We’ve all been there—shivering in the relative shelter of the porch as we attempt, with increasing frustration, to convince our dogs to get out and do their business in the rain. There is no foe more determined than a dog who hates getting wet. We have three dogs and the good fortune to have a safe yard where we can let them out on their own, but on wet days, two out of three always put up a fight. Our alpha mutt Bella, fearless vanquisher of deer and delivery vans, is suddenly too delicate to place a dainty paw on the wet ground. Our Chihuahua mix Pokey hides under the porch swing staring up at me like I have got to be kidding.
“Dogs probably don’t like going out in the rain for the same reason we don’t—it is just unpleasant,” says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, Professor at Texas A&M University. “We have the advantage of being able to use umbrellas and raincoats, especially to keep rain from hitting our face. Dogs don’t have that ability.”
How to help your dog deal with rain
Beaver offers a number of tips on teaching stubborn pets to head outside and get things done in the rain.
- Start by taking your pet out on a leash with a large umbrella, and hold it over the dog, not yourself. Use whatever cue word you chose for housebreaking, and once they go, reward your dog with joyful praise and a treat.
- If you have an area nearby that offers some shelter, such as a tree or roof overhang, lead them to that spot. Once they make it to where the ground isn’t as wet and nothing is falling on their heads, they should get down to business. Again use your cue word, and follow through with praise and a treat.
- Create a dog litter box. If you have a covered back porch, try training the dog to go on a square of artificial turf or lawn grass in a box. Tempt your dog to pee there by treating it with another dog’s urine. A trip to the dog park with your artificial turf might turn a few human heads but it will also entice urine donations from curious canines. When it rains, take them to that spot, give your command and, of course, reward them with praise and a treat once the job is done. You’re encouraging them to go on a specific location and to do it on command, Beaver says.
- Do not leave them out on their own and assume they’ll take care of business. Beaver says this is one of the worst mistakes owners can make. The dog waits by the door, comes in and eventually really has to go. You come home to a puddle that does not smell at all like rainwater. This house soiling is not the dog’s fault. Owners have to make sure they see their dogs go. And really, it is only fair to get out there and suffer with them.
- You could get them a raincoat but, Beaver adds, “The thing that they don’t like getting wet is their head.” So though a coat might keep their bodies warm and dry, most don’t come with hoods. Raincoats and booties take time to dig out and put on the dog, so training them to go outside au naturel is more efficient in the long run. Of course, the adorability factor of a dog wearing a dashing coat can’t be overlooked, so check out Rover’s rain gear advice.
More help for rain-averse pets
- Get your dog used to water before the big storm by taking him out to pee after you’ve watered the lawn. You could also try feeding your dog on the wet grass or playing with them in a sprinkler or with a garden hose.
- If your stubborn mutt refuses to go outside, keep them on a leash inside and try again in an hour. Even well-trained pets might prefer sneaking off relieve themselves in that pile of laundry upstairs if you aren’t paying attention.
- Take them for a good long walk despite the weather. The exercise is not only good for both of you, it will stimulate the dog’ bladder. Once they know you are not joking, they’ll do the deed.
- Keep it positive. It can be frustrating to wait for with your dog, and tempting to escalate your cue into more of a yell, but that can create more negative feelings about stormy situations.
Good initial housebreaking training is a must in any kind of weather. The Humane Society has a great list of steps for getting them off on the right foot including keeping dogs on a regular feeding and bathroom schedule.
Don’t forget about exercise
Dogs need exercise as well as bathroom breaks, all year round. There are plenty of games you can play to keep their minds engaged and bodies active indoors; running up and down the stairs, eating from food-dispensing toys and playing hide and seek are just a few!