When your dog has to ‘go’ but you just want to go to sleep
You bury your head under a pillow and roll your body into a blanket, hoping your dog will magically stop whining. You’re fully aware it’s not going to happen, and you dread looking at the alarm clock because you know it’s either a ridiculously early hour or crazy late at night. But if you don’t get up and walk your dog, or take her out for a potty break, you’re going to deal with it one way or the other. No matter how well your dog is trained, you will have these moments.
Unlike kids, who will eventually reach an age where they don’t need you at all to use the bathroom, dogs always will — whether it’s opening the backyard door or physically walking around outside. Maybe you’ve gotten hip to the potty game and have a flap door, but I’ve even seen this work against one particular dog who I dog sat. He would go out of the doggy door but was too frightened to run back in and would whine from downstairs until someone held the doggy door up for him to jump into.
If you don’t have children, you’re probably thinking, “I cannot believe I’m dealing with these late-night potty sessions.” But then your dog has done her business, and you love her all over again. It happens. But what do you do when your dog is taking forever to “go” outside?
Here are a few tips to understand why your dog may be moving just a wee bit too slow for you. First hint: She’s not human, never has been and never will be. So get over the idea that your “fur baby” will operate like a human baby and “go” immediately every single time.
Before you adopt or own a dog, you might want to try being a dog walker first (or a dog caregiver) for an extended period of time. This will help you understand the responsibility of having a dog for the long haul (with the perk of no vet bills). Walk dogs of various shapes and sizes if you really don’t have an idea of what breed you’re most interested in. And get used to hunting dogs who speed around the block and will help you reach your 10,000 Fitbit steps from a morning walk alone, along with the slow cruisers who want to shove their noses in every single plant, flower or piece of litter they can find. Doing this helps you become familiar with a variety of dog walking behavior, as well as whether you’re equipped for those late-night potty visits.
According to the American Kennel Club, there’s a method to your dog’s potty walking madness:
- Dogs use their urine to signal their presence to other dogs.
- Smelling other dogs’ urine tells a dog all about the other local canines, including gender, age and health.
- Dogs don’t want to just pee and poop anywhere; they want to leave a fresh deposit on top. AKC compares it to human graffiti.
- Male dogs specifically lift their back leg as high as possible to get their urine up to the nose level of other dogs.
- Dogs scratch the ground with their feet to further emphasize their signal. Special glands between their toes leave extra scents on the ground as they scratch, adding even more impact to the scent mark.
So knowing there is a science to how, when and why they “go” where they do means dog owners have to have a certain level of patience. The dog who whines or barks at the door to go outside will probably be frustrating if he doesn’t immediately do the deed as soon as you open the door. But she’s trying.
Considering dogs have 300 million scent receptors in their noses (while human beings have 5–6 million), pulling your dog away from an intriguing scent will blow the walk for her altogether. I, as a dog walker, think the fun in the walk is walking. Some dogs agree; others do not. Some dogs move like fitness instructors, do the deed and are on their way. Others move like bird watchers, just strolling along and sizing up everything.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past 22 years of being a dog owner and a yearlong dog care specialist, it’s that you may be better off paying more attention to your dog’s “go” time than trying to set a schedule around when it’s convenient for you to go outside and walk. Once you get a grasp on how long it takes your dog to go and when it is she’s most likely to actually do it, your walks will be more enjoyable for the both of you. Quick tip: Bring an audiobook or good Spotify playlist though. If she’s taking forever, find a way to distract yourself to pass the sniffing/marking time until she’s done.