How to Train Your Dog to Go Potty in the Snow

Dog peeing in the snow

Forget yellow snow. Dogs are notorious for doing their duty inside the house rather than outside when it’s snowing. This holds true for previously potty-trained pooches as well as puppies in training. And who can blame them? Dogs are smart — they would much rather do their duty inside where it’s warm. In addition, when it’s freezing outdoors, the ground is uncomfortable and unsteady, the air is cold and favorite potty spots in the grass or garden may be covered with snow.

Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to pottying in the snow, but I’ve found some useful strategies that work with most dogs. It may take a combination of two or three of these to solve the problem and get your dog pottying outside in the cold, but the right combination of approaches can put an end to indoor winter accidents.

How to Get Your Dog to Do His Business in the Snow

Create an ideal potty area. If your dog dislikes walking on snow or if his regular potty site is buried in the white stuff, you can help by shoveling a spot to potty. Clear a space in your dog’s regular potty area as close to the ground as possible and large enough for him to sniff and turn around. The smells of previous bathroom breaks serve as a green light for your dog to do his business in this space, and uncovered ground allows him to navigate without his paws slipping or freezing. If you’re unable to shovel, place potty grass outdoors in a covered space near your dog’s regular potty area. Placing the potty grass outdoors rather than using potty pads inside the house can help the transition back to pottying in the normal outdoor area once the weather warms up.

Bundle up. You know that you will need to dress warmly when you go outside, but don’t forget to keep your dog warm for potty breaks, too. Canines who lack the Malamute coat may need extra layers to stay cozy. My Pug, Willy, needs warm sweaters (sometimes worn in layers) to go outside without shivering. He also feels more comfortable with a pair of doggy boots on his paws. Be sure that sweaters or jackets fit well enough that your dog can potty without soiling his clothing.

Make pottying outdoors fun. Take your dog out regularly, such as once every one to two hours during waking hours, to give him an opportunity to eliminate in a proper area. When he potties, have a celebration: Reward him with his favorite treats or a special toy and ample praise. Some dogs prefer to play and walk outside after pottying, but others feel more comfortable heading right back inside after they finish up. Do whatever works with your pooch to generate an enthusiastic response when it’s time to go outside.

Create an indoor doggy area. There are certain circumstances where it’s easier to train a dog to go indoors — for example, in dangerously bad weather, like we’ve seen in some places this winter. For dogs who simply hate the snow or being cold or for pet owners who are at risk for a serious fall, it may be safer and more convenient to train the dog to use a mat, litterbox or grass-covered pet area in the home. Willy was originally litterbox-trained in addition to his outdoor training; this sped up the potty-training process and reduced the number of indoor accidents. Be aware, though, that training a pet to potty in an indoor area can make the transition to pottying outside more challenging.


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