In an ideal world, your dog would know how to use the toilet in your house and all this “going outside” business would be just for the fun of it.
But in the real world, rain or shine, a dog’s bathroom is outdoors. But what do you do when the weather takes a turn and your dog has to go?
Worse, what if your dog hates the rain and refuses to go or decides to go inside the house instead?
So many clients of mine struggle with anxious dogs who refuse to, ahem, tinkle in a sprinkle. Some dogs won’t even come out from under the bed during a rainstorm, let alone go outside during one.
Unfortunately, this can lead to health issues for your dog, potty mishaps, and frustration for both you and your pooch.
So, what is a pet parent to do when the weather turns wet and their fur child needs to go?
Don’t worry. Today, we’re talking all about walking your dog in the rain and how you can transform a rainy day walk from a miserable experience to a fun adventure with 10 simple tips.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
1. Before Walking In The Rain, Work On Getting Your Dog Get Used To Water
Not all dogs like water, even if they were originally bred to be water dogs. My dog is part Poodle, and anyone who knows anything about Poodle history knows that Poodles were created to be swimmers.
Not this half-Poodle of mine. All I have to do is turn on the faucet and she goes running.
Here’s the thing. You’re never going to get Fido outside in the rain if he hates the feeling of water in general, so this is a must for those of you looking to walk your dog in all kinds of weather conditions.
It’s easiest to start your puppy young if you can and use positive reinforcement methods like treats and praise to get him acclimated to wet situations.
In fact, did you know there is a specific age range for puppies where their experiences directly correlate with the things that they will like and the things that they will fear for the rest of their lives?
That’s right. Between the ages of three and eighteen weeks, puppies are developing their core sense of what is safe and what is not in the world and will carry these principals with them as they grow up.
This means that if anything “scary” happens to your dog between this time in his life, he may develop a fear of that thing or situation forever.
For example, if your puppy has a negative experience with thunderstorms during this age range, he is likely going to hate thunderstorms for the rest of his life.
This is why first time experiences for puppies are so important. Making sure your puppy is properly socialized and has a wide range of experiences with loud noises, children, other dogs, and yes water and rain, is going to help make him a happier and healthier dog in the long run who is better adapted for all kinds of different life experiences.
But does that mean it’s too late for your adult dog to come around to the rain? Not necessarily.
In spite of that famous saying, you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. This is where counter-conditioning comes in.
Some dogs naturally love to play in the water.
Unfortunately, counter-conditioning takes time and lots of patience, and while it doesn’t necessarily remove the fear from your dog, it can help him to better tolerate the thing that once frightened him, like the rain, for example.
Not only that, but properly using counter conditioning with your dog can be a great way to build a trusting bond between the two of you.
Best of all, once your pup begins to understand that rain isn’t so bad, you can begin getting out and about with him in any kind of weather! Oh, the things you’ll do!
So, how do you use counter conditioning to help your dog overcome his fears?
You can help your dog overcome his water phobia by teaching him that water can be fun. Use treats, positive reinforcement, and slow introductions to getting wet.
Never force your dog swimming or into a doggy pool or spray him with a hose in an attempt to get him used to getting wet. This can have an adverse effect on your dog and make him hate water even more.
Instead, use treats and help your dog learn that splashing in a baby pool is safe and fun! Hold the hose out for him and let him get a drink!
Toss some healthy treats or fun toys in the wet grass and have him retrieve them. The more your dog comes to understand that water is a good thing, the better off he’ll be in the rain.
2. Help Your Dog Get Used To Walking On Wet Grass
Along with water phobia, some dogs also don’t like the feeling of wet grass. This is because the texture changes, the grass feels slippery and it makes their paws and fur cold and wet.
For a dog who is not a big fan of water, stepping into wet, slippery grass is definitely going to be something they’ll want to avoid.
Wet grass can feel strange to your dog’s sensitive paws.
You can help your dog get used to the feeling of wet grass in the same way you can help him become accustomed to water.
You can also try feeding your dog outside after wetting the grass with a hose or sprinkler so that his experience with wet grass becomes something more common for him and less unusual.
For dogs who are less food motivated and are driven more on attention and mental stimulation, a game of fetch or frisbee in the wet lawn may do the trick!
3. Invest In Some Dog-Friendly Rain Gear
I don’t know many dogs who enjoy getting dressed up, but I also don’t know many dogs who enjoy getting soaked by the rain.
Still, even if your dog isn’t a fan of “dog clothes”, there are certain occasions that call for pups to wear clothing for their health.
For short-haired dogs, very young dogs, senior dogs, and small dogs, sweaters and dog rain jackets may be necessary to keep them warm and healthy during an outing in the cold or the rain.
Dog rain gear is a thing and it’s pretty adorable!
However, beware that your dog may learn to associate rain gear and other doggy clothing with going out on walks, and vise-versa, which is why it’s so important to introduce these things to your dog with patience.
Use treats and praise when getting your dog used to wearing rain gear, and again, never force your dog to wear something until he is used to it and isn’t afraid of it.
4. Keep The Walk Short And Use Positive Reinforcement
This tip applies to those pups who have a deep-rooted hate for water. It also applies to pups who just don’t really dig getting all wet.
And yes, it can apply to you too.
Of course, if your dog loves being in the rain and splashing about, by all means, take this time to enjoy life with him and have some fun.
On the other hand, if you are working with your dog on getting him used to going out in the rain and he’s just not a big fan, then it’s important to try and keep the walk short and sweet.
Use treats to help add a bit of sweet to the bitterness of getting soaked.
Help ease your dog into rainy walks using treats and praise.
Treat your pup as he takes his first, unsure steps out into the storm, praise him as he walks with you, treat him when he does his business, and again when you get back home.
And while your dog may never fully come to enjoy walking in the rain, he will come to learn that rain walks are short and come with some tasty payoffs.
5. Avoid Walking With Rain Gear That Frightens Your Dog
Taking a trip outside to use the bathroom in a thunderstorm is tough enough for many dogs, but for dogs who fear umbrellas, noisy rain jackets, and loud rain boots, walking in the rain can be downright terrifying.
If your dog is afraid of umbrellas, try to avoid using one.
If you have a fearful dog, try investing in lightweight rain jackets that you can slip on over your regular clothing and use a waterproof hood instead of an umbrella so you can keep yourself dry.
You can also purchase waterproof shoe covers instead of rain boots.
Of course, if you prefer to walk with umbrellas and all your fancy rain gear, work with your dog beforehand to try and condition him to these items.
Use positive reinforcement methods like treats and praise and lots of patience to help your dog get used to umbrellas being opened and closed, and condition him to them so that walking in the rain doesn’t become scarier than it already may be.
6. Don’t Let Your Dog Drink From The Gutter Or Rain Puddles
For a long time, people assumed dogs could just about eat anything and everything aside from chocolate and be totally fine. Their digestive systems are way tougher than ours are, right?
Actually, that’s not the case. Dogs can be just as susceptible to illnesses as humans, which is why it’s super important to keep your dog from drinking out of street puddles or splashing in the gutter water.
Senior dogs and puppies are especially susceptible to getting sick from drinking out of dirty rain puddles.
Debris from the street and grass can collect in rainwater and bacteria can swarm in puddles on the street and the gutters during and after a rainstorm.
Young puppies and senior dogs with weakened immune systems are especially at risk, so watch them closely when out and about on walks in the rain.
7. Don’t Get Frustrated With Your Frightened Or Hesitant Dog
Let’s face it. Your dog isn’t the only one who probably hates going for a walk in the rain. Chances are, you don’t like getting geared up and soaked either.
Still, try and be patient with your dog and don’t scold or punish him, yank on him, or force him out in an attempt to get the walk over with as quickly as possible.
Making the experience a negative one for your dog will not only slow the process down of him going to the bathroom, but it will also make future walks in the rain a worse experience for you both.
Walking in the rain can be miserable for everyone – you included.
Instead, try to keep in mind that this is a chance for you and your dog to bond as you are likely both experiencing something unpleasant. But at least you are in it together.
Help your dog by being positive and happy. Use a happy, calm tone, and be your dog’s safe space. He will take his cues from you and if you are calm and enjoying yourself, there is a better chance that he will loosen up and relax a bit easier.
8. Teach Your Dog A “Go Potty” Cue
For those of us who only walk in the rain to get their dogs to go to the bathroom, then a solid potty cue is a must.
Dogs already feel at their most vulnerable when going to the bathroom, which is actually why the awkward stare-down happens when they’re going. (Dogs are looking to you as their protector to watch their back while they poo, incase you didn’t know).
Communicate with your dog by teaching him the “go potty” cue ahead of time.
Some dogs will go out of their way to “hold it” during a rainstorm, and may not fully understand why you have just dragged them out into the foggy weather.
Having a potty cue that your pup understands helps you to communicate to your pup what he is supposed to do outside, and that way you can both get out of there and back to dry land as soon as possible.
9. Be Safe And Stay Visible
This may be a bit of a catch 22 because earlier I advised you to not wear rain gear that is going to freak your dog out. However, it’s super important to consider safety, especially during a rainstorm.
Use the same safety measures when walking your dog in the rain as you do when walking your dog at night. Rain makes it more difficult for drivers to see and with visibility impaired, there is more of a risk to you and your dog’s safety when out and about.
Wearing brightly colored clothes while walking in the rain can help keep you and your dog safe and visible.
There are many safety items you can purchase online or at local pet supply stores such as reflective vests, blinking lights, flashlights, headlamps, etc, that will help make walking in the rain safer.
You can even purchase dog collars that blink and flash. If nothing else, at least wear brightly colored clothes so you have a better chance of standing out.
10. Always Dry Your Dog After A Walk In The Rain
Because it’s raining, chances are the weather is a bit chilly. Make sure you take the time after the walk to dry your dog from nose to tail, paying special attention to his paws, ears, and face.
Just like humans, dogs can get sick from being cold and wet.
Remember to always dry your dog off after a walk in the rain so he doesn’t get sick.
Help your pet get used to being towel-dried or even blow-dried using the same methods described above.
This means treats, praise, and lots of love and patience.
So, how often do you have to walk your dog in the rain? Have you learned anything from the experience that makes walking a dog in the rain easier that I didn’t mention in my list above?
Let me know in the comments below!