Is Your Dog Reluctant to “Go” Outside in Winter?


It’s fairly common for dogs to decide that it’s just not worth the trouble of dealing with rain, snow, or freezing temperatures in order to relieve themselves in the winter; they’d prefer to relieve themselves indoors, thanks very much! Of course, that’s just not acceptable to most of us! Here are some suggestions to help your reluctant canine pal maintain proper toilet etiquette in bad weather:

  • Create an outdoor sheltered bathroom area – a shed with a dirt floor, a lean-to, a tent – some space that you keep cleared of snow and that is sheltered from blowing snow and rain.
  • Keep a path shoveled to the above-mentioned sheltered bathroom area so your dog can access it easily.
  • Initially go out with your dog to the sheltered area on a regular bathroom routine until he learns to go there on his own, just as you initially would with a pup when first housetraining.
  • If your dog has a short coat or gets cold easily, consider a jacket and boots. Remember to spend some time conditioning him to them so he loves them.
  • Alternatively, you can create an indoor bathroom for your dog. We tend to think of litter boxes as a cat-thing, but it really might be the right answer for some dogs as well. There are some well-constructed commercial canine litter boxes – I personally prefer the ones with artificial turf to the ones with real grass (it’s easier to keep the artificial grass clean than it is to keep replacing the turf) and I’m not a fan of the basic pee pad. It may be difficult to convince your well-house-trained adult dog to use an indoor litter box; you might start by getting him to use the litter box outdoors and then bring it inside. 
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WDJ's Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.


  1. Pat, thanks for this informative article.
    We have a healthy 5 yr old poodle mix. We just got 6 inches of snow and I again wondered if there was a way to retrain Lucy to do her buisz inside. I.m 75 struggling with health concerns. It would be ideal to not to have to go through the prep work and slipping and falling outside. I’d be very pleased if she would understand some how.
    Lucy is very smart but also slightly stubborn. Which method and products would you suggest?
    Thank you.

    • I use human grade bed pads for the incontinent. They are washable. I have used them for years.(I wash them with only detergent, and dry them with NO softeners) I have a chihuahua, and a toy poodle. I am 81 and also have issues walking. Both dogs use them in their pens (Iris) and in several places in the house. It is easy to teach them—just wet a kleenex with their urine and put it on the pad. Use a ‘cue’ like ‘get busy’, or ‘go potty’ when you see the dog sniff the kleenex. You can also use a little bit of stool also. I couldn’t have my dogs with out those pads! Good luck with it.

  2. What is a good canine litter box with artificial turf? The one I have doesn’t feel like grass at all because the plastic is much too stiff. Fortunately, it hasn’t mattered too much because I have a screened porch, and after some snow drifts in, my dog is willing to go on the snow. I have the whole porch covered with plastic, so it doesn’t matter where she goes, but some realistic grass would be nice when it’s cold but no snow.

  3. I bought a small plastic playpen and put pee pads in it. It’s located in my mudroom where the floor is tiled, but I put a plastic drop sheet down first before the pee pads.
    My dog will use it first thing in the morning when she first wakes up and really has to go. However during the day I haven’t had any success in getting her to use it…..maybe I give up too easily.