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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.

Dang.

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.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.
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