When should I worry about how much water my puppy drinks?

Puppies are usually very good at managing how much water they need. When they're thirsty, they drink water. When they're not thirsty any more, they stop. Your first instinct should be to trust this system and give your puppy free access to water so she can decide when she does and doesn't need a drink.

Unfortunately, while that sounds great, it doesn't always work with the reality of our daily lives. There are a number of reasons why you might want to have more control over when your puppy has water.

Preventing house training accidents

When young puppies drink water, they generally need to take a potty break shortly after. This can be a problem if your puppy drinks water right before you need to leave her home alone for a few hours. Even a last minute potty break just before you leave might not be good enough to prevent the urge to potty 30 minutes after you've left.

Avoiding middle of the night wakeups

Similarly, if a young puppy has water just before bedtime, there's a really good chance she'll wake up in the middle of the night and need a potty break. This can either result in an accident, or an inconvenient middle of the night wake up call.

Avoiding messes

If you've ever tried to leave a water bowl in your puppy's crate or x-pen, you may have noticed their first instinct is to knock the bowl over. While there are other solutions to this problem (like giving them water via a water bottle as you commonly see people do with hamsters), sometimes the easiest solution is to just not leave them alone with water.

Planning an outing away from home

As soon as you leave home together, you either need to bring water with you or know for sure that there will be water available wherever you're going. Not only that, but you need a bowl or something else for your puppy to drink out of. While you could try to feed your puppy water out of the palm of your hand, it's probably less than ideal.

Seeing signs of dehydration/overhydration

While it's rare for a puppy to drink too much or too little water—especially if you're using a free access system—it's still possible that your pup doesn't get the right amount of water and you start noticing suspicious symptoms.

This can happen if your puppy gets so distracted playing that she doesn't take a break to visit her water bowl, or if she just becomes fixated on drinking water because it's fun.

In all of these scenarios, it's useful to know how much water your puppy generally needs and to have a plan for making sure she gets it.

How much water does my puppy need?

As a general rule, puppies need 1/2–1 ounce of water per 1 pound of bodyweight per day. This means a puppy weighing 10 pounds needs between 5–10 ounces of water a day. That's a little more than 1/2–1 1/4 cups of water. A puppy weighing 20 pounds needs 1 1/4–2 1/2 cups, and so on.

Of course, that's just a general rule. The amount of water your pup needs can change based on their activity level or other conditions of their environment.

For example, if your pup is exercising more than usual or it's a particularly hot day outside, your pup will likely need more than her usual allotment of water. This is where just making sure your puppy has access to water when she needs it simplifies things.

Another thing to note is that puppies need more water than adult dogs so keep that in mind if you're trying to regulate or analyze an adult dogs water intake.

When should I give my puppy water?

It's best to spread your puppy's water intake throughout the day as much as possible. If your pup has limited access to water, she may drink too quickly or drink too much at once which can lead to vomiting or other side effects.

If your puppy starts to believe that access to water is scarce, she could start exhibiting unwanted resource guarding behaviors around water such as growling or even worse.

Ultimately, this means giving your puppy free access to water whenever you can. If you're home and watching your puppy, she should probably have access to water. If she doesn't have access to water in her crate or other confinement area, you should lead her to water as soon as you take her out.

Also, if you limit the amount of water she drinks just before bedtime, then you'll want to make sure she has access to as much water as she wants immediately in the morning.

How often should I give my puppy water while housetraining?

If your puppy is still housetraining, there are two scenarios when you might consider restricting access to water:

  1. Whenever you need to leave your pup alone for an extended amount of time
  2. At night just before going to bed

If you're going to be away from home, you may want to restrict access to water 30–60 minutes before you leave and make sure to give your pup a potty break immediately before leaving.

At night, you may restrict access for a little longer since a sleeping puppy doesn't require as much water. Most puppies are okay if they don't have water within 2–3 hours of bed time.

We want to point out here that you should not restrict your puppy's access to water as a general method for preventing house training accidents. That can quickly lead to a dehydrated puppy.

If you're experiencing frequent accidents while you're home, we recommend increasing the frequency of potty breaks instead of restricting access to water.

Limiting water intake should only be used when there isn't another option, like if you're away from home and just won't be able to give your puppy a potty break. Even in those scenarios, we recommend hiring a dog walker or having a friend come let your puppy out to relieve herself.

For more tips about how to arrange your puppy's daily schedule, check out the Harper article Daily Routine and Puppy Sleep Schedule.

What's a typical puppy water schedule?

When your puppy is housetraining

Morning wakeup

Free access to as much water as your pup wants

Home alone for an extended period of time

No water within 30 minutes of leaving

Following an extended period of time home alone

Free access to as much water as your pup wants

Bedtime

No water within 2-3 hours before bed

Any other time

Free access to as much water as your pup wants

When your puppy is fully housetrained

Once your puppy is fully housetrained, the ideal strategy is to give her free access to water as much as you can. If she likes to tip her water bowl, then we recommend investing in a water container that she can't tip (like a very heavy bowl or a water bottle system).

You could also restrict access to water when you're not home, but then give free access whenever you are.

By following the above rules, you'll have a happy, healthy, and properly hydrated puppy.