How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Poop? (Explained and Facts)

How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Poop

If they absolutely have to, healthy adult dogs can hold their poop in for 8 to 10 hours, and as a general rule, puppies are able to hold their poop for as many hours as they are months old, plus one hour. A 3 month-old puppy, for example, should be able to hold it for around 4 hours, but this can vary depending on training and personality.

Remember that your dog’s diet and unique health issues can also impact how frequently they might need to go during the day, so it’s worth consulting your local vet for advice on preventing accidents and discuss possible treatment options for incontinence or constipation issues. In this guide, we’ll look into the health implications of different doggy pooping habits, plus how long you can expect a growing puppy to hold it in for.

How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Poop?

Although adult dogs are capable of holding in their poop for 8 hours, this is only something they should do if absolutely necessary. Animal Behaviorist Dr. Vint Virga recommends that dogs should “not be left alone for more than 6 to 8 hours without the chance to relieve themselves”. On average, dogs can do their business up to 5 times a day, but they can go a minimum of once per day.

Holding in their poop longer than 24 hours should be a red flag that their diet or general health needs to be examined. Observe what is normal for your dog and consult a vet if they appear to hold off from doing their business for longer than usual (more on constipation later on).

How Long Can a 12 week Old Puppy Hold Poop?

It’s believed by experts in animal behavior that puppies are generally able to hold in their poop for 1 hour for each month of their age, plus one. So in this instance, a healthy 12 week or 3 month-old puppy should be able to hold in their poop for roughly 4 hours.

Puppies can still be unpredictable though, and even house-trained pups may decide they want to do their business any time they please, particularly breeds with fiery, defiant personalities!

How Long Can a 4 Month Old Puppy Hold Poop?

If we follow the above rule of thumb, a 4 month-old puppy may be able to hold off from doing their business for about 4 to 5 hours. But as they’re still young, make sure you’re prepared for all the warning signs! Sniffing, circling in the same spot, and clawing at the door are some of the classing indications they need to answer nature’s call.

How Long Can a 5 Month Old Puppy Hold Poop?

At 5 months old, your puppy will have far greater self-control in the pooping department, and should be able to hold off for around 5 to 6 hours in total.

How Long Can a 6 Month Old Dog Hold Its Poop?

A 6 month old (now fully adolescent) dog should be able to hold in their poop for around 6 to 7 hours at a time. This trend of hour per age normally continues up until they hit 8 months old, and will level off with roughly 8-10 hours as the average time they can hold their poop in throughout adulthood.

How Do Dogs Hold Their Poop So Long?

Once dogs are house-trained, they simply learn that they have a designated ‘pooping area’ outside and have been conditioned to recognize that your car or their cozy pet bed upstairs is not the appropriate place, so they hold off until they absolutely have to – just as humans do by contracting the rectum muscles.

At What Age Can Dogs Hold Their Poop?

Using the hour per age model, puppies as young as 4 weeks old may be able to hold in their need to go potty for an hour or so, but accidents can and will happen! As puppies develop, they become better at learning when to hold back.

Once the puppy stages are through and adolescence approaches (5 to 6 months of age) dogs are able to hold in poop for around 6 hours, which makes things much easier if you are keeping them house-trained while at work or on a long car journey without toilet breaks. This is presuming that your dog is young and healthy, however. Sick and older dogs will not be able to hold off for as long.

What Factors Determine How Long Dogs Can Hold Their Poop?

Age: A Major Influence on Poop Control

A dog’s age significantly impacts how long they can postpone pooping. Puppies have less developed bowel muscles compared to adult dogs. Seniors begin to lose control over their bowel movements as they age.

Puppies: Frequent Potty Needs

Puppies have limited bowel control and need to defecate more often:

8-12 weeks: At this young age, puppies can only hold their poop for 2-3 hours. Puppies’ intestinal muscles are still growing, and their rectal sphincters are weak. Take them out at least every 3 hours.

3-6 months: Bowel control improves during this period, with most puppies able to last 3-4 hours between poops, though some may make it 5-6 hours. Take them out every 4-6 hours.

6-12 months: Puppies reach almost adult capacity at this age, holding poop for 4-6 hours typically, and up to 8 hours for some. Aim for a potty break every 6-8 hours.

Adults: Full Bowel Control

1-7 years: Fully grown adult dogs have well-developed bowel muscles. They can generally last 8-10 hours between pooping. Healthy adults need potty trips every 8-12 hours.

Seniors: Declining Control

Over 7 years: Senior dogs gradually lose strength in their anal sphincters, increasing the likelihood of bowel accidents. They often need to poop every 6-8 hours. Watch for signs they need to go out more frequently.

Recent Surgery or Illness

Dogs recovering from recent surgery, infections, or other illnesses may find it harder to control bowel movements. The physical stress from their condition makes it harder for them to wait before pooping. Monitor them closely and be prepared to let them out more often while recuperating.

  • In the first 2-3 days after returning home, these dogs might only manage to wait 2-4 hours between bowel movements.
  • Over the next 1-2 weeks, bowel control improves but remains limited. They may need to go out every 4-6 hours.

Diarrhea: Urgency and Less Control

It’s very challenging for dogs to hold in loose stools. Diarrhea causes urgent poop urges and reduced bowel control. When diarrhea strikes:

  • Take them out to poop every 2-3 hours.
  • Monitor appetite, energy levels, and other symptoms.
  • Contact your vet if diarrhea continues beyond 24 hours.

Other Factors that Can Impact Bowel Control:

  • Diet: Rich, fatty foods or sudden diet changes may cause looser stools.
  • Stress: Anxiety and fear can trigger bowel urgencies.
  • Medications: Certain drugs, including steroids, can lead to frequent urination, which is different from bowel control issues.
  • Physical activity: Vigorous play can put pressure on the bowels.

Signs That Your Dog May Be Holding Their Poop

If your dog seems uncomfortable, restless, or anxious and is acting out of character, it may be a sign that it urgently needs to poop but is struggling to hold it.

Watch for these physical and behavioral clues:

Physical Signals a Dog Needs to Poop Immediately

Pacing, walking in circles, spinning: The strong urge makes them antsy and fidgety.

Sniffing and circling a spot: They are searching for the perfect place to poop.

Crouching in a squat: This position indicates your dog is ready to poop – take it outside immediately.

Scooting rear on the floor: The pressure of full bowels is uncomfortable.

Stiff, upright tail: Signals urgency and bowel fullness.

Going to the door: They associate the door with poop relief outside.

Barking, whining: Vocal cues that say “I need to go NOW!”

Leg shaking: This is an instinctual behavior where your dog appears to kick debris over nonexistent poop.

Licking lips/swallowing: Nausea and drooling from holding poop too long.

Behavioral Signs a Dog Can’t Hold It Much Longer

Dogs also display certain behaviors when desperately needing to poop:

  • Anxious energy and agitation
  • Hiding in odd places
  • Loss of appetite – too uncomfortable to eat
  • Refusing to jump on furniture or go upstairs
  • Unfocused and ignoring commands
  • Turning head to look at the rear end
  • General lethargy from bowel discomfort

If your normally energetic dog becomes suddenly mellow and aloof, it may indicate that the dog is preoccupied with an urgent need to poop.

How Long Is Too Long for Dogs to Go Without Pooping?

Generally, healthy adult dogs should not go longer than 10 hours without pooping. Holding stool beyond this risks:

  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intestinal blockages
  • Bowel irritation and infections
  • Inappropriate bathroom habits

Signs that a dog has gone too long without pooping include straining, passing small hard stools, yelping during defecation, and bloody stool.

Importance of Regular Pooping for Dogs

For dogs to stay happy and healthy, they need to poop frequently and regularly.

Keeps the Digestive System Functioning

When dogs can poop whenever needed:

  • Their bowel fully empties each time.
  • Waste and toxins don’t accumulate.
  • Nutrients from food get properly absorbed.
  • Digestion keeps smoothly moving along.

This maintains overall gastrointestinal health.

Prevents Uncomfortable Bowel Problems

Irregular pooping schedules often cause issues like:

  • Constipation – Hard, dry stool is painful to pass.
  • Diarrhea – Loose stool dehydrates and irritates the colon.
  • Bowel obstructions – Blockages prevent waste from passing.
  • Bacterial infections – Bacteria flourish in stagnant poop.

Frequent pooping minimizes the risk of these miserable complications.

Strengthens and Maintains Bowel Control

If a dog waits too long to poop, its rectal muscles may weaken over time. Letting dogs poop immediately when needed:

  • Exercises and strengthens bowel control.
  • Reinforces good bathroom habits.
  • Reduces the likelihood of indoor accidents.

Dogs that poop consistently gain lifelong control.

Allows Dogs to Focus on Normal Behavior

When a dog urgently needs to poop, this need dominates its attention, energy, and behavior. Frequent pooping:

  • Minimizes accidents from waiting too long.
  • Allows them to fully focus on play, training, etc.
  • Reduces anxious, restless, or odd behavior.

Dogs feel comfortable and focused when not preoccupied with poop urges.

Can Dogs Hold Their Poop Overnight?

Yes, healthy dogs should be able to sleep through the night without needing to go potty, but remember that your dog’s ability to hold off nature’s call until morning will depend on how well trained he is, what you are feeding him, and if he is on any medication.

If you find your dog needing to poop in the middle of the night despite reaching the age of self-control, it could be down to the following factors which should be discussed with your vet:

  • Infection and illness – if your dog has a parasitic or viral infection this may cause him to poop throughout the night. They may also be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) due to certain foods or due to stress.
  • Ageing – older dogs can poop throughout the night if they suffer from Canine Alzheimer’s. This cognitive dysfunction can sadly cause your dog to forget his prior house-training, leading him to poop at odd times and inappropriate places.
  • Overfeeding – often-times, you may have simply fed your dog too late in the evening so they are having to process more food overnight. Think also about any new snack foods or treats you may have introduced into their diet that could be contributing to their change in bowel movements.

Is It Bad for Dogs to Hold Their Poop?

It is normal for dogs to hold in their poop for personal reasons such as waiting to do their business in the backyard due to performance anxiety at the park and other public spaces. However, if your dog is holding in their poop for significant periods (24 hours plus), this can eventually lead to abdominal pain and serious health issues such as an impacted colon.

When this happens, your dog’s fecal matter becomes so hard and dry to the point that it is too impacted to pass through their digestive tract. In this case, your dog will require laxatives and possibly even surgery to correct the issue. Help to prevent this by feeding your dog a fiber-rich diet.

Is It Normal for a Dog to Not Poop for 3 Days?

If your dog hasn’t pooped for 2 days or more, this is normally a cause for concern. Their constipation could be due to factors such as a lack of regular exercise, a low-fiber diet, advanced age, and in rare cases, a digestive tract tumor could be the culprit.

Constipation every once in a while is normal, but you should speak with your vet asap if you notice prolonged constipation in your dog.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Can’t Hold His Poop?

If your dog is pooping too frequently or suffering from diarrhea, this could be due to factors like eating too much junk food, stress and anxiety, or sometimes an infection due to roundworms (this can happen if they eat another animal’s feces or eat small animals that could be infected, like mice).

Occasional bouts of diarrhea are considered normal for dogs, but if they begin to lose control of their bowels regularly, this could be a sign that they are clinically bowel incontinent. This condition falls into two categories: Sphincter incontinence and Reservoir incontinence.

Sphincter Incontinence

This is when the anal sphincter muscles can no longer remain in a closed position, causing feces to leak out.


  • Dribbling small amounts of feces when excited or barking
  • Redness, inflammation, or drainage from the rectum
  • Trouble walking
  • Licking their rectum more frequently
  • Urinary incontinence

Reservoir Incontinence

This refers to a disease of the rectum that prevents stool from being held and stored in your dog’s rectum ‘reservoir’, causing them to defecate uncontrollably.


  • Stool is soft and contains blood or mucus
  • Defecating in strange places i.e. behind furniture or right by the door

What to Do When Dogs Can’t Hold Poop?

If you suspect your dog is suffering from the above forms of severe incontinence, contact your vet immediately for a thorough physical examination.

From there, they can run tests to rule out any intestinal diseases or diagnose any underlying causes such as IBD, cancer, or a neurologic culprit such as a herniated disk or possible nerve damage.

From then on, they may recommend anti-diarrheal medications or surgical procedures to fix their incontinence.

The vet may also ask that you help your dog’s bowel function in small ways each day, such as altering their diet to low-residue foods (like rice and tofu), reducing the stress in their environment, and applying a warm wash cloth to their anus to reduce inflammation and discomfort.

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