It’s raining, it’s pouring, and the dog refuses to go outside. While some dogs seem drawn to water whether it’s a muddy puddle or a springtime rainstorm, others do everything in their power to stay perpetually dry. The threat of getting wet keeps them inside no matter how full their bladder, and even a slight drizzle on their daily walk is enough to launch them into panic.
If this sounds like your dog, you already know how challenging an aversion to rain can really be. No matter where you live, it’s bound to rain eventually. Your pup can try, but they can’t stay dry forever.
Here are a few reasons to explain your dog’s anti-rain behavior and how to help them work through their weather-related woes.
#1 – It’s Honestly Unpleasant
Umbrellas were invented for a reason. Getting dripped on by raindrops and pelted in downpours isn’t fun. You end up cold and damp, and the feeling of rain hitting your face and falling on your head is irksome. Dogs are sometimes more tolerable than humans when it comes to comfort, but that’s not always the case. A lot of dogs protest going out in the rain simply because it’s irritating.
If you don’t like getting stuck in a random rainstorm without your umbrella, you can’t be surprised that your dog feels the same way. Even dogs that are the first to jump in the pool don’t like the rain. It’s not because they don’t like water, it’s because being dripped on over and over is annoying.
#2 – Doggy See, Doggy Do
Dogs take cues on how to behave from the people they spend the most time with—their owners. In the case of the dreaded rainstorm, a dog could learn to hate the rain because they’ve observed their owner expressing similar feelings.
If you work yourself into a frenzy running around closing windows or moving things inside, your dog is going to pick up on your emotions. Your grumblings about bad weather may only be halfhearted, but your dog takes them seriously.
#3 – Negative Associations
Besides their owner’s reaction, a dog can also develop their own negative associations to the rain. If they’re afraid of thunderstorms, for example, they learn fast that rain is often a precursor to those scary booms. It could only be a light drizzle, but the memory of rain coming down during a storm is enough to put them on edge.
Another negative association toward water could have to do with how you discipline your dog. Spraying the dog with the hose when they’re digging in the garden or barking at the neighbor is never a good idea. The only thing they learn from being sprayed is that when water is falling from the sky, their owner is mad. The same concept works if you scold your dog for not doing their business fast enough in the rain. You’re inadvertently making a connection between getting wet and being punished.
#4 – Noise Sensitivities
It might not be the rain itself that bothers your pet; it could be the sound. Heavy rain can be pretty loud, and nervous dogs and dogs with noise sensitivities can react negatively to even the slightest pings of rain hitting a hard surface. Rain on the windows, roof, even your umbrella—it can make a dog nervous enough to want to stay as far away from it as possible. Bella’s House and Pet Sitting says,
“Additionally, it’s believed that up to 20% of all dogs develop a phobia to sound and not just sounds like firework and thunderstorms—rustling leaves, ceiling fans, and the crinkle of garbage bags can bother your dog too.”
How to Help
On sunny days, your dog’s habit of hating the rain is easy to downplay. It only seems important when the weather channel starts calling for clouds. There are ways to entertain your dog indoors if going out on a walk isn’t an option, but there’s still the problem of outdoor bathroom breaks. If your dog refuses to go outside in the rain even when they’ve been holding their bladder all day, you’ll need to find a solution. Here are a few ideas.
You don’t like going out in the rain without something to cover up with, and your dog might appreciate his own set of rain gear. A doggy rain jacket will keep his fur dry, and a fitted hood or hat will keep drops from hitting his face. Rain jacket material might also amplify the sound, however, so make sure your pup isn’t bothered by noise. Booties are also good for pups that don’t like getting their paws wet. If your pup isn’t the type to tolerate accessories, buying an umbrella big enough to cover the both of you might work.
Be a Partner
Fearful dogs look to their owners for support and reassurance. If you’re trying to force your dog out the door while you stay safe and dry inside, you’re sending a message that they’re on their own. Being alone in an uncomfortable situation will usually only strengthen their aversion. Leading your dog outside into the rain will tell them, “Hey, I’m doing it too. You’re safe with me.”
Start Water Desensitization
Desensitizing your dog to rain needs to be a slow process full of positive reinforcement. Your method of shoving them out the door and not letting them come inside until after they’ve done their business will only traumatize them further. Instead, Rover suggests techniques to make them feel more comfortable. They say,
“Get your dog used to water by taking him out to pee after you’ve watered the lawn. You could also try feeding your dog on the wet grass or playing with them in a sprinkler or with a garden hose to create positive associations with the feeling of wet terrain.”
If it’s the noise your dog is afraid of, use the same method of desensitizing. Start with simulating the sound of rain with a hose or sprinkler and give your dog praise and treats at the same time. Your goal is for them to replace their fear with anticipation of a reward. While you’re at it, make an effort to completely halt all negative associations to water. When it starts raining, show your dog you’re happy, not disappointed. Never use water as a punishment.
Featured Image via Flickr/philhearing
h/t: Bella’s House and Pet Sitting, Rover