At my house, neither of my dogs are big fans of the rain, but it has never really been that big of an issue. That is, until the last major rain storm. For whatever reason, Ferrous took one look at the downpour and refused to leave the shelter of our tiny patio. At first, I wasn’t really bothered. Both of my dogs never have accidents in the house unless they are sick. I was confident that Ferrous would let me know when he needed to go out, and when he couldn’t hold it anymore he would brave the rain.

I was right. He did let me know when he needed to go out. Eventually he dashed out to do his business as quickly as possible before running back inside. What I didn’t bargain for though was how long he could hold it and the amount of stress that caused him. Sometime around 3:00am on the second night, when Ferrous finally relieved himself after about 10 hours of failed trips to the back yard, he fell asleep exhausted and I decided I couldn’t just wait for him to get over this new problem himself. He needed to be convinced that the backyard was a good place again, even in the rain, so the next day I came up with a plan. The same basic plan can be used with a dog of any age that is already well house trained.

  1. Talk to your veterinarian. If you haven’t been in recently, now might be a good time. It is not uncommon for medical problems to masquerade as behavior problems. I haven’t ruled this out entirely with Ferrous yet, but his vet and I are in close communication.
  2. Make sure there is nothing else that is preventing your dog from wanting to go out. In Ferrous’s case, he has a hard time with narrow spaces, so I made sure there were no obstacles in his path through the garage. Another quirk he has is his need for the yard to be very clean. I am usually very good about picking up after the dogs, but I can get a little lax when the weather turns bad. I went over every inch of the yard thoroughly so there would be no surprises that might put a negative spin on his time outside
  3. Go outside with your dog, and keep him on-leash. The leash will ensure that he is right next to you when he goes to the bathroom. This is important for step number 4. Some dogs will need a little coaxing to get them out on to the wet grass, or whatever surface your yard is. Never push or drag! Success depends on making the yard a good place. For Ferrous, proceeding him out in to the yard and then kneeling down invitingly while making “smoochy” noises was enough to get him to join me. I made it worth his effort by giving him a good scratch and a treat.
  4. Reward your dog for going to the bathroom outside. Once I had Ferrous in the yard, I just stood and waited for him to do his business. Since he already has a long history of eliminating there, it did not take long. As soon as he finished I lavished him with his favorite treat (cheese!) and praise. I spent a good 30 seconds letting him know what a good boy he was. I used treats along with praise because I really wanted counteract the negative effect of the rain.

Within a few days Ferrous was returning to his normal self and going out regardless of the weather. I stuck to our plan and kept rewarding him for about a week after just to make sure he continued to feel good. We are not out of the woods yet though. Over the winter I will keep treats on hand and watch for signs that the reluctance is returning and nip any problems in the bud. Oregon is no place to be afraid of the rain.

Photo © Martin L, Flickr Creative Commons