“It’s raining cats and dogs”goes the old saying, but when it comes to rain and getting wet, dogs seem to react in different ways. Whether it’s a steady rainfall or a downpour as seen in summer storms, some dog owners seem to notice some changes in their dogs’ behaviors when it’s pouring. Is it just our imagination or is there something really going on that we might not be aware of? Well, in some cases, dogs will tell us straightforwardly that, yes, they hate rain and the associated sensation of getting wet, while on other occasions, their reaction to rain may seem more subtle, making us wonder if rain affects dogs in different ways than us. Following are some possible explanations to a dog’s reaction to rain.
Yes, you are not imagining things if your dog seems more sensitive to smells when it rains. You have likely witnessed this phenomenon of how moisture intensifies smells first hand when your dog got skunked and that skunk smell came back to haunt you when your dog got his coat wet, or, even without getting skunked, you may have noticed how bad that “doggy smell” gets when your dog’s fur is wet. Turns out, there is an explanation for this and, for those nerds out there, it has a scientific basis. Basically, what happens is that, humid air traps smells causing them to linger around much longer than they normally do, explains Avert Gilbert, a “smell” psychologist.
What does it mean to our dogs? It means that they are offered a “smorgasbord” of smells that are more intense than usual, increasing their desire to go on a sniffing (and possibly, marking) adventure. Even indoor dogs may catch outside whiffs of smell when it rains. There are several reports of dog owners noticing how during or after raining, their dogs will catch a whiff under the door or the air coming from the vents and start whining as they possibly detect the nearby presence of other dogs, cats or wild animals.
“The optimal time to work search dogs is when it’s damp, foggy, drizzling and even raining. Scent needs moisture to survive, which rain provides. Rain does not make scent mysteriously disappear. Rain will not destroy scent, but a heavy downpour on concrete can disperse it, making it difficult to follow a trail.” ~Kat Albrecht, Detective Dogs
Yes, many dogs have this negative reaction to rain. You can see it on your dog’s face when you let him out to potty and it’s pouring cats and dogs. If your dog hates to potty in the rain, rest assured you’re not alone. Many dogs dislike rain and its associated sensation of getting wet. This “hate” may stem from lack of a proper introduction to rain and getting baths, which should start when puppies are young, ideally during the critical window of socialization. It’s a good idea to therefore start early and turn rain into a fun event by playing under the rain, engaging the pup in fun water games and making baths fun.
Hating rain though doesn’t necessarily stem from lack of exposure, it can also stem from a negative association with it. If you have ever scolded your dog when it was raining because he wouldn’t go potty or for some other reason, there are good chances that he has associated the rain with your scolding rather than “not going potty in the rain.” Also, dogs are often influenced by our mood and reactions to stimuli. So if for instance, you make a big deal about rain such as making a big deal of it, rushing inside when it rains, avoiding puddles on walks etc. there are chances that your dog may pick up these negative emotions and belief that rain and getting wet is something that should be absolutely avoided. For dogs who hate going in potty in the rain, here are a few tips: tips for dogs who refuse to potty in the rain.
Some dogs may not hate much the rain or getting wet per se, but they are actually afraid of its noise. For instance, sometimes when it’s heavily pouring, the noise can be scary especially for those folks who live under a metal roof. There are dogs who are scared of the noise produced by hail and then their fear expands to include also loud pouring of big rain drops.
Owners who create a lot of commotion when it rains may also contribute to the problem. Rushing to close a window or to grab clothes that were hanging out while screaming “Oh, no it’s going to get all soaking wet!” can be enough to traumatize a sensitive dogs and make him associate all that commotion with the scent and noise of rain. The fear of thunder in dogs may also generalize to other events associated with the noise of thunder and sometimes this may include darkening skies, the noise of rain and strong winds and even those subtle changes in barometric pressure.
OK, this won’t likely affect spayed and neutered dogs much that spend most of their time indoors, but we thought this curious fact was worth mentioning. Interestingly, in India, rain seems to bring more love in the air when it comes to free-ranging dogs. It has been observed that raining causes an increase in the rate of mating in free-ranging dogs in urban environments. Why is that? According to a study, it’s likely a matter of chemistry. Living in an urban environment, dogs are exposed to a lot of “olfactory noise,” and this seems to interfere with the dog’s ability to discriminate pheromones of female dogs in heat. When it rains though, the increased humidity levels and reduced temperature of the air, intensifis those pheromone signals leading to more frequent matings.
- Changes of pressure and humidity affect olfactory function, Kuehn M1, Welsch H, Zahnert T, Hummel T.,Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 Mar;265(3):299-302. Epub 2007 Sep 25
- When Love Is in the Air: Understanding Why Dogs Tend to Mate when It Rains.Sen Majumder S1, Bhadra A, PLoS One. 2015 Dec 2;10(12):e0143501. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143501. eCollection 2015.
- PBS Newshour, 8 things you didn’t know about humidity, retrieved from the web on June 30th, 2016
- Dog Detectives, How to Train Your Dog to Find Lost Pets, By Kat Albrecht (Dogwise Training Manual) Paperback – November 1, 2007