Cold Weather House Training

By Kelly Fahey

If your pup's house training seems to be going backwards this winter, it may simply be because it's too cold to go outside. Photo (c) CanStock Photo
If your pup’s house training seems to be going backwards this winter, it may simply be because it’s too cold to go outside. Photo (c) CanStock Photo

This winter I have been getting some inquiries about puppies “backsliding” in their house training. First, let me put your minds at ease and let you know that there is likely nothing wrong with your puppy. It’s COLD out. It’s unusually cold out. These frigid temperatures have moved in and don’t seem to be going anywhere.

Here’s what likely is happening:

  1. Your puppy doesn’t want to be outside in the terribly cold weather and might be relieving her bladder just enough to take the pressure off, and is then ready to run back into the warm house as soon as possible.
  2. You think your puppy doesn’t have to go out because when you go to the door, she turns around and walks away.
  3. You’re cold and are possibly hurrying your puppy along so you can get back into the warm house.
Puppies (and adult dogs too) may not want to spend much time outdoors when the weather is cold, which may impact their house training. Photo: Susan Nilson
Puppies (and adult dogs too) may not want to spend much time outdoors when the weather is cold, which may impact their house training. Photo: Susan Nilson

What’s happening in all these scenarios is that your puppy most likely hasn’t completely emptied (or emptied at all) and she is coming back in to the nice, warm house when she still has to potty. Meanwhile, you think your puppy did her business (or didn’t have to go), only to find a puddle or a pile in your living room.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Yes, it’s cold… unbelievably cold, but you may need to take your puppy out more frequently (I know, I know, you don’t want to go out any more than you have to, but… you have a puppy!).
  2. Don’t rush your puppy when you are outside. Give her time to go potty.
  3. Bring some extra high value treats when you take the pup out to potty and reward her with some nice pieces of cheese or hot dogs instead of the regular, dry, cookies that you are likely grabbing on the way out the door.
  4. Purchase a fleece, coat or warm sweater for your puppy. This will keep her warmer when you go outside and might reduce how quickly she wants to dart back to the house. I have had good results with the Gold Paw fleece. It comes in single and double layers and your pup can wear it in the house without the hassle of trying to get a coat on quickly when she has to get outside to potty. There are, of course, many other great brands available too.
  5. Dress yourself a little warmer so you aren’t rushing your puppy back in the house. Keep your coat, scarf, and gloves by the door so you are ready to dress and dash out the door.
  6. If you see your puppy is pottying more inside during this cold weather, go back to potty training basics. Besides taking her out more often, put her in her crate/exercise pen whenever you can’t actively watch her.

At the start of this post I said, “There is likely nothing wrong with your puppy.” However, you also want to make sure your pup doesn’t have a bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI). This can cause her to have to urinate more frequently. If you suspect this might be the case, no increase in house training tactics is going to help and your pup will need to go to the vet for a urine culture and antibiotics.

For more information on house training a puppy, see Potty Training 101 by Leah Roberts in BARKS from the Guild, Summer 2013, p. 11-12.

About the Author

Kelly Fahey is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2 (PMCT2), Peaceable Paws Affiliate, dog*tec Certified Dog Walker and Family Paws Parent Educator. She owns and operates the DogSmith of Hunterdon, New Jersey and loves helping dogs ‘become family’ by showing them how to be the best human companions possible sharing our hectic, over-scheduled lives. She is also proud pet-parent of many rescue dogs.

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