Ask a Dog Trainer: What do I do if my dog won’t go outside in bad weather?

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Rain? Snow? Hell no! Our client Maybe refuses to eliminate outside in bad weather.

Hi Annie,
Our dog, Maybe, is almost 100% housebroken with the occasional accident on weekends, but she doesn’t like walking in bad weather. Today it was raining and I couldn’t get her to go out. So, she pooped in the house, hid her poop then started eating it. She’s done this before and it’s so gross! I know she’s ashamed, but what should I do?

Would it be terrible to bring the weewee pad back out on snowy/rainy days? Would she never learn if I did this? I also couldn’t help but scream when I saw her eating the poo.
Thank you in advance! Sorry to write you about this I’m just at a loss and overwhelmed. –Jenn

Hi Jenn–
Yes, poop eating is gross! BUT it makes sense, evolutionarily. If you’re an animal in the woods with nothing left to eat, you can try to see if your body can fish out some nutrients it missed in the last go through. And dogs don’t seem to mind the smell of poop, so maybe they think it tastes good. It is also possible that she knows that pooping in front of you is something you don’t like, so she tries to keep it from you and has figured out that eating it is one way to get rid of the evidence. Anyway, I’m not trying to defend her position, just attempting to explain it. I totally understand screaming, however: No one wants to watch someone they love eat poop.

So, I say put down a weewee pad when it’s nasty out. Do not worry about getting her out in the snow if it seems to make her miserable. If the weather is very bad, I suggest attempting to bring her out once a day for a very short time, just so she can get used to being out in the rain or snow. You can be holding her the whole time if you want, at least at the start. Try to help make the whole thing into a good experience by pairing it with something good, like cheese or peanut butter. (As you’ve probably seen at our studio, we like using little travel tubes to deliver these kind of delicacies).

Until she is really used to lots of different kinds of weather –experienced in manageable doses –you don’t need to expect anything of her outside if the weather is really bad. Imagine a child who has just learned to use the toilet and has had one month of no diapers. Now imagine the child goes into the bathroom and there she encounters some extreme weather condition she has never seen before. Would you expect the kid to happily sit on the toilet in the middle of the hail? I have never potty trained a kid and I’ve never had hail in the bathroom, but I think I would play it safe and keep the kid out of the bathroom.

One day, if she is super used to peeing on the toilet and cannot even imagine going in a diaper, she would probably be able to relieve herself in the right spot, even in the case of an indoor tornado.

Here is the thing about weewee pads: If you put down a weewee pad, you do not have to leave it down all the time. You can pick it up and put it down. If you’re going to try this, do it in a place where she doesn’t already have a history of going inside. With some training, dogs can learn to go there if it is there, and not go if it’s not. This can be helpful if, for example, it is raining and you want your dog to go to the bathroom in the hallway. What you’ll want to do is make sure to monitor her inside in a penned-in area close to the pad when you think she has to go, and not let her be able to wander over to that area too much if her bladder is full but there is no pad down. You can also bring her there, just as you would take her out on a walk. But, instead of outside, at walk times you’re taking her to the weewee pad. Stay there with her and reward her when she goes (make sure you wait and reward her after she goes, as if you do it during her going you might interrupt her from taking care of biz).

Bring her there at times when you would normally take her for a walk. It may be helpful to have a brisk trot around the house with her or a game of tug before you bring her to the pad, just to get her body juices flowing. Or, you could have her on a leash and practice some indoor walking– that is a way to give her some exercise as well (both mental and physical).

If she doesn’t go, you can crate her or have her in a bag with you or tethered to you for ten minutes, and then try again. The idea is to not give her a lot of opportunity to go in the wrong place, or at the wrong time (I don’t want her pooping at times you aren’t there to pick it up, because I don’t want her dining on crap).

If she starts going in the place that the weewee pad is when it isn’t on one of your indoor walk times, then you either need to keep it down or crate her/carry her/tether her more in between your indoor walks.

Poop eating (known as “coprophagia” if you’re a dog trainer or you’re an Ancient Greek) is no fun and could be a problem separate from her weather-induced house-soling. Some cases of this tendency are more serious than others. If it persists as an issue, I suggest adding some fiber to her meals, as sometimes, we think, a lack of it in the diet may be what moves them to eat their waster. They’re being resourceful! Fortunately, we humans have some less disgusting ways to help them get the fiber they need.

Annie

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