Many dogs, particularly small dogs and those with short coats, refuse to do their business in deep snow. When Spring blizzards like the one blanketing my city with over a foot of the white stuff hit, that can make life very difficult for dog owners. Pooch scratches at the door, you go out, Pooch sniffs the snow and scratches to go back in. Repeat ad nauseam. So why won’t dogs go to the bathroom in the snow, and what can you do to get your dog to relieve himself in a cold snap?
Why Some Dogs Don’t Go in the Snow
Essentially: It’s cold! However, there’s more to it than a chilled bladder in some cases. Dogs who were originally house-trained during the summer, on grass, may not understand that being outdoors is still a cue to eliminate even if the grass has disappeared. Smell is the primary cue that triggers dogs to eliminate, but the texture beneath their paws is also important. That’s why many dogs raised in kennels won’t eliminate outside. They’re used to the texture of cement or wire, not grass or dirt.
When your dog feels cold, wet snow under his paws instead of grass, he may not realize that he’s in an area where pottying is encouraged. Combine that with the chilly temperature and his desire to hurry back inside, and you’re likely to get a pup who’d rather cross his legs for hours than go to the bathroom outside.
What to Do
If your dog won’t go to the bathroom in the snow, first try clearing an area of your yard enough that she can smell past urine spots and feel the grass under her feet. You shouldn’t need more than a couple of square feet. If a sniff of the yard isn’t enough to prompt her to take any action, try a brisk walk around the block. Walking encourages elimination, and also helps you by keeping your dog amused on a cold, snowy day when going outside isn’t much fun. Remember to put a waterproof jacket on thin-coated dogs for walks in the cold, and consider using booties if your dog will keep them on.
If all else fails, you may need to offer puppy pads or a canine litterbox indoors until the snow clears. Small dogs generally acclimate easily to pads, as long as they’re treated with a scent attractant and the dog is confined or supervised so as to prevent accidents away from the pads.