Holding the dog over the toilet, yes or no.
August 29, 2013 7:29 PM   Subscribe

100% hypothetical question. I saw a tiny dog being walked today who couldn't have weighed more than 10 pounds. I wondered if such a tiny creature had to be walked at all, couldn't you just train it to go when you held it over the toilet, if it was going to remain tiny for its entire life? Please note I'm not planning to do this. I just want to know if it would be possible. I don't have a dog, and I don't want to have a dog, toilet-trained or not. This is just not an easy or quick thing to google because people use "toilet/potty training" to describe general housebreaking. Thanks for any insight you can provide.
posted by bleep to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The size of the dog is not actually the limiting factor in the whole dogs don't use toilets thing.

In theory you could train a dog to do anything it is physically possible for a dog to do, I guess. But "while being held in the air" is not exactly a position in which dogs are going to be naturally inclined to poop.
posted by ook at 7:35 PM on August 29, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yes it can be done.
But dogs like walks!
posted by bebrave! at 7:36 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

I can't imagine any dog being able to poop or pee without their feet on the ground. Getting into position seems to be part of it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:39 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I guess it could be done, in theory. The dog would have to like being held out at arm's length and most dogs don't really care for that, though.

I've known a couple comedians who have taught their dogs to pee in hotel bathtubs.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:40 PM on August 29, 2013

Dogs bowels are also stimulated by walking, so sure, in theory... but in theory, communism works.
posted by canine epigram at 7:48 PM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

My dog is litter box trained. He looooves poopin inside. He will only poop outside under duress, or if he's been running around a lot. In the first 6 months of his life he only pooped outside three times.

He's also very particular about pooping. If we are outside and someone other than me is watching him, he'll stop pooping. (This used to be less of a concern for him, but one time he decided he needed to poop while we were walking by Murderdog's house, and he got sneak-attack barked at mid poo and he's been suspicious ever since.) If anyone talks to him while he's pooping or setting up for a poop, he'll stop. If his litter box is too dirty or already has a poop in it, he'll refuse to go.

What I'm getting at is that I'm pretty confident that my dog could eventually learn to poop on the toilet, given some sort of toilet-dog coupling system. But I don't think there'd be any chance of him ever pooping while being held. He just values his independent pooping time too much.
posted by phunniemee at 7:49 PM on August 29, 2013 [21 favorites]

Part of the fun of having dogs is walking them. Even little ones. They're all " outside! I'm outside! I love outside!" It's awesome.
posted by sweetkid at 7:53 PM on August 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

It's possible to toilet train a cat, and most dogs are much easier to train than dogs. So, I bet it's possible to toilet train a dog. But - dogs need walks for exercise, not just doing their business.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:55 PM on August 29, 2013

The primary purpose of walking a dog isn't them using the bathroom. It's getting them outside, and letting them run around and sniff things and be social and explore. This is sort of like asking if you could raise a baby entirely with robots in an incubator. Probably, yes, but you'd likely have other more serious problems.

That said, i once got me and my roommates 35+lb dog to pee while i was holding him out at arms length. So i think you could probably do it if you really wanted to.

although that dog kinda resents me now >_>
posted by emptythought at 7:59 PM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

My dog weighs 4 pounds. If she didn't go outside for walks, she would rip the house apart in boredom. In very tiny bites, mind you, and it would take a while. But she really really needs the outdoors. Also, walks are important to keep her socialized so she doesn't turn into one of those fear-crazed dogs that snarl and snap at you from their owner's arms... that ain't right.

But in theory, I suppose toilet training is possible. Dogs are certainly clever enough.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:01 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know about just holding it over the toilet, but I imagine that you could rig something like City Kitty for a dog.
posted by radioamy at 8:04 PM on August 29, 2013

I suspect from the universality of how dogs hunch their backs to poop that they need to push against something in order to bear down to move the poop out (unlike, say, a goat where the poop just sort of falls out of the anus like jelly beans on a conveyor belt). So, for a dog, maybe not while suspended in mid-air but with a proper platform built around the rim*, it could be taught to poop in a toilet bowl.

*Cats can do this from an unmodified toilet seat because of their superb balance and soft, grippy paw pads. Dog pads tend to be harder and not as grippy on slick surfaces, as my Lab demonstrates almost every morning when he skids across the kitchen tile.
posted by jamaro at 8:05 PM on August 29, 2013 [14 favorites]

Dogs have been trained to walk on two legs. Anything is possible, I guess. Dogs (well, except for mine) are eminently trainable.

But if you've ever owned a dog or spent much time around them, you'd realize that pooping and peeing are about more than evacuating their bowels and bladder. Peeing is marking territory. And my dogs are very particular about where they poop, they'll turn around and around until the spot is just right. So no, I don't think toilet training (dangling in the air? seriously?) would be acceptable or humane.

And they don't just go on command. I would suspect as well that holding them over the commode would not be good for them; the ONLY way you'd get a dog to pee while dangling in the air is when it's bladder was over-full in a medically acute way, and that would be abusive.
posted by Unified Theory at 8:10 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

And they don't just go on command.

Actually, it's relatively easy to train most dogs to eliminate on command - it is a common technique for dogs who need to focus in the show/agility/freestyle ring. Indeed, "housebreaking" is generally an unintentional form of this. But I've never heard of training a dog to eliminate while suspended.
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

using a puppy pad would probably be easier if the dog knows how to use it. mine doesn't have a clue what it's for. silly dog. anyway, dogs need exercise, fresh air and time to socialize with their fellow dog friends so w-a-l-k (don't even type it--he'll know and come begging for another) is still a good thing.
posted by wildflower at 8:30 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Adding another vote to the "Yes you can train them to go on command" responses. I just lost my service dog (seizures) in June, and this is one of the first commands they learn. I can't imagine not having it.
posted by whowearsthepants at 8:48 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've negotiated a schedule and hand signals with my pooch in these matters.

Her meals are timed and measured. (4 oz/day in 2 ea. 2 oz. feedings, about 12 hours apart. Beagle. 20 pounds, depending on her success at raiding anything not guarded with a gun. Smells like death. Has the breath of a dragon. She's my backup protein source for the end times. I secretly look forward to Armageddon.) The math of this is that she produces approximately 4 oz of dog poop per day, an amount I calculate will not cause beagle overflow if purged in 24 hour cycles. I sometimes fantasize about having no dog, and simply putting 4 oz. of food per day in a pile in the yard. It is a valid concept with many tradeoffs.

Mostly, she's indoors. She is motivated by food to a degree you'd find hard to believe, so dinner is served up BEFORE the trip outside. I make a big production of it. Noisy pour into her metal dish. Lots of verbal reminders that it's dinner time. She knows it's waiting once she does her trick. In the AM, I simply let her outside (the only time she's allowed out without a leash and for the specific purpose of urination. Takes 30 seconds and I monitor her position. Very infrequently, she'll short cycle, but normally, she's cooperative and eager to get back in.

In the PM, I walk her to season-specific places in my yard where pickup is not an issue. This is a longer affair, but only in the summer/fall/spring and still... over in minutes. We do not come back in until both reservoirs have been drained and there are reminders from me of why we're outside. It's work, not fun. Often, I'll run through her trick inventory just to remind her what they all are. Takes a few minutes. Again, she's motivated and cooperative. It's a little game.

In the 11 months of winter here in Vermomt, I let her out loose-but-closely-observed in the PM, too, and a larger motivational gradient is established via the cold. She often tries to scam me into letting her back in with only half the job done, but i knock on my glass door, point back outside and send her off until she complies with the second half of the order. It's funny to watch us because we really do have a little hand signal based argument I always win.

Wife will try every now and then to manage the beast and the beast takes her for a ride. I can take her out two minutes later and achieve all objectives. Every time. Clockwork. It's ridiculous. (Hierarchy here in the dog's mind is Me (Big Dog with Opposable Thumbs and Punishment Devices), Dog (AKA Shark Bait, tho wife calls her Tippy), several empty places, Wife (Lackey Safely Ignored). Temporary appointments to Big Dog are granted by the beast when any random human with food appears. These are short lived. )

So, could I toilet train her? Sure. Cats do it. God I love cats and please don't tell anyone I said this but they aren't as smart as dogs. You could train the right dog to pee in a Coke bottle and poop in a shoe box. Don't ask me how I know.
posted by FauxScot at 11:02 PM on August 29, 2013 [14 favorites]

If my (non-tiny) dog is in any way typical, it's just not that easy to control when and under what circumstances a dog urinates/defecates.

I feel like I'm doing great having a dog that doesn't poo or pee in the house, ever. But I'm pretty sure that if I were big enough to hold my (amazingly well house trained!) dog over the toilet, I would stand there FOREVER and he'd just never go. Because that's not how dogs go. And while dogs are very trainable, I feel like the spirit-breaking required for this particular task would be inhumane.

It's like if an alien came and dangled you upside down in midair in hopes that you'd pee. You might pee eventually due to loss of bladder control, but it's not really how humans want to do it. Likewise for holding a dog over the toilet.

Besides which, my dog will only poop at the furthest point from any garbage can. And I have a garbage can next to my toilet. Which makes it the least likely place for him to ever poop. Now that I think of it, this is probably why he never goes in the house at all. Cleanup would be too convenient. It just isn't a proper poop if I don't have to carry a sack of shit five blocks.
posted by Sara C. at 11:10 PM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

TPS: I can't imagine any dog being able to poop or pee without their feet on the ground.

This may be stretching the bounds of relevance, but my dog frequently lifts both rear feet off the ground when urinating, balancing on her front paws. Looks like some sort of yoga. Poop, however, is dealt with more conventionally.
posted by jon1270 at 3:39 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

My dog will only poop in Camelot. No, really, a mile from our house is a street named Camelot (which connects Arthur and Lancelot Court). Early on living here she was on a walk and pooped on the corner of Camelot and Lancelot. She now insists on walking to Camelot for any poop related activities. Thankfully, the King of Camelot has left it as an unmaintained lot and doesn't seem to mind that the dog is pooping in his realm (we do, of course, bring the poop back home to Beulah (no, not my wife's name, that's the road we live on). Once in awhile she elects to not poop on Camelot and, instead, poops on the way there on Neil (evidently a lesser known Knight I've not heard of). She does, however, consent to pee in the back yard on Sarah (yes, it's a street name).

I'll agree with those that say that the purpose of taking a pup on a walk to do these chores is as much about the walk as the product thereof. A tired dog is a happy dog.

/has never before used the word "poop" seven times in any other comment on MetaFilter, but will attempt to do so again in the future.
posted by HuronBob at 4:32 AM on August 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

My dog doesn't even like to be picked up. This would not work for me. Thankfully.
posted by sm1tten at 5:31 AM on August 30, 2013

Depends on the dog. My parents' dog won't poop if you're watching (walks excepted). You have to let him out in the backyard and then turn your back or walk away and trust that he has done his business. We like to say he gets stage fright.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:01 AM on August 30, 2013

My wife a certified, soon-to-be-boarded (knock wood) veterinary technician of 20 years likes to joke about chihuahuas and teacup poodles that they are great dogs for apartment living because you don't have to take them for a walk, you just hold them out the window and squeeze.

I'd give the following degrees of difficulty in training (on a scale of 1=natural instinct, 10=police dog):
Housebroken (pee and poop outside only) = 2
Litter box trained = 5
Toilet trained (given some sort of mechanism for them to stand on the toilet) = 8
Hold over the toilet trained = 10

I wonder if with a really large dog, like a Dane or Wolfhound, you couldn't just train them to squat over the toilet?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:50 AM on August 30, 2013

The squatting position is actually very important to the process, as I found out when my dog developed degenerative myelopathy and was no longer able to squat well. The so called "defecation posture" is necessary for the dog to fully relieve itself. It can go a little bit in other positions, but its colon will basically be full all the time, and it will probably start having accidents (i.e. it will still feel the need to go after pooping a little bit over the toilet, and will understandably go squat somewhere on its own to go completely).

If you could train the dog to squat over the toilet, it would probably be OK... but exercise is also necessary. Like others have said, what's the point of owning a dog if you don't like walking with it?
posted by Kriesa at 8:24 AM on August 30, 2013

Our dog could never poop in one place. He do that squat, poop a little bit, take two steps forward, poop another little bit, two more steps forward, and so on. Cleaning up after him was always tricky because it was too easy to step on a poop while picking up another one. We came to call this "the trail of tears."

Also, our dog was a 115 pounds most of the time, so picking him up and holding over the toilet so would not be an option.

Also, most disgustingly, he loved to drink out of the toilet, so I'm sure he would have been quite unwilling to poop in it, ever.
posted by ambrosia at 11:15 AM on August 30, 2013

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