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Tips for Walking Dogs in the Rain Safely
By: Brianna Gunter / Updated June 22, 2023
Daily walks are fundamental for a dog’s health and wellbeing, whether you have an energetic new puppy or a slower, senior canine. But should you still take your dog for a walk in the rain?
It depends on the situation, but all rainy weather does come with an elevated level of risk. Car accidents are more likely to happen in rainy weather, and wet pavement in general can expose your pal to harmful bacteria and outdoor chemicals. Since rain varies wildly from light sprinkling to torrential downpours, all pet owners should evaluate potential weather risks for pets on a case-by-case basis.
Fortunately, following some important dog walking safety tips can help!
7 essential tips for walking dogs in the rain
Even if you live in an area with a mild climate, no region has perfect dog walking weather all the time. But that doesn’t mean you need to let a little rain get in the way of giving your four-legged friend the regular exercise he needs. Follow these essential tips to make sure you’re walking your dog in the rain as safely as possible.
1. Check the weather ahead of time
Looking at both the local forecast and the visible weather conditions outside is a good idea before any walks. After all, it should go without saying that taking your dog for a walk in a severe rainstorm or other extreme weather conditions is a bad idea. Not only can lightning and thunder frighten your dog, but there is always the small risk of electrocution.
As for rain alone, it largely depends on how heavy the downpour is. If visibility is low, or it’s so heavy that your dog is balking at going outdoors, it’s best to wait things out. You’ll also want to consider your dog’s age and size. Small puppies and older dogs may have a tougher time navigating through puddles and slippery areas, while other dogs may be just fine.
Have pet allergies diagnosed
Keep in mind that even if you’re fairly certain your dog or cat has seasonal allergies, it’s important to make an appointment with their veterinarian. A diagnosis of allergies can sometimes be made by your veterinarian after taking a thorough history of your pet’s symptoms and performing a physical exam. Certain tests may also be necessary to rule out other illnesses, which can have some of the same symptoms.
Likewise, if your pet has been diagnosed with allergies in the past but is experiencing new symptoms they should be evaluated professionally to determine if they are caused by progression of their allergies or a new illness. When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
2. Invest in a dog raincoat
While obviously adorable, dog raincoats may seem a bit silly at a glance—don’t most dogs enjoy splashing around and getting wet? But when fitted properly, a dog raincoat can help keep your pal dry and comfortable in the rainy cold. It can also save you from lengthy dry-off times after coming back inside.
To ensure the best fit (and comfort for your pup), be sure to choose an appropriate size that is meant for your dog’s breed. Be sure to remove your dog’s rain jacket right after you get home to prevent him from overheating inside.
3. Keep paws dry
While you’re looking at dog raincoats, you may also want to consider a good set of canine rain boots. Your dog may or may not tolerate wearing footgear, but doing so will help keep his paws in healthy condition. Not only can moisture lead to a heightened risk of cracked paw pads and bacterial infections, but wet pavement can also expose your dog’s feet to harmful lawn and auto chemicals.
If he will wear them, look for dog rain boots that fit snugly but are not too tight, and are rubberized with non-slip bottoms. At the very least, be sure to dry your pal’s paws with a clean towel after every rainy walk. This will also help prevent muddy paw prints from appearing all over your house!
4. Wear bright, reflective colors
In addition to deciding on dog rain gear, take a look at what you’re wearing while out on dog walks. Bright, visible colors are always important for safety no matter what the weather is like, but they’re downright vital in rainy weather. Driver visibility is automatically lower in the rain, and you’re more likely to be spotted before your dog.
Wear a reflective vest or other reflective gear with colors that will stand out more easily among the gray and blue tones of rainy weather. It’s also a good idea to have your dog wear the same (especially if you’re putting her in a raincoat) and invest in a reflective collar.
5. Keep dog walks shorter in the rain
There’s no rule that says you absolutely must take your dog on her normal walk when the weather is bad. Shortening your usual walk time is perfectly acceptable during rainy weather as it will help limit the amount of risks your pal is exposed to. If it’s raining constantly, and you’re concerned about your dog being stuck inside all day, try taking her on a series of shorter walks (with plenty of time to dry off in between) rather than one or two long ones.
6. Take an alternate route when necessary
Going along with the above, it’s a good idea to scope out some alternative routes ahead of time that may be safer for you and your dog in the rain. If you normally like to walk up and down some hilly areas, for example, these are best avoided in rainy weather. Likewise, walking in parks with a lot of dirt areas could be a slippery, muddy recipe for disaster. Stick to well-drained, flat streets with more pavement than dirt, and be prepared to make last-minute route adjustments as needed.
7. Don’t let your dog drink rainwater
As you’ve probably noticed with your canine, dogs don’t like to discriminate when it comes to what they eat and drink. But as enticing as that rainwater may look to him, don’t let your dog take a drink. Rainwater is often swimming with dirt and bacteria that can be harmful to your pet. And especially in urban areas, chemicals are also common. To quench your pooch’s thirst safely, bring along a water bottle and a portable dog bowl, just as you would on walks during sunny weather.
Keeping safety a priority while walking dogs in rain
Safety should be a priority on every dog walk, especially those that take place in the rain. In addition to following the tips above, staying safe includes proper leash training and making sure your dog can follow basic commands. It’s not a good idea to take highly impulsive or easily-frightened dogs on walks in bad weather, as they may become too reactive to control for their own safety.
If the rainy weather is really bad? Just wait it out. While it’s important to make sure your buddy is getting the daily exercise he needs, dog walks in the rain shouldn’t be forced. Walks should always be a happy time and allow you and your dog to connect. They shouldn’t be associated with bad experiences, and putting your pet at an unnecessary safety risk isn’t worth it.
If you haven't done so already, you'll also want to protect your dog further with a good pet insurance plan. Accidents and illnesses can still happen at any time even when precautions are taken, but the right dog health coverage can help lessen the worry and enable you to get your pet the treatment they need.