Walking the Dog in the Rain – 8 Tips to Keep your Pet Safe

Last Updated: January 2, 2023

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Walking the dog in the rain

No matter where you live, rain happens!

While you might be used to clear weather and blue skies, rainy days can occur throughout the year and damper your plans. But there's one thing it won't stop: Walks with your dog.

Walks play an integral role in your canine companion's health. From pups to seniors, a brisk stroll around the neighborhood is your dog's chance to get some much-needed exercise. Plus, it's an opportunity to do their business and get relief.

Rainy days won't stop those needs, but your wet surroundings can certainly make things more challenging. Lousy weather poses many safety risks. On top of all that, you must deal with damp fur, muddy paws, and that signature waft of a wet dog.

So, how do you walk your dog in the rain safely?

Should I Walk My Dog in the Rain?

It's one thing to know how to walk a dog in the rain, but should you?

Of course, you can't ignore your dog's needs. A take-it-easy day without extensive exercise is no big deal.

But a dog needs to do their business!

Failing to take your dog for a walk, even when the weather is awful, can lead to nasty surprises and tons of discomfort for your furry friend.

That said, there are some things to think about before you don your gear and head out in rainy weather. Rainy days can present many potential health and safety problems.

Visibility Issues

One of the biggest dangers is a lack of clear visibility.

That's not a problem if you're walking your dog in a low-traffic area or park. But most owners stroll around the neighborhood close to streets with regular traffic. You may even have to make your way over a few crosswalks.

Rain diminishes both your visibility and the visibility of others. Drivers will have a more challenging time seeing you and your dog walking across the street. There's always a risk that drivers will only slow down once seeing you at the very last second.

Pair that with the natural slipperiness of wet roads, and it's a recipe for disaster.

When walking your dog, you must be wary of your surroundings, take extra precautions, and choose a safer route. More on that later.

Unpredictable Weather Events

Another issue is the sheer unpredictability of the weather.

You may step outside with your dog during a drizzle. But things can change at the drop of a hat. Before you know it, you could be in the middle of a torrential downpour! Or even worse, lighting could light up the sky.

The odds of you and your dog getting hit by lightning are rare, but it's never zero. If you're walking near bodies of water, your risks increase significantly. Even walking through partially flooded fields or drainage systems could be a problem.

But it doesn't stop there.

Dogs are notoriously scared of lightning. Many learn to overcome those fears. However, those living in areas that only experience thunderstorms once in a blue moon may never get used to the rumbles and crashes of thunder.

Dogs become unpredictable when they're scared. They can take off to seek shelter, freeing themselves from your leash. Suddenly, your dog is on the loose, running through low-visibility areas.

Tree on the street in the rain

Falling Tree Limbs and Debris

Having a tree limb fall on you is rare, too. But it's more common than you think.

Many neighborhoods have lined sidewalks that offer great tree coverage during clear days. But in a storm, they present a significant safety risk.

Tree limbs can fall in even moderate winds. You can easily walk under a damaged tree without realizing it. When those limbs start falling, you and your dog are in danger of serious injury.

Bacteria-Filled Puddles

Here's a little-known risk that can cause severe complications.

When it rains, puddles will form everywhere. You may encounter running water, walk across drainage systems, and more.

Many dogs love puddles! If they have a history of wallowing in backyard mud, you may see your dog begging for a walk in the rain for another opportunity to splash around.

But there's just one problem. The puddles you encounter could harbor bacteria or chemicals. Many people use fertilizers and chemical treatments to keep their yards pristine. There could also be things like antifreeze or motor oil accumulating near where you walk.

When it starts raining, those chemicals can flow into the streets and sidewalks before collecting in puddles.

The same goes for bacteria and microorganisms. Leptospirosis and giardia are zoonotic parasites that can affect dogs when they play in puddles.

Your dog might try to lap the water up, accidentally ingesting chemicals and bacteria that affect their health. Even if they don't drink from puddles directly, walking through them causes those potentially toxic substances to collect on their paws.

When your dog licks their feet later in the day, it can ingest those substances and experience the same health issues.

How to Walk Your Dog in the Rain: 8 Tips to Stay Safe

Those potential dangers may make you want to avoid walks in the rain. But you can't ignore the needs of your dogs.

Fortunately, you can learn how to walk your dog in rain without any issues. Just follow these tips.

1. Keep an Eye on Weather Data and Radar

Always keep an eye on the weather before heading out. As mentioned earlier, things can go south very quickly. Rain often occurs in cycles; scattered showers can make it seem fine one minute and awful the next.

It's easier than ever to monitor weather conditions. Use an app on your smartphone to look at all the relevant information you need. That includes visibility data, radar, and more.

Use that information to find the right time to head out. Choose a period when the rain is relatively light, with no thunder and lightning risks.

2. Create a Rainy Day Preparation Kit

Here's something you should do long before it starts downpouring.

There's nothing worse than your dog begging for a walk in the rain only to realize that you have no gear to keep them safe. Invest in all your pup's rainy-day equipment ahead of time and have it on hand when needed.

We always recommend creating a weather safety kit and keeping it in a closet near your front door, so everything is accessible.

- What do you need?

An essential piece of gear is a raincoat. Dogs respond differently to rain. Some love it, and others hate it. Either way, keeping your dog dry as much as possible is a good idea.

Short-haired breeds can quickly suffer from hypothermia and get ill. Meanwhile, long-hair breeds will need heavy grooming if their fur gets soaked. Plus, you'd have that awful wet dog smell emanating through your home for hours, and no one wants that!

Raincoats come in a wide range of sizes. They look just like a coat for humans, but they're perfectly sized and shaped for the canine body. Some also have insulating layers to help smaller, short-haired dogs stay warm.

You can also consider investing in standalone sweaters to slip on under the raincoat.

Dog wearing a raincoat to protect her from the weather

Another thing to buy is rain boots. Boots will protect your dog's paws from the bacteria and chemicals living in puddles. It ensures they don't accidentally get something nasty on their paws and lick it up later.

Now, getting a dog to wear boots takes work. You'll have to start them early and take things easy.

We recommend buying boots and letting your dog take a walk when the weather is clear. They need time to get comfortable with the sensation of wearing boots, so frequent exposure is a must!

There are many types of boots available. Some are simple rubber latex slips. More robust models offer adjustable fits and paw pad protection.

In addition to gear for your dog, have some protective wear for yourself! Pick up a raincoat, a sturdy umbrella, and anything else you need to stay dry.

Related: What Causes Dry, Cracked Dog Paws?

3. Don Reflective and Brightly Colored Gear

As you buy rainy-day supplies, go with bright colors and reflective accents. Remember: Visibility is low. Anything that catches drivers' attention as you stroll around the neighborhood is a good thing.

Many dog raincoats are bright yellow, green, or orange. Make sure to buy a model with reflective stripes or accents to boost visibility as much as possible.

Don't stop there. We always recommend using a high-visibility collar and leash. The more things visible things your dog has on them, the better.

4. Have Towels Ready

This tip will make things much easier when you return!

Even if your dog dons a raincoat, they're bound to get a little wet. That means you'll have to dry them off unless you want your floors and furniture to get wet!

Before you head out, gather towels and place them in your mud room or entrance. The best towels for dogs are highly absorbent.

Microfiber towels can soak up tons of moisture and help dry off legs and bodies quickly. Have a couple ready by the door so you can dry your dog off when you get back from your walk.

Related: Best Doormats for Dogs with Wet Dirty Feet

5. Plan Your Route

routemap to plan your dog walk during the rain

Many potential hazards are waiting to ruin your day when you walk your dog in the rain. The best thing you can do is modify your route for maximum safety.

Pay attention on those clear sunny days and document any potential problems that could arise if it rains. For example, you may usually walk under a tree-lined sidewalk or have to cross over a high-traffic intersection.

In good weather, those little details don't matter as much. But they could be dangerous when the weather takes a turn.

Before you go on your walk, have a backup route ready. Avoid those possible hazards and choose a way that offers more shelter from the rain. It would be best if you also focused on open areas that provide as much visibility as possible.

6. Keep Walks Relatively Short When it's Raining

It's always better to keep your walks short when it's raining. Even with careful weather tracking and a strategic route, the weather can take you by surprise.

The last thing you want is to be a mile away from home when the weather picks up and starts pelting you with hard rain. Keep things short and stay relatively close to your home so you can make adjustments when necessary.

7. Watch Your Dog Closely

Always watch your dog as you make your way through the rain. There are many new sights, sounds, and smells going on. Some dogs get super excited when puddles surround them. Others get anxious and fearful.

The main things you want to look out for are safety risks and experiences that could make your dog act predictably. Do everything you can to avoid unknown puddles.

Make sure your dog doesn't lick up anything or do something careless.

If your dog looks jumpy and scared, that's your cue to turn back around or find a calmer area.

8. Don't Forget After-Walk Care

Finally, remember to care for your dog after your walk. That means drying them off and taking precautions to avoid potential infections or fungal problems.

Dogs are at a higher risk of ear infections after a rainy day. Water can get trapped in their ear canal, creating a condition that requires prescription medications to treat. Reduce those risks by using an ear cleanse.

Your dog won't like it, but those few seconds of discomfort can help speed up drying while eliminating any bacteria that may lurk in the ears.

My Dog Won't Poop or Pee in the Rain! What Should I Do?

So you've followed our tips and know how to walk your dog in the rain. But when you do, your dog won't pee or poop.

There are a few reasons why a dog won't pee in the rain. In most cases, it's a product of discomfort and unfamiliarity. Dogs that rarely see rain won't know what's happening, and they become too anxious to do their business.

The best thing you can do here is to get your pup used to the sensation of rain. 

Think of it as some light exposure therapy. Spend time splashing around in a kiddie pool or having fun with the water hose. Start with simple activities before moving on to full-on downpours.

With regular exposure to water, your dog will get used to feeling wet and overcome their anxieties about going out for a walk in the rain.

It also pays to invest in the gear we talked about earlier. Keeping your dog dry goes a long way!

Related: How To Make A Dog Poop Quickly

Facing the Rain with Confidence

You don't have to let a little rain impact your pup's routine. While avoiding going out in severe weather is always wise, our tips will ensure your dog stays safe in less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Cover up, adjust your route, and take extra precautions to avoid disaster.

Be mindful of your surroundings and pay attention to your dog's behavior. With some preparation and know-how, those strolls through the rain will be nothing but fun memories!

Also read: What Temperature is Too Hot to Walk a Dog?


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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.