Why Does My Dog... Refuse to Go Out When It's Raining?

Dog wearing raincoat
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If you don’t like being pelted with rain, why should your dog be any different? After years of domesticated living with plush doggie beds and dinner served at precisely six o’clock, it’s no surprise that some pups prefer not to get their paws wet.

Of course, while some dogs simply don’t like the damp outdoors, others can suffer from a more serious problem: thunderstorm phobias. Before you cajole your dog out in the rain, it’s important to know the difference.

Thunderstorm Phobias

Dogs with storm phobias can often sense when bad weather is approaching — hours before you even hear the patter of rain on the roof. They may pant or pace around the house, hide or cling to their owners. As the storm progresses, the signs can worsen: dogs may whine or salivate, have accidents indoors and resort to destroying objects in the household.

It’s not always clear what brings on the fearful behavior. It may be changes in barometric pressure, static electricity, the crack of lightning bolts or just the sound of wind and rain. Although any dog can be affected, it occurs more often in herding breeds, such as German Shepherds and Collies.  Previous bad experiences with storms or loud noises may also contribute to the behavior.

Forcing fearful dogs to go out in the rain will likely make matters worse. Punishment is never a good idea either, and comforting them during the storm will simply reinforce the behavior. If you think that your dog suffers from thunderstorm phobia, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. He can recommend behavior-modifying techniques to help reduce your dog’s anxiety. There are even special thunder coats for dogs that can help them feel more secure as storms approach. In severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend medications.

Get Out Your Umbrella

If your dog isn’t showing signs of storm anxiety, it’s perfectly all right to get him out in the rain to do his business. However, leaving him outside until he goes is not only cruel, but it will probably backfire on you. Here are a few tips to help him get his paws wet:

  • Go outside with your dog. Don your raincoat and take a short walk with your dog. He’ll appreciate the companionship, and a walk is more likely to stimulate defecation than a quick dart into the yard and back.
  • Reward your dog for doing his business in the rain. A treat or even praise will help reinforce his good behavior.
  • Help your dog stay as dry as possible. Share your umbrella or find spaces between buildings and bushes that are more protected from the wind and rain.
  • Purchase canine rain gear. Many dogs do well with doggie raincoats, and some will even tolerate wearing boots.
  • Think twice about indoor alternatives. While some dogs can be trained to do their business on pee pads, this may confuse your dog. He may then prefer to go indoors — and not always in the appropriate places. When in doubt, opt for the great outdoors.

Once you’ve made a successful trip in the rain, towel off your dog and give him lots of praise. Next time, he may not mind a few raindrops.

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