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Walking a Dog in the Rain: A Survival Guide

For dog owners and dog walkers a like, rain days can mean wet walks with their favorite pooch. 

That often translates into wet, smelly fur and muddy paws in the house. And if you don’t prepare before heading out, you can end up with a wet, smelly home. 

If you have doodle with long hair, walking a dog in the rain can also mean fur mats.

But unless you want your dog to go to the bathroom inside the house, you’ll need to take them out for potty breaks.

Join us as we share our Survival Guide to Walking a Dog in the Rain. Here you will find the hidden dangers of walking a dog in the rain. Plus tips on how to stay dry and deal with the mess.  

Walking a Dog in the Rain: A Survival Guide

Should I Walk My Dog in the Rain?

You will find that many dogs, even ones that like the water, will not enjoy walking in the rain. Our poodle mix hates going out in the rain. If your dog is not the rain loving type, I suggest you skip the walk. Instead just take them out for quick potty breaks.

Even if your dog loves walking in the rain you should think twice before taking them on a long walk. There are hidden dangers with walking your dog in the rain that you might not have thought of. Here are five things you need to consider before you take your dog for a walk in the rain.

Lightning

Although rare there is a change that you can be struck by lightning while walking out in a storm. If you are near a body of water that risk increases. Also lightning and thunder can frighten a dog. This may cause your dog to break free and run into traffic.

Low visibility

Heavy rain can make it difficult for drivers to see you and your pup in the street. It can also impair your vision.

Weather may change for the worst

Storms tend to increase in intensity. What might have started as a light rain could turn into a heavy downpour before you are able to seek shelter.

Falling trees

There is an increased risk of being struck by a falling tree or tree limb during a storm. This is probably more common than getting struck by lightning.

Puddles

Puddles pose a threat to your dog both when it is raining and when the skies have cleared. This is because standing water can harbor dangerous bacteria that can cause your dog to become ill. In the Rainy Day Dangers for Dogs post on PetMD.com, Dr. Sarah Tauber, a veterinarian at DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital states “Leptospirosis and giardia are two infectious agents that can potentially result when dogs consume diseased water [found in puddles],” 

Puddles can also be dangerous if toxins like motor oil, antifreeze or lawn chemicals have spread to puddles during rainfall. These toxins can be consumed by your dog, either by drinking the water directly or by licking their paws after stepping in the puddle.

Can Dogs Get Sick from Walking in the Rain?

While rain itself generally will not cause harm to your pup, standing rainwater can harm your pup. Dogs can become sick by ingesting contaminated rainwater either by drinking from a puddle or by licking it off their paws. In addition, dogs can get sick if they are exposed to wet, cold weather for too long. In same post Rainy Day Dangers for Dogs, Dr. Tauber states that “If dogs are exposed to wet, cold weather for too long, their respiratory tract can become inflamed, which may lead to pneumonia,”

Tips for Walking a Dog in the Rain

Here are 5 information packed tips on how to make dog walks in the rain a breeze.

1. Check the weather

Walking a Dog in the Rain: A Survival Guide

You may have noticed that rain often comes in cycles. It is common to have either light rain or no rain in between harder downpours.  Therefore, you should plan your day accordingly by checking the weather forecast for your area. You can get a clearer picture of what the day will bring by using local weather radar maps. Above is the radar map from Accuweather.com. By using the future feature (see red arrow above) you can see when there will be breaks in the rain.

Waiting for your normal walk time or when your dog needs to go out may result in you having to go out in a downpour.

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2. Be Prepared for the Weather

You should prepare for the rainy season before it comes. That means having the right tools gear when you need it. The last thing you want to be doing to searching the closets looking for your rain gear when your pup needs to go out. Here are some items you might want on hand to make going outside in the rain with your dog easier.

For you

If you are just going out for a quick potty break an extra-large umbrella works well to keep you both dry. It’s the only way to get our pup will go out the door.

You can find large sized umbrellas in stores or online. The G4Free Golf Umbrella pictured to the left comes in three sizes: 54″, 62″, and 68″. You can also choose between 22 color combinations. The canopy is vented to allow wind to pass through it while still keeping you dry. You can find the G4Free Golf Umbrella on Amazon.com

However umbrellas may be less feasible if you are going on a long walk. Between holding the leash, umbrella and a poopy bag we just don’t have enough hands. Instead, use a long raincoat with a hood or a hooded poncho to keep dry.  Don’t forget the rain boots.

Walking a Dog in the Rain: A Survival Guide

SaphiRose Hooded Rain Poncho with pockets for Adults. Available at Amazon.com

For your dog

Before heading outside, check the temperature outside. If it’s raining and cold, you’ll need to be sure your dog is protected from the elements. Excessive exposure to the cold rain can result in hypothermia.

This is especially true for smaller dogs and dogs that have short hair and a single coat. These types of dogs usually don’t have the protection of a thick coat to keep them warm. To learn more about how to decide if your dog needs a sweater read our post Does Your Dog Need a Sweater in the Winter?

Whether your pup has a thick coat of fur or not, getting them a rain coat and boots to help keep them dry and mud free. Just keep in mind that some dogs will be unwilling to wear them at first. 

You can find doggy raincoats with and without an insulating layer to provide the right amount of coverage for your pup. Raincoats for dogs also come in varying degrees of coverage. Some will cover the entire body and legs with just enough open space for the dog to relieve themselves and others only cover the back. If your pooch doesn’t mind wearing a raincoat get one that at least covers their head, back, legs and underside.  

However, if they are not the type to wear a full body raincoat, try a less restrictive rain coat that covers their head, back and part of their stomach. Here are 5 raincoat ideas for your dog.

Paw care

It’s important to properly care for your pup’s paws. Walking in the rain can expose your dog to chemicals that wash out from lawns or are left behind by cars. Dog boots are a great option to protect your pup from these dangerous chemicals. Plus they will keep your pup’s paws from getting wet and muddy. There are many dog boots available. What boot is best for you will depend on where you live. If you live in a colder climate then insulated boots might be best. If the cold is not an issue simple rubber boots will work to keep their paws clean and dry. Either way look for boots that are sturdy, well-fitting and have non slip grips on the bottom.

How to get a dog to wear boots?

Most dogs will not like the idea of wearing boots at first. So don’t whip them out the first day it rains and try to put them on. You will need to introduce the boots to your dog slowly. Begin by letting them smell the boots. You may even want to leave the boots out where your pup can smell them at their own pace. Then when you put the boots on your dog give them lots of treats. This works best with two people. As one person puts on the boots have another person give your pup small bits of a high value treat. Once they are on, distract your pup with their favorite game or toy. Do this a few times before you try going for a walk in them.

3. Before you leave prepare for your return 

Having everything in place for your return will make drying your pup a breeze.  Before leaving the house, make sure to spread out a super absorbent machine washable rug in your entryway. That way the rug will soak up the rain and mud you will both track inside.  If one rug is not large enough to cover most of the floor, use more.  Old towels will work too but you may find that you will need a lot more towels on the floor to soak up the mess.

Tip: Use two or more small rugs to cover the area instead of one large rug. Using small rugs will make it easier to wash them.

Keep old towels within close reach of the door to drape over your dog’s head as soon as you come in.   The draped towel will help stop him from shaking all the rain and mud onto your walls and floors.   

Keep a low bucket of water with a mild dog shampoo mixed in waiting next to the door. That way you can dunk your pup’s paws in and clean the mud off.

Tip: Depending on how long your walk lasts you can leave out warmer water then you would normally use on your dog.  By the time you come back the water should be the right temperature.

4. Plan your walk

  • Carefully choose your route – Think about what areas on your walk may contain puddles or muddy areas and avoid them by picking another route.   Also if you live in an urban environment stay away from busy streets where you may be splashed by a passing car.  
  • Look for shelter – If possible go for a walk in areas that provide shelter from the rain.
  • Shorten the route – Instead of going on a long walk, take a short walk and then spend time playing inside with your dog.
  • Visibility – Make sure you can be seen by other people, especially drivers. Wear bright colors or clothes with reflective strips to ensure you can be seen by others. Also cloudy days are always darker, again affecting your ability to see dangers or be seen by others.
  • Bring water – If you are going for a longer, walk bring water for your dog so they won’t be tempted to drink form a puddle.

5. When you get back

Once you get back inside and before your dog is able to shake off the water, drape the towel you laid out earlier on their back.  Dogs are less likely to shake with a towel on them.  Quickly start drying off their back and legs.   If they are wearing a full raincoat and boots the cleanup should be easy.  

If they went out without a raincoat, use a super absorbent towel to dry them as much as you can    For dogs with long fur, you should use a slicker to brush out tangles before they become full blown mats.  

The Bone Dry DII Microfiber Dog Bath Towel comes highly rated. You can find it on Amazon.com

Clean their muddy paws by dipping them in the soapy water you set out before going on your walk.  Just remember to check the water temperature before dunking your dog’s paws in.

You need to make sure that you completely rinse and dry your dog’s paws to prevent cracking. Wet paws can encourage the development of fungi.

If you have one, use a pet friendly hair dryer to completely dry their fur.   Be careful not to hold the dryer to close to your pet or let it get too hot.

There you have it. Everything we know about the dangers of walking a dog in the rain. Plus the tips and tricks we have used over the years to deal with rainy days. Hopefully we helped make walking your dog in the rain easier for you.

Of course there will be times that you just will not be able to walk your dog in the rain. On those days having a designated dog potty area can be really helpful.

Walking a Dog in the Rain: A Survival Guide