7 Safety Tips for Walking Your Dog in Rainy Weather

Just because it's raining doesn't mean your dog doesn't need a walk, but it's important to walk with caution while you're out.

Published August 8, 2023
Golden retriever on a walk with their person.

You look outside, see the rain pouring down, and then glance at your eager dog who is ready for their walk. Going out in the rain with your dog can be a great adventure, but you need to make sure you're both prepped first. With the right plan and a few safety measures, you can ensure an enjoyable, comfortable, and safe rainy day walk for your furry friend.

1. Watch Out for Puddles

While splashing in puddles can be fun for your dog, it may also be a health risk. Puddles can harbor bacteria, parasites, or harmful chemicals from runoff. Your dog can pick up these nasties if they drink runoff or if they get dirty water in their mouth.

Puddles can also hide harmful substances, such as antifreeze or chemicals washed away by the rain that can irritate your dog's paws or cause serious harm if ingested. Be particularly attentive during the first rain after a dry spell. This is when built-up chemical waste tends to collect. Try to steer your dog clear of puddles whenever possible.

Need to Know

You never know how deep a puddle or pothole is, so watch out. Your dog could be caught off guard, and deeper puddles could be hazardous to both yourself and your dog.

Dog shaking off in the rain.

2. Protect Your Dog's Paws

The pads of your dog's paws can be sensitive. Wet and potentially harsh conditions can soften your dog's paw pads, making them more susceptible to injuries and irritation from the rough surfaces they walk on. Additionally, abrasive substances such as de-icing salts or chemicals can cause even more problems for your dog's paws.

To protect your dog's paws, you can try waterproof dog booties. They shield your pup's feet from the elements and potentially harmful substances on the ground. If your dog doesn't tolerate booties, consider using a paw wax - Musher's Secret is our favorite - that provides a protective barrier between your dog's paws and the ground.

Quick Tip

After each walk, it's essential to dry your dog's paws thoroughly and check for any signs of irritation or injury. Be sure to check between their toes and around their paw pads where small particles can get trapped.

3. Keep Your Dog on a Leash

When you walk your dog in the rain, conditions are inherently more treacherous. The ground is slippery. Motorists can't see you or your dog as well.

  • Visibility: Rain can lead to decreased visibility, making it more challenging for you, other pedestrians, and drivers to spot your dog, which can increase the risk of accidents.
  • Disorientation: Wet conditions may disorient your dog, as rain can wash away familiar scents they use to navigate their surroundings. Unfamiliar noises, like the sound of falling rain or thunder, could also startle your dog, causing them to run off or behave unpredictably.
  • Abnormal surfaces: Rainy weather can create hazardous conditions, such as slippery surfaces or puddles with harmful substances, which you'll have better control over navigating if your dog is on a leash.
  • Safety: Having your dog on a leash ensures they don't wander off to areas that may become quickly flooded in heavy rain.

Anything might happen, which is why it's extra important to make sure you walk your dog on a leash that's secure. Make sure you keep a tight hold on it, too. 

Quick Tip

You might normally rely on your dog's collar and a regular leash, but a harness and a high-visibility leash option with reflectors are great options for when it rains. They help to improve your visibility and protect your dog.

4. Choose the Right Route

Your normal paths might not be the best option when it's pouring. Consider whether you might have to cross running water, or if you walk on dirt trails, what the conditions will be like. Adjusting your route before you leave can help avoid danger.

  • Familiarity: Select a route that is familiar to you and your dog. In rainy conditions, scents that dogs often rely on may be washed away, and the disorientation could be stressful to your dog. Walking in familiar areas can help mitigate this issue.
  • Consider the terrain: Avoid routes with steep hills or slopes, as these can become slippery when wet and may pose a risk of falls or injuries. Similarly, avoid areas prone to flooding or those with poor drainage, which could lead to unexpectedly deep puddles.
  • Natural shelter: Selecting a route with some natural shelter, such as trees or buildings, can also help provide some respite from the rain. However, in the case of thunderstorms, avoid walking near tall, isolated trees due to the risk of lightning strikes.
  • Lighting: Choose well-lit paths for increased visibility, especially during heavy rain or in the evening. A well-lit route not only allows you to see potential hazards better but also makes you and your dog more visible to others.

5. Shorten Your Walk

Dogs can get chilled in wet weather, particularly if they're a small or short-haired breed. Consider shortening your walk or splitting it into multiple walks throughout the day. Check the weather to determine when there will be breaks in the rain, or at least breaks in heavy rainfall.

6. Dry Your Dog Thoroughly

Man drying his dog off after a rain.

Wet fur can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, potentially leading to skin infections. Staying damp for long periods can make your dog uncomfortably cold and lead to conditions like hypothermia, especially in small or short-haired breeds. To prevent these problems, start the drying process as soon as you return home.

Use a highly absorbent towel to pat and rub your dog's fur, focusing on the most soaked areas, such as their underbelly, legs, and paws. Dry between their toes and around the paw pads, where water can easily collect. A warm bath with dog-friendly shampoo can also help to remove any debris picked up during the walk and ensure they are completely dry afterwards.

Quick Tip

A dog-specific hair dryer can be used for a more thorough drying, but always use it on the lowest setting to avoid overheating.

7. Invest in Rain Gear for Your Dog

Dog out for a walk in their new raincoat.

Some dogs don't mind getting wet, but others may need a little extra coaxing to go out in the rain. Even those that do enjoy getting out in the weather should have rain gear.

  • Protection from the elements: Many dogs, especially small breeds or those with short hair, may not be comfortable or well-equipped to handle cold, wet weather. A good raincoat can keep your dog warm and dry, protecting them from the elements and making their walk more enjoyable.
  • Cleanliness: Rain gear helps to keep your dog clean. Wet weather can result in a muddy dog and a muddy house once you return from your walk. A raincoat can significantly reduce the amount of cleaning you have to do post-walk.
  • Reflective strips: Rain gear often comes with reflective strips or in bright colors, enhancing your dog's visibility in poor light conditions. This is particularly important for ensuring the safety of your pet during those gloomy, rainy walks when visibility is low.
  • Keeping them dry: Some dogs simply don't like being wet, and a raincoat can make the difference between a reluctant walker and a happy, excited one.
Quick Tip

Any rain gear you choose should be comfortable and well-fitted to your dog to avoid causing them distress or discomfort.

How Long Can Dogs Be Left Out in the Rain?

The amount of time a dog can comfortably and safely stay in the rain varies greatly and depends on breed, age, health status, and the intensity and temperature of the rain. Some dogs, especially water-loving breeds and those with thick, water-resistant coats, may enjoy being out in the rain for extended periods.

However, small dogs, short-haired breeds, puppies, older dogs, or those with health issues may become cold and uncomfortable much more quickly. If temperatures are low, there's a risk of hypothermia. It's generally best not to leave dogs out in the rain for long periods of time. Extended exposure to wet conditions can lead to a variety of health issues, including skin infections and ear infections, especially in breeds prone to such conditions.

Quick Tip

If in doubt, bring your dog inside. A little rain won't cause them much harm, but prolonged exposure - beyond 30 minutes or so, depending on your dog's breed and the weather conditions - can lead to health issues.

Is It Legal to Leave Dogs in the Rain?

The legality of leaving a dog out in the rain varies greatly depending on your jurisdiction and the specific conditions. In many places, laws and regulations exist to protect pets from neglect and cruelty, which can include exposing them to harsh weather conditions without proper shelter.

In several jurisdictions within the United States, it is considered animal cruelty to leave a dog outside without appropriate protection from severe weather, which includes extreme cold, heat, rain, or storm conditions. Other countries have similar laws. In the United Kingdom, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 imposes a duty of care on pet owners to provide for their animals' basic needs, which includes suitable shelter and protection from pain and disease.

It's always best to provide a safe, warm, and dry shelter for your dog when it's raining. Regardless of the legal aspect, leaving a dog outside in the rain for extended periods can be harmful to their health and well-being. Always consult local laws and regulations, and when in doubt, prioritize the welfare of your pet.

Enjoy Rainy Day Walks

Walking your dog in the rain can be a unique and refreshing experience if done correctly. By following these tips, you can ensure your dog's comfort and safety while enjoying the pitter-patter of the rain. So, don your raincoat, grab your umbrella, and enjoy the rainy day walks with your best friend!

7 Safety Tips for Walking Your Dog in Rainy Weather