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Pet Parenting Articles

How Often Does My Dog Need Potty Breaks?

Most times, I get questions about potty breaks with new puppies. It's important, though, to be able to predict how often a dog of any age needs to go outside. This goes beyond house training, and takes into account the dog's body, digestion, and natural elimination timetable. Remember, too, that bathroom routines may need to be adjusted as your dog ages. My Magical-Dawg no longer "goes" as regularly as in his youth, and sometimes surprises himself because his body gives little warning.

With hot summer months in the past, and cooler temperatures--or even cold snaps--dogs and their humans may not be as eager to spend lots of time outside. Maybe you don't want to stand in the cold rain while your dog sniffs everywhere. Or perhaps your reluctant canine refuses to go out in the wet, crosses his legs (in a figurative way) to postpone the inevitable and then find a spot under your piano to relieve himself.

How Long Can Puppy "Hold It?"

Pups need a bathroom break after every meal, nap, and playtime. Depending on his age and breed, he'll be fed two to four or more times a day. His capacity to "hold it" increases with his age and size. Here's a general guideline for puppies:

  • Two-month-old pups need a break about every two hours
  • Three-month-old pups can hold it for four hours
  • Four-month-old pups can wait five hours
  • Five-month-olds can wait about six hours
  • Seven-month-old pups should be able to wait about eight hours

How Often Does My Adult Dog Need Bathroom Breaks?

Your Toy-size dogs also have baby-size bladders and limited capacity to "hold it" no matter his best intentions. It can vary a bit between breeds with large and giant breeds having a bit more "storage" capacity. Old dogs like my Magic, and sick dogs also need more frequent breaks, which may include potty breaks in the middle of the night.

On average, a healthy dog produces about 10 to 20 ml of urine per pound of his body weight every day. Dogs don't "spend" the entire contents of their bladder all at once, though. They often baptize their favorite objects any time they go out, in a little spritz here and there in marking behavior.

Dogs usually defecate once or twice a day, usually within a short time after a meal. That's helpful when you meal feed, because you can predict when he needs an outing. That's why it's a good idea to allow dogs outside to relieve themselves after each meal, and at least three to five times daily. Dogs should not be forced to wait longer than about eight hours, before having a bathroom break.

When You Can't Take Him Out

I'm a big fan of going with your dog when he needs to relieve himself. Besides the walk and interaction being good for you both, this also allows you to monitor his output. Bathroom deposits offer early warnings to health conditions, so it's not recommended to just turn him out to "go" on the back forty acres.

That said, there are circumstances when you can't be there to let your dog in and out. Perhaps you work longer than eight hours away from home, or maybe your old dog needs more frequent breaks. In these cases, look into pet door and fencing options. A number of types are available that safely confine dogs when outside, and offer easy and safe access in and out to specific pets.

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