With the cold weather brings backslides on potty training.
All that work, tirelessly taking your little dog outside, teaching them perfect potty manners, finally going accident-free all summer…
Just for it all to be wasted on one rainy day.
It’s the worst feeling. You spend the whole day pacing around, trying to convince your dog to go potty outside.
You’re worrying about her getting a UTI, or stomach pain, or just plain exploding from “holding it in” way too long.
And then, the moment you turn your back, she poops on the carpet.
Why Do Small Dogs Poop Inside When It’s Raining Or Snowing?
I really don’t have a sophisticated, science-backed answer to this one.
It’s cold outside.
Have you ever tried to poop while sitting on a cold toilet seat? Awful.
Trying to poop outside in a little sweater, shivering at the end of a leash? Probably 100 times worse.
So, you and I understand why our dogs do this.
We can see why they’d hold off on going outside in the cold when they can just drop a log on a warm carpet.
But we can’t let this keep happening, either.
I mean, have you ever woken up, got out of bed, and stepped on a cold piece of dog poop with your bare foot?
Inside poops (and pees) during snowstorms and rainstorms are not okay.
No matter how much we love our dogs and understand that they don’t do this for revenge or for any nefarious reason, we can’t let them have accidents in the house every time there’s inclement weather.
What NOT To Do When You Catch Your Dog In The Act Of Pooping Inside
We’re told that if we reprimand a dog while she’s doing something bad, that’s the only way we can prevent the behavior from recurring.
So, naturally, when you catch your dog pooping inside, you’re going to feel like making a big deal about it.
Heck, I get surprised when I catch one of my dogs doing something bad, and I might shout, “What are you doing??”
But it’s so important to keep your cool.
If your dog is truly potty trained, having an accident inside was her last resort.
She may have even been out for a walk in the cold, only to immediately come inside and have an accident. The contrast of the warm inside air could do that to her.
Shouting at your dog, or doing anything to scare, startle, or punish her, is likely to just cause her to become more anxious about pooping in front of you – which will make your life way more difficult – and she’ll find secret spots and opportunities to poop in the house when you’re not looking.
What To Do Instead
Dogs don’t plan.
A dog, once punished for pooping in the house on a snowy day, generally will not suddenly decide that she must brave the cold and poop outside to avoid being punished.
Dogs who are potty trained prefer the texture of grass or dirt for pottying as opposed to indoor surfaces. They view your entire home as their den, a place that should not be soiled.
So, it’s not necessarily true that once they have one accident, they’ll forget their potty manners entirely.
If you catch your dog having an accident in the house, it’s important that you stay calm, even if you’re truly dying on the inside because there’s poop on the floor.
You may want to take your dog outside. For a leashed walk, so you can see if she still has anything left in her. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t.
The walk is partially for you. You just spent months potty training your dog. Your world might be falling apart right now, but I promise you, it will be okay, and you certainly can prevent the next accident.
I’m telling you this because I wish someone had told me. Because accidents used to really… piss me off.
But they’re not the end of the world, and if you keep working with your dog, she’ll stop having accidents. I promise.
Going Outside Is No Longer Optional
Is your dog going outside only to wait by the door until you let her back in?
The best answer to this, really, is grabbing a leash and taking your dog for a real walk, even if you have a fenced backyard.
That means that you, too, have to brave the cold. You must. Layer up and make sure your dog is actually going potty when she goes out.
You can make walks more fun by going to parks, beaches, or other neighborhoods when it’s cold. For some dogs, novel scents in new places spark their inspiration to go potties.
If you can’t go for a walk, you may need to watch your dog through a window to make sure she has relieved herself before you let her back in.
Layer her up with sweaters and coats. Sooner or later, she’ll figure out that waiting by the door, still full of poop and pee, is fruitless.
She’ll realize that the faster she does her business, the faster you’ll let her back in.
When It’s Not Just The Cold
Accidents can be attributed to a urinary tract infection, increased water intake due to diabetes or Cushing’s disease, gastric upset, or another health issue.
Any sudden changes in your dog’s potty habits should raise a flag, and possibly lead to a vet visit.
If your dog is older, she may be suffering from joint inflammation due to arthritis, which can be exacerbated by the cold weather. It might be too painful for her to even squat outside.
Make It Easier For Your Dog To Potty Outside
For short-haired dogs, especially small dogs who have a greater ratio of surface area to “insides,” a simple sweater won’t be enough to keep warm in the dead of winter.
For Matilda, I start with a cotton dress, layer on a sweater, and put a waterproof coat over that. She looks like a happy little marshmallow.
Also, make sure your dog has a clear path to go potty. Is there salt on the walkway that might be stinging her paws? Can she reach the grass without getting her paws wet with snow?
I’ve heard of people putting a tarp down before a snowfall, then removing it to reveal a grass patch. I’m not sure if this works well during heavy snowfalls, but it could work for you.
You can place a grass patch on your patio or porch.
You can also use potty pads or a litterbox indoors. Though not everyone likes potty pads, I’d rather have my dog use them than let her have messy accidents inside. Sometimes you have to negotiate.
And yes, you can use puppy pads in combination with taking your dog outside or transition back to outside in the spring.
When To Turn Back Time On Potty Training
If it’s been just one incident, it’s enough to clean the floor thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle and move on.
But if your dog hasn’t been potty trained for very long, she may need more help to avoid the next accident.
In some cases, your dog can benefit from a potty training review. This is especially true if she has been having consistent accidents.
You’ll have to treat her like a puppy. You can potty train her with a crate or without a crate, you can use tethering, or limit her access to her preferred accident spots with a gate.
Ayokunnumi A. E
Thursday 16th of January 2020
Consistency in taking your dog for daily walks can help prevent such accidents. When the dog understands that there is a routine for outings, might help deal with the temptation to mess the house.
Outside of this, sensitivity is of utmost importance. For a dog that has an impressive track-record of going out to poo, a visit to the vet's might save a lot of trouble, and do a world of good
Tuesday 26th of November 2019
Our little guy loves pottying on the snow but he hates going out in the rain! A great article, i'll usually take him for a walk, with our biggest umbrella so that I can keep him a little dry while looking for 'the spot'.
Anne-Marie @ This Mama Cooks!
Friday 22nd of November 2019
I've also heard that people buy hay to spread out after there is snow for their dogs to walk and potty on. Seems pretty smart and once the snow melts, you just rake it up.
Thursday 14th of November 2019
Very timely and excellent article, I'm so glad to have found you :-) . I've had my 7 yr old female chihuahua for 2 1/2 yrs. House training was non existent when she came to us, however she ( we) have made steady improvement, and I would consider her completely house trained...... Except for bad weather - we live in Ontario, Canada, so once cold wet weather arrives, we have issues. I'm so glad to hear that I could pursue paper training for the winter without the worry of her getting 'confused'. I'll check out your past articles and see what tips you've posted. Thanks again for your very helpful and entertaining blogs. Gail + Roxie
Thursday 14th of November 2019
My 10 yr. Old jack Russell, cannot help it. He was diagnosed with kidney stones, approx. 2 yrs. ago. Has been on meds. N they really have have not helped to reduce much. Now he is to old to n put to sleep for an operation. Just doing everything else I can possibly do on my own to help him. Home cooking his meals with/ bone meal, etc... Puppy pads everywhere, bc he can't help it....Worried???