Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 31, 2019

Getting Your Dog to Potty in Winter

Posted at 10:46AM - Comments: (18)

Has your dogs housetraining fallen apart with the advent (onslaught?) of brutally cold temperatures? You can hardly blame your dog for not wanting to walk out into such extreme cold, but there are things you can do to help encourage him or her to do so.

When temperatures hit near- or below-zero, you may need to stronglyencourage your dog to potty – actually, insist on it! Veterinarians see spikes in the number of cases of urinary tract infections in winter, when dogs tend to “hold it” for as long as possible, declining invitations to go outside at their usual potty times, and failing to take the time to empty their bladders fully when they do go outside. The longer urine is held in the body, the more bacteria can grow in that urine; when the population of bacteria tips past a level that the dog’s immune system can control, discomfort and systemic illness can result.


iStock / Getty Images Plus / cunfek

You may need to encourage your dog to drink adequate amounts of water when it’s super cold, too. Many dogs become reluctant to drink when it’s cold, and end up getting dehydrated, which can set the stage for a wide constellation of disorders, especially in senior dogs. If you come home from work and your dog’s water bowl has gone untouched all day – it’s at the exact level where it was when you filled it fresh that morning – you should start experimenting to find whatever works best to get your dog to drink more. Some effectives tactics include filling the bowl with fresh water more frequently; warming the water to something more than room temperature; or adding bone broth, chicken broth, or even a bit of honey to the water. Feeding him a high-moisture food will also help, whether it’s canned, fresh home-prepared, raw frozen, or simply his regular kibble soaked in warm water or broth.

Assuming your dog is drinking enough, here are some tips for encouraging him or her to potty as fully and often as usual:

If you can, make a designated potty station outdoors. A covered outdoor area, preferably a spot with some protection from driving wind, is very helpful. Put down anything that will help protect your dog’s paws from the cold ground (or ice or snow): some straw or wood shavings work great, but a few squares of artificial turf (even if it’s just a door mat) that your dog can stand on to pee, will help. You can hose them off (or even toss them out) when the temperatures thaw! This is an emergency!

outside walks in winter

Some folks walk their dogs to the nearest parking garage, or set up a “potty box” in their own garage when the weather is too nasty to spend an adequate amount of time outside.

Do you live in an apartment or other urban setting where you have to potty your dog on walks? If so, we hope you have already invested in and accustomed your dog to wearing some sort of paw protection. Wearing boots can help protect his feet from freezing temperatures as well as potentially dangerous ice-melt substances that can be found on urban sidewalks.

Make sure you are bundled up, too! Trying to rush your dog into going potty quickly because you are freezing can backfire; back in the house, when you step in a puddle in your socks, or find a pile under the dining room table, you can go ahead and smack yourself over the head with a rolled-up newspaper. “Naughty owner!” Dress as warmly as possible and let your dog take her time outside.

Make sure you give your dog some extra-yummy rewards when he or she goes potty outdoors in extraordinary temperatures. Anything you can do to help your dog associate going outdoors with goodthings, rather than an aversive experience, will help keep him or her “regular,” and help prevent “accidents” in the house.

Comments (18)

My current dog is a poodle/beagle mix. Actually, he is more rain aversive than snow aversive. The biggest challenge in snow is maintaining a clear area for him to do his business. That's where I, as the human, come in. Shovel I must. I'm more eager for spring to arrive than is my dog. www.lanceaspiritunbroken.com

Posted by: walterstoffelauthor@gmail.com | March 2, 2019 2:03 PM    Report this comment

I found that having a command for the dogs for doing their business (I use 'hurry up') has set the stage for getting them to cooperate now that we live in Alberta where we get cold winters! I also go out with them and try not to rush them. We have a fairly big yard of 1/2 acre so encouraging them to run around usually get things going.
For the people who have issues getting their dogs to tolerate boots I would suggest taking lots of time to desensitize them. Treat, treat, treat while putting them on. Just do a little bit at a time. I did find with one of my dogs that he didnt really start to tolerate boots well until he had worn them a few times. Prepare and train them before they need to be used. Not much help now we are bearing the end of winter I know.

Posted by: Tanleevizsla | March 1, 2019 6:40 PM    Report this comment

Here is a great article which offers great training and behavior problems with your dogs. bit.ly/2UBKH1b

Posted by: Filip1989 | February 6, 2019 4:09 PM    Report this comment

I use Musher's Secret to protect our golden's paws from snow and ice sticking to hair on his paws. Probably not, however, a good solution for -27 degree weather.

Posted by: Taxi | February 3, 2019 7:48 PM    Report this comment

When I lived in the City of Chicago, the winters were brutal, not only because of the cold, snow and ice, but because of the salt spread on roadways, sidewalks and park walkways. My dogs could not cross the street without laying down and crying with his feet up in the air. The salt was extremely painful to his paws. I found a solution my dog accepted readily because it felt good to his feet. I bought heavy cotton baby socks and used them for warmth and cushioning and on top I used PAWZ. They are made of heavy vinyl material, just like a ballon without the neck. They come in various sizes so it was easy to find one that fit him perfectly and because they stretch, they stayed on and did not squeeze his feet. They provided warmth and waterproofing over the baby socks. Happy dog and happy me.

Posted by: 2DogMom | February 3, 2019 12:00 PM    Report this comment

I have a senior GSD that weve had since he was 8 weeks old, he sits at back door when he has to go out and if youre not letting him out right away because you dont see him he comes to get you and he barks lol. He is watched when hes outside so hes not out long in our bitterly cold climate (Saskatchewan Canada) He is such a great GSD❤️ only problem is allergies since he was about 3 yrs of age, different things to try help him get relief. Last few days hes much better. He has nice coat, gets vet prescribed food and he gets synovial gmax for arthritis. I dont think the boots would work for him as he has such resistance to getting his nails trimmed especially the front ones. Hes kept indoors summer and winter as hes our family❤️

Posted by: Windmill111 | February 3, 2019 11:52 AM    Report this comment

We reached temps as low as -27 recently, with a couple of feet of snow on the ground. When there's fresh snow, we shovel walking and elimination areas for the dogs as soon as possible, before the snow compacts and gets harder to move. Fortunately in Colorado, we have plenty of sunshine as well, so those areas we shovel typically start melting and drying within a couple of days, as the dirt and grass underneath are somewhat exposed and absorb the heat from the sun. We feed at scheduled times, and have a good idea of their elimination schedules, so that's a plus. We bundle up at regular intervals and take them out to do their business. When we come in, it's a race to see who gets to claim the warmest spot in the house in front of the heater! Sometimes it's cold enough to require a couple of trips, but it's worth it knowing they are more comfortable and empty!

We are also fortunate that the city grades the local walking trails, so they melt and dry quickly. Typically it's only a couple of days before we can go out on long walks on trails with no snow.

Twelve years ago we had a dog who had TPLO surgery in January. Because we had to be cautious with her on the snow and ice during recovery, we went to the local carpet business and got huge piece of old, used carpet they were throwing away. We put this outside so she'd have some grip and reduce any slipping when we took her outside.

Posted by: Charise | February 3, 2019 10:04 AM    Report this comment

Someone asked about pooping outside in cold temps. I have that problem with one of my dogs. He has to walk quite a bit normally before doing so which makes it really challenging in bitter temps. Thoughts?

I also cannot find boots that are easy to get on a cocker's feet. If it's not quick, they won't allow it.

Posted by: JoJoMom | February 3, 2019 10:00 AM    Report this comment

To keep my dogs boots on I attached a childs mitten clips to each corner of her sweater. Works like a charm!

Posted by: GeorgieGirl | February 3, 2019 9:56 AM    Report this comment

i have tried a couple of different booties and CANNOT get them on xena, our whip-pit...she fights tooth-&-nail, absolutely hates them. any suggestions on dog-friendly booties?

Posted by: shanakay16 | February 3, 2019 8:30 AM    Report this comment

We do quick in and outs with small dog, he is worth 30 seconds outside in freezing temps, let him in to warm up, then back out again. Of course we have coats on ourselves, he seems to know the routine and usually does his business.

Posted by: millonhill | February 1, 2019 9:16 AM    Report this comment

To Maggiemom...I had a 13 year old rough Collie that had DM with limited mobility so when it became too difficult for him to walk outside I got him an indoor artificial pee area. I put a plastic liner under cat litter in the plastic bin and put the grass on top and kept it close to where he could walk to. The liquids clump and scoop like cats and #2 with a poo bag. Easy to wash out with a hose. I got Tinkle Turf because it was big enough for a larger dog. You might give it a try for you furry gentleman!

Posted by: CO Dog Mom | February 1, 2019 1:07 AM    Report this comment

And my elderly blind and deaf dog doesn't particularly want to go outside at all these days. It is not hideously cold in Memphis, TN but it rains a lot and he hates to go out when it is raining. I have to watch him and take him outside at times when I think he has to go. And if I get distracted he pees and even poops in the house. He had the disadvantage of living for his first six years in a cage at a puppy mill and he had to pee and poop in his cage Before he was deaf however when I saw him sniffing around I could say, "Do you need to go outside?" If he did indeed need to go outside he would run to the back door. i just don't think he has a deep feeling of wrongdoing about pottying inside.

Posted by: Maggiemom | January 31, 2019 5:45 PM    Report this comment

We have a 12 week old standard Goldendoodle (first time weve brought home a puppy during the winter months!) and with the brutal temps and wind, weve set up a play yard filled with pine shavings in our garage. We have also placed the shavings in the grass outside so shell associate both areas as potty zones. Lots of pine shavings in the house right now, and frequent vacuuming, but it has been a saving grace to have a warmer spot for her to go!

Posted by: DoodleLover | January 31, 2019 4:49 PM    Report this comment

I would like to have some kind of covering in the yard where my dog could go out to go during rainy weather, cold weather. I could have someone build something but I'm not quite sure what would work. If anyone has built something and could share some ideas, I would be grateful! Thank you!

Posted by: JAH | January 31, 2019 4:10 PM    Report this comment

I see zero info-hints about "#2" pooping outdoors when it is cold!

What are your hints!

Yours, Sid & my-dog-Ethel, Chicago (urban/sidewalks/etc)

Posted by: s220sid | January 31, 2019 12:26 PM    Report this comment

I teach my puppies to pee on a verbal. When it is very cold (we're in Canada) they almost always get a cookie when they pee on command, especially first thing in the am, and last thing at night.

Posted by: 2ManyBC's | January 31, 2019 12:04 PM    Report this comment

I always add enough water to float the kibble when feeding. I foster for two rescues and find this cuts down on the times I have to fill up water bowls.

Posted by: EmDubPNW | January 31, 2019 11:39 AM    Report this comment

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