It’s pouring, snowing, or bitter cold, but it’s still time to take your dog for a walk. You want to put a coat on him, but if you try he’ll just stand there looking miserable and refusing to move.
You’re not alone! But don’t worry: you can actually train your dog to like (okay, tolerate!) A coat by changing their attitudes towards it. In other words, instead of the fur being scary or something your dog doesn’t like, he can learn to at least accept it. The following steps describe how to do this.
• Equip yourself with delicious, high quality treats. (Note: when training a new behavior, especially trying to change your dog’s emotional response to something, it is best to use treats that he absolutely loves but usually doesn’t get.)
• Choose a time when your dog is relatively relaxed, e.g. B. after a long walk or while playing ball.
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• Place the coat on the floor a few meters away from him and watch his reaction. If he runs away or shows signs of stress – yawning, flicking his tongue, closing his mouth tight, turning his body away – you need to create even more distance between your dog and the fur.
• If your dog does not respond to the fur, give him praise and a treat.
• Still keeping a good distance between your dog and the fur, shed the fur and wait for your dog to look at it. He doesn’t have to smell it or go near it; A quick look is enough. Praise and reward! Do this several more times.
• Continue this exercise as you move the fur closer and closer to your dog. Remember, you still don’t touch him with it. You just close the gap between the two and give him a treat when he watches it.
• Once your dog understands that just looking at the fur leads to a reward (we like to walk eight out of ten times), try gently touching the fur on one of its forelegs for a second. Don’t put it on him; just touch it briefly. We recommend front legs because you want to make sure your dog can see what you are doing. Nobody likes surprises, especially if it’s something they think is scary.
• If he stands there and does nothing, give him a reward and lots of praise! If he seems just slightly stressed, take the coat off and then try to gently touch him again with a treat near his nose. If he seems very stressed, return to the previous step where he is only rewarded for looking at the coat.
• If you can touch your dog’s fur, stroke it with the fur in hand. If he doesn’t move or shows signs of stress, treat him.
You have the idea. Small steps are the key. Take your time and don’t rush to take the next step. Soon your dog will be connecting the dots and realizing that anything to do with the coat leads to treats!
When you’re finally ready to put the coat on him, just place it over his back for a second, then take it off and treat him. Only if he is comfortable at this stage (again eight out of ten) should you try to put it on and secure it. Just like any other behavioral training, this is a process. Be patient and go slowly.
You may also be wondering, “Does my dog really have to wear a coat?” It depends on.
If your dog naturally has long, thick fur – think Husky or Pomeranian – the answer is likely not. However, if your dog is smooth coated, very young, elderly, or has a condition like arthritis, a coat can help keep him comfortable when the temperature drops. If your dog is small, you should also consider a coat as it will be more difficult for little boys to retain body heat.
Finally, think about how long you are going to be outside. Your dog may be fine on a short 10-minute walk to get his business done. But if you’re planning a hike on a cold winter’s day, he’ll likely appreciate help with keeping them warm.