When you gotta go, you gotta go! Just like you can’t cross your legs and hold it forever, your furry friend will need frequent visits outdoors to “do their business” and prevent bladder issues or messes in the house. If you’re a first-time pet owner, however, you may find yourself wondering just how often your pet is going to need to visit the great outdoors. Is your new puppy sniffing at the door because of a need to pee or simply a desire to play? Is that older dog you adopted from the shelter ready to go out again, or are they just desperate for your attention? Understanding exactly how often your dog should go out to pee can help make you a better pet owner as you take your pet’s comfort into consideration.
The Short Answer
On average, dogs need to go outside at least 3 to 5 times per day to have the opportunity to relieve themselves. Veterinarians recommend that adult dogs go no more than 6-8 hours between trips outdoors.
Every Dog is Unique
Just like every person is different–your dad can go for the length of an entire road trip without stopping to pee, while your grandmother requires the entire family to stop at every rest stop, gas station, and fast food restaurant on the highway for a quick “pit stop”–so every dog is different, too. There are several factors that can decrease the amount of time your dog has between trips to the bathroom, including:
- Diet, including the amount your dog drinks
It’s important to carefully watch your pet’s habits. If he or she is squirming uncomfortably after 6 hours at home or in the crate, you should make a habit of letting your pet out every six hours. Know that your dog can make it 10-12 hours without needing to go if you have to be away from home? You can stretch your walk times out a little bit longer, but keep in mind that holding for too long or too frequently can lead to an increased risk of bladder, kidney, and urinary tract infections.
Age and Bathroom Breaks
Puppies, like human babies, pee frequently. The general rule of thumb is to assume that your puppy is capable of holding it for one hour plus the number of months they are. A six-month-old puppy, therefore, is inching much closer to an adult-sized bladder capacity than one who is only one or two months old! Taking a puppy out every hour during the day, however, is a great way to ensure that your puppy is getting the training and attention that they need.
Puppies are also most likely to use the bathroom within fifteen minutes of eating or drinking. If you’ve fed your puppy recently or observed it getting a drink of water, try to take it out within ten minutes and walk until it relieves itself. That way, puppy will learn to associate going to the bathroom with being outside–the desired behavior for you as a pet owner.
Senior dogs, like puppies, lack the ability to hold their bladders as long. Many frustrated pet owners observe their pet’s ability to remember to go outside deteriorating as they get older, but it’s typically not disobedience on the part of the dog. Senior dogs typically need a bathroom break every 4-6 hours. That may, however, depend on the specific breed of dog, their weight, and their other health problems, among other issues. Some older dogs may need to pee more often. If you aren’t able to be home to take your dog out, hiring a pet sitter is one option for keeping them healthy and comfortable. It can also be helpful to paper train your dog or provide them with pee pads so that they have a “safe” place to urinate even if you aren’t available to take them out or they, like their human companions, just can’t make it.
Large breed dogs are more likely to have trouble holding their bladders than smaller ones. Tiny breeds, on the other hand, have a smaller bladder capacity in general, which means that if they’re gulping water, they’re going to have to pee more often. Your dog may also have to pee more often if:
- They are overweight to obese
- They are on medications that cause or encourage frequent urination
- They have specific health conditions like diabetes
- They have been outside more early in the day and drank more water than usual
When to Call the Vet
Frequent urination in dogs isn’t always a symptom of a problem. Age, weight, and other factors can all contribute to your dog’s need to go out more often than usual. There are, however, some warning signs that will let you know you need to take your dog to the vet immediately, including:
- Straining or discomfort when urinating
- A change in the color of urine, especially to very dark or red
- A sudden distinct increase in the number of times your dog needs to go out daily, especially one that’s not related to any other symptoms
Your pet’s comfort comes first! When you’re making plans for your dog, be sure that you take their specific needs into consideration.
Breaking It Down
Puppies and younger dogs may need to go out every hour at first. As a puppy gets older, you can add one hour for each month of the puppy’s age.
Senior dogs can usually manage 4-6 hours between visits outdoors.
Adult dogs typically need to go out every 6-8 hours at a minimum.
Crate-trained dogs and those whose owners are frequently gone for longer hours may be able to hold for as much as 10-12 hours. This is, however, fairly uncommon and should not be expected of your dog.
The better you know your dog, the better you will be at judging how frequently they need to be taken outside. As you learn to pay attention to your pet’s cues, you’ll discover that you’re able to easily tell the difference between a request to play and a true need to go outside. Letting your dog out regularly, however, will allow you to increase their comfort and reduce the number of messes around your house.