Twenty-nine percent of dog owners say their dogs don’t like the rain but only 7% said they avoid walking their dogs in the rain, according to a survey of 250 dog owners conducted by Bought By Many.
Although many owners know their pets don't like a wet walk, is there anything they can do to coax their dog out in a shower?
Why some dogs don't like the rain
Dog's senses are stronger than humans’, which means they can be more sensitive to sounds and smells associated with rain. This can make a walk in the rain overwhelming. The sound of the rain hitting the ground and other surfaces can make dogs nervous and even cause ear pain. Unfamiliar or strong smells can also frighten or disorient them.
Dogs that are afraid of thunder may have negative associations. If they’ve associated thunder with rain from past experiences they might expect thunder when it starts to rain and seek a safe spot to retreat to.
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Some experts believe dogs can sense changes in air pressure and electricity, which is believed to be the reason why they might be able to "predict” bad weather before it happens.
Most importantly, they may dislike getting wet. Even though they are descended from wolfs, thousands of years of domestication has made some dogs just as reluctant to tolerate the elements as their human owners.
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Can a dog get sick from being in the rain?
Overall, walking a strong, healthy dog in the rain does not inherently cause it to become sick.
If your dog has a thick coat it will keep it warm and protect them from getting soaked. A dog with a thinner coat is likely to get wet quicker so you might want to consider water-resistant clothing. But as long as your dog is not exposed to wet, cold weather for too long, and is dried off when you get home, it should be ok.
It's worth noting that very young or old dogs, or dogs with a weaker immune system are at greater risk of becoming ill in general.
Depending on where you live, stagnant water in puddles might sometimes host pathogens that cause leptospirosis and giardia. Although most dogs splash in puddles without getting ill, if your dog exhibits signs of being ill, such as vomiting and diarrhea, shortly after walks or lays in puddles, it might be worth mentioning it to your vet.
One of the most important things to consider when deciding whether you should take your dog out for a walk is their preference. Some dogs will flat out refuse to go out in the rain, some love it, others are indifferent – 50% of the pet owners we surveyed told us their dog doesn’t care about the rain. If you have a strong healthy dog, it’s safe to let its preference guide your decision.
If your dog hates the rain and refuses to set a paw outside, you might need to seek an alternative to make sure they get enough exercise and the chance to relieve themselves
What to do if your dog refuses to go out in the rain
The majority of the respondents in our survey said they play with their dogs indoors to help them burn off energy when it's raining. Some owners told us they let their dogs run around the garden and go to the toilet there.
Playing with your dog is a great way to ensure it doesn’t miss out on exercise on rainy days spent indoors; however, if you don’t have a garden, the problem of going to the toilet remains.
You can use indoor toilet pads but that might confuse some dogs as to where it's ok to relieve themselves. You might be able to prevent this confusion with good training but toilet pads might not work for all dogs.
Some dogs struggle to go without a walk and will hold it for as long as they can; until they no longer can and have an accident in the house. In that case the best thing to do is to find a covered area outdoors to walk around for a bit so that your dog can relieve itself.
But there are things you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable in the rain.
How to train a dog to walk in the rain
You can train a dog to become more comfortable with the rain by using praise and treats. You can begin with short intervals of being out in the rain – talk calmly to your dog to sooth its anxiety and give it plenty of praise. Prolong the time spent outside gradually.
You can give treats when it relieves itself and when you go back home. Eventually your dog will begin to associate a walk in the rain with the pleasant experience of getting plenty of praise from you and some tasty treats.
In addition, you can use dog ear muffs if your dog tolerates them to make the surrounding noises more bearable. Some pet owners use them to help dogs stay calm during thunder.
Doggy rain gear can also help. Raincoats and booties are a great way to help your dog stay dry.
A large umbrella that you can hold over both yourself and your dog might also be helpful, but you may not always be able to use one if it’s too windy, so it’s best to help your dog get used to the rain.
If you are worried your dog might not be healthy enough to go out in the rain, speak to your vet for advice. If you need further help training your dog to go to the toilet in the rain, consult an animal behaviourist.