Walking in the rain can be uncomfortable for both you and your dog. You’re cold, your shoes are water-logged, and you have to avoid walking next to the road if you don’t want to get splashed. Most breeds don’t enjoy walking through puddles and getting dripped on. Even water-loving dogs such as Labradors can find it unpleasant, especially if rainy weather is paired with wind or low temperatures. This can also cause a problem if you need your dog to potty while on the walk. With adequate preparation and gear, you and your dog will be able to have a beneficial, enjoyable walk even when the weather turns stormy.
One of your biggest concerns will be keeping your dog warm and dry. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and you can combine techniques to what suites your dog and your walking needs. An umbrella might be an option, but not the one you have by the door in case of a light sprinkle. You will need a much larger umbrella, one that will cover your dog when walking beside you. There are even umbrellas made specifically for dogs that can attach to your dog’s collar or “reverse” umbrellas in which the handle is on the top. It might be a good idea to consider a hands-free option as this will free up your hands while keeping your dog covered. When it rains, you probably grab a different jacket when you head out, such as one with a hood or a poncho. Your dog will benefit from wearing one as well! Stores sell rain jackets and ponchos made specifically for your dog’s size. If your dog is not used to wearing clothing, it will take some practice. You can try putting the outfits on even when it’s not raining to get your dog used to wearing the items around the house. Rain boots can also be an option to keep paws out of puddles. They come in a variety of sizes and can usually be Velcro strapped to avoid falling off in the wet weather. When considering rain gear for yourself and your dog, try to find gear that is reflective or that you can add reflective strips to. This provides the bonus of keeping you both visible in poor weather. For more information about staying visible in poor weather, you can check out our information in the article “Walking Your Dog At Night.”
While thinking about your walk route, consider areas where you know there is more coverage such as a building overhangs, dense tree leaves, or construction scaffolding. These can keep some of the water (but not all) from reaching the sidewalk. Avoid walking alongside busy streets as well. Nothing will put a bigger damper on your walk than being splashed by a passing car. You’ll be miserable and your dog might be more anxious of passing cars. Also plan ahead by checking your local weather, especially radars. These can help decide the most opportune time of day to take your walk, and the weather update will let you know about wind patterns and temperatures. If you hear thunder growing louder or see lightning, it is time to head home. It is dangerous to be out in lightning storms, and many dogs are afraid of thunder. The best place for them when thunder rumbles is at home where they can get comfortable and feel protected.
Dogs may be less inclined than normal to potty outside while it is raining. They are already uncomfortable and extra vulnerable when doing their business. This may sound nearly impossible to accomplish when your dog is anxious due to the weather. If you use commands to get your dog to do his or her business, use them generously and remember to make your dog feel secure. This can be accomplished by keeping him or her dry, even if that means holding your umbrella over your dog while you get a little damp, or waiting until you are both under coverage such as scaffolding or an awning. Make sure to praise your dog when he or she finishes; it will encourage your dog to keep up the good work.
Upon returning home, clean up begins. Remove all rain gear and use a towel to dry off your dog’s legs and paws. Check the belly and tail as these areas tend to get wet and dirty, especially on shorter dogs. If your dog is comfortable with it, consider using a hairdryer on low heat to speed up the drying process. Preparing before you leave on the walk will reduce the mess when you return home. Make sure your dog has a full bowl of water. Drinking puddle water on the walk could lead to all kinds of problems since bacteria and wastes collect in them. If you have a towel by the door when you come home, this can keep your dog from tracking mud through your home and will help warm him or her up.
After a walk in the rain, all you want to do is take a warm shower and change into dry clothes. Your dog wants to warm up and dry off, too! Praise your dog for a job well done and make it something he or she won’t dread next time the clouds roll in. You can give a treat or some extra belly rubs, but in any case your dog wants to relax with his or her favorite person for just a minute where it’s dry and warm.
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By Callie T.