I live in Southern California and have my entire life, so the fact that I dare to offer advice on how to walk a dog in inclement weather is comical. It’s in the mid-50s right now, and I’m writing this while wearing faux-UGGs and a down jacket. My guess is that many people in other parts of the country would be in shorts and flip-flops at this temperature.
I am a professional dog sitter, though. That means during rain, hail, sleet, or snow (but mostly sunny or slightly cloudy days), I’m walking dogs. Recently, Los Angeles has been hit with a couple of systems that dropped wet stuff all over the place. Our local news was on high storm-watch alert (rain around here leads the news). It was raining, and here I was with five energy-filled dogs ready to head out into the storm. So out into the storm we went. In celebration of National Walk Your Dog Month, here’s what I learned:
Just don’t. There. I believe I have finished writing this story. Stay at home and play games with your pup instead, taking quick potty breaks outside, of course. Hide-and-seek or treat puzzles are a good way to work off extra energy without having to mess up your hair.
It takes me a long time to wear my dogs out on a regular ol’ walk. They are used to hiking and running, often off-leash. To limit the time I have to spend out, I swap out a walk for some time at the dog park. The good thing about going to the dog park when it’s raining or otherwise miserable out is that you will be one of the only people there. The bad thing is you can almost guarantee your pup is going to get muddy. Bring towels to wipe off as much dirt and water as possible and to keep your car from getting too dirty. When you get home, be ready to do a quick rinse in the backyard before heading inside.
The only reason I own galoshes is for walking my dog. I feel like umbrellas are pretty useless when you’re trying to walk dogs AND keep the umbrella from becoming a flying projectile and stabbing a neighbor, so I leave mine at home. Instead, I layer up and add a rain poncho draped stylishly over myself.
Riggins, my dog, has a raincoat, which a nice older couple gave us one day when we were out running in the rain. Their pup had recently passed away, and they thought Riggins would like it. They were wrong. Riggins does not like it. I think, if given the ability, almost any dog would tell you that a raincoat is more trouble than it’s worth.
If you have a pup who will let you cover him in a raincoat and boots, go for it. If you don’t, think about visibility instead and cover yourself and your dog with as many reflective strips and blinky lights as possible. When Riggins was young and we ran daily, I made him a doggie reflective vest out of a human one. If you’re fancy, you can just purchase a dog reflective vest instead of crafting your own. Either way, the more visible you can be to traffic and to other humans out and about when the weather is bad, the better.
There are two types of dogs: Those who love water and will happily pounce in every puddle they can find, and those who think water is liquid sent by the devil himself. Either way, a car driving by and splashing water or slush on you and your pup is going to cause anxiety for everyone. Try to stay off busy streets. The first time I took Riggins for a walk on the street we live on now (which is busy even for Los Angeles) and water sprayed up at him from a passing car, I had to work hard to keep him calm. He was very close to backing out of his walking halter and taking off. Now our rain walk is another route, where there is little traffic and lots of space.
When I’m coming to the end of a wet-weather adventure, all I can think about is the hot bath I will be taking, preferably with a good book and a glass of wine. It’s a real bummer when I realize my job isn’t over yet and that the “clean and dry” portion of the walk is about to begin. To make this as easy on you as possible, prep your entry area. Inside your door, have a big, washable rug and a basket of dog towels. You may also want to bring the hair dryer into this area. When you get home, get all the cleaning done and the warm-up process started without tracking gunk in to the rest of your home.
But let’s face it: If at all possible, just stick to tip No. 1.
What do you do to make a walk in inclement weather more manageable? Let us know in the comments below.
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About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.