View Full Version : middle of the night potty trips

January 20th, 2009, 03:19 PM
We just got a 5-month old shih-poo neutered male. His owners told us that he should need to pee/poop within 30-45 min. of eating his meals, but so far he has not been on that schedule. Occasionally, taking a drink seems to help stimulate his need to urinate, but he has been pooping in the early morning hours (around 4 a.m.) while in his crate. This has happened in the past, and (I think) been connected with some crying/whimpering. We did not initally respond to that because we were trying to get him to stop crying in his kennel when we went to bed for the night (which is going well now after about one week), but now I think he's crying at 4:00 because he soiled his bed. After reading your post about getting up and taking the pup potty, I'm going to try that around 3:30 (since he seems to be able to make it at least that long).
Here's my main question for you. For the past three days, he's been barking nonstop from 4-5:30 a.m. This morning I went down as soon as he started barking and cleaned his kennel, put in a new towel for him to lay down on, and quietly went back up to bed. (I did not take him out because he had peed and pooped, and I figured he didn't need to go anymore; tonight I'll try to take him out before this happens!). When I went back up to bed, he continued to whine and bark. I'm anticipating that he will not want to go back in his kennel for the remaining 1.5-2 hours that we'd all like to sleep (i.e., until 5:30, when we get up for the day), which means he's likely to cry and bark that whole time. This part is driving us a little batty--any suggestions on how to make sure he settles back down, doesn't cry or bark after the middle-of-the-night potty trip and goes back to sleep so we can, too! Thanks so much in advance for any advice you may have.

January 20th, 2009, 05:26 PM
Hmmm... something doesn't sound right here. At 5 months of age, he should really be able to make it through the night without a potty trip. I'm going to ask you to answer a few questions...

How long have you had him?

Has he had accidents every night? If not, how long after you got him did they start?

Did you change his food when you got him or is he eating the same food he ate at his former home?

What's his feeding schedule? When do you give last food/water before bed?

Do his poops seem firm or are there problems with mushy poops or diarrhea?

Does he have accidents in his crate at other times of day?

Let me know those answers and we'll figure something out!! :)

January 20th, 2009, 06:49 PM
How long have you had him? We will have had him two weeks tomorrow.

Has he had accidents every night? If not, how long after you got him did they start? No, not every night, but the majority of the nights he's at least peed. Usually it's been both, and for the past three nights, it's been both.

Did you change his food when you got him or is he eating the same food he ate at his former home? No, we kept him on the same food, Royal Canin--one of the premium brands, I believe.

What's his feeding schedule? When do you give last food/water before bed? We feed him in the morning between 5:45 and 6:00 a.m., and again at around 5:15-5:30 p.m. We have been limiting his water to those two times as well, except on the weekends when we're home more--then we usually give him some more water either midday or in the afternoon. We have been going to bed around 9:00, so he hasn't had anything to eat or drink for over three hours. He usually pees for us before we go to bed, but has only pooped once or twice in the evening over the two-week period. He usually will not even pee when we take him out the last two times (about 30-60 min. before we go to bed and right before we go to bed).

Do his poops seem firm or are there problems with mushy poops or diarrhea? They are firm for the most part...definitely not diarrhea. However, there are a few times that they've been somewhat flattened and trampled into the towel.

Does he have accidents in his crate at other times of day? Yes, he has often peed in his crate when I come home at the end of the day. However, we have had one or two nights in which he did not soil his crate, and several days in which he has not done so.

I hope my answers help shed some light on things. It's comforting to know that some of it doesn't make sense to you, because it doesn't make total sense to us, either!

January 21st, 2009, 09:38 AM
Be sure to read the following articles:

Surviving the Night with Your New Puppy (http://www.thehousebreakingbible.com/training/surviving-night.htm)
Crate Accidents (http://www.thehousebreakingbible.com/training/crate-accidents.htm)

There are a few options for working on this problem... the first thing I want you to try is increasing your puppy's evening exercise. That will serve two purposes... the movement should help to get his bowels moving and it will tire him out so he's more likely to sleep through the night.

I think the feeding schedule looks fine... sounds like you're feeding when you get home from work, so I'd just try to do it as early as you can to give him as much time as possible to eliminate before bedtime.

Be sure your crate is the right size... it should be just large enough for him to stand up, turn around and lie down. If he has too much space, he's more likely to have accidents.

How long is he in the crate during the day? Sounds like it might be a long day for him, which might be too much for a puppy. You might find it helpful to come home at lunchtime or have a dog walker or neighbor come in to give puppy a potty trip mid-day. This should eliminate daytime crate accidents and may even help with the nighttime accidents by allowing him to eliminate regularly so he doesn't get all backed up!

If a dog door is an option, you might be able to avoid the mid-day trip home...

January 21st, 2009, 11:59 AM
here is an update on our situation. I thought about the evening activity level piece last night actually, and played with him for a longer period of time (including having him run around a lot in the house). I think the crate size is good, too. It's currently divided in half so that he's able to do the things you said but will be laying in/on his accidents if he has them. He's in the crate in the evenings from about 9pm until 5:30 a.m., and in the crate during the day from 7:15am to 5:15 pm--only 30 minutes longer than he is at night. I'm pretty sure that a doggy-door is not an option, as we live in a split-level home neither floor opens out to the ground level.
I'm a little concerned because he has now not gone to the bathroom outside for over 24 hours. He's had two pee accidents inside on the carpet, one of which occurred almost immediately after we took him out to pee. (He was kept outside for 2-3 minutes, which should have been long enough for him to do his business.). He started barking this morning at 2:45. I went down and checked his crate, and there were no accidents. I took him outside and told him to go potty, and he did nothing. I put him back in his crate and told him goodnight and turned the light off and got back in bed. He cried/barked for another 15 minutes and then settled down. About 20 minutes after that, he started barking again. I went down to find that he had peed in his crate (on his towel). I changed the towel, sprayed down the crate, took him outside again (just in case), and he did nothing but eat snow and look up at me. I put him back in the crate with minimal communication, and again went back to bed. He again cried/barked for about 20 min. or so, and then may have gone back to sleep. When I got up at 5:30, he had pooped in his crate. I again cleaned it out, offered him water and then food, and took him out a total of three times before we left for the day. He sniffed the ground a little, ate some more snow, and did nothing. I had to go home around 10:30 this morning to grab a change of pants for my kindergartner, and took him out while I was there. Again, nothing.
Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated. I'm worried we're regressing somehow instead of making progress. We've been really working hard at trying to be consistent, but it seems like it's not working.:confused1:

January 21st, 2009, 12:36 PM
I'm short on time now, so I'll post a more detailed response later. I think one of the big problems is that he's spending WAY too much time in that crate! Since he's a small dog, do you want to consider doing partial indoor potty training (http://www.thehousebreakingbible.com/training/papertraining.htm) so he can use pads or a litter box when he's alone for extended periods?

Also, did he come from a cold weather climate? You mentioned snow, so I'm wondering if the weather is contributing to the problem.

More later...

January 21st, 2009, 01:25 PM
We live in Minnesota, and we bought him here, so he's been raised in this climate. (He managed to go potty outdoors last week, when we had very cold temps, but now seems more intrigued by eating the snow than anything else.) Is it possible that he's not getting enough water and that's why he keeps eating the snow? He shows no signs of dehydration (and I was just following the instructions of his breeders...although they also told me he'd be fine in the crate for that many hours each day, too.)

Is there a way to do the partial indoor potty training within the crate--i.e., allow him to use the full size of the crate and create a sleeping and bathroom area? I'm hesitant to keep him unconfined while we're gone, as I suspect he'd be prone to chewing on things he shouldn't. I'm also worried about doing indoor potty training when we want him to go outside...won't that send mixed messages to him? Lastly, are you saying he's spending too much time in a crate because of his age, or just in general? We'd planned to eventually only have him in his crate when we're not in the house, and allow him to sleep outside of the crate at nights once he's housetrained.

January 22nd, 2009, 05:37 PM
I'd only recommend the partial indoor training if it's something you plan on doing permanently. If you don't want to do that, you'd be better off coming home at lunchtime or hiring a dog walker. If you do decide to do indoor potty training, I'd recommend trying to put the papers where you'd want them to be permanently (usually in a basement, laundry room, spare bathroom, etc.). Unless the room is very small, you'll use an exercise pen to create an enclosed area around his potty area so there's just enough room for bed, bowls and papers or pads. There are full instructions on this type of training in our indoor potty training section.

Whether you decide to do the partial indoor training or not, I think that you should do umbilical cord trainin (http://www.thehousebreakingbible.com/training/umbilical-cord-training.htm)g and/or the puppy airlift technique to prevent accidents in the house and minimize the length of time in the crate to whatever extent that's possible for you. To get puppy back on track, you should try to find a day or two (maybe over a weekend?) where you can avoid putting him in the crate during the day. This will give him lots of opportunities to go potty in the right place and will get him out of the habit of thinking his crate is a toilet. Just be sure that you're doing umbilical/airlift during that time to prevent accidents in the house.

I do suspect that the snow eating has to do with thirst, since he only has access to water a couple of times a day. That's another good thing about indoor training... he can have access to more water since he doesn't need to stay dry all day.

To answer your question about time in the crate, it sounds like he's spending close to 18 hours out of 24 in his crate, which is a lot for any dog, but it's particularly tough for a puppy that isn't housebroken yet. Of course, you can't quit your job and give up sleeping, but at least try to make minor changes to allow him to spend less time in there... maybe going to bed a little later and getting up a little earlier and arranging for a mid-day visit from you or someone else.

January 23rd, 2009, 11:52 AM
Thanks, Rebecca, for all your suggestions--and for all the great articles on your site! Things seem to be going a little better over the last two days/nights. He's going outside more, and inside less! Plus, he does seem to be barking at 3-4 a.m. to tell us he needs to go, so we've been doing that and have successfully avoided some crate accidents.

I'm going to go back to one of my original questions, though, and also add another one. First, he is still crying in his crate on and off between 3:30 and 5:30, and doesn't always stop when we respond to his barking and take him out to go to the bathroom. Basically, we're trying to tell him that the middle of the night is NOT time to visit with us but sleep, and if he's loud enough to wake us up, all it will result in is a trip outside. However, he will continue to cry even when he's gone pee and poop. How do we respond to his calls to go out during the middle of the night without giving him the idea to keep barking afterward (I'm assuming in an effort to have us come visit again)?

Secondly, how do you know when the dog needs to go pee and poop? It's been so cold outside that, once he goes pee, we usually praise him and bring him back in. In addition, I don't want to praise him and then keep standing out there...that seems to confuse the situation. I know this part will get easier once he's housetrained, but just wondered if you had any ideas for us on these things, since we're starting to get pretty sleep-deprived!

January 23rd, 2009, 07:24 PM
Glad to hear you've had some improvement!

Two more articles you'll want to check out... our article about dogs who bark in their crates (http://www.thehousebreakingbible.com/training/crate-barking.htm) and our article about keeping a written potty schedule (http://www.thehousebreakingbible.com/training/potty-schedule.htm).

The written potty schedule should help you to figure out a pattern with puppy's digestive system. That's the best way to have a sense of whether he needs to poo on a given potty trip. You should also watch for signs... some dogs will come back over to you when they're done but go to a far end of the yard or continue sniffing if they still have to do something more after peeing. His signals might be subtle, but if you pay attention, you may just learn to predict when a poo is coming by watching him.

As for the crate barking, you definitely shouldn't correct him if you believe he's barking to go out to potty, but I think it would be reasonable to correct barking that comes after he's emptied out. You should do other things to try to prevent the barking first... covering the crate with a towel or blanket, putting a white noise machine near his crate and being sure you're not fussing over him or giving him anything to eat or drink on his middle of the night potty trips... they need to be strictly business.

January 24th, 2009, 09:18 AM
We have the crate covered with a towel...I'll try doing the radio or something like that tonight. We're keeping the nighttime stuff strictly business...no praise except for going potty outside. I've been keeping track of his potty schedule and it appears that he consistently needs to go pee and poop sometime between 1:45 and 4:00 in the morning. Unfortunately, that's a pretty big time window, and unfortunately, he's been barking or whining almost that entire time (some nights from 1:45-5:00, some nights from 3:30-5:00. Needless to say, we're exhausted.
I know you (and others) have said that, at five months, he should be able to sleep through the night but this does not appear to be the case. Does this mean I need to implement your nighttime puppy potty suggestions (i.e., setting an alarm before he first needs to go and gradually lengthening that time)? Is there any way to tighten that nighttime window? We've had more success getting him to poop before bedtime now, and he always pees before we go to bed, but for some reason he needs to poop again sometime in the middle of the night--which really doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Any idea whether this is just an adjustment thing (even though we've now had him for 2.5 weeks), or are we dealing with an older puppy who has the potty issues of a much younger pup?
I've read all the articles you've mentioned, and I don't want to correct his barking/whining when it's him telling us he needs to go out, but we can't tell the difference between that kind of barking and the attention/I want to get out of my crate barking. In addition, we're upstairs in bed and his crate is downstairs in the living room (where we usually spend most of our time). We've been hesitant to bring his crate up into our bedroom at night for fear that his barking will not improve (just be a lot louder and probably wake up our kids), and with him being that far away from us, I can't implement many of the corrections (clapping, water spraying, crate lifting). So far, it seems like the first time he barks, he needs to pee. We've taken him out and he's gone. Then we end up going another two times over the course of the next 30-45 minutes, with him doing nothing outside those times. Then, he'll continue to cry but we'll ignore him, thinking he's done for the night. The next time he pipes up, I'm usually coming downstairs to a poop-soiled crate--which may have happened close to the last time we took him out but he won't seem to poop outside then. I don't know if he needs to poop at night (I think he does) or if he's pooping from anxiety...? I'd love to get him on a better schedule so I can actually piece together a decent night's sleep. And we want to do this the right way, so we're teaching him what he needs to do to help us help him.

Thanks again for your help!

January 24th, 2009, 10:37 PM
You might want to try adjusting his feeding as a way of eliminating his need to go out at 4pm... you can either try feeding him a larger meal in the morning and a smaller one at night (3/4 of his ration in the a.m, 1/4 in the p.m. instead of 50/50) or you can try a bold move... feed him his dinner right before he goes to bed. Sometimes this works, believe it or not! Some dogs seem to take a long time to process their food, so they don't need to poo until morning if you feed them late.

As for the barking, I'd always go with the better-safe-than-sorry approach with spontaneous barking in the middle of the night. Assume he needs to go and take him out. When you put him back in, just go around the corner instead of going back to your room. This way, you can come back in right away to correct him if he starts barking again once he's empty.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to set your alarm and try beating him to the punch. Once he gets used to you waking him up in the middle of the night, you can gradually start to push the potty trip later and later until he's sleeping through the night.

Let me know if any of this helps!

January 26th, 2009, 12:41 PM
your feeding schedule suggestion was genius! I gave him water at his usual dinner time (around 5-5:30), then waited another two hours to feed him his dinner (and gave him the same amount I usually give him...at least for now). I figured 7:15 gave us long enough to have him pee a couple of times before we went to bed, and he peed twice--the last one around 9:00. He slept until 4:30 and woke me with some barking. I immediately took him out and he peed a LOT. After he was finished, I again told him to "go potty" and he just looked at me for a few minutes, wagging his tail excitedly. I brought him back in to his clean (YEA!!!) kennel and put him back in there. I went up to bed and he started barking almost immediately. After ten minutes of him not settling down, I went back down there and he had pooped in the kennel.
I'm hoping the delayed dinner does not result in him pooping in his kennel during the day today, as this has never happened before. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't come home to that! Any suggestions on how to get him to pee AND poop when I take him out? Or, should I put him back in his kennel and then return more quickly, knowing that his pattern seems to be doing both of these in close succession?
The night before this he woke me up at 2:15 to pee, and settled down immediately when I returned to bed. I was encouraged by that, as he was quiet for a good 1.5 hours--something that hasn't happened before. This, and our experience last night, gives me hope that he knows to alert us when he needs to go out, and in general is only making noise (for the most part) in the middle of the night when this is the case. Hurray!!! Now it seems we just have to fine tune some things and we might be in business! I plan to keep feeding him dinner at that later time for a few days--unless we have problems with daytime kennel pooping, that is.
So, any suggestions on getting him to pee AND poop would be great, and I'll bother you again (sorry!) if the nighttime feeding doesn't work out. Thanks again for your help. I've really appreciated it, and so does our little pooch, I'm sure! Seeing progress really helps.

January 26th, 2009, 07:46 PM
The late meal can be REALLY late... experiment with it to see what works best. Some people find that feeding right at bedtime allows the dog to sleep through until morning.

The best thing to get him to pee and poop when you take him out would probably be to teach him a separate potty command for #1 and #2. Use the instructions in this article (http://www.thehousebreakingbible.com/training/commandment10.htm) and just use a different command for each.

January 27th, 2009, 07:19 AM
Argh....He pooped in his kennel during the day yesterday, poor thing. That's never happened before, so I'm assuming it's related to the delay in feeding him at night. Since I have no way of knowing when he pooped during the day, I don't know whether feeding him any later will spare him this misery. So, last night we reverted to feeding him at his usual dinner time (around 5:15). He slept until around 3:30, and barked for me to take him out. I did, and he peed immediately once outside. His kennel was clean. I put him back in, turned the light off, told him "go to sleep," took my coat off, and went up to bed. This process was repeated about 12 times this morning; for the last several nights (except two nights ago), he has always pooped in his kennel within 10 minutes of being put back in after a potty trip. So, I decided that I'd see if he quieted down after peeing. If he became loud again, I would take him out. I figured he either doesn't know he can pee and poop when he goes out (and I'll read your suggestions on that...thanks!), or I figured that getting so worked up in his kennel for more than five minutes might get his bowels going. Every time I took him out after the first time, he did nothing...some sniffing, but never went potty again. By the fourth time I came down there, he seemed to not want to get out of the kennel; I think he was starting to figure out he'd be going back out in the cold. After that many trips with no poop, I told him to be quiet and go to sleep. He really quieted down and cried a little, but not much. These outdoor excursions lasted from about 3:30-5:15, with us repeating the process every 7-10 minutes initially and a little longer in between toward the end. When I went down this morning at 5:45, he'd pooped on his towel in the kennel again.
Is it possible that he's less attuned to when he needs to go poop? I can't imagine he'd choose to do it in his kennel rather than outside. I've been really thorough in cleaning the kennel out and wiping it down with Nature's Miracle so that he continues to think of it as his den rather than his potty. We've had so few instances of him actually pooping outside in the three weeks we've had him, I'm starting to worry about that. On the plus side, he seems to be doing quite well with the peeing part.

January 27th, 2009, 09:59 AM
Oh, too bad about the daytime accident! One other thing to try is feeding at the usual times but doing 3/4 of his ration in the morning and 1/4 in the evening. Might help, might not, but it's worth a try!

Normally, on a potty trip at night, you don't want to do much as far as activity goes, but you may need to walk him around for a while or let him run around for a while after he pees... sometimes the activity gets things moving and will prompt him to poop. The same principle applies for trying to get him to poo before bedtime... a long evening walk might help.

Does he poop promptly at other times of day when you take him outside and he needs to go?

January 27th, 2009, 11:05 AM
We haven't really been taking him for walks yet...mostly because it's far too cold here (the temps have been in the single digits with windchills in the negative numbers) most of the days we've had him. It's not recommended to be outside for very long or the risk of frostbite is quite high. The other, smaller reason is that initially, he was pretty useless on the leash. Now that I've done several days of umbilical cord training, however, he's more used to the idea of actually moving with me while on the leash. He's only pooped outside 3 or 4 times, and he's gone pretty quickly but does seem to need to walk around a bit before he goes--at least in comparison to peeing. I'll try that tonight as the temps are less awful today. I'll try the food amount suggestion, too. I read the article about teaching him to go on command (the last link you provided in a reply), but it didn't really address referring to peeing and pooping with different names...did it connect to the wrong link?

January 27th, 2009, 12:28 PM
The article doesn't refer to using different commands for each, but you'll just use the instructions in the article and say something different when he's pooping and peeing... "hurry up" for peeing and "go potty" for pooping, for example.

February 2nd, 2009, 06:33 PM
I thought I would post an update on our situation, which I'm happy to say is much improved. We moved his nighttime meal to 7pm and his morning meal to 7am (so made both later), and he is finally pooping BEFORE bed and BEFORE I go to work in the morning!!!!! Hallelujah! In addition, he made it all day today in his kennel without peeing--a first! He's doing really well. We've moved his kennel up to our bedroom at night now, and he will wake us up when he needs to go out. He will occasionally whine in the early morning hours when he's ready to get out (but we're still sleeping), but quickly settles down when we tell him to be quiet. We're all getting more sleep, he seems to get that we want him to go outside, he's responding to two different commands to pee and poop, and his poop's on a manageable schedule! So, all is well. Thanks for all your help; with a little time, persistence, and patience, it really paid off. I'm thrilled that we've made such good progress in only three weeks of having him!

February 3rd, 2009, 06:03 PM
Wow!! That's all such good news! I'm glad to hear you persisted and that the changes you've made seem to be working.

Keep us posted...