What you need to know about walking a dog in the rain

September 25, 2022 - 5 min read

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Wet dog shaking off the rain
Wet dog shaking off the rain

When we surveyed 250 dog owners in September 2022 more than half said their dog either disliked or hated walking in the rain, compared with only 16% that quite like it and just 15% that love it.

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.

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 wolves, thousands of years of domestication has made some dogs just as reluctant to tolerate the elements as their human owners.

Can a dog get sick from being in the rain?

Overall, walking a strong, healthy dog in the rain does not inherently cause them to become sick.

If your dog has a thick coat it will keep them 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 a weatherproof dog jacket.

But as long as your dog is not exposed to wet, cold weather for too long, and is dried off when you get home, they should be ok.

In fact it's much more dangerous to walk your dog in hot weather than in the cold or rain.

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.

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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. You should also make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date to protect them on wet, wintery walks.

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 — 17% of our survey respondents had this problem with their dogs. Some love it, others are indifferent. 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 themself.

What to do if your dog won't go out in the rain

You could play with your dogs indoors to help them burn off energy when it's raining. Some owners also told us they let their dogs run around in their gardens and do their business there.

Playing with your dog is a great way to ensure they don't miss out on exercise on rainy days spent indoors. But if you don’t have a garden, the problem of going potty remains.

You can use indoor toilet pads, but that might confuse some dogs as to where it's okay to relieve themselves. You might be able to prevent this confusion with good training, but toilet pads simply might not work for all dogs.

Some dogs struggle to go without a walk and will hold it 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 themself.

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 in 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 their anxiety and give it plenty of praise. Prolong the time spent outside gradually.

You can give them treats when they relieve themself and when you get 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.

In fact, with almost a third of our survey respondents saying that wet paws in the home or the car were the worst thing about rainy dog walks, boots and coats could keep pet parents happier too.

A huge 40% of people said wet dog smell was the worst thing about walking their dog in the rain, so what's the answer to a pungeant, puddle-obsessed pooch?

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 and give them somewhere to get themselves warm and dry as soon as you get home to give your nostrils a break.

If you're 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 potty in the rain, consult an animal behaviorist.

Irina Wells
Content Marketing Executive

Irina is a former content marketing executive for ManyPets. She has contributed to a number of personal finance sites, including Loot Financial Services and Claro Money.