For many dog owners, a common question is how often they should be taking their dog outside during the day. Some may wonder if just two trips outside per day is sufficient to meet their dog’s needs. The answer depends on several factors.
How Often Do Dogs Need To Go Out?
There is no definitive rule for how many times a dog needs to go outside each day. Some general guidelines include:
- Puppies under 4 months old may need to go out every 1-2 hours
- Adult dogs typically need 3-5 opportunities to relieve themselves outside per day
- Senior dogs may need to go out more frequently, like every 4-6 hours
These are just rough estimates though. The number of necessary potty breaks can vary based on the individual dog’s age, size, health status, and other factors.
Younger dogs, especially puppies under 4 months old, have smaller bladders and less control over their urination and bowel movements. They may need to go outside to relieve themselves as often as every 1-2 hours when they are active and awake.
Senior dogs, on the other hand, may begin having accidents in the house more frequently. This could indicate issues like incontinence, decreased mobility, or cognitive decline. Adjusting the schedule to take an older dog out more often, like every 4-6 hours, can help accommodate their needs.
Larger breed dogs typically have larger bladders that allow them to “hold it” a bit longer between potty breaks. Small dogs have smaller bladders and may need more frequent trips outside.
As a general guideline, small dogs under 25 lbs may need to go out every 4-6 hours. Larger dogs over 50 lbs may only need to go out 3-4 times per day.
Dogs with urinary incontinence or bladder infections/disease may need to urinate more often than usual. Issues like diarrhea or colitis can also cause a dog to need to defecate more frequently.
Dogs who drink large volumes of water may also need more frequent potty breaks. This includes nursing female dogs who are producing milk for puppies. Certain medications could also increase urination.
Any underlying medical conditions should be discussed with a veterinarian to determine if a dog’s potty schedule needs adjustment.
Dogs who get more daily exercise and activity tend to need to relieve themselves more often. A dog who is very sedentary may be fine with fewer outdoor trips.
But dogs who are active, playing, running around, or experiencing excitement may need to go out more frequently to urinate and defecate.
Signs Your Dog Needs To Go Out More
In addition to the general guidelines based on age, size, and health, there are some signs your individual dog may need more potty breaks throughout the day, including:
- Having accidents in the house
- Excessively sniffing on walks or in the yard
- Pacing by doors and whining to go out
- Standing by the door and looking anxious
- Bothering owners and asking for attention insistently
Paying attention to these body language cues and behaviors can help determine if a dog needs more chances to relieve themselves outside.
House Training Considerations
For dogs who are still in the process of house training, more frequent trips outside are key. Until a puppy or dog has learned to consistently toilet only outdoors, they should be taken out:
- After waking up from a nap
- After eating or drinking water
- After playtime or exciting events
- Every 1-2 hours for puppies under 4 months old
Sticking to a consistent schedule will help establish a habit of eliminating outdoors rather than in the house.
Most adult dogs can comfortably hold their bladders while sleeping overnight. For puppies or senior dogs though, overnight potty trips may be necessary.
Signs that a dog needs a middle-of-the-night bathroom break include having accidents regularly overnight or waking up and whining to go outside.
Reasons Dogs May Need To Go Out More
If your dog seems to need more frequent potty breaks than expected based on their age, size and health, there are some potential reasons why:
- A urinary tract infection or other medical issue
- Stress or anxiety
- Change in routine or environment
- Exposure to new smells on walks
- Lack of previous house training
- Excessive heat or cold weather
- Excessive drinking or increased water intake
It’s a good idea to discuss significant changes in your dog’s potty habits with your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes. If the increased need to go out is not due to a health problem, additional house training work may be needed.
Benefits of More Frequent Dog Potty Breaks
While too many trips in and out can be inconvenient for owners, there are some benefits to letting your dog outside to relieve themselves more often:
- Prevents “accidents” in the house
- Reinforces appropriate potty habits
- Provides mental stimulation
- Allows opportunities to sniff and explore
- Gets exercise walking to and from yard
- Helps keep dogs on a consistent schedule
Frequent potty breaks give dogs a chance to take care of necessary business outside. The regular trips also provide physical and mental activity dogs naturally crave.
Supporting Proper House Training
For dogs who are still perfecting their house training, frequent trips outside are crucial. Until a dog has fully learned where it is appropriate to eliminate, more opportunities should be provided to reinforce going potty outside rather than in the home.
Sticking to a consistent schedule of taking puppies out every 1-2 hours when awake can help establish good potty habits.
Even fully house trained adult dogs may have an occasional accident if they aren’t provided adequate opportunities to relieve themselves outside. Things like changes in routine, medical issues, stress or excitement can cause a temporary lapse.
Taking your dog outside more frequently provides extra assurance that they can toilet appropriately rather than feeling forced to go inside.
Physical and Mental Exercise
Each trip outside provides dogs both physical exercise from the walk itself, as well as mental stimulation from exposure to outdoor sights, sounds and smells. This enrichment can benefit a dog’s overall health and behavior.
Older dogs who no longer get as much exercise can benefit from the extra small trips outside, without needing long walks to get necessary potty breaks.
Potential Downsides of Frequent Dog Potty Breaks
While most dogs enjoy and benefit from opportunities to head outside, in some cases more frequent potty breaks could potentially have downsides including:
- Disruption of regular routine or schedule
- Inconvenience for owners if working from home
- Demanding or pushy behavior from dogs expecting to go out
- Exposure to extreme weather conditions
- Increased opportunities to ingest parasites or toxins
Issues are most likely if owners feel frustrated or inconvenienced by frequent outdoor trips. It’s essential that owners proactively manage trips outside so that dogs don’t develop demanding behaviors.
Interruptions and Inconvenience
For owners trying to maintain a work schedule or household routine, very frequent potty breaks could become disruptive or frustrating over time. This depends on specific lifestyle factors.
Having an enclosed yard where the dog can independently potty, use of pee pads, or doggy doors can help reduce disruptions to human schedules when dogs need more trips outside.
Risk of Demanding Behavior
If owners reinforce pushy behaviors from dogs who know they can trigger a trip outside, this could lead to issues down the road. Dogs should not learn that whining, barking or pestering results in a reward of getting to go out.
Instead, potty breaks should be on a consistent schedule initiated by owners, not the dog demanding to go out. Trainers recommend ignoring attention-seeking behaviors if you’ve just taken your dog outside a reasonable time ago.
Exposure to Weather Extremes
For dogs with medical conditions like urinary incontinence who may need frequent outdoor trips even in inclement weather, owners will need to take precautions against temperature extremes that could be dangerous.
Providing potty breaks in a covered outdoor area, using booties and coats, and limiting time outside in severe weather can help keep dogs safe.
Making Frequent Dog Potty Breaks Manageable
While more frequent daytime dog potty breaks has advantages, it can also be inconvenient at times for owners. Some tips to make more trips outside more manageable include:
- Stick to a consistent schedule for predictability
- Use cues like bells or keys to signal need to go out
- Use pee pads or indoor potty areas if needed
- Consider doggy doors or enclosed outdoor access
- Crate train dogs when you need uninterrupted time
- Keep trips no-fuss and businesslike
- Use tethers or tie-outs if monitoring an outdoor dog
- Consider dog daycare a few days a week
With some creativity and planning, owners can make frequent potty breaks work for their lifestyle while still meeting their dog’s needs.
Having set times that you take your dog outside can help make more frequent trips feel routine rather than random. This allows both you and your dog to anticipate and prepare for potty breaks.
For example, you might take your dog out first thing in the morning, before leaving for work, at lunchtime, when you get home from work, after dinner, and before bedtime.
Potty Break Cues
Training your dog to ring a bell by the door or bring you their leash when they need to go out can help facilitate more frequent trips outside. This allows them to clearly communicate their needs.
Just be sure to only respond to the cue and not attention-seeking behaviors.
Indoor Potty Options
Pee pads, fake grass trays, or other indoor potties can be an option if you will be gone from home longer than your dog can comfortably hold it. These should be transitioned to outdoor pottying whenever possible though.
Doggy Doors and Outdoor Access
Giving your dog access to safely potty in an enclosed yard while you are home can make more frequent trips outside less demanding. Consider installing a doggy door or pet-proof pet door.
Is Twice a Day Enough for Most Dogs?
The bottom line is that most healthy adult dogs need more than just two potty breaks per day. However, twice daily may be doable in some scenarios. Consider the following:
- Puppies need out at least 3-4 times daily until 6 months old
- Small dogs likely need out minimum 3 times per day as adults
- Larger dogs may be ok with only 2 longer trips for pee and poop daily
- Senior dogs often need more like 3-4 trips outside per day
- Dogs home alone 8+ hours may only get 2 trips but need pee pads
- Make sure longer intervals don’t lead to accidents indoors
While some dogs can get by with just two opportunities to potty outside daily, this schedule should be regularly evaluated based on your individual dog’s needs and health.
Determining the appropriate potty break schedule for your dog depends on their unique age, size, health status, and other factors. Most dogs need to relieve themselves more than just twice per day.
Signs your dog may need more outdoor trips include accidents in the house, seeming anxious to go out, excessive sniffing on walks, and other subtle cues. If your individual dog appears comfortable and accident-free with only two daily potty breaks, this may be adequate.
But be alert for signs they need additional bathroom opportunities. With some creativity and planning, owners can make more frequent potty breaks work while still meeting their dog’s needs and preventing unwanted behaviors.