I’ll never forget my first rainy day potty experience with Leroy, my pit bull rescued amidst Hurricane Katrina’s chaos. When gray skies opened up many months later, this storm survivor could not step foot outside, let alone into our apartment’s dog run to relieve his bladder. Leroy sat at the threshold of the back patio door as if a forcefield had descended across the patio built to keep him from passing. Hours ticked by until Leroy finally released his 14-hour hold outside, flooding my heart with empathy and conviction. I knew we couldn’t wait for the next downpour to prepare differently. It was time to get ahead of anxieties about “sky water” before the clouds rolled in again...
Don’t Wait for Downpours!
Imagine if you only exposed your pup to their leash when it was time for the dreaded vet. Chances are they’d hide under beds avoiding that negative stimulus. But because most dogs experience walks or play from a young age, the leash becomes a cue connecting to pleasure. We need to build similarly happy associations between going into the backyard and out on a leashed walk in sunny weather before testing it when the stakes seem high.
A great first step? Treat bright days like blank canvases to establish an awesome neighborhood walking routine together! Grab those leashes, hook into harnesses, collect treat pouches and set the stage for an awesome adventure awaiting right outside your door. Let cues like sight of gear or jingling keys spark that excitement in anticipation of exploring familiar routes with you side-by-side. Ensure ample sniff time and let them wander at their pace, letting wanderlust lead and curiosity inspire spontaneous stops. Build these neighborhood walks into reliable rituals offering not just exercise, but endless enrichment mental stimulation too.
We can get even more creative connecting positivity with yard access through sniff and search cues! While your dog waits inside, go into the yard and hide irresistible edibles or a beloved toy then come back inside. Build motivation for the backyard by having your dog wait eagerly to be released outside. Cue your dog “outside”, open the door, then cue them to “go search” to unleash fun. Let them proudly parade their discovered bounty or come zipping back for another round of search. Bring them back inside and try the same set up again until your dog eagerly runs outside when you cue “outside.” Not only does this backyard nosework game spark joyful anticipation of outdoor access, it couples the yard itself with rich reward history in their mind.
Teach Potty Cues in Good Weather
Of course, the whole intent behind baking in sunny day rewards is ultimately to generalize enjoyment outside when less pleasant weather inevitably arises. So while brightness abounds, be sure to leverage that cooperation for addressing potty needs too. Pick times your dog already seems inclined by circling or sniffing to gently prompt with a phrase like “go pee” or “go poop.” Pick a cue for each function and reward with a food treat after they go. The goal is to teach them cues to go pee and poop. As your dog becomes conditioned to associate the verbal prompt with relief and rewards, you’ll find it easier to cue this behavior later on when its wet outside.
Caught Unprepared? Reactive Management Tips
Uh oh, you wake up to unexpected downpours and haven’t established prevention foundations yet. Now what? Take a deep breath and opt for management for your rainy day outing. Protect previously earned positive associations by meeting dogs where they’re at. Toss on raincoats, arm yourself with umbrellas, and head out for a brief leashed walk together rather than relying on backyard bravery. And be prepared to stand out in the elements too - how can you expect your dog to conquer discomfort you bypass? Accompany your pup on leash, rewarding small steps in the right direction. Once your dogs goes potty, bring them backside right way and deliver food treats once back on dry ground.
Teach Enjoying Being Wet, Separate from Pottying
Dogs don’t instantly love getting soaked to the bone. But most can discover drizzle delights if we separate that process from pressured potty time expectations. Take your already established neighborhood walk routine or backyard sniff games and run them when the ground is wet or during a light sprinkle. Gradually increase dampness levels across sessions as you see willingness and eagerness. When shake-offs turn to play bows under light rainfall, this sensory exposure cements wet weather readiness for heavier storms in the future.
Equip for Comfort
While most dogs don’t need rain gear to brave the elements, some dogs require additional amenities. Tiny pups, short haired speed demons, and cold-sensitive breeds often appreciate raincoats. And good luck getting those Pitbulls or Chihuahuas to potty in the rain without their raincoats and fleece onesies! But jokes aside, assess your dog’s individual needs. If shivering or slowing despite normally frolicking for hours, consider a rain jacket. Their confidence should guide your choices.
Start indoors by associating the gear with treats or play to offset any potential irritation wearing new items. When your pup remains ecstatic catching cookies clad in their slicker, you know it’s smoothed the way for functional outdoor freedom despite soggy fur.
Transforming your dog’s dread into delight during damper days takes patience, not pack leader pontification. But with compassionate, incremental steps tailored to their needs - splendid sunlit beginnings, delicious incentives, coached cues - you can shift rainy relations for the better. Protect their joie de vivre when the clouds burst unexpectedly. But better yet, remove any scary surprise by laying wet weather foundations under blue skies first. Control what you can in advance so come rain or shine, hesitancy yields to motivation. Just be the umbrella they can depend on when hesitation strikes before embracing the elements with new confidence tomorrow.
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