House-training your Labrador puppy without tears!

Whilst it seems to last forever when you are in the middle of it,  teaching your Labrador puppy to be clean indoors is actually a fairly short process.

The idea of this article is to give you a guide to ‘stress free house training’.

Essentially your puppy is on your side,  he wants to keep his ‘den’  nice too.

There are however a number of factors that conspire against you in your housetraining adventures

  • Your puppy’s memory
  • Your puppy’s bladder control
  • The size of your home
  • The power of ‘habit’

Short memory

Labrador puppies have a very short memory.  If he is in your hall your puppy has probably forgotten where the back door is.   When he trots back into the kitchen he will remember again, but by then it will probably be too late.

Poor Bladder control

Puppies  have a small bladder capacity, and very little ability to wait before emptying their bladder once it is full.   Some eight week old puppies have very immature bladders and need to empty them at 15 to 30 minute intervals for much of their waking day.  This can last for much of the first week.

Bladder troubles

Whilst tiny pups may need to wee a lot,  it is important that you are aware of what is normal and what is not.House-training your labradorIf the gaps between wees are not gradually stretching out, day by day,  get your puppy checked by the vet.

Likewise if your puppy is weeing this frequently at night after you have taken his water up,  and when resting in his crate.

If the gaps between wees are getting shorter again after previously  widening,  this is another sign that you need to get your pup checked by the vet.

Bladder infections do happen and need sorting out.

The size of your home

The reason we are able to house train dogs at all, is because they instinctively keep their den or sleeping area clean.  Your puppy divides your house into two areas

  1. His den
  2. Not his den

He will do his utmost not to empty his bladder or bowels in his den.

To begin with,  his den is just the place he sleeps in.  Later his play area, the parts of the house he is allowed into,  becomes absorbed into the den and eventually the whole house becomes  the family ‘den’ that he shares with you.

To start with your puppy will happily wee and poo anywhere that is ‘not his den’.

A lot of new puppy owners give their pup the run of the whole house right from day one,  and this can make it very difficult to house train your puppy.   The area is just too large for the puppy to even consider as a part of his den.  That’s if he can remember where his sleeping area is.

Much of housetraining is about teaching your puppy to include your entire house in the area he regards as his den.   One of the best ways to do this is to start by giving the puppy access to a very small area in your home and increasing that area gradually as he matures and his memory improves.

The power of habit

Puppies like to wee in places where they have wee’d before.  The power of habit is both useful and a nuisance at the same time.

It can help you to help your puppy establish a preference for using a designated toilet area outdoors.   But it also means that once your puppy has made a large puddle under your dining room table,  he will try to do so again.

Clearing up accidents

Puppies are attracted to the area they have previously used by the smell at the scene of the accident.  And as we know,  a puppy’s sense of smell is astonishingly powerful.  He can detect the tiniest traces of ammonia.  This means you need to be extremely vigilant in preventing accidents,  and in clearing up after them.

Otherwise he will be tempted to return to the scene of the crime over and over,  which you will find extremely annoying.

You can buy special cleaning fluids like this one: Urine-Off Spray  that do not smell of ammonia, to clear up after your puppy. And these may help reduce repetitive accidents in the same place.

But the very best approach is to throw all your efforts into avoiding accidents for these first few weeks.

Punishment

The use of punishment is not helpful in the housetraining process.  Firstly because puppies have such poor memories that unless you catch him in the very act of emptying himself on your hearth rug,  he will not remember having done so.

Secondly,  because even if you do catch the puppy in the act,  he is likely to associate any punishment not with the hearth rug, but with you!

This rapidly results in a puppy which sneaks away to wee in secret and behind things in order to avoid your unreasonable reaction to his natural bodily functions.

It also means that at three oclock in the morning when you are waiting in the garden  in your pyjamas for him to do a wee,  he will be unable to ‘go’  lest you become unreasonable out here too.

A gradual process

The best approach to housetraining or ‘potty training’  as it is increasingly called,  is a gradual process.    You should do the following a tiny bit at a time.

  1. Increase the amount of time between visits to his outdoor toileting area
  2. Increase the area of the house into which he is allowed access

Gap between toilet trips

Start with the smallest time gaps you need to avoid accidents.   This might mean a trip outside every 25 minutes for the first few days.    Your puppy will be able to last longer whilst he is asleep and may manage 4-6 hours during the night.  This will gradually stretch out over the first two or three weeks.

If the puppy has an accident, make the gap between trips a bit shorter.  Wait a few days before trying to stretch them out again.   If you can’t watch the puppy for a few minutes,  and provided he has had chance recently to visit his outdoor toilet area, pop him in his crate for quarter of an hour.

Provided the crate is small enough he won’t wee in it.

Check out our crate training article   for more information on using a crate to help with toilet training,  especially night time toilet training.

Area accessible to the puppy

Don’t be tempted to give your puppy free run of the house.  You won’t be able to watch him all the time.   He will have accidents,  and these will lead to more accidents.

Keep your puppy off carpets until the pup is reliably dry during the day.  It is almost impossible to get all traces of urine out of the carpet without thoroughly shampooing it.

Use baby gates to keep the puppy in a small area of the house and on hard washable floors.  When he has mastered keeping that area clean and dry (at four to six months old) ,  you can expand it to include more of the house.

Rewards and commands

When you take the puppy to his toilet area and he obliges in the right place,  by all means make a big fuss of him.  Let him know what a clever dog he is  to get it right.   You can also, if you wish,  associate a ‘cue word’  with his cleverness.

I use the phrase ‘hurry up’  which I say quietly as the puppy starts to wee.   Don’t be too enthusiastic to begin with or the puppy may stop weeing to come and see what all the fuss is about.   Just quietly give your cue,  you could use  ‘do a wee’ or  ‘go to the toilet’,  it doesnt matter  what phrase you choose as long as you don’t change it.

Later on, when he is bigger,  and it is raining and you want him to hurry up,  you will find that your cue word becomes a ‘wee on command’  phrase.   Which can be very useful.

When is it over?

If you can follow this guidelines,  house-training should be almost done and dusted by the time your puppy is six to eight month’s old.  He may still need a few more trips outside than an older dog,  but accidents should be a rare event.

Share your tips

If you have any house training tips you want to share with other readers,  drop them into the comments box below

More help and information

If you enjoy Pippa’s puppy articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.

 

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Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training

by Pippa on September 20, 2012

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Stefan July 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Hi Pippa…

I’ve got a 2 month old black Labrador.The potty training is going very well, but whenever she has an accident she makes a mes in her bed and I straggle to teach her not to do it. What can i do to get her to stop.

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Pippa July 16, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hi Stefan, there are many reasons why a puppy might mess in its bed. It could be because a puppy is physically trapped in its bed, or it could be because he is afraid to mess anywhere else. At two month’s old, you still have a long way to go with house-training. Your puppy is physically immature and cannot control her bowels and bladder very well. You need to be patient, provide great rewards for toileting outdoors, and clear up any messes very thoroughly.
Pippa

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Avante Nemis September 25, 2013 at 2:26 am

Hi Pippa,
I’ve got a 2 months old labrador puppy, she’s been pooping in my house and I seriously don’t know what to do, I take her out immediately after she eats, and then in every 15 minutes gap, but she wont wee or poop outside, she would immediately poop when I would bring her back to the house between those gaps, I am tired now, I’ve been unable to do any other work, please help me out, is there any way to make her poop outside?
Regards-Avante

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Pippa September 25, 2013 at 7:58 am

Hi, this is the article you need. Best wishes, Pippa

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Sue September 28, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Hi we have just become the proud owners of a 5 month old chocolate Lab. Unfortunately she has been in ‘care’ since birth near enough and has only had her own kennel to poo and wee in. I know her bladder control should be better than a younger one and I have been taking her outside regularly to wee as the key word. She seems to have become reluctant to even go outside at the moment and has had a few accidents in the house. Any suggestions for the older pup but starting from scratch. Thanks

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Pippa September 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Hi Sue, you really have to treat an older dog or pup in the same way as a new pup, and use the same techniques. Because the older dog has better bladder control, you may be able to use longer time periods in your routine. 5 months is still very young so hopefully her old habits will soon be left behind. Good luck, Pippa

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Soumya Ajeesh October 10, 2013 at 11:53 am

Hi Pippa,
We have got a new friend, a 3 month old lab puppy.He is peeing every where in our home except washroom and seriously we dont know how to potty train him.Since we wre staying in an appartment, in 6th floor, its not possible to train him to wee outside everytime.Morning and night we are taking him outside and he poops and wees outside happily.He is able to control urine and motion whole night but during day time he ends up in accidents.Now we are keeping him chained near washroom but instead of weeing inside the washroom he is doing it just infront of washroom.I seriously dont know how to solve this problem.Please help me out.
Regards,
Soumya.

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Pippa October 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Hi Soumya, if you cannot take your dog outside, where do you want him to wee? Are you putting puppy pads for him to wee on in the washroom? Does he sleep in the washroom? If so he will not wish to wee there as puppies do not wee where they sleep. And please do not ‘chain up’ your puppy :(
Pippa

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Emily October 14, 2013 at 2:11 am

We’ve been trying different ways of potty training and was wondering if you’re familiar with grass potty training? Since we don’t even have a yard or the patience to constantly be cleaning up plastic pads, we thought of trying out this real grass box called DoggieLawn. Have you heard of it?

Thanks!

Apparently it’s http://www.doggielawn.com if you were curious :)

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Pippa October 14, 2013 at 9:21 am

Hi Emily, I had not heard of this. If you decide to try it, I’d be interested to know what you think of it. Pippa

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Soumya Ajeesh October 18, 2013 at 8:01 am

Hi pippa, Now we have started paper traini ng our Murphy, and he is doing well :) Murphy started weeing only on the provided paper area and we are rewarding, praising him a lot.Thanks for your comment.

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melanie heefner November 5, 2013 at 1:45 am

I have a 4 month old black lab and when I got him he had a lot of issue with uti but got all of it taken care of but still having problems with him peeing in the house have him in a crate and take him out side he all ways pees as soon as I tell him so but when we come back inside within 15 minutes hes peeing on the floor with no warning at all help me

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Nathan November 20, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Hi Pippa, we have a 5 month old labrador and she has been with us for 3 of these months. We have followed your advice and when we are here, she will go to the back door and wait to be let out to toilet herself. During the night she is also dry and generally we have no problems when we are in the home. However, during the week she is on her own between 07:30-11:00 and 13:00-17:30 and she always toilets (wee and poo) within these times (approx 3 wees and 1 poo each time). She is not anxious and does not cry during these times and has plenty of toys and a kong to entertain her. This is not improving though. She does have an open crate during these hours and free run of the kitchen. Could you please advise on where we may be going wrong. Many thanks!

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Pippa November 20, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Hi Nathan,

Preventing a puppy from wee-ing indoors involves regular trips outdoors together with close supervision or confining the puppy in a small space, whenever his bladder is starting to fill up. This is not really compatible with leaving the pup for 3-4 hours unsupervised, until his bladder capacity can cope.

At this age, if she has space to get away from her bed, and her bladder or bowels are full, your puppy will empty them. The answer is either to crate the puppy whilst you are out (and get someone to let her out after an hour or two) or to put puppy pads or newspaper down for her in a designated ‘toilet’ area indoors.

Pippa

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Diogo Guerreiro November 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Hi Pippa,
in these last weeks my family have acquired a 2 month old lab. She have a perfect bowel control but she wees almost everytime in the carpet near the door leading to her designated bathroom we try to get her out as mutch as possible but when she wakes up from the nap she just runs to the dor and does it on the carpet no warning what so ever can you help me?
Thank you

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Pippa November 22, 2013 at 8:53 am

Hi, do you have a crate? If not, check out the information on crate training. That will enable you to pick her up and carry her to the toilet area when she wakes. Pippa

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Ale January 10, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Hi Pippa,
I am devouring all the articles. I read your answer on one of my requests in another article, but I have a new question.
What is the best way to stop your puppy from chewing at chairs or peoples shoes? Even though we try to be next to him now that he is 11 weeks, we still find that he sneaks to bite all my kitchen chairs. Is it appropriate to say no and pull him away? What if he comes back to do it?

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Pippa January 13, 2014 at 8:35 am

Hi Ale, have a look at this article, Pippa

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Meredith January 31, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Hello Pippa, Love your website! I’ve been reading it for quite a while, since i’ve been thinking and rethinking if to get a lab, that Marley movie scared me ! hahaa like im assuming others too! haha….I finally decided to get my cute lab, I will pick him up in a month, but I am training myself to train him. I will have him in my laundry room for the training process but i have a big garden and I want to train him to go out in a corner of the garden. Question is, when he arrives he will be 2 months so im assuming his bowel control will not be strong. I will put pads in the laundry room and newspapers in case he can’t control all the way to morning time. How often should I go during night time (Every 4-5 hours?)

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Pippa January 31, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Hi Meredith, glad you like the site :) The point of going in at night is really for crated puppies. You can try going in to him after 4 hours or so, but if you put pads down he will have no incentive to ‘hold on’ and may use them soon after you go to bed. I don’t use this method, but if you use it, you don’t actually need to get up at night, as the puppy will be able to wee on the pads if he needs to. Pippa

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Amanda February 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Hi Pippa, our three and a half month old lab has run of the kitchen along with our 7 year old lab, however she does have a crate…. We are diligently taking her out every hour to hour and a half to toilet. If she doesn’t ‘perform’ we crate for 10 mins then take her out again – on a lead as the garden is not secure enough just yet… but, there are 2 issues. First what shoudl we do if she just wee’s or poo’s and then comes in to relieve herself all over the floor (and then eats it) believe me this happens in nano seconds and second, she puts the ‘brakes’ on when being taken out. Any ideas? She seems a little too clever for her paws at times :(

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Laura February 25, 2014 at 9:18 am

I have a 7 month black lab who is great in all cases except night time. During the day he is very house trained and can hold himself for hours. We let him out and he does his business. But on a night he becomes a little terror! Haha. put newspaper down and he understands that’s where he goes but he will not eliminate near where he as already done so. My kitchen is quite small so there is only limited space. He will wee on a tiny bit of paper but the rest of his.. mess will be all over the floor. He is also eating the walls and his bed even though I give him plenty of toys to occupy him. We also have two 2year old gold labs at my partners house and his behavior is reverting them two back to puppy stage! They now think it’s ok to eliminate during the night when they have been able to hold themselves for at least a year.

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Pippa February 25, 2014 at 11:01 am

Hi Laura, a crate at night will solve your problem. Pippa

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Laura February 26, 2014 at 6:30 am

Hi Pippa
I tried a crate before and he thought he was being punished for something he was scratching and biting and whining for the entire time he was in it. It is also not convenient when he sees the other dogs as they ‘torment’ him by dangling toys in front of him! We’ve tried separating them but that just causes more problems than solving any

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Megan March 1, 2014 at 2:05 am

Hi pippa!

We have a 3 month old black lab who we are crate training. She does well in her crate during the day and at night while we are asleep. We make sure and let her out within no longer than 4-5 hours even during the night, but she gets so excited when we let her out that she wees on the way out of the crate. Sometimes a small amount and sometimes she empties her bladder. Not sure what to do to fix this! Thank you!

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Pippa March 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

Hi Megan, its not uncommon for puppies to do this. It’s just her immaturity, and she will grow out of it. But if she can’t make it to the door, it can sometimes help to pick the puppy up and carry her outside. Pippa

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ashley June 28, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Hi Pippa, We have a 9 yr old female black lab, and 2- 14 week old male black labs. the pups are crated during various times within the day, and are taken out every 45-1 hr period for 10 mins and then at breakfast lunch and dinner are taken for a 20 min lead walk. At night they can go from 10.30 to 6.30 am with out weeing in the crate. however, despite the frequent trips outside and rewards and praise for weeing in the right spot…they are still weeing in the crate too…I suspect strongly it is mostly the more dominate pup of the two. I have 3 children and Im really finding it hard to cope , I am changing their bed constantly it feels. Im at the stage whereI feel I can’t go on with them. I feel so tied and thought they would be able to be wee free for more than an hour by now, its stopping me doing my work. I have an acre of garden and they are out side as I said every hr! where am I going wrong? Please help!

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Anne-Marie July 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Hi Pippa,
PLEASE help us. Our black lab is now 7 months old and not toilet trained. We crate her and also use a puppy pen. She hardly ever wets in these. She wees on command and gets praised. We try to remember to take her out every couple of hours but she gives us zero communication that she needs to go! We have huge glass window doors and she does most of the wees here. So she is clearly going to the door, but doesn’t whine, bark or anything else. If you don’t spot it….WEEEEEEEEEEE! The other thing that frequently happens is she seems to be like a little kid and totally forgets and then “oh I need wee now…RIGHT NOW…and big wee where ever she is. Of course now we are talking impressive puddles. She carries on to come in…barks, scratches the windows, taps etc…. But NOTHING when she needs to go out. AND if it is raining she doesn’t want to go out and do wee at all and will then wee on our veranda!! (This only happens in rain). Please help us to teach her to bark or SOMETHING so she can tell us to go out.

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Anne-Marie July 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I should also say she wees on command. Sometimes it takes a few minutes…so she knows about wee…. she just never tells us!

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Marjorie September 5, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Hi Pippa, I’m getting an 11 week lab next week and happily looking forward to having her, but with some anxiety as it’s been 15 years since I had a dog and I feel like a new mom! Hence love your site with all the useful info, thx. Question about training – will dogs only go in one spot, or will they accept two? I have an area in the garden by the side of the house she can use during the day, but it’s really dark at night with no lights, so I would like her to go in the front of the house at night. Will dogs use two different potty areas? Also, there’s a dog screen to the back so if her potty area is in the back, when she’s older will she let herself out to use the potty? Thx, Marjorie

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noomi September 25, 2014 at 11:44 pm

hi i have 49 days old labrador male house traning is going well but he bite lot some times hard and when i give him cammand (no) some time he get exited and fight back how chould i stop him from biting ? please help

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Maddie November 5, 2014 at 12:48 am

I have an 11 week old black labrador. He is very slightly mixed with a border collie. He has been doing better with potty training, but I’d like to train him to perform an action when he needs to pee. My friends dog rings a bell when he needs to pee. I’d like to teach that to my puppy. How?

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Dennis Jackson November 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm

We have just taken ownership of a 3 month old golden Lab, her name is tilly, she sleeps in a crate in the garage which adjoins our house it is also insulated, We leave the door to crate open with a enclosed area outside the door to the crate, this has newspaper on the floor, no mess in the crate however in the morning both wee and poo, she sleeps through from 10pm till 7am, is this quite normal.
She is just adorable and very calm.

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Pippa November 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm

She sounds very normal. :)

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Dennis Jackson November 13, 2014 at 9:47 am

could we give our 3 month old lab a raw egg in with her breakfast of pedigree puppy food

Thanks Pippa

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Sanjay November 15, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hi pippa,i hv a 2 month old female lab,she is always trying to bite my hands and foot.is dat a prblm??is der anythng to do to stop dis behaviour? Will she continue the same whn she get matured??

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jay November 20, 2014 at 12:30 am

Hey. We just rescued a 5 1/2 month old yellow lab. Spayed. Chock full of energy. We give her the run of the house while we are at work. She does great. No messes and no poop. As soon as we get home she will pee anywhere she feels like it. I take her out when I get home and play fetch for a while to wear her out. I see her go outside several times. But soon after she comes in she goes inside. What are we doing wrong?

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Pippa November 20, 2014 at 9:42 am

Hi, you need to start again as if she is a new puppy. As she is so young, you should make progress quite soon – I think this article will help you Help with potty training your Labrador

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Scott November 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm

We taught our lab puppy at 10 weeks of age to ring a bell that we hung on the back door. Within 24-48 hours, she had associated that bell with going out (though we still had some accidents until about 13 weeks of age). Now she rings the bell, we open the door, she goes out and does her business!

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Kyle McIntyre December 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Pippa,

My almost 11 month old female black lab still needs to go out every night at 1am no matter what time I let her out before i go to bed. I do feed her between 2-4am but she still always gets up at 1am no matter what. Anything I can do to get her to only get up once, the time of her feeding? She sleeps in bed with me and right now her schedule has been getting up at 1am to be let out, getting up between 2-4am to be fed and let out, then going back to bed with me till about 7:25am which she is let out again before I go to work.

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