This Is How Long Dogs Can Hold Their Pee (Varies By Age)

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: May 6, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/schulzie
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No matter how much we love our dogs, there are going to be times when we need to leave them alone. Then, we face the dilemma of what to do about their potty breaks! More and more people are traveling with their dogs and this presents the same problem. We have spent weeks training our pooch to go potty outside of our home but what happens when we are not there to let them out on a regular basis? Exactly how long can dogs hold their pee? Read on for the top facts and figures about dogs and their peeing habits and our tips for making sure your pooch is comfortable and not holding their pee for too long when you are out.

How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Pee?

The most common advice that you will see is that adult dogs need to go potty outside at least three times a day and most need to go five times. Vets usually recommend that dogs do not go more than six to eight hours between toilet breaks

However, this is very general advice and may not apply to your dog. It is important that you observe your dog so that you can work out their own comfortable limit for holding their pee. Here are the main factors that will determine how long your dog can hold their pee.

Age of Your Dog

Age is the single biggest factor that determines how long a dog can hold their urine (pee). Puppies and adolescent dogs cannot hold it in for very long. They are still learning to recognize the feeling that they need a pee and are learning that it should be deposited outside!

A general rule is that pups can hold their pee for one hour for every month of their age. So, a two-month-old pup can hold it for two hours and so on but this is after potty training. When you are training your pup, most need to be taken outside every hour during the day and you can expect several ‘accidents’ at night.

Some adult dogs can hold their pee for up to 10 hours but this shortens as they reach their senior years. Very old dogs start to lose muscle control and may only be able to hold it for three hours or less. This handy table summarises how age influences how long a dog can hold their pee.

Dog’s ageHow long can dogs hold their pee
Under 1 monthThey can’t!
3 months3 hours
Adult dogUp to 12 hours
Senior dogs3 or 4 hours

Size of Your Dog

The size of your dog is also an important factor and this is related to their breed. Smaller and toy breeds have small bladders which can make them harder to potty train. Dogs produce urine in proportion to their size – it works out to around 20 ml of pee for every pound of body weight every day. However, small breeds tend to have smaller bladders in relation to their weight and so even though they produce less urine, they cannot hold it for so long.

Food and Drink

If your dog has been gulping a lot of water, perhaps because it is a hot day, you can expect them to need a pee quite soon after. When it comes to food, dogs on dry food (kibble) diet take in less water than dogs on wet food diets so they need to pee less frequently. Foods that are quite salty or that have a lot of fat, can make your dog thirsty and this makes them pee more.

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Environment and Activities

Dogs can get so distracted by their environment that they forget to pee! This typically happens when they are in a new place and they are so busy tracking scents that doing a pee is not top of their priority list.

The same can happen on long road trips and flights where you may be surprised by how long your dog holds in their pee. Other dogs can be fussy about where they pee. Some prefer to wait until they are on grass and others would rather not pee when they are on a leash!

The Health of Your Dog

Some health issues and medication can make your dog need a pee more often. Here are some of the possible issues that affect how long a dog can hold their pee:

  • Heart medication.
  • Kidney disease
  • Bladder stones
  • Urinary stones
  • Cystitis (urinary tract infections)
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Muscle weakening
  • Inflammation
  • Mobility issues

Dog’s Behavior and Holding Pee

Just because a dog is able to hold its pee for a few hours does not mean that will do it! There are several reasons why a dog may choose to pee before they actually need to. Here are some of them.

Territorial Marking

Dogs do not just pee because their bladders are full. Both male and female dogs will pee to deposit their scent on a surface or object. Other dogs will interpret this very complex scent using their sensitive noses and will be able to tell a lot about the dog that left it. It’s so complex that we don’t fully understand how this works yet.

Intact males (those who have not been neutered) are most likely to do this but it is seen in all dogs. It is often triggered by a new object or environment but dogs who are stressed and anxious also do it. It helps if your dog is both mentally and physically stimulated and interactive toys can help with this. You could also try some calming treats.

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 Over-excitement

Excitement peeing, often called puppy piddles, can happen with a full or nearly empty bladder. Several factors contribute to this including anxiety, maturity, and personality. Some pups grow out of it but some don’t.

This typically happens when your dog is overwhelmed with excitement about seeing a person that they adore. You make it worse by getting excited too! You can train your dog not to do this by ignoring them when you first get home and then rewarding them with your attention when they are calm. It takes a while to work and requires consistency from everyone in the house.

Submission

Submission is when your dog tries to appease someone or something by surrendering. It gives the message ‘Okay, you’re the boss I won’t fight you’. They do it towards humans and to other dogs.

Submissive behavior usually involves them rolling onto their backs but they can also pee at the same time. It means that your dog is feeling intimidated. It would be worth talking to an experienced dog trainer about how you can overcome this.

Is It Bad For Dogs To Hold Their Pee In?

In general, most larger and healthy adult dogs could hold in their pee for 12 hours if they really had to. But it is not good for them if they are forced to do it on a regular basis. It could put them at risk of developing some medical conditions.

Over-Distention

A dog’s bladder can stretch over time if it is forced to hold too much urine. This can cause damage to the muscles and is called over-distention. It can lead to your dog leaking urine and is irreversible.

Urinary tract infections

When your dog has a pee, it flushes out micro-organisms and toxins from the kidney and bladder and the tiny tubes that connect them. The longer bacteria and toxins spend in this area, the more likely it is that an infection can set in. Also, crystals and stones can form which can cause life-threatening blockages. If your dog develops this issue, your vet may recommend a special food for urinary health.

Urinary tract cancer

Carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) in urine will have more time to act on the cells lining the urinary tract and trigger genetic mutations that can result in cancer.

Establishing a Healthy Peeing Routine For Your Dog

If you have to leave the house for more than eight hours, perhaps for work, here are some options to protect your dog’s health and well-being.

Puppy pads

Pee pads or puppy pads are good for younger dogs that are crate trained. Some owners use dog wraps which are like diapers for dogs but not all dogs will tolerate these.

Indoor Peeing Areas

We pee inside the house and so do cats so why shouldn’t our dog? Some owners set up an indoor toilet for their dog which is like a litter box but uses a square of grass. Other dogs can be trained to pee on litter.

Dogs Doors and Flaps

Why should cats get flaps and not dogs? If your backyard is secure, you could install a cat/dog flap in your door so that your pooch can go in and out as they please. This only works for smaller dogs because very large flaps can be a security risk. If your yard is not secure, consider fitting a dog-proof fence.

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Hire a Dog Walker

If your budget allows, you could pay a dog walker to call in and take your dog out for a walk. This also helps with separation anxiety. If this is beyond your budget, perhaps you have a friend that could do it and you could offer to do the same for their dog when they are out?

Send Your Dog to Daycare

This is an increasingly popular choice. Your dog will be picked up and will get to spend the day with their pals whilst you are at work. The added bonus is that it also wears them out!

Working From Home/Lunch Break Checks

If you can work from home or at least close to home, you can be there to let your dog out at least once during the day. And give them a quick cuddle! You may even have time for a walk which will do you both good.

Take Your Pooch to Work

This is highly dependent on your workplace and the personality of your dog! Nevertheless, more and more workplaces are discovering the benefits of having a furry friend in the workspace. It lowers stress levels and gives the office a better vibe.

Teaching a Dog to Hold Their Pee for Longer

There are a number of hacks for getting your dog to hold their pee for a bit longer.

Peeing on Command

You teach your dog to pee on command by rewarding them when they pee when you tell them with some tasty treats. Soon, your dog will prefer to delay their pee so that they get a reward.

Crate training

Crate training a pup helps them to develop the muscle control that they need to hold in their pee. Their instinct will tell them not to pee or poop in their crate so they hold it in. You need an appropriate dog crate and you need to take it slowly. Start off with short periods in the crate and build up.

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!