Walking dog in the rain

Q. I can’t get my dog to go to the bathroom in the rain. She hates to go outside when it’s raining, and when I put her on the grass she just stands there. I assume if she really needs to go, she will eventually, but what can I do to make it easier?

A. Dogs have a wide range of bathroom habits — some pooches will go anywhere, anytime, regardless of the weather, but others are affected by even the smallest change in the surroundings, the surface area and, especially, the weather. Depending on where you live, this could be a major issue. While rain may not be a big deal for someone living in a dry desert climate, if you reside in the Pacific Northwest, your dog’s reluctance to potty in a downpour could be a big concern. 

My Pugs are totally potty opposites. Bruce trots outside and does his business without hesitation, but Willy sniffs for minutes on end, spins a little, then changes his mind at the last second and goes searching for a better area. Any changes in the weather, such as wind, snow or rain, complicate his already picky potty habits and make his bathroom quest take even longer. While Bruce needed little training in order to learn to go potty quickly, Willy’s sensitive nature made training for a fast and efficient bathroom session extremely important. 

Teach Your Dog to Potty on Cue

The first step in teaching your dog to overcome her dislike of the rain is to establish a potty cue. Teaching your pet to potty on cue means that she won’t need to wait for a full bladder to do her business. Every time my dogs are let outside, they are asked to potty and are rewarded when they are done, regardless of whether they only need to potty a few drops or it takes a full 10 seconds to relieve themselves.

Start by introducing the potty cue under normal weather circumstances. When you see your dog just about to potty, such as when she is spinning, sniffing or starting to squat or lift a leg, immediately say your potty cue — for example, “be quick.” As soon as your dog goes to the bathroom, give her a reward. This can be something as simple as praise and petting or a treat, or something interactive like playing fetch or going for a walk.

Teach your dog to be fast when she’s going to the bathroom by delaying the reward until after she does her business. This may mean simply standing by the bushes (or wherever she likes to potty) and giving your pooch little attention until she is finished. As soon as your dog potties, the fun can start!

Without this training, picky pee-ers have little reason to go right away. You would be amazed how long a pooch can hold her pee, especially when faced with bad weather conditions. In addition, many pooches have learned to hold their pee because their owners have inadvertently trained them to delay the call of nature by teaching them that once they potty, the walk or game of fetch ends and they are taken back inside. 

Find the Right Motivation

When teaching your dog to go to the bathroom quickly and on command, it’s important to identify what your pet really wants in order to give her the most motivational reward. I’ve taught my Pugs that when they go outside, the first thing they need to do is go potty. In good weather, their reward may be a stuffed food puzzle or treat, petting and praise, or outdoor playtime. On cold weather days, when both Pugs are reluctant to go outside in the snow or rain, they’ve been taught that only after they go potty can they come back inside the warm house. I also use treats on cold days to motivate them to get their business done in a speedy manner.

Finally, though it may sound silly, for dogs who are especially sensitive to wet or cold conditions, special outdoor gear may help. A rain jacket can make wet weather a little more tolerable, while dogs who dislike wet or cold pavement or grass can be trained to wear special booties to protect their paws.

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