Wintertime Puppy Training 101

By Lisa Hartman for Exceptional Canine

Wintertime Puppy Training 101

Housebreaking your dog is more difficult during the winter than it is during other seasons: Pet parents don't want to be outside for very long, and even the most playful puppy can be deterred by a cold blast of sleet or snow.

But puppyhood is the best time to acclimate your dog to different weather conditions. If you don't want your puppy to pick up on your feelings and develop a bad attitude about going outside, you need to behave like the bad weather doesn't bother you. So, put on your parka -- and your poker face if you need to -- and march right out there!

Wintertime "Do Your Business" Tips
Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, Spitz and other breeds that originated in cold climates might seem impervious to winter weather, but other breeds -- and young dogs in general -- are very susceptible to the effects of cold weather. So housetraining in the wintertime requires a different strategy than in warmer seasons. Here's how to manage:

  • Go often. Plan on taking your puppy out for more frequent, short trips to your yard. Watch for signs that your dog is cold and wants to go back inside, such as shivering or holding a freezing paw or leg off the ground.
  • Clear a place. If there's snow on the ground, use a shovel to carve a walkway and create an elimination area that's close to your house and easily accessible to you and your puppy.
  • Dress your puppy appropriately. Puppy will stay warmer outside if it tolerates wearing a sweater or coat. However, most dogs hate wearing booties and will spend more time trying to take them off than focusing on doing their business.
  • Use a leash. Always bring puppy outside on a leash until it eliminates. Then your puppy can have a bit of fun when business is done.
  • Keep your puppy company. Never leave puppy alone or unsupervised outside, especially in cold weather.

Indoor/Outdoor Training for Your Puppy
You can certainly start obedience training with fun indoor games, such as asking your puppy to find you by saying "Come" and rewarding it with treats, toys and praise when it responds to your command. Basic "Sit" and "Stay" cues are also good to start indoors. Once your pal gets the hang of these, you can play the same games outdoors.

Puppy's attention span is brief, so just like housetraining, plan on frequent but short outdoor obedience training sessions to keep her interested and to protect her from the cold.

No matter the temperature outside, your window to properly socialize your puppy closes between 12 and 16 weeks of age. So you can't wait until springtime to get your puppy out for meet-and-greets with other animals and people. Treat winter like it's just another life experience, and you'll be rewarded with a housebroken, obedience-trained and well-socialized dog when the warmer weather arrives.

Exceptional Canine expert Lisa Hartman is a dog trainer and the author of the book Dial a Dynamite Dog: The Ultimate Field Guide for Training Your Pet. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, she has directed training efforts for her business and for various humane and pet welfare organizations in Long Island, N.Y., and Miami/Dade, Fla.

For additional training information and tips, along with a listing of trainers from across Canada, visit the Training & Handling section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.