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Understanding the bathroom habits of our dogs is a necessary and important part of owning a pet. It is every owner’s responsibility to provide for their four-legged friend, and this includes taking them outside to potty at times where we may not feel up to it, especially at night.
Poor weather conditions, being too busy, or just being plain tired from the long day at work you just had can all impact our desire to take our pups out to their business. To help with this, we can figure out what might be the best time to take our dogs out at night.
But is there an ideal time to do this to guarantee that our dogs will not wake us up to use the bathroom throughout the night?
Your dog’s age, health condition, and training may impact how often you need to take them outside at night, but in general taking them out one last time immediately before putting them up for bed is the ideal time to take your dog out at night.
In the article below, we’ll discuss the generally accepted best time to take most dogs out to ensure that they will sleep through the night without having accidents, as well as things to consider on deciding what time might be best for your specific dog and situation.
We’ll also look at how you can teach your puppy to not potty in the house at night, how to train your dog to potty outside on cue, and what to keep in mind as you take your dog outside to potty at night.
What Time Is Best To Take My Dog Out At Night?
While there is no ideal time to take your dog out at night because so much of it depends on your individual dog, in general it’s usually a smart idea to take them out just before you go to bed for the night.
Dogs are creatures of habit and routine, and they can easily adapt to your sleep schedule. If you take them out to potty at the same time every night immediately before you go to bed, they’ll usually learn to potty right as they go out and then will sleep through the night. No more having to get up throughout the night to let them out to potty!
The exception to this is if you have a dog going through the house-training process, or if you have an ill or injured dog who may require some extra care.
Things To Consider When Deciding On What Time To Take Your Dog Out At Night
When deciding on what time to take your dog out at night, there are a few things you can look at to determine what might work best for you and your dog.
1. How recently did your dog drink or eat something?
While healthy adult dogs can go several hours without having to use the bathroom after eating or drinking something, it is still wise to let them outside approximately 15 to 20 minutes after they consume or drink anything.
This is especially true if you feed them a large meal late in the day, or they exercise heavily and then drink a large amount of water. Nightly treats shouldn’t cause too much of an issue, but anything more than that and your pup will probably have to poop!
Letting your dog out shortly after they’ve eaten their dinner, or after they’ve drank a large amount of water is a good habit to get into and will reduce the length of time you have to take them out before bedtime.
If you free feed your dog or your pup has constant access to water throughout the night can make it difficult for them to develop a good potty schedule and it may result in them waking you up to go outside, or you having to clean up an unpleasant accident in the morning.
Unless your veterinarian has instructed you to leave food or water out 24/7 for your dog, it’s best to restrict their access just before bedtime. Most healthy adult dogs can go several hours without access to water or food.
2. How old is your dog?
The younger your dog, the more frequently you will need to take them outside.
For very young puppies, or for those puppies who are still being potty trained, you may need to wake up periodically to take them outside. Once your puppy is potty trained, it’s usually enough to just let them outside once before bedtime.
For senior dogs, you may also have to let them out a little more frequently as incontinence issues, which are extremely common in older dogs, may cause them to need to go to the bathroom more often.
3. Does your dog have any health issues?
If your dog is ill or injured, you may also have to let them out more frequently throughout the night. This could be due to the illness itself, such as in the case of giardia or a bladder infection, or it could be due to any medications the vet has your pup on.
Many types of disorders and medications used to treat those disorders can cause diarrhea and vomiting, and your dog may wake you up throughout the night to be let outside.
If your pup is crate trained and is suffering from an upset stomach, they may begin suddenly whining in their crate, or they may begin pacing back and forth. At this point they should be let outside to relieve themselves.
To help with this issue, speak with your vet about things like probiotics or home remedies that you can use to help ease your pet’s digestive and urinary issues.
4. Is your dog fully housebroken?
Dogs are generally considered housebroken when they have gone more than 3 weeks without any accidents inside the house.
While going through the potty-training process, you can set up a good potty-training schedule for your puppy and help reduce the number of times you may need to take them outside at night.
Most dogs will quickly adapt to routine potty breaks, so taking them out at set times in the evening will help instill good potty habits in your pup.
In the beginning stages of this process, your dog may begin barking during the night to indicate they need to use the bathroom. Over time the barking will stop once their bodies are in a natural rhythm, provided you stick to a good potty schedule.
5. Is your pup crate trained?
Similar to the house-training process, crate training your pup can impact what time you need to take him out at night. Since dogs do not really like to use the bathroom where they sleep, a crate trained dog will usually hold their pee and poop overnight, provided you let them out just before bedtime.
Similar to people, dogs can be taught to use the bathroom just before bed and then first thing in the morning (your dog may whine to alert you to the fact that they need to potty), and over time their bodies will naturally stick to that schedule.
If your pup is not crate trained, they may find an area of the house to potty in, as dogs do not naturally understand where it’s appropriate to use the bathroom and must be taught, especially if they live in a large environment.
Confining your dog to a smaller area, bedroom, or a crate will help reduce this and help your pup get into the habit of holding it until the morning.
As your pup ages, you may also be able to start leaving them outside of the crate at night and not have to worry about them having an accident in the house.
6. How big is your dog?
Larger dogs can hold their pee and poop for a lot longer than a small dog, who tend to have very tiny bladders and shorter digestive systems which need to be emptied more frequently.
An example of this difference would be for the Great Dane and the Chihuahua. Despite being the same species, they do have different needs!
The Great Dane, being a much larger dog, can probably hold his pee and poop for a lot longer than the tiny Chihuahua who must be let out a little more frequently due to their smaller size.
How Do I Get My Dog On A Good Potty Schedule?
The key point of getting your dog to limit how often they need to go out at night is creating a good potty-training schedule in the first place.
Habits can take time to stick but creating and working with a schedule will help reduce the length of time it takes to potty train your pup and will set up a situation in which you only have to take them out once before bedtime and trust that they will hold everything until morning.
Crate training your dog can also help them stick to a good potty training schedule. Some younger puppies may still use the bathroom while in their crate at night, but with proper training and sticking to that potty schedule this can be stopped.
How Often Should I Take My Adult Dog Out To Potty At Night?
In general, you only need to take a healthy adult dog out once before bedtime.
If your adult dog is ill or injured, you may have to increase the frequency and might have to take them out several times throughout the night.
Senior dogs who suffer from incontinence may also have to go out more often. If you are unable to take them out frequently enough, or you are worried their whining will not wake you up, you can also restrict their access in the house to limit where they might go to the bathroom by using baby gates or a crate, you can place potty pads in several areas throughout the house, or you can put a diaper on them.
For senior dogs or dogs who frequently go to the bathroom in their sleep, you might also invest in a waterproof bed for your pup.
How Often Should I Take My Puppy Out To Potty At Night?
Younger puppies will need to be taken out more frequently throughout the night, and puppies still going through the potty-training process will also need to be taken out a little more frequently.
During this phase of puppyhood, while you don’t necessarily have to wake your puppy up to potty at night, you’ll want to pay attention to his body language and habits and make sure you are offering him the opportunity to potty outside if he is indicating he needs to go to the bathroom.
How Do I Train My Puppy Not To Potty In The House At Night?
Sticking to a good potty-training schedule is the best way to train your puppy not to potty in the house at night.
You can also crate train your puppy to help with the overall house-training process and get them into a good habit of going outside to potty just before bedtime and then holding it until they are let out first thing in the morning.
What Are The Dangers Of Not Letting My Dog Out To Potty Enough?
Dogs who are not let out to potty frequently enough are at risk to develop urinary tract infections, bladder infections, or become constipated, all which require veterinary intervention and have the potential to be life threatening.
Not sticking to a good potty-training schedule will also interrupt or completely destroy any training the dog may have already had, and result in them using the house as a bathroom spot.
Once your dog has gotten into the habit of going to the bathroom inside of the house, it will be very difficult and time consuming to get him to go outside.
How Do I Get My Dog To Go Potty Outside At Night?
Some dogs may ask to go out at night, but they’d rather sniff and play around than actually use the bathroom. While it’s good enrichment to let your dog explore, sometimes you’d rather they just do their business so you can go to bed!
You can use positive reinforcement and reward-based training to help your pup get into the habit of going to the bathroom as soon as they are let outside at night. This process is similar to the regular house-training process, and you would start by keeping your dog on leash. As soon as they squat or lift their leg to use the bathroom, praise them and reward them with a treat.
Do this every time you take them out, and over time they will begin to associate going to the bathroom as a good thing and will be more inclined to do it as soon as they get outside, even if no treat is present.
However, if your pup is indicating that they have no need to use the bathroom, you can give them a minute or two and then bring them inside.
Some dogs are incredibly intelligent and will postpone their bathroom usage until after they’ve gotten their fill of sniffing and exploration out of the way first. This happens when a dog does their business and then is immediately brought inside…they’ve learned that the longer they can hold it, the longer they get to be outside!
To help combat this, praise and reward your dog as she uses the bathroom, but then wait to bring her inside until after she’s sniffed around a bit more. Then make sure you praise and reward her when she gets back into the house.
Should I Use Pee Pads At Night?
Pee pads and potty patches have their pros and cons and should generally only be used in conjunction with a proper potty-training process, unless you live in a location where a pee pad or potty patch is the safest or only way for your pup to use the bathroom on a regular basis (as is the case for many owners who live in the upper floors of apartment complexes).
Things To Keep In Mind While Taking Your Dog Out At Night
We will all need to take our dogs out at night at one point or another, and there are a few things to keep in mind when you must do it.
Visibility is important, especially if you live in an urban environment. Wearing reflective clothing or putting a special light on your dog’s collar or leash will help make you visible to others.
If you don’t have a fenced yard, keeping your pup on leash will keep him safe and also allow you to be positive he actually used the bathroom. Seeing where he’s pooped will also help you clean it up quicker and reduce your risk of stepping in it!
In both urban and rural environments, several species of wild animals are commonly found out and about after dark, so being aware of your surroundings will help keep you and your pup safe while she does her business.
Taking our pups out at night is an important responsibility as dog owners, and while it depends on the individual dog on what might be the last time you have to take them out at night, in general making sure to take them out just before bedtime is usually the best practice.
It’s up to us to help our dogs feel comfortable using the bathroom outside at night, and we can work towards teaching when and where to use the bathroom in the evenings.
Using positive reinforcement to help our dogs get into a good habit of using the bathroom before going to sleep at night will lead to a restful night’s sleep for everyone involved!