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I got my dog, Sofie, while I was living and working in Taiwan. When it came time for us to return home to the states, I knew that we were going to have a 27-hour flight back.
Since there are no doggy lavatories on an airplane, I started to wonder how long Sofie was going to be forced to hold her pee and what I could do to help make the experience more comfortable for her.
How long can dogs hold their pee? Vets recommend letting dogs pee at least once every 6-8 hours (3-4 times per day), though some can last 10-12 hours. Dogs under 8 months old can usually hold their pee one hour for every month old they are. Many factors affect their bathroom schedules but there are ways to keep your dog regular.
The 6-8 hour rule is a minimum recommendation. Some dogs can easily hold it for 8 hours while others will be more comfortable going out to pee more often.
Think about your own dog and take into account some of the following factors that influence how often your dog will pee.
Factors Affecting How Frequently A Dog Needs To Pee
Age is one of the biggest factors affecting a dog’s ability to hold it or not hold it.
Puppies and adolescent dogs, as you probably know, are less able to hold their pee than adult dogs.
Puppies are still learning how to take cues from their bodies and learn that that tingly feeling means they’ve gotta go. And once they do, it’s a long road to being able to control the muscles involved in holding in their pee.
It can be uncomfortable learning to hold their pee, which is why many pet parents struggle to teach their puppies and young dogs how to hold it in.
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect a dog to be able to hold their pee for roughly one hour for every month old that they are, up until they are 8 months old.
Adult dogs can usually be expected to hold their pee for 6-8 hours. Some dogs may be able to push it to 10 to 12, but any longer and your dog takes a risk of developing serious side effects.
Once your dog starts getting on in years, they will begin to show signs of aging. When exactly this happens varies, especially between different-sized breeds.
But dogs are generally considered “senior” when they reach about 8-10 years old, with smaller breeds closer to 10 and larger breeds closer to 8.
No one wants their aging buddy to be uncomfortable or struggle to hold in their pee, so it’s often best to give senior dogs more frequent potty breaks. Shoot for about once every 3-4 hours if you can (6-8 times a day).
Below is a quick guide to help determine how often your dog should go out to pee based on their age:
Amount of Time
They Can Hold It
Up to 1 month old
0 time (don’t expect a puppy less than one month old to hold in their pee)
2 months old
3 months old
4, 5, and 6 months old
~4, 5, and 6 hours, respectively
7-8 months old
Between 6 and 8 hours
8 months old into adulthood
Between 7 and 8 hours, up to 10-12 hours
|~8-10 years old +||
Generally, smaller dogs have to pee more frequently than large breed dogs.
It is estimated that a dog will pee between 10 and 20 ml for every pound of body weight per day.
So that means that a 6-pound dog will produce roughly half a cup of pee per day compared to a 60-pound dog, who will produce about 5 cups of pee per day.
It’s difficult to estimate how much volume a dog’s bladder will hold, but it’s been observed that smaller dogs have smaller bladders relative to their overall body size than larger breeds of dogs. This means that their little bladders will fill up faster, resulting in more frequent urination than their larger counterparts.
Again, this is just a general rule of thumb, and a dog’s personality and training will likely play a bigger factor in determining the frequency of their potty breaks than their size.
House training is one of the first opportunities pet parents have to really work with their dogs. Unlike sit, shake, and stay, preventing your dog from doing their business in the house comes with its own clear motivation for pet parents.
However, your dog’s potty training does not stop once they have reasonable control over their bladders.
How frequently you take your dog out to pee during the day also trains them to hold or not hold their pee for certain amounts of time.
A dog who is kept inside during their owner’s 8 or 9-hour workday will be better trained to hold their urine in other situations than dogs whose parents are at home and able to let them out more frequently.
If your dog is peeing very frequently, it may simply be that you have inadvertently trained them to pee on a high maintenance schedule.
If your dog is experiencing any sort of physical stress related to an ongoing or new health issue, it is likely more difficult for them to control their bladders. Some dogs may also regularly smell like pee as a result of a medical concern.
Urinary tract infections are frequently the culprit, especially for female dogs. A more serious but also fairly common issue is bladder and urinary stones.
In addition to being extremely uncomfortable and dangerous, these stones take up space in your dog’s abdomen, leaving less room for their bladders to expand.
Keep in mind also that some prescription medications may cause more frequent urination. Conversely, some medications may cause your dog to pee less frequently than they used to.
Common health issues that affect a dog’s urination schedule include:
- Muscle weakening
- Mobility issues
- Any ailments affecting their kidney or liver
- Urinary tract infections
- Bladder/kidney stones
The internet is a great place to speculate wildly about what may be wrong with your dog, but diagnosing issues yourself wastes valuable time that a trained, experienced veterinarian could be using to help your poor dog feel better.
If you have any real concerns that your dog is in pain or experiencing health issues, you should bring them to a veterinarian right away. N
Obviously, the amount of water that a dog consumes will affect how frequently they needed to pee.
A dog on a hot day who has been playing outside will likely drink a lot of water all at once when they get the opportunity. Expect that dog to have to pee more frequently in the next few hours.
Not just their water consumption but also the food that they eat will affect how much they need to pee.
Dry kibbles contain less moisture than canned or packaged wet food. Dogs who are lucky enough to eat wet food diets will often consume more fluid in a day than dogs on dry food diets, resulting in more frequent potty breaks.
Not only that, but foods high in salt or very rich with fatty proteins(like lunch meat) are likely to induce thirst, meaning your dog drinks more and, thus, pees more.
If your dog is peeing too much, or you are concerned that they are not peeing enough, re-examine both the amount of water that they consume and also the ingredients and quality of their daily food.
Yes, just like people, some dogs just are not as comfortable doing their business outside of their home or in their usual spot.
A dog who is in a stressful situation or one who is overwhelmed and distracted by lots of new stimuli is more likely to hold in their pee while they are interested in whatever has got their attention.
Sometimes, stressful situations like long car rides, airplane trips, or a move into a new home are unavoidable stressors in your dog’s life.
Do not be surprised if your dog holds their pee longer when they are in these environments.
These are issues that may be making your dog pee at the wrong times that are not necessarily related to how full their bladders are:
Marking is a specific behavior that both males and, yes, even females, may mark, especially if they are unaltered.
When a dog marks, they “mark” an object, area, or unlucky person with the scent of their pee. Dogs have incredibly sensitive olfactory capabilities, so to them, another dog’s urine is a very complex fingerprint containing tons of information.
We are not currently able to understand exactly what all is communicated through this scent, so we are limited to making observations and filling and filling in the gaps.
When a dog marks, they are not doing so because they need to pee but rather because they want to leave their scent in an area. Therefore, they typically do not expend as much urine when the mark as when they pee.
They usually only mark new objects or when they are in new environments, especially if there are new dogs or the smell of new dogs around.
Oftentimes, excitement peeing is simply an issue with maturity, anxiety, or personality.
Excitement peeing often occurs when a pet owner returns home from work after a long day or when family or friends come to the door.
Your dog, overwhelmed with excitement, loses their muscle control and leaves a puddle on the floor. This is often followed by a look of shame, knowing that they’re not supposed to pee on the floor but were unable to control it.
It may be that this dog already had a full bladder after your long day of work. But this is also a behavior that will need to be addressed separately from their house training.
Submission peeing is often coupled with other submissive behaviors, like your dog rolling over on their side or on their backs and peeing when you reach to pet them.
This will often happen when they are encountering new dogs or a person who, for whatever reason, they are particularly intimidated by.
This can be a difficult problem to overcome. When a dog is on the floor due to submission, the way you behave next will either reinforce their submissive behavior or slowly help to get them over it.
Some dogs are known to break their potty training rules and begin to pee or poop in the house more frequently when they do not think they are getting enough attention.
Many new parents report that their otherwise very well-trained dog began peeing in the house when they brought their new baby home.
While it’s difficult to say with certainty that this is attention-seeking behavior, it does track that a dog could think “Whenever the new baby makes a stinky in the house, they get lots of attention. Maybe that will work for me too!”
What If My Dog Holds Their Pee Too Long?
A dog will probably pee of their own accord before any serious physical damage occurs. But sometimes physical blockages prevent a dog from relieving themselves.
If a dog holds their pee for longer than about 12 hours, the most immediate threat is the distention that can occur on your dog’s bladder or in their abdomen if they holding too much pee.
Bladders are meant to stretch to a certain extent and then the built-up pressure is supposed to push the pee out.
The bladder of a dog who is holding their pee and not relieving the pressure will continue to fill up like a balloon. And we all know what can happen to a balloon if it gets too full.
Unless there’s a blockage, your dog will almost surely pee before it gets to this point. Your most serious issues are likely UTIs and stones.
When urine stays inside of the dog, bacteria are able to form in their bladders. Even if your dog pees and feels immediate relief, the bacteria may still linger inside of them.
This bacteria can cause a painful urinary tract infection (UTI) that may require antibiotics to treat.
Past that, hard stones may form in your dog’s bladder, kidney, or other organs in the urinary tract.
Holding pee can cause calcification and crystallization in the urinary tract. These calcified, crystallized stones may cause physical damage, extreme pain, and are potentially life-threatening.
Forcing your dog to hold in their pee is not only painful and cruel but can lead to a long list of health issues. It’s best to just let your little buddy relieve themselves.
How To Encourage Your Dog To Hold Their Pee Longer
Go On Command
While it may seem counterintuitive, how to pee on command is actually the best first place to start getting control over your dog’s peeing habits.
By teaching your dog to pee on command, you associate the act of peeing with particular words, situations, and environments. If you only ever tell your dog to go pee outside, they will begin to internalize that you are only supposed to pee outside.
Not only that, but it gives you more control to help your dog stay on a regular pee schedule. When you take your dog out, you can tell them to pee so that you are sure that they are getting themselves empty when you need them to.
This is particularly helpful if you have to leave your dog for a long time or are otherwise not able to take them out, like for a long road trip.
Teaching your dog to pee on command is a surprisingly easy trick. Check out this video for helpful advice on how to do this:
Crate training is something that I recommend all new pet parents do. Not only does crate training help teach your dog a number of positive psychological characteristics, but it is also a great way to help your dog physically exercise the muscles required to hold in their pee and their poop.
Dogs have an instinct not to pee or poop in their beds. Crate training takes advantage of that instinct by confining your dog to a small space that they will consider to be their bed.
By doing so, the dog will naturally try harder to hold their pee than if you just gave them free run of your house.
Do not push your dog too much at the beginning. This is physical training for your dog and it’s going to take time for them to be able to better control their need to pee. You don’t want them to start having accidents in their crate and lose the instinct to avoid it.
So long as you take it slowly and follow the age-expectations guide above, you should have no problems crate training your dog.
Teach Them To Ask You To Go Out
By giving your dog a loud and clear way to communicate to you that they need to go outside, you can help reduce the number of accidents that they have due to miscommunications.
Most dogs seem to go stand by or circle the door when they need to go outside. Other dogs may get a particular look in their eye or nudge their heads against you.
Dogs will almost always make some sort of signal when they need to go pee, you just need to closely observe your dog and figure out what that signal is.
Once you do, you can adapt it into some particular behavior that you want.
A great option is to get a bell to put by the door that your dog can ring when they need to pee.
So, if your dog naturally sits by the door or nudges you with their nose when they need to pee, bring the bell with you to the door and get them to ring it before you let them outside.
Do this process every time your dog has to pee and never left them outside without ringing the bell first.
Over time, you should be able to ignore them when they nudge your hand or sit by the door and simply wait for them to ring the bell.
I recommend these VIMOV Pet Training Bells because it’s a two-pack, which will make training easier, and they’re designed to make it easier for dogs to ring so you can get to the important part faster.
Your dog’s ability to hold their pee is controlled by muscles. These muscles, like all muscles, can be strengthened to become more effective.
You can strengthen these muscles by slowly increasing the amount of time that your dog has to hold their pee.
I mean VERY slowly.
The last thing you want to do is to untrain your dog’s house training, so you’ll need to work very closely to do small, incremental increases.
When your dog is asking to go outside, have them wait another 10 minutes before letting them out. Do this for a few days, then ask them to wait a little longer.
You can couple this with crate training and other ways to help strengthen the muscles around their ladder to help them get used to holding their bladder for longer.
This is a great technique if you are planning a long trip with your dog. Being responsible enough to start conditioning your dog to hold in their pee ahead of time will prevent your poor pup from being in a stressful situation where they have to hold their pee longer than they ever had before.
Give Them A Spot
This is a great technique for dogs who are unable to get outside frequently or quickly enough when they have to go pee.
If you lived in an apartment on a tall floor, it can be unrealistic to expect your dog to ring a bell by the door, wait for you to put your shoes on, go down the hallway, down the elevator, across the lobby, and out to the tree whenever they need to do their business.
By giving them a designated spot inside the house to do their business, you can relieve a lot of stress and help to train your dog to feel comfortable peeing on a certain place or object.
Disposable puppy pads are a good option but they will get costly as a permanent solution. Consider getting a washable, super absorbent pad like this one as a better long-term solution.
This is another great thing to do if you are taking your dog to a strange environment. I trained my dog to go pee on a piece of AstroTurf before our long plane ride. Later, when we were in a bustling airport and I pulled it out, she knew that it was a safe and okay place for her to go pee.
Taking your dog out or otherwise giving them an opportunity to pee at regular intervals every day is a great way to set and meet expectations between you and your dog.
Your dog will become regular and begin peeing at roughly the same time every day. You two can easily work out a schedule that works for both of you so long as you are not asking too much of each other.
A healthy dog not experiencing any sort of abnormal health situations like pregnancy or lactation will need to consume about 1 oz of water for every pound of body weight per day.
You do not want to mess with that number too much, but you can portion out their water so that they are less likely to have to pee when you are unable to let them out.
Throughout the day, a dog should always have access to water. However, adults should be able to make it through the night without water, which is good, overnight accidents are a common issue with pet parents.
One way to portion out a dog’s water to make sure they are staying hydrated but not filling up their bladder too much is to give them ice cubes.
Dogs will lick and crunch at the ice cubes and will consume enough water to stay hydrated slowly, but not enough water to have to go to the bathroom too much.
This is a pretty simple but effective way to control your dog’s urination.
By switching to a dry food that does not contain too much salt, you can more easily monitor their water intake throughout the day and prevent them from getting too much additional moisture from their food.
Some things we have discussed like marking, excitement peeing, and submissive and attention-seeking behavior will need to be specifically addressed.
It is unlikely that getting control over their bladder muscles or house training will solve the root of these issues.
These issues come from other psychological influences.
There are a lot of resources online to help you get ahead of all of these types of behaviors, but reaching out to a local, experienced dog trainer will probably be your fastest route to curbing the behavior.
Local trainers can see your dog and tailor a training program to your specific needs.
Dogs are unique and, just like people, some of us will need to go to the bathroom more or less frequently than others.
In general, it is best to let your dogs out to go pee at least every 6 to 8 hours, but I am sure that they would appreciate more opportunities than that if you can afford them.
After all, holding your pee is a universally uncomfortable experience and when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go!