House training your puppy in the spring and summer was easy. With the sun shining and the fresh, green grass, you and your dog were happy to make outdoor potty trips.
Now that it’s dreadfully cold outside, your dog has reverted to having accidents indoors, avoiding the misery of searching for a spot to potty in the mud and slush.
You can’t blame your dog for choosing your warm, soft carpet over the cold, wet grass. But you also can’t let your floor become your dog’s bathroom.
How To Resolve House Training Issues In The Winter
Why Your Dog Has Accidents In The Winter
If your dog was previously house trained, they are already familiar with the concept of “holding it in” and waiting to go outside.
But once they do go out, they may have trouble evacuating their bladder or bowels. It may be because their body tenses up when they’re cold, they’re shivering too hard to relax, or they may be too preoccupied with their paws getting wet.
Making sure they’re comfortable enough to relax and “go” while they’re outside could put an end to accidents.
This can mean making sure their outerwear is adequately warm. On really cold days, I layer Matilda in a cotton dress, a sweater AND a coat. That way, she’ll stay warm long enough to finish doing her business, rather than trying to come back inside right away.
Create A Winter-Ready Potty Spot
Shoveling a path in the snow can be enough of a potty accommodation for some dogs, but the grass beneath is still wet, muddy, and slippery.
You can spread some mulch, straw or hay over the potty spot for a warm, soft texture. It can also help to put down a shower curtain or plastic sheet before the snowfall to keep the ground dry.
If you have a covered patio or porch, you can place a real or artificial grass patch there as a makeshift potty spot. A car port or covered dog run can also help keep the rain off your pottying pooch.
Going Back To Basics
One or two accidents might not indicate a total backslide in your dog’s house training, but if accidents are becoming a habit, it’s time for a refresher.
You can go back to your initial puppy potty training schedule or try some different methods. For example, maybe crate training worked well in the beginning, but your dog only has accidents in the living room.
If you don’t want to go back to crating, you can keep your dog out of the living room with a puppy gate. Or, maybe you’ll try tethering your dog to you with a leash in the morning if your dog typically has an accident while you’re busy making breakfast.
Be Your Dog’s Potty Chaperone
Does your dog go out into your fenced backyard, only to come inside and have an accident? You may need to go outside with your dog to make sure they actually do their business. Though it may be a hassle to bundle up and go out, you won’t need to do it forever; just long enough to
establish good habits again.
Going outside with your dog also means you’ll have the opportunity to immediately reward them when they finally go potty. I like to bring dry treats with me on walks to reward my dogs after they do their business. Anything too yummy, like chicken or hot dogs, will have them staring at me, rather than focusing on getting the job done.
Staying Realistic About Winter House Training Issues
Accidents happen. It’s important to focus on your dog’s personal progress, rather than compare them to so-and-so’s dog who was perfectly trained at three months, or your older dog who never had accidents in the winter.
Dogs learn best when they feel safe and secure. Avoiding punishment (yes, even raising your voice), is the key to building a trust-based bond with your dog and preventing unnecessary anxiety, which can make undesirable behaviors worse.
Once you go a few weeks accident-free, your dog will realize that pooping in the cold can’t hurt them, and you’ll no longer have to stock up on carpet cleaner when there’s a blizzard underway.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, winter-proof pup!
Do you have winter house training tips?
Leave them in a comment below! You never know when your experience just might help out another dog mom in need!
About The Author:
Lindsay Pevny is a freelance content strategist for ecommerce businesses and the founder of Little Dog Tips, a blog about raw feeding, innovative pet products, and using rewards to teach your small dog basic manners and fun tricks, such as training your dog to paint and play basketball.