Why You Shouldn’t Make Your Dog Hold in Their Poop

There is a popular children’s book called “Everyone Poops” and its message to kids is that pooping is a natural bodily function that all humans experience. The book aims to take shame and anxiety out of the potty process and to free children from any guilt related to pooping.

how long dogs hold poop
Why You Shouldn’t Make Your Dog Hold in Their Poop

All creatures poop, and dogs are among them.

Every dog owner has experienced a time when they left their dog home alone for longer than they intended. This resulted in their beloved pooch being forced to hold in their poop until their owner returns home and takes them outside.

It may have been because of a late work night or an unexpected traffic jam, but most of us are guilty of this occurrence, even if inadvertent. 

And while your dog may have held it in longer than you would have expected, it is also as likely that your dog had to relieve himself in the house, and you found him shivering in fear when you walked in the door because he knew he had done something wrong.

These can be heartbreaking moments for a dog lover. You want to let your dog know that it’s ok, but you also do not want to praise him and reward him for pooping in the house.

If only he could understand that it was your fault, and it is ok, this one time…

Related Reading: Can Dogs Get Their Feelings Hurt?

So How Long Can Dogs Hold in Their Poop?

Generally speaking, the average adult dog can hold its poop in for 8 hours. But there are many caveats to this, such as your dog’s age, health, diet, and size, so read on to determine where your dog fits into this norm.

Whether or not your dog can hold in her poop for 8 hours depends on various factors including the dog’s age, health, diet, and size.


A puppy cannot hold its poop in for as long as an adult dog can. Instead, a pup can hold in its poop for one hour every month of its age to age 8 months, when it becomes 8 hours like adult dogs.

Thus a dog who is 4 months old can hold its poop for 4 hours. Additionally, a senior dog may not be able to hold in poop for 8 hours because his organs are slower and his control over bodily functions begin to diminish as he approaches his last years.


A dog’s health is a key factor in whether he can hold in his poop for a full 8 hours. Health issues that impact a dog’s ability to hold its poop include diabetes, bladder issues, kidney stones, and whether the dog is battling a viral infection that causes diarrhea.

If your dog has any of these issues it is unwise to assume he can hold his poop for 8 hours.


A dog’s diet is instrumental in its ability to hold in its poop for 8 hours. 

A dog that eats a high protein diet in the form of dry dog food with little or no fiber is likely to be able to hold its poop in for as long as 8 hours, while a dog who consumed wet dog food and/or fiber-based products may not be able to hold in its poop for 8 hours.

Size of Dog

A dog’s size is also a factor in whether he can hold in poop for 8 hours. Smaller dogs with their smaller bladders and colons are less able to hold it in for 8 hours, while larger dogs are better able to hold it in for 8 hours.

Sign saying dogs can't poop, dog has to hold poop in

Reasons Dogs Shouldn’t Hold In Poop

While a dog may be able to hold its poop in for 8 hours, this is not something that should become a habit or be taken for granted. This is because your dog could suffer both emotional and physical symptoms. 

Here are some of the possible results of leaving your dog to hold in its pee and poop for more than 8 hours.


Your dog wants to please you, always. Pooping on the floor can devastate him emotionally. He may feel shame, guilt, and fear and this anxiety may last for days. Some dogs are more sensitive than others, if you have a highly sensitive dog, you should exercise care to avoid putting your dog in the scenario of not being able to relieve himself for 8 hours or more.


There are also some critical physical ailments that could result from your dog not being able to relieve himself for 8 hours or more.  These include:

  • An Impacted colon which may require surgery
  • A Bladder infection
  • Cystitis
  • A Fungal infection
  • Kidney stones
  • And even cancer

But My Dog Sleeps 10-12 Hours a Night and Holds His Poop in During That Time?

That is true. But your dog also understands that should he need to go outside in the middle of the night, he will be able to do so.

Additionally, while your dog is asleep his bladder and organs go into a relaxed state and he is able to sleep through the urges that might be present during active hours.

What Should I do If I am Going to be Away for More than 8 Hours?

If you must be away for an extended number of hours, there are some options you should consider in order to properly care for your pet.  These include recruiting your neighbors to help, creating an indoor potty area, laying down newspaper, or installing a pet door.

These are fairly simple solutions and the payoff is a happy and confident dog who does not have to fear disappointing you.

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Think about a time when you were not able to get to a potty for 8 hours or more. Can you even imagine it? Your dog shouldn’t have to endure that either.

When you are at work or running late, stop and imagine the anxiety your dog is facing at the fact that he cannot hold his poop in any longer.

We treasure our pets. They are members of the family, and when they don’t feel well, we are unhappy. But if we are away for a long time on any given day, it might be easy to forget the impact that takes on our beloved pet.

While everyone gets tied up occasionally, and chances are your dog will not be affected physically or emotionally from an occasional long day away, every effort should be made to care for your pet when you are not home, and that includes considering your dog’s poop.

dog pooping
Dog pooping


As you have learned, there are risks to leaving your dog home alone for more than 8 hours. The reason for this is that most dogs are physically unable to hold their poop for that long.

These risks are not just physical but are also emotional, and when you return you may find an anxious, depressed dog who tried very hard to hold it in but when he no longer could, he had to relieve himself on the floor of your home. He knows that is wrong, and he feels shame, regret, and anxiety about it.

While you can try to reassure your pet that it is ok and that you are not angry with him, if you have a very sensitive dog they may not be able to get over it for days.

And sadly, if this occurrence happens more than occasionally, your dog could suffer very real physical ailments as well, including infections, impactions, and even cancer.

As a loving dog owner, you would never want to cause such a thing, so being aware of your time away is the best prevention.  

Luckily, there are several good options for those times when you have to be away for longer than 8 hours, and they include engaging your neighbors to help, installing a pet door (in a fenced yard) so he can get out as needed, creating an indoor potty area that your pooch knows is ok for this, and laying down newspapers or pee pads to encourage him to eliminate as needed while you are away.

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.