My dogs can’t wait to get outside when the weather is nice, but a rainy day is a much different story. Even when I stand outside in the rain trying to coax them out, I get a look from them that says, “You crazy human. You do know it’s raining – right?” In the end, I usually win out, thanks to patience and the natural urge that sooner or later causes a dog to begrudgingly step out into the rain to do their business.
Keikei is the only one of my dogs who prances around in the rain like Gene Kelly in the classic movie Dancing in the Rain. The other dogs tiptoe through the grass hoping this will keep their feet from getting wet.
Most dogs will resist going outside in the rain, but some don’t seem to mind if they get wet. As long as it’s not storming or coming down in buckets, you can usually coax your dog outside for a quick duty call. It’s usually a hard rain that puts the brakes on for most dogs. I can’t say I blame them, because I don’t want to stand outside when it’s raining hard any more than they do.
For some dogs, it’s not the rain that bothers them, it’s the scary thunder and lightning. One of my dogs, Shelby, has a thunder phobia. The minute the rumbles start, she’s by my side. Dogs with a storm phobia are more often herding breeds and hounds, but any dog can be afraid of storms and it can be a serious issue for an owner to deal with. Dogs scared of storms can have mild to severe reactions. They might chew on anything they can find, salivate, whine, hide, pace, shake, become destructive or aggressive, or cling to their owner for the duration of the storm.
To help ease your pet’s fear, create a comfortable area in your home where your dog can go to feel safe. Some dogs like going into a crate with a blanket over it. I had a dog who hid under the bed, and knew a storm was coming before clouds began to form. As long as your dog isn’t aggressive or overly excited, it’s OK to let him go where he feels safe. If your dog sticks by your side, ignore him. As long as his fear isn’t severe and you remain calm, your dog is more likely to learn to stay calm too.
Thunderstorm anxiety in pets is a serious issue for some dogs. When Shelby comes to me, I let her know I’m aware she’s beside me by putting my hand on her head for a few seconds, but other than that, I leave her alone until the storm passes. If you reward with praise or treats when your dog is scared, it reinforces an unwanted behavior. I save the CANIDAE Pure Heaven dog treats for after the storm has passed and Shelby is calm. That’s when she’s ready to pay attention and do some basic commands. She associates the treats and praise with performing a command, not for being scared of the storm.
If you have a dog with a storm phobia, never force him to go outside during thunder and lightning, and never punish him, especially if he has an accident inside the house. That will only make his fear worse and reinforce unwanted behavior. Some pets can tell when a storm is brewing. Scientists are still trying to learn how they can sense a storm. It’s possible that animals can feel a change in the barometric pressure, hear the sound of thunder or wind, or smell the rain before a storm is close enough for us to see.
As long as your dog isn’t afraid of storms, and there is no thunder or lightning, taking him out when it’s raining is fine. Go outside with him. I know my dogs are more likely to do their business when I’m standing out in the rain with them. Put on your raincoat or grab an umbrella. An umbrella is good because you can share it with your dog so he stays drier. You can also buy doggy raincoats and boots if your dog really doesn’t like to get his feet or fur wet. Make sure to reward him for going out with either a treat or praise. Positive reinforcement lets him know you’re happy with his behavior.
Top photo by sushitsavo
Middle photo by Jörg Ladewig
Bottom photo by Ian Carroll
Read more articles by Linda Cole