Although the puppy stage can be a wonderful time of bonding with your new pet, it is understandable—and not unexpected—that it can include frustrating moments.
It can be difficult at times to know whether your pup’s behaviors are a result of normal growing pains or are due to deeper behavioral or health problems, especially when the behavior is related to normal activities like eating, sleeping, or toileting.
Thankfully, in many cases, a pup’s strange or annoying behaviors are just quirks of the growth process and can be modified through training or will eventually be outgrown. In some circumstances, though, these may be indicative of problems that require specialized help from a veterinarian or dog trainer.
Puppy Development and Bladder Control
Just as puppies need to eat more daily meals than adult dogs, they also need to “do their business” more often than adult dogs. The reason why young dogs need to eat more often is that they are still growing; similarly, the reason why puppies urinate more often is also related to their growth. Puppies are still learning to control their bladder muscles (as well as their bowels), an ability that improves with age.
Until puppies are about 8 to 10 months old, their ability to control their bladders can be correlated with their age: each month of age corresponds to an additional hour of bladder control. As such, it is not realistic to expect a 2-month-old puppy to go more than a couple hours between potty breaks.
Thankfully, pups can generally wait a bit longer to use the bathroom at night, though typically not for the duration of a restful eight hours of sleep. Dogs may be able to wait longer if their last meal or drink of water for the day took place a while before bedtime.
To help your pup make it through the night without accidents and with as few outdoor excursions as possible, make sure their final food and water intake of the day occurs no later than two hours before bedtime. Additionally, take your pup outside about 15 minutes after they eat or drink, and take them out again before bedtime.
So, for a dog who is 2 months old, you might expect to take them out eight times in the day and twice at night, assuming the dog can wait for four hours between those nightly pee breaks. This can seem like a lot to manage in a day, so it is understandable that an owner of a young puppy might feel like they are having to take their dog out way too often.
Behavioral Issues That May Lead to Excessive Urination
While it is normal for puppies to need a large number of daily potty breaks, in some cases, excessive urination may be due to a behavioral issue or a health problem. With regard to behavioral causes, a few reasons why a young pup has to pee often include marking, anxiety, attention-seeking behavior, and potty training complications or regression.
Though marking includes urination, it does not involve the full emptying of the bladder; instead, marking involves a small amount of pee, serves as a way for dogs to “mark” their territory, and may sometimes be related to anxiety. Though this may not be as much of a nuisance when done outside, indoor marking can be a big problem.
Additionally, a dog exhibiting marking behaviors may appear to have an endlessly full bladder—sometimes seeming to pee every five minutes—though this is not the case. In about half of intact dogs, spaying or neutering can curb marking behavior; if that does not work, you may need to discourage them through additional training or by limiting their access to commonly marked items.
It is a good idea to have a dog who is experiencing high frequency of urination checked by a vet to make sure they do not have a urinary tract infection (UTI), which may present with similar symptoms (see below for more info on UTIs).
As mentioned above, marking can sometimes occur as a result of anxiety; however, there are other reasons why a dog may anxiously urinate that have nothing to do with marking behaviors.
For instance, puppies who lack confidence may anxiously pee because they are afraid. Some may also pee because they are excited, though these dogs are often also anxious. In cases like these, the dog may need additional training or may need to have a consistent, regular schedule to build up their confidence.
Attention-seeking behaviors can also be related to anxiety, though these are not always correlated. Giving attention and praise after urinating is a key part of potty training; however, dogs may associate that praise and attention with urination in general, and may pee in inappropriate places—such as inside the house—in hopes of gaining more positive attention.
Some dogs who are attention-starved may pee when and where they shouldn’t simply because it garners them attention—even if it is “bad attention.”
As such, the best way to handle this type of situation is to provide the dog with more attention in general, such as engaging in more playtime or affection, and to avoid overly chastising the dog when they do something undesirable. Instead, positively reinforce appropriate behaviors and keep corrections short and immediately after the bad behaviors.
Potty training is a must for puppy owners and often results in well-trained dogs who know where and when it is appropriate for them to do their business. Unfortunately, it is also possible for puppies to experience potty training regression, in which a potty-trained pup stops using the bathroom outside, choosing instead to urinate and/or defecate inside.
Thankfully, though this regression can be annoying, it is reversible. If it is not being caused by a medical problem such as diabetes or a UTI, this regression can often be corrected through additional potty training. Though this requires some patience, in most cases, the dog will soon return to appropriate bathroom behaviors.
Health Problems That May Lead to Excessive Urination
It is important to consider that the urinary system involves a number of parts, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Though there may be a behavioral reason underlying your pup’s excessive urination, health problems involving these organs may also be the culprit.
UTIs, or urinary tract infections, are caused by harmful bacteria entering the urinary tract. Unfortunately, UTIs can affect dogs of any age, and when they occur in puppies, they may be less obvious than when they occur in older dogs.
A dog with a UTI usually needs to pee more often, and in some cases, may also leak urine. Because puppies already need to pee very often, it may be difficult to establish when the behavior is abnormal. In some cases, the UTI may only be found through analysis of a urine sample.
That said, UTIs may cause pain, and a pup who is clearly uncomfortable while voiding—sometimes indicated by yelping or straining while trying to go—should definitely be checked out by a vet. If potty training seems to not be working or if your pup has regressed in their training, a vet visit might also be necessary to find out whether that is being caused by a UTI.
Another health problem that can cause increased urination in puppies is diabetes. Though it more commonly appears in dogs who are a bit older, diabetes can occur in puppies. Symptoms commonly include excessive drinking and urination in addition to extreme hunger and weight loss.
While it is probably not the most common cause of excessive urination in puppies, diabetes is a health problem some pups face which vets can detect and help manage.
Though more common in adult dogs, puppies may also experience kidney stones and bladder stones. UTIs may also ascend, resulting in bladder infections or kidney infections.
If your potty-trained pup is peeing an inordinate amount or needs to go way too frequently, does not appear to be anxious, and is not exhibiting marking behaviors, it is probably best to take them to the vet in order to find out whether the urination is being caused by health issues.
Although emotional complications or health problems may be the reason why your pup is experiencing frequent urination, in many cases, puppies are still developing bladder muscle control that makes waiting to pee more difficult than it would be for an adult dog.
Additionally, young pups may just need further bathroom training or additional reinforcement to improve their voiding behavior. Though it may be frustrating to have to take your puppy out to pee so often, the silver lining is that the number of daily potty breaks will decrease as they grow and as they are potty trained.
Though it may not always feel particularly special, getting to be a part of your puppy’s development and their expanding understanding of the world often proves to be a powerful bonding experience between you and your pooch.