How long can my puppy hold it?

Puppies do not have physiological control over their bladder and bowels until approximately 16 weeks (4 months) of age. This means that they have not yet developed the muscles that allow them to hold their “business” just yet. Some dogs (often the tiniest ones) may take even longer (up to five or six months!) to develop this skill.

Puppies need to go out frequently, but even if we are pad-training, we have to take into consideration how long they are being isolated. Isolation of social creatures can be detrimental to their development.

As they get older, and with training, they can hold it for longer periods of time. Here is a chart that may be useful for determining how long a puppy can “hold it”:

2 mo (8 weeks) 3 hrs
3 mo (12 weeks) 4 hrs
4 mo (16 weeks) 5 hrs
5 mo (20 weeks) 6 hrs

Dogs should only ever be crated for a max of 4 hours at a time with significant opportunities for exercise, elimination, and socialisation. Adult dogs should not be isolated for longer than 6 hours. Remember that they are social creatures and have similar social requirements as we humans do! This may require a professional dog walker to assist in a regular workday.

No longer is 8+ hours in a crate acceptable* – we cannot expect our dogs to be isolated and forced to hold their bladder/bowels for this length of time. Could you do it? We don’t want to cause house-training issues, isolation distress, and destructive behaviour among other things!

*Caveat: overnight crating is different – we generally expect 8 hours (except for required potty breaks for puppies, older dogs, or ill dogs). Doesn’t that put into perspective how long they’re crated during the day? Consider the accumulated crate-time in 24 hours and really consider their enrichment. They are animals, after all!

Let’s start this course with some realistic expectations while being armed with the knowledge to do a great job!