Sparky hates the rain. Not only does he hate the rain, but he also hates baths and refuses to swim in any body of water. He has no desire to go near the stuff and makes his distaste for water known by yelping when you try to get him near it. You are not sure about the root of all the commotion. You have a pool, but Sparky stays away from it, and you never felt the need to force Sparky into the water. You have always despised the rain yourself, so you don’t make Sparky go out for long when the weather is dreary. Sometimes you wonder if you need a different approach. Should you help Sparky overcome his fear of water, or should you just let him be?
The Root of the Behavior
Although there are many contributing factors as to why dogs do not like water, one of the most common reasons is due to lack of exposure. A lot of dogs are just not frequently exposed to water. Unlike their wolf ancestors that had to overcome their fear of water to survive, domesticated dogs do not necessarily need to learn how to rough it in the rain to get their next meal, trod through muddy and wet terrain, or swim through streams to get where they need to go. Some dogs that have grown up in shelters or kennels don’t even really understand what water is and have a fear of the unknown. After all, water can be uncomfortable, and many domesticated doors prefer a dry and cozy house opposed to the wet and muddy outdoors.
Other dogs are freaked out by water because they can’t swim, and they know that water presents a danger that they do not want to be around. Dogs also may have negative associations with water. Maybe they are only exposed to water when they take a bath, and they are not always fans of this experience. A bath can be uncomfortable, slippery, and unnatural. Dogs sometimes get soap in their eyes and do not like having to stand still during the clean. This negative connotation can carry over to not wanting to go out in the rain or for a swim in a lake. Dogs may also pick up the distaste for water from their owners. When was the last time you gleefully jumped in a mud puddle or stayed out in the pouring rain for a long time on purpose? Sparky is smarter than he looks and picks up on these human cues. Still, water is a part of life, and Sparky should learn how to be around it, even if for short amounts of time.
Encouraging the Behavior
If anything, it is important that Sparky learns how to swim. You never know when there will be a situation when this could save his life. Sometimes water is unavoidable, and you want Sparky able to take care of himself. This has to be a gradual process, and you shouldn’t just throw Sparky in the pool and walk away. Start by bringing him to the lake or beach and allowing him just to observe the water. Every time you see him even looking at the water, offer him praise, treats, or a click from a clicker, or a combo of these positive reinforcers. Then gradually move him closer and closer, until he gets his paws wet. Then get his legs wet, until Sparky is fully submerged. This will take time, so it is best to start now. With patience and diligence, Sparky will be swimming with pride. Dogs also need baths, so you have to get Sparky used to this part of his grooming routine. Make sure you speak to him throughout bathtime in a gentle and soothing voice, and ease him into the tub, do not just throw him in. Be cognizant of the soap, and try not to get it in his eyes. All natural shampoos and ones designed for sensitive skin are good choices. Give your dog treats before, during, and after the bath.You can even buy some bath toys that he might enjoy. Praise him throughout the process. Make a constant effort to make his bath time experience a positive one.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Some dogs associate the rain with thunderstorms, and this could be a problem because Sparky may not want to go pee outside. You certainly do not want to be cleaning up a lot of accidents due to a rainy week, so helping Sparky get used to the rain is a good idea. There are a couple of ways to take on this task. Play a game and do other fun activities in the rain. These activities will require you getting wet too, but it is essential if you want to keep the indoor messes to a minimum. Did you know that there are also canine raincoats and rain boots on the market? If your dog wears them, they might be worth a try.
So you decided that Sparky does need some more exposure to water. You understand the importance of teaching Sparky to swim, and you are working on getting him used to the rain so that he won’t pee on your carpet every time it storms. It has taken some effort, but you see some positive changes. You even have reevaluated how you react to rain because you know that Sparky is always watching you, and you know you have to be a solid role model for him. All in all, you both have grown when it comes to dealing with the rain, and this is something to be proud of because Sparky woofs you so much!