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There is no hard rule about how many times your dog poops every day, however, the average adult dog usually poops once a day, and puppies can poop up to five or more times a day. A dog’s bathroom habits can depend on age, food, amount of treats, exercise, metabolism, and size. Anyone who has raised a puppy knows about getting up for late-night bathroom trips, but if your adult starts waking you up in the middle of the night to poop it can be a rude wake-up call.
What are some reasons your dog might be waking you up in the middle of the night to poop?
A dog who is pooping in the middle of the night might have an upset stomach, not be properly potty-trained, or is stressed. If the issue does not resolve by creating a solid routine, food management, or training plan, it could be a sign of an underlying problem, possibly caused by poor health or aging.
There might ways to manage your dog’s food, routine, and training to help them not wake up in the middle of the night. However, if the problem persists, a veterinarian can help you determine if your dog needs a food change or medication to help them become more regular and help you sleep through the night.
Reason 1: Potty Training Issues
Puppies have to poop…a lot. Part of potty training is getting up in the middle of the night with your puppy so they do not have an accident inside or inside their crate. As they get older, they not only learn to control their bowels, but they also figure out their potty routine in their new home.
A newly adopted adult dog might not have to poop with the frequency that a puppy does, but they do have to learn the new potty routine. If your brand new adult rescue dog is waking you up to poop in the middle of the night, chances are they are still learning your schedule and when they are supposed to go poop.
Stress can cause potty-training issues for both new puppies and new adult dogs. Being in a new home, eating new food, and meeting new people can upset your dog’s stomach and cause a dog that was previously potty trained to have an accident in the house or need an extra break at night.
Your new best friend might need a few days to acclimate to their forever home. If you feel like your dog is comfortable in their new home and they are still waking you up in the middle of the night to poop, it might be time to start looking at other answers like its diet.
Reason 2: Diet
If your dog is fully potty-trained and starts waking you up in the middle of the night to poop, you might want to take a look at their diet.
Dogs can be cursed both with sensitive stomachs as well as gluttony. A dog who has gotten into the garbage or maybe sneaked a rancid snack on a walk might end up with an upset stomach. Often a dog who is suffering diarrhea from an upset stomach will have to wake you up in the middle of the night to go poop.
Dogs do not have to eat garbage to end up with an upset stomach. If you have switched their food or maybe given them rich new treats this could also make them need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you are changing their food, a good rule is slowly mix their new food into their old food. Instead of a shock to the system, your dog’s stomach will acclimate to easily digest their new food.
Some dogs might not be able to properly digest certain proteins, brands of food, or they could have an allergy. A dog with food allergies might also have reoccurring skin and ear infections.
Whether they have an allergy or just a sensitive stomach, you might have to experiment with different kinds of food. Just like people, dogs can have issues with grain, chicken, beef, or even peanut butter. Once you find the perfect food for your dog, hopefully, you both can sleep through the night and not be woken up for middle-of-the-night poop walks.
Reason 3: Behavioral
Dogs can be sensitive to life changes such as moving, bringing home a new baby, household turmoil, or even just your work schedule changes. Some dogs are as easily able to cope, but other dogs might develop stress or anxiety.
One symptom of anxiety is sudden diarrhea, an event that could wake you up in the middle of the night for an emergency pooping excursion. Other symptoms of stress and anxiety might include:
- Submissive peeing
A trainer or veterinarian can help you brainstorm solutions to help your dog feel better and become more comfortable with life changes.
Reason 4: Poor Bathroom Routine
If you are taking your dog out immediately after meals, feeding your dog too late in the evening, or not giving your dog enough time to use the bathroom when you do take them out, it is very likely they will wake you up in the middle of the night because they need to poop.
Usually, the best time to take your dog out at night is right before bed, a few hours after they have had dinner. Dogs like having a routine, and they will quickly learn to adapt to your daily and nightly schedule. However, if you are not consistent there is a good chance that your dog might wake you up in the middle of the night to go poop.
Reason 5: Your Dog Does Not Want To Go Outside
A sensitive dog who is frightened by sounds like fireworks or a truck backfiring might have a hard time going back outside and doing something vulnerable like pooping. Being inside is safer than the scary outdoors, and a dog that is traumatized might try to hold it as long as possible, even if that means they have to wake you up in the middle of the night to poop.
If you have a small, older, short-haired dog, or even a pup that maintains an impeccable sense of cleanliness, bad weather could impede your dog’s ability to complete their business. Whether it is pouring rain, snowing, or freezing cold, some dogs might be uncomfortable going outside long enough to poop, just like the unhappy German Short-hair Pointer in this video!
If they keep holding it through bedtime, there is a could chance they will wake you up in the middle of the night.
Reason 6: Medical Issues
There are a variety of medical issues that could cause your dog to wake you up in the middle of the night to poop. It could be as simple as they got into something that upset their stomach and it will pass in 24 hours. Some medications might also cause temporary diarrhea.
However, if the problem persists or you are worried about any of the following problems:
- Bowel Disease
- Gastrointestinal issues
Then you should reach out to your veterinarian.
Reason 7: Your Dog is Getting Older
Some older dogs lose control over their bowels or they cannot handle new food or treats as well as they could when they were younger.
For example, I have always given my dogs frozen plain yogurt as a treat at least once a week. My 12-year-old husky mix recently started waking me up in the middle of the night to go poop, sometimes a couple of times a night. I finally was able to deduce that it was only after her yogurt treat. Clearly, her senior dog stomach is too sensitive for dairy treats, and once I stopped giving it to her and she stopped having to poop in the middle of the night.
Joint issues, arthritis, and general pain can make it harder for senior pups to go outside and do their business. There are many pain and anti-inflammatory medications a veterinarian can prescribe your old dog to make them more comfortable, not just when using the bathroom, but in general.
Some dogs also develop cognitive issues as they get older which makes it harder for them to differentiate between daytime and nighttime. This kind of confusion can cause bathroom issues and they might wake you up in the middle of the night to go poop (or they might just have an accident in the house if they are really confused).
How To Help Your Dog Sleep Through The Night
Whether you need to go get pain medication for your senior dog or go back to potty-training basics with a brand-new rescue dog, let’s try to figure out the best solution to help stop your dog from waking you up in the middle of the night to poop. The goal is that everyone can get a good night’s sleep so you and your canine companion can spend the day going on adventures.
Go Back to Basics: Potty Training
When you adopt a new dog you should treat potty training similarly to how you would train a puppy. Yes, an adult dog can hold it longer than a puppy, but they still need to learn the rules. This Kikopup video on potty-training stresses that you should treat your adult dog just like a puppy when you bring them home.
A crate is a great option to help potty train both an adult dog and a puppy. Most dogs do not want to soil where they are sleeping, plus it helps teaches them a regular schedule.
Be consistent and make sure your reward your dog when they use the bathroom outside, especially at a normal time. A new dog will appreciate food as a reward, but even if you have a dog who has a good bathroom routine, it is still nice to verbally praise them to continue reinforcing the behavior.
Manage Your Dog’s Diet
If you think your dog has an intolerance or food allergy, you might need to change their food. Do not forget to slowly transition to the new food, mixing it with the old food.
Your veterinarian can help you find suitable food, supplements, or help diagnose an allergy. The American Kennel Club offers some great advice on eliminating certain foods from your dog’s diet to help figure out why they are having sensitive stomach issues.
Manage Your Dog’s Routine
Have a predictable feeding schedule and do not feed your dog right before they go to bed. Most dogs need some time after eating to digest before their last bathroom break. If you are feeding your dog right at bedtime, they might need that bathroom break in the middle of the night, which means they will be waking you up to poop.
If the weather is bad, you might have to invest in a coat or booties to make sure they are warm and dry enough to feel comfortable pooping outside. Taking them on frequent bathroom breaks during the winter or inclement weather might make sure they get everything out. With the right gear and timing, any healthy dog can go outside to poop rain, or shine.
Please give your dog enough time to poop outside after dinner and before you go to bed. If hanging out in the yard is not enough to get things grooving, take them for a short after-dinner walk. I have had dogs that will immediately go after eating, and some dogs who need a bit more time after eating to go poop.
Rigorous exercise is not always a great idea, but a nice stroll to sniff around can help get things moving. Once you and your dog know each other routine, you will know what they need to have a proper poop before bedtime. Plus, having a good idea of your dog’s normal routine is key to determining if your dog is sick.
Should You Worry: When To Visit Your Veterinarian If Your Dog Is Pooping In The Middle Of The Night?
Usually, a dog suddenly pooping in the middle of the night is a training issue or they probably got into something. However, a dog who is pooping in the middle of the night might have a serious medical condition if they are displaying any of these other symptoms:
- Bloody or mucus in stools
- Constipation or strain
- Stomach pain
- Increased frequency
If you see any of these signs, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
An important part of dog ownership is knowing your dog’s routine. If you have a good grasp of your dog’s bathroom routine, you will be more aware if they have a health problem.
A full-nights sleep is important not just for the health of your dog, but for your mental health! Who else is going to play fetch or go for long walks with your dog if you are too sleep-deprived from getting up in the middle of the night to take your dog out to poop?