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How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Pee? Everything About How Often Your Dog Needs To Potty - PawSafe

How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Pee? Everything About How Often Your Dog Needs To Potty

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how long can dogs hold their pee

How long can dogs hold their pee is perhaps the first question we face with a new puppy and the daunting task of potty training. Dogs who pee in the house or who struggle to hold their bladders can be frustrating and difficult to handle, often creating resentment toward our poor dogs.

After all, who wants to come home over a long day’s work only to have to clean pee out the carpet?

Of course, accidents happen. That’s why whenever we have pets, keep a pet urine odor eliminator on hand to clean up in situations like when a dog is leaking urine while sleeping. It also helps to know what smell dogs hate to pee on.

So let’s take a closer look at dog bladder control and what we need to know about how often our dogs need potty breaks. Remember, no two dogs are the same. So it’s vital to use common sense to assess your dog’s individual needs.

How long can puppies hold the pee?

The general rule of thumb for puppies is that they can hold their pee for roughly one hour each month. So you can expect a two-month-old puppy to hold their bladder for two hours, a three-month-old puppy to hold their pee for around 3 hours, and so on.

However, the answer is not that simple. Puppies need to be trained to develop muscle strength in their urethras to control their bladders. Just like children may wet the bed at night, puppies often have accidents because they don’t have strong bladder sphincter mechanisms. This is something they need to develop.

The best way to help our puppies learn to develop bladder control is through a strict potty training regime and careful use of the crate we discuss in our article on how to train German Shepherds.

But keep in mind, when it comes to potty training tiny small breed puppies or teacup puppies like the deer head Chihuahua or the teacup Havanese, things are more complicated. 

The smaller the dog, the smaller the bladder, and one cannot expect an eight-week-old 21 oz Yorkshire Terrier puppy to hold their pee as long as a 4 lbs Great Dane puppy. These two dogs will have dramatically different bladder sizes even at the same age. 

This is why items like puppy pee pads may be essential to potty train a small-breed puppy and completely unnecessary and even problematic for a large-breed puppy.

Chart for How Long Dogs Can Hold Their Pee, According to Size, Age & Day or Night Time

To give an idea of how long puppies can hold their pee, we’ve put together this guideline. Remember this is only a rule of thumb as dogs differ according to a variety of factors, from how much water they drank to health issues like bladder birth defects or diabetes.

Age of the dogTeacup & Small dogs 
(Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Bichons Frises, & similar sizes)
Medium-to-large 
(Spaniels, Border Collies, Huskies, German Shepherds, Great Danes, and so on)
How long can they hold overnight?
8 weeks1 hour2 hours4 – 7 hours
3 months1.5 to 2 hours3 hours5 – 8 hours
4 months2 hours4 hours6 – 8 hours
5 months2 – 4 hours5 hours6 – 8 hours
6 months3 – 5 hours6 hours6 – 9 hours
7 months4 – 6 hours6 to 8 hours8 – 10 hours
Over 7 months4 – 6 hours6 to 8 hours (but can sometimes go up to 10. However, this could lead to health issues)8 – 10 hours

How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Pee Overnight?

Most adult dogs can hold their pee for between 8 and 10 hours at night. Puppies as young as 8 weeks can usually go up to five hours (although small breeds may need to go out more often). Senior dogs may need to make more frequent potty trips at night or may start becoming incontinent.

Factors That Affect How Long a Dog Can Hold Their Pee

Factors that affect how long a dog can hold their pee

Now that we’ve given a general overview of how long dogs can hold their pee let’s look at the mitigating factors that drastically affect an individual dog’s bladder control.

1. Age of the Dog

How old your dog dramatically affects their bladder control. Just like babies, puppies need to develop control over their bladders, as this is not something they are born with. The muscles that control the bladder, sphincter, and urethra take time to develop, so accidents are a natural part of the process.

Likewise, as the dog ages, they will lose muscle mass and subsequently have less muscle to control their bladders. This is called urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI) and is a common problem in senior dogs, often leading to incontinence and the need for doggy diapers.

Just like puppies, old dogs will often need to go out to pee more often than younger adults.

2. Size of the Dog

As we stated above, the smaller the dog, the smaller the bladder and the more potty breaks they will need. A large or giant dog like St. Bernard or German Shepherd can often hold their pee for eight to ten hours if needed. Although we will discuss below why we shouldn’t make them do this.

But one study by Drs. Amy Learn, Amy Pike, and Lisa Radosta highlight some of the issues that small dogs face when it comes to potty training. 

  • Small dogs have a higher metabolism and smaller bladder, so they need to pee more often.
  • Small dogs produce less urine so owners can sometimes overlook the issue
  • There is a tendency for small dogs to “babied” or coddled, allowing for a lack of house training or other training. We talk more about this in our article about why Chihuahuas are so mean.

So keep in mind while a large dog may need to pee between four and six times in day, a small dog may need to pee far more often.

3. Health of the Dog

The next factor that can drastically affect how much a dog needs to pee is their health. A large number of underlying medical problems can affect how well a dog can control their bladder and how often they need to pee. 

Common issues are urinary tract infections (UTIs), or prostate issues in intact male dogs. Kidney issues like stones or underlying health problems like diabetes may also be at play.  Diabetes can make a dog thirsty, causing them to drink more often and consequently pee more often.

Even certain medications like Prednisone can make a dog drink more water, so they will need to urinate more frequently. Congenital disabilities like small or malformed bladders can also be a part of the problem.

4. Gender of the Dog

In general, female dogs will sometime pee more often than male dogs. This is because, with shorter urethras, they are more prone to urinary infections. They also tend to lose more muscle control as they age. This is largely because the lack of estrogen and sex hormones in spayed females weakens the muscles that control their bladder.

On the other hand, because male dogs mark their territory, they do actually pee more than female dogs.

5. The Climate and Season

The climate and the season are other factors that affect how long dogs can hold their pee. The hotter it is, the more water a dog will drink and the more they will need to go potty. In cold climates or in the winter, dogs drink less water and will pee less often.

6. Dog Psychology and Holding Their Pee

A dog’s mental state will also affect their bladder (because all things are connected).  An anxious, frightened, or nervous dog may need to pee often. Sometimes this is for the simple reason that stress hormones speed up the body’s functioning and metabolism to better deal with danger. 

Dogs may also pee when they are excited (simply losing control of their bladder), or they may pee when confronted by another dog person that scares them (submissive peeing). Exercise also usually encourages more peeing and pooping as it gets those internal muscles moving. 

In general, a calm, relaxed dog won’t pee as much as one that is highly stressed or excited.

7. Training and Holding the Pee

Finally, a lot of whether a dog can hold their bladder and how long depends on how the dog was trained. In some tragic cases, dogs are raised in tiny crates for breeding purposes and they never learn to hold their bladder. Potty training such dogs is extremely challenging. 

Other dogs are simply never properly housetrained, and so accidents in the house are less of a matter of how long they can hold their pee, as it is a question of whether they ever learned they had to.

These dogs will need to restart house training. 

How Long is Too Long for a Dog to Hold Their Pee?

To be fair to the dog, we generally don’t like them holding their pee for more than six hours at most. As humans, we rarely ask ourselves to hold it for this long, so it can be seen as unreasonable to expect dogs to go longer than we do. However, medium-sized dogs and up can hold their pee for eight hours if they need to and up to ten if it is extremely necessary. Longer than that is too long.

What Happens if Dogs Hold Their Pee Too Long?

If dogs consistently need to hold their pee too long, they are more likely to get bladder and kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Ideally, your dog should pee every three-to-five hours to flush out the urinary tract and promote urinary health.

Carcinogens in the urine may even cause bladder cancer in some cases. So, just because your dogs can hold their pee for eight hours does not mean that they should.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long can a small dog hold their pee overnight?

Most small adult dogs can hold their pee overnight for up to eight hours. However, puppies and old dogs may need potty breaks every four to seven hours, depending on the size of their bladder and how much bladder control they have.

Why does my dog hold his pee so long?

If your dog seems to be struggling to pee or avoiding peeing, there may be a physical issue like bladder stones causing an obstruction and pain when peeing. Some dogs are conditioned to hold their pee for longer, while others may not want to go outside if it is cold or raining.

Can dogs hold their pee for 12 hours overnight?

Many dogs can hold their pee overnight for twelve hours, but this is the maximum for a healthy adult dog. They should never be expected to do this during the day, as holding pee for too long can cause health complications.

Can dogs hold their pee longer than humans?

Often, dogs are forced to hold their pee longer than humans. Many dogs are expected to stay  indoors and hold their pee for eight hours or more, while this is a rare feat for most people. The average human can hold their bladder for a maximum of 10 hours before it may cause organ damage.

Final Thoughts

When dogs live indoors, we often may ask them to hold their bladders longer than they are physically capable of. Considering our dogs’ age, size, and health are all vital when figuring out how long they can hold their pee. 

That said, even if our dogs can hold their bladders for eight hours or more does not mean they should. Holding their urine too long can cause several health complications, so always try to see that your dog goes out to pee at least once every three to five hours during the day.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.