June 10, 2022

Why they simply refuse to head outside on cold wet days

Why they simply refuse to head outside on cold wet days
Dr. Chris Brown

If they could cross their legs they would! But there’s a fascinating reason why convincing your mate to head outside to the toilet on those cold, wet days feels like Mission Impossible...

Hint: It’s about more than just the cold…

The freezing temperatures and cold winds ‘seem’ like the clear culprit for why at this time of year we see such a sudden surge in stubbornness…and even toileting mishaps when that flat-out refusal to step outside reaches extreme levels.

But it’s not that simple. After all, even rugged up dogs and cats will put a ban on outdoor visits when it’s cold or wet outside.

So what’s the deal?!

The true reason for refusing to step through that door is actually found in a part of the body you almost never see. It’s in their feet. But not even those adorable toe pads. The basis to that outdoor ban is actually found in the skin between their toes.

Did you know? Their toe pads actually get their softness from a cushion of fat. Because fat is such a good insulator, it protects those nerves in their finger tips from feeling too cold.

That skin between their toes just happens to be some of the most jam-packed with nerve endings in the entire body. It’s incredibly sensitive. In fact, you can see for yourself just how ticklish it is by first touching the toe pads (usually no response) and then touching between those toes and seeing how they almost instantly pull back.

All those nerves means all the feelings are amplified to the extreme! A cold morning feels like the Antarctic the moment that skin between their toes touches the pavement or the grass. But it’s what’s on the grass in winter that really makes a toilet stop almost unthinkable no matter how strong those urges are. Winter brings lots of dew and even those freezing rains. So when that water hits that uber sensitive skin between the toes, it kicks off a reaction that turns a pee break into a full blown panic.

That’s because both dogs and cats hate being wet. It’s an instinctive fear they have because being wet back in the wild (when they were a wolf) means life threatening hypothermia is a very real possibility. That’s why they’re such skilled shakers to rid quickly themselves of that water. After all, in their mind, it could be life and death. But combine that wet foot feeling with a cold morning and you trigger a full blown fear factor. And don’t worry, sitting in the warmth of your lounge room, they well and truly know what could be waiting for them outside. Hence why they’re so opposed to the idea of that outdoor bathroom break. It means the coldest of water hitting the most sensitive of skin…

So what can you do?

You really have two options to avoid those cold morning toilet mishaps…

Either desensitise them to cold, wet paws by repeated exposure and rewards. Basically training, rewarding and even giving them their morning meals on the cold, damp ground will help.

Or provide a ‘tempter toilet’. This is essentially a portable toilet you make using either a cat litter tray (for small dogs), BBQ tray (for medium dogs) or absorptive pad (for large dogs) where you tempt them into using it by not only placing it just outside but also by sprinkling a small amount of dirt and grass from where they normally go on top so the smell matches their normal toilet spot. After all, scent is everything at toilet time…

So maybe, just maybe they might be able to uncross their legs on those cold, wet winter nights. And you can relax knowing they're at ease...and your favourite rug might just be spared from a new winter colour scheme.

Need some help establishing a restful sleep for your little wriggler? The chamomile and L-theanine in my Calm + Collected treats can help…


Calm + Collected
Calm + Collected

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