fear threshold (common fear behaviors include shaking, panting, running away etc.). Every time a dog has another negative experience with their fear stimulus there is a good chance the fear will increase, this is why fears can build up slowly over time from a nervousness around an object or noise to become a phobia. Obviously this is hard when you need to take the dog to go out to go pee but if she wants to go back in afterwards let her, don't force her to go for a walk if she doesn't want to.
3. Next is the prestep to counter conditioning, it teaches the dog how to relax so that they are relaxed before you start counter conditioning.
Protocol for relaxation: http://dogscouts.org/Protocol_for_relaxation.htmlThis
really helped Gally learn to relax and helped build his confidence. Gally's response to fear is to run away and I think these exercises helped reduce this instinct and taught him that unusual noises and activities around him were nothing to be alarmed about and actually lead to positive things happening to him.
4. After your dog has mastered the basic protocol laid out in that link you can start to cater it to their specific fears. There are CDs you can buy that play noises that dogs are typically afraid of at increasing degrees of intensity that you can use to start desensitizing and counter conditioning in a controlled environment. These are the CD's we used: http://throughadogsear.com/canine-noise-phobia-series/
I'm sure you could also find noise clips online that would work as well. The important thing is to go slow and not put your dog over their fear threshold. You may need to start with the sounds playing on a machine in another room, on the lowest volume possible for your dog to stay below threshold while they play. Remember to continue the treat rewards from the relaxation protocol, the treats will counter condition the dog to their fear by creating a positive association that will eventually override the fear association.
If your dog is afraid of an object rather than a noise you can bring the object into the home and allow the dog to explore it at their own pace, placing treats on and around it can be very helpful. Any exploration of the object should be rewarded, but if the dog becomes overwhelmed then remove the object immediately. Gally has his own basketball that we used to help him get used to the object and sound it makes.
5. Counter conditioning in the real world. It's important to make facing their fears their own choice and to never force them. Dogs generally have a distance threshold to their fears so when you are going for a walk it's important to keep them at a distance where they feel comfortable and not force them to go closer to their trigger. Playing the look at that game can be very helpful for dogs that are afraid of specific objects. I found this technique in the book Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt but the basics are laid out here: http://clickerleash.wordpress.com/2...itive-approach-to-dealing-with-reactive-dogs/
You can start practicing this game in the home before taking it to the street. Anytime your dog is calm around their stimulus you want to reward that behavior.
6. Continued progress. Doing training, trying new things together and keeping a routine can help nervous and fearful dogs become more confident. We just finished a basic agility class with Gally where we learned to do all kinds of new things together. His confidence grew so much in just a few months as he was able to succeed at new and difficult challenges. Any training you can do together will help build her confidence in herself. I highly recommend clicker training if you haven't already done it with her. Kikopup has a great free video series: http://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup?feature=results_main
-Listen to your dog. It's important to acknowledge when they are afraid and help them cope with the situation, usually by moving away from their fear stimulus.
-Restraining a dog so they can't move away from their stimulus is potentially damaging and could turn a mild fear into a phobia
-Use the highest value of treats you can find for counter conditioning. You are trying to overwrite a very powerful and natural response so you need to take out the big guns.
-It's okay to treat a dog who is showing mild fear symptoms (if they are over threshold the probably wont accept a treat). A treat can turn a negative stimulus into a positive one in the dogs mind.
-There are various products that can help temporarily reduce stress and fear while you work on counter conditioning. They can help keep her under threshold if you find she is going over very easily. Any of the digestible products should be discussed with a vet before taking. Rescue remedy is popular and for shorter duration things that can be predicted like thunderstorms or fireworks melatonin has been proven to be helpful for some dogs. The Thundershirt is really helpful for some dogs as it applies gentle pressure to the nervous system which has a calming effect without medication.
-Counter conditioning can be a long process and it's important to form a plan for continuing progress in the long term. If you're feeling overwhelmed it can be helpful to contact a behaviorist to help you form a training plan. http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory
Other reading material:
The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell (http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?id=dtb586