The Doggie Downside and Upside to Snow Days

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I don’t know what the weather is like where you are in the world, but it’s been snowing nonstop for hours where we are, just outside our nation’s capital.  They’re expecting up to 36 inches before the weekend is over.  That’s not a lot to most northerners, but it can be a lot for southern dogs.

When a dog moves from a southern climate to a northern one it can be quite an adjustment, depending on the breed, and the dog’s temperament/personality.  A few of our friends from New Orleans live here now and their old southern dog won’t go anywhere near a snowflake.  Then there are some southern friends’ dogs who adjusted to the snow as if they had Alaskan malamute in their blood!

Our dog Hocus Pocus was somewhere in the middle when it came to adjusting to the cold climate.  I was surprised to see how quickly she took to the snow, considering how much she loves the warm beach.  Hocus loves the salt, sand, and sun.  Being a “beach bum” dog was all she had ever known.  Her first encounter with snow was when we moved up to D.C. last year.

Hocus enjoying the sea,  sun, and sand back in North Carolina
Hocus enjoying the sea, sun, and sand back in North Carolina

From Beach Lover to Snow Lover

Even though the snow was an adjustment for Hocus, she adapted quickly, because we helped to make the snow FUN. We never forced her to go into the snow.  We let her choose if she wanted to play with us.  We created positive associations with the snow.  We offered tasty treats when she was apprehensive about going into the snow.  We played games like chase, find it, and we let her explore her outside environment freely. We never forced her to participate.  We taught her that snowfall and being in the snow is a Very Good Thing, and there is nothing to be afraid of. She learned that snow is safe.

Hocus having so much fun in the snow;
Hocus having fun in the snow; a poop and pee are bound to happen out here in Snow Funland

24 four hours of snowfall =  24 hours of a dog refusing to go outside.   

Unfortunately not all dogs have been taught that the snow can be fun.  Even dogs who enjoying playing in the snow with their people, or with other doggie pals will refuse to go outside in their own backyard to pee or poop when the snow comes.  Hocus does this every time a snow storm arrives.  She also does it when it rains.  She does not like the feeling of snow or rain hitting her in the face (but she has no problem face planting into a thick mud puddle).  I see the discomfort on her face if she’s just standing there in the yard as it’s snowing or raining.   If we let her, she will hold her urine and feces until we venture out into the “fun” forest, or until we visit her favorite canine pal’s yard.  Until we take her on an adventure, she either whines near the front door, or avoids the backdoor altogether. This might not seem like a bad thing, but it is very harmful for dogs.

Don’t Hold It In, Pup. 

Humans know that we should pee or poop when we need to go.  When we hold in urine, it can cause toxins to back up into our system, weaken the bladder muscles, and more.  Dogs are no different in this sense.  When a dog has to (or chooses to)  ‘hold it in’ for long periods of time, this can lead to the development of bacteria in the accumulated urine and further lead to a urinary tract infection or worse – a bladder or kidney infection. 

We can’t allow our dogs to just hold it in until they feel like going.  We need to be aware of when they last went to the bathroom. We need to encourage them to go.

Hocus contemplating whether or not to go pee in the yard while it’s snowing

Encourage Your Pup to GO!

As Conscious Companions we must be responsible and take the lead when it comes to getting our dogs to go potty when they need to.  We can’t afford to let our dog hold it for hours on end. But Forcing them to go outside does more harm than good.  We need to encourage our canine companions!  And we need to turn the dreaded snow potty time to FUN potty time!

There are a number of ways that you can do this, that don’t involve force or intimidation. Here are a few techniques that have worked for us:

  • Bring an umbrella –  When it’s snowing cover your dog the same way you would a friend.
  • Bring treats – offer a tasty treat if you dog steps in the snow, then work up to offering a high-value treat right after your pup pees or poops in the snow! Don’t lure your dog out there.  Reward them for even stepping outside. Then reward them again for sniffing the snow.  If he/she touched the snow, throw a treat party! If your dog goes into the snow, have another reward ready! If he/she goes potty, act like it’s the coolest, most amazing thing your dog has ever done!! Be proud of them!! And REWARD THE HECKOUTTA THEM!
  • Bring the party to the yard – make going into the yard so much fun!  Get crazy, be silly, and encourage your dog to play.  Most dogs will go potty after a nice round of exercise and play.
  • Bring a friend – bring one of your dog’s canine pals over to encourage your dog to run amuck together in the yard, or bring your dog to a doggie pal’s yard if they enjoy playing there together.
  • Bring your dog to nature – Take your pup to a local park or forest! There is nothing like Mother Nature to help your dog to poop and pee while out exploring.
  • Bring a sense of humor – Don’t be afraid to be goofy and silly. Lighten the mood!  If you are tense and annoyed, (and/or freezing) your dog is going to pick up on these emotions, and it’s only going to inhibit your dog from becoming relaxed and feeling safe enough to go potty.
  • Bring patience. – Don’t rush the process.  Yes, it’s taking longer than you had hoped, but she’s your dog. She loves you and she needs your patience with this process.
  • Bundle Up! – It’s cold, so dress like it. You may be out there longer than you expected. If you are cold, you are going to be less patient. Set yourself up for success; don’t go out there in your jammies and house shoes.
Making snow potty time FUN potty time!
Making snow potty time a FUN snow party time! My husband was cold and didn’t want to go out there but once he started playing and being goofy, Hocus relaxed about the snow, and started to play … then poop!

What has worked for you and your dogs?

How have you been able to get them to potty in inclement weather?

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