Dogs have a complicated relationship with water. Some hounds adore swimming and frolicking through a fountain, while others will race away as fast as their four legs will allow them. Most pooch parents will also be familiar with the horrors of bath time, with the reactions of our canine companions akin to subjecting them to water torture. Then, of course, we have the rain…
Most dogs hate the wet weather. It’s a common complaint that a dog will not pee or poop outside while it’s raining, and we can forget about taking a dog out during a thunderstorm. In addition to the waterworks, the loud noises associated with a storm will likely scare the life out of poor Fido.
Happily, there are ways around these particular problems. If you’re looking for advice on walking your dog in the heavy rain or are wondering where to take your dog when it’s raining, read on!
Why Do Dogs Hate Rain?
We should probably be fair to our canine companions here; very few of us actually like the idea of being caught in a downpour. The reason our dogs dislike the wet weather is much as the same as humans. Strolling around in the rain leaves us feeling cold, soaked to the bone and concerned about the condition of our hair.
Now, magnify that by a hundred and you’re still nowhere close to how Fido feels. It won’t have escaped your attention that dogs are covered with fur (two coats in the case of some breeds), which is a lot of hair to get wet and feel weighed down by.
In addition, any pooch with curly fur will likely find themselves growing matted in the rain, necessitating yet another soaking in the bath and the attention of a hairbrush.
The Smells and Sounds of Rain
It may surprise you, but there is actually more to Fido’s reluctance to head outside in the rain. In addition to being left feeling cold, wet and miserable when they could be sat on a cushion beside the fire, dogs can experience a sensory overload when it comes to the rain.
Next time it rains outside, take a moment of calm and quiet to really experience the moment. You can hear those raindrops falling against the roof, right? Well, bear in mind that Fido can hear that too – and a dog’s range of hearing is significantly wider than ours.
If the rain sounds so heavy that it makes you do a double take, it must be deafening – and, to be blunt, pretty terrifying – for your dog. It’s hardly surprising that they don’t want to go outside in such conditions, and would rather stay where they’re safe!
The same also applies to the smell of rain. As humans, we can find this scent quite appealing and fresh, especially if it follows a heatwave, but the smell is very strong for canine scent receptors.
My Dog Used to Go Outside in the Rain, But Won’t Anymore – Why?
There is probably a very simple explanation for this, especially if you brought your dog into the family as a puppy.
Younger dogs don’t tend to have fully developed senses yet, especially sight and sound, and they’ll take any opportunity they can to get outdoors and play. If your dog has seemingly developed a sudden aversion to peeing outside when it’s raining, it may just be a part of growing up and reaching maturity.
Convincing Your Dog to Walk in the Rain
No matter how much they may dislike it, dogs will need to get outside in the rain every once in a while. A larger dog may be reluctant to get out in the elements, but they’ll be bouncing off the walls if it’s raining all day and they don’t manage to get some exercise.
Even smaller dogs need to get out to take care of their toilet business, and it can set a dangerous precedent to allow a dog to skip out on their daily routine on the grounds of bad weather. Depending on where you live, the climate may be damp and wet for several months at a time.
Practice Makes Perfect
It sounds simple, but you may just have to be patient and resilient when it comes to walkies in the rain. Invest in a good quality set of waterproof clothing for yourself, from coat to boots, and keep getting Fido out and about in the rain. With a little bit of luck, your dog will eventually grow desensitized to the conditions.
You’ll also need to be understanding and respectful of your dog’s wishes, though. If your hound is truly reluctant to be out and about, don’t force the issue; they may need time to get used to walking in the rain. Bring your dog home and dry them off, then try again in an hour. Eventually, it will become part of Fido’s routine, albeit begrudgingly so.
Treats and Rewards
Of course, the simplest way to convince your dog to do anything is to implement and treat and compensation system. Sometimes our canine companions may seem to be hugely intelligent and filled with deep and meaningful thoughts about the universe, but they’ll still flip and outdo anything for a reward!
What reward you choose depends on what drives your dog most. If they are food-motivated, then keep some of their favorite treats back and use them exclusively for post-wet walkies. It won’t take long for Fido to start associating their snack of choice with the rain, making bad weather something to look forward to rather than dread.
On the other hand, some dogs are more enticed by the idea of a playtime than a treat. If this applies to your own pet, have a special toy that is only dusted off after taking Fido outside in the rain. Whether it’s a treasured squeaky chew toy or an interactive plaything that results in a game of tug-of-war between your pooch pal and yourself, it’s just another way of making a wet walk feel worthwhile for your dog.
There’s only one thing to remember, however; whichever of these two reward styles you choose, make sure you indulge in them as soon as you cross the threshold of your home after a walk in the rain. This way, Fido will connect the trip outside with the treat or toy.
How to Keep Your Dog Dry in the Rain
Of course, one way to convince your dog to actually take a walk in the rain is to somehow keep them dry in the process. This could be done by using clothing if you’re not averse to dressing your dog up – and, of course, if your dog will allow you to do so!
Wet Weather Attire for Dogs
Clothing for dogs is widely available, both online and in pet stores all over the world. It can sometimes be a struggle to find attire that fits larger dogs, but don’t be put off by the slightly ridiculous sight of Chihuahuas in fancy dress – there are plenty of practical garments that your dog will find beneficial!
- Dog Raincoats – Dog raincoats can be a hugely effective way of allowing the rain to bounce off your dog’s back, while also keeping them warm in the winter months. Most dog raincoats also come equipped with hoods (though many dogs will greatly resist having something placed over their heads) and will fasten below the belly, keeping those doggy tummies warm and dry. This is especially useful for smaller dogs with short legs, as it will cut down on the necessity of additional bathing to keep Fido clean.
- Dog Ponchos – If you live in an area prone to showers and constant light rainfall, a dog rain poncho may be a better option than a raincoat. These garments may not add any additional warmth and will not cover an entire body, but they should prevent Fido from getting soaked by the rainfall that would otherwise cover his back and leave him shivering.
- Dog Rain Boots and Socks – One of the side effects of rain is mud – more on that later. Mud can be dangerous as well as mucky though, and it could pay to keep their paws clean and dry with some doggy rain boots. They’re not always practical and some dogs simply won’t get along with them, but if your dog is interested and able they’ll stay safe.
Just prepare yourself for training in convincing your dog to wear these clothes. Remember that this is not something that comes naturally to canines, so they may run away and hide when you see your pull a coat from a closet.
Dogs are smart, and they know full well that if you want them to wear clothing, it means that you want them to go for a walk in the rain!
Drying Your Dog After a Wet Walk
There are many different ways of drying your dog off once you get them home, which bring a variety of different results.
- Air Dying – It may seem a little cruel initially as it will feel as though you are willingly allowing your dog to stay wet, but air drying is actually a dog’s preferred way of losing water. Every time Fido unleashes a vigorous shake he doesn’t just soak everybody and everything in the vicinity – he also releases almost two-thirds of the moisture trapped within his fur. Just stand well clear!
- Towel Drying – Arguably the most common way of drying off a damp and soggy canine is to rub them in a towel and rub their fur vigorously. On one hand, this may be appealing to your dog; the towel will keep them warm, and they’ll enjoy the interaction with their owner that it provides. However, some dogs may feel trapped and try to escape. If your dog doesn’t take to towel drying, don’t try to force the issue. Also, be aware that if you have a large dog, or your hound is particularly wet, you are going to get through a lot of towels.
- Hair Dryer – Some dogs may be frightened by the loud noises produced by a hair dryer, especially the first time they experience it. After a while, however, many dogs learn to love the sensation of being blown dry, seemingly thinking of the whole experience as being akin to a doggy spa, and it’s a great way of ensuring a consistent, all-over drying. Young and playful pups will also try to jump and ‘catch’ the hot air with their mouths, which is one of most adorable things you will ever see!
- Chamois – A chamois is usually used for cleaning a window, but it can also be very useful for drying off wet fur. These cloths are typically constructed from leather, which makes them soft to the touch for your tail-wagging chum but also hugely absorbent. Best of all, once you have wrung out the chamois it’ll be virtually bone dry, enabling you to leave it in a drawer and use it again.
Can a Dog Get Sick from Being Out in the Rain?
“Don’t you go outside in the rain, you’ll catch pneumonia!”
How many times did you hear that phrase during your childhood? You probably swore that you would never repeat it to your own children, but how about your dogs? Can dogs grow sick if they are caught out in a rainfall?
Rainwater poisoning is arguably the biggest danger that faces any dog. Paradoxical creatures that they are, dogs that hate the rain often love splashing around in puddles.
As they work up a thirst, dogs will then instinctively go to drink from a puddle in the ground – a puddle that could be hazardous. Not only will the rainwater potentially be a breeding ground for bacteria, but it could also be filled with animal urine, droppings, and other unpleasantness.
The result is potential kidney failure, with the warning signs including vomit, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
If your dog has been drinking from a puddle and they seem out of sorts, consult a vet as soon as possible. If caught early enough, rainwater poisoning can usually be treated with antibiotics and clear fluids.
Is Mud Dangerous for Dogs?
The only thing that’s potentially more dangerous than rainwater where dogs are concerned is mud. Again, many canines enjoy frolicking in filth, and there appears to be a direct correlation between how white a dog’s fur is and how dirty they get while playing outside. After a downpour of rain, most green spaces will be mud baths that are amazing fun for a dog that loves to get dirty.
This isn’t necessarily a problem – dogs will be dogs, after all. Where we have to be vigilant, however, is the risk of Alabama Rot. As the name suggests, this horrific disease causes dog paws to rot, leading to open sores that quickly grow infected.
It’s hard to know where Alabama Rot originates, but it is believed to thrive in muddy, swampy areas. If your dog has been walking through mud, wash their paws the moment they get home, preferably with an antibacterial solution, and keep an eye on them – if they are licking their paws more than usual, have a vet take a look to be on the safe side. Do not take any chances with Alabama Rot, as this disease will be fatal.
Can Dogs Catch Flu from Being Out in the Rain?
Doggy flu comes with the slightly confusing name of Kennel Cough (or Infectious Tracheobronchitis for those of a scientific bent), meaning that many people assume their dogs will be safe unless they stay in communal lodgings such as a kennel.
The truth is any dog can catch this hugely contagious virus, and it can be dangerous.
The symptoms of Kennel Cough include:
- Wheezing, as though struggling for breath
- Audible coughing, especially if this sounds like a ‘honking’ sound
- Regular sneezing
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
- A runny nose
If your dog has social time with other canines, they could be at risk of contracting the condition. Thankfully, a basic annual vaccine is available against this particular condition and is well worth investing in. Thankfully, however, a dog will not catch Kennel Cough from being out in the rain.
Can Dogs Catch Human Flu?
The short answer is yes. Even though canines and humans have very different immune systems, a dog can contract a strain of the disease.
There are a number of symptoms that suggest that your dog has caught your bug, including:
- Streaming and watery eyes
- Vomit and diarrhea
- Wheezing, as though struggling for breath
- Audible coughing, especially if this sounds like a ‘honking’ sound
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
Alternative Exercise for Dogs While it’s Raining
As we have already covered, it’s really for the best that dog owners do everything they can to convince their pooch to get outside in the rain. Bad weather is a fact of life in almost every part of the world, but there are a handful of alternative options for exercising your dog when the weather outside is frightful.
- Hydrotherapy – If you have a dog that enjoys swimming but hates the rain, look into a local hydrotherapy session. While this exercise, which involves dogs learning swimming in an indoor pool, is usually for poorly or underdeveloped dogs to strengthen their leg muscles, sessions just for fun are also often available.
- Indoor Obstacle Course – If you have a large enough house, you may be surprised at how much exercise you can offer your dog. Run them up and down the stairs many times, have them hunt down something that’s hard to find, make a series of hurdles using cushions… embrace your imagination, and the possibilities are endless.
- Exercise Equipment – That’s right, you can buy the kind of kit that makes a home gym, including treadmills for dogs and weights! You’ll have to supervise your dog’s workout for his or her safety, though.
Indoor Toilet Training Options
If getting your dog to pee or poop while it’s raining if your biggest challenge, you may have a couple of options for indoor alternatives.
Just bear in mind that every instinct – and training – that your dog has it to do their business outdoors, so it may confuse your poor pooch to eliminate indoors.
- Litter Trays may work if you have a puppy or a particularly small dog. Lay down a puppy pad and a spray, and find something else that will mask the scent – both for your own sake, and to ensure that Fido doesn’t start to think of the entire house as one giant toilet.
- Scented Astroturf, such as what you find in airports and train stations, is available online and in pet stores. These patches of artificial grass are scented to mimic the aroma and experience of peeing outdoors and may do the trick for a smaller dog.
Dogs and Thunderstorms
We have mentioned that rain can be quite frightening for dogs, but how about thunderstorms? These can be terrifying for humans, which makes them particularly so for dogs, who do not understand what is going on.
It is not advisable to take your dog out during a thunderstorm, not least due to the risk factors associated with lightning. If you absolutely must, or would prefer to make your dog a little more comfortable within the home, shield their ears from the booming thunder.
Dog Ear Plugs
Just as you would expect, dog ear plugs work just like their human counterparts. Purchase something very soft that will prevent any pain, and the loud crashing sounds of the thunderclaps will be muted. However, your dog may be more comfortable with an overhead pair of ear muffs, such as Mutt Muffs DDR337 Hearing Protection for Dogs.
Another way of calming a dog down is to clad them in an anxiety vest, such as the American Kennel Club AKC Anti Anxiety Coat for Dogs. These were initially designed for dogs that are afraid of fireworks or experience separation anxiety, these vests offer reassurance to a dog and calm any skittish nerves – perfect for a pooch that is forced to confront a thunderstorm head-on.