Last Updated: October 9, 2023
Imagine walking into a room to find your dog digging into their water bowl, creating a splashy mess.
Understanding this seemingly quirky behavior is not just about keeping your floors dry but also ensuring your furry friend stays happy and hydrated.
In this article, we will uncover the reasons why dogs dig in their water bowl and explore the various ways you can discourage your dog’s behaviour.
So, buckle up and get ready to unravel the mystery.
Why do dogs dig in their water bowl?
Dogs dig in their water bowl to cool down, have fun by splashing water, or sometimes because they feel bored or anxious. It’s important to understand and meet their physical and emotional needs to manage this playful yet messy behavior effectively.
Let’s explore this behaviour in detail.
5 Possible Reasons Dogs Dig In Their Water Bowl
Dogs, especially those with a hunting background, have an innate instinct to dig and protect their resources.
Their natural inclination to hide or bury their food, bones, or toys stems from their ancestors’ who used to hide their valuable resources from potential predators.
By digging in their water bowl, dogs mimic this ancestral behavior and believes they are keeping their stuff safe for future use.
You may also find your dog dig in the yard or in specific spots, trying to bury items or create a safe place for themselves.
This behavior allows dogs to satisfy their instincts and create a sense of security.
Dogs rely on their paws to regulate their body temperature.
Wetting their paws helps them cool down.
By digging in the water bowl, dogs wet their paws and transfer the coolness to the rest of their body.
You might notice this behavior during hot summer months when your dog struggles to stay cool.
They instinctively dig to unearth cooler layers underneath their water bowls.
Dogs sweat glands are not as effective as ours, so dipping their paws in water bowl is their way to beat the heat.
Another reason for digging in water bowls is they think the water on the surface of the bowl is warm or stale, and by digging, they will be able to reach the cooler water underneath or create a fresh drinking source.
This behavior is more commonly observed in dogs who have access to outdoor water bowls.
Dogs are playful and curious by nature.
Digging provides them with an outlet to satisfy their need.
They may dig in their water bowl simply because it’s fun for them.
Also, they see a reflection of themself so they try to catch it with their paw.
The sensation of digging and the movement of water provides them with mental stimulation and satisfy their natural instincts.
They may enjoy the texture and sound of water splashing as they dig their water bowl.
This behavior can be especially common in puppies who are exploring their environment and testing out various actions.
Anxiety, Stress, Boredom
Dogs, like humans, can experience anxiety or stress and may engage in certain behaviors as a way to cope.
Digging can be an outlet for them to release their pent-up energy and stress.
It may also be an indication that they are feeling bored and are looking for ways to occupy themselves.
Providing mental and physical stimulation through regular exercise, interactive toys, and positive reinforcement training can help alleviate feelings of boredom.
Additionally, creating a calm and safe environment for your dog can also reduce their anxiety.
Ensure that they have a designated space where they feel secure and comfortable.
This will help them relax and reduce the need for coping behaviors like digging.
Seeking Your Attention
Dogs are social animals, and they often seek attention from their owners.
Digging in their water bowl can be a way for them to get your notice.
If they see that you react when they engage in this behavior, they may continue doing it for your attention.
Tips To Stop Dog Water Bowl From Tipping or Splashing
Here are some tips you can follow to prevent your dog water bowl from tipping.
Secure Water Bowls
Keep water bowls secure so they don’t get knocked over during digging episodes.
Here are some tips to secure the water bowl:
- Stick velcro strips under the bowl so it sticks firmly to the mat or attach the bowl to the floor using strong suction cup. It provides a firm grip.
- Use a special stand to keep the bowl slightly off the ground.
- Place the water bowl inside a shallow box. It adds a barrier to water splashing and gives an extra layer to anchor the bowl down.
- Insert the water bowl inside a slightly larger, weighted bowl. It can catch splashes and add weight to deter tipping.
Use Heavy Or Non-Tip Water Bowls
Use heavy or non-tip water bowls as they are less likely to be moved or spilled.
These sturdy bowls are specifically designed to withstand your dog’s enthusiastic paws, ensuring a stable and secure base even amidst playful splashing.
They not only keep your floors dry but also ensure consistent availability of water, undisturbed by your pet’s playful or explorative nature.
Place Bowls on Non-Slip Surface
Place the bowl on non-slip surfaces like rubber mats, silicone trays, or specially designed pet feeding mats that provide grip and catch any stray splashes.
This helps in keeping the water where it’s meant to be – in the bowl, not on your floor – even when your pooch enthusiastically paws at it.
Such strategic placements protect your floor from water damage while also providing a safe drinking spot for your pet.
How to prevent your dog from digging in the water bowl?
If you’re dog likes to dig, creating a splashing mess your first step should be to observe when and why your dog tends to dig in the water bowl.
Is it due to heat, boredom, or another reason?
After that use any of the below tips to discourage this behaviour.
Create a Doggy Digging Zone
Provide appropriate outlets for your dog’s digging instincts.
Create a digging area in your yard where your dog can dig.
This can be a section of loose soil or a sandbox filled with sand.
Bury toys and treats as this will encourage your dog to dig where you want them to.
Praise them when they dig there.
Consistency is key, so make sure to redirect your dog to the designated area whenever they start digging elsewhere.
Introduce interactive toys or puzzles to keep your dog engaged and mentally stimulated.
These toys can distract your dog and redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity.
Give them Kong chew toys stuffed with their favourites to grab their attention.
Additionally, you can engage them in other indoor activities like fetch, treat search, obedience training sessions (like “stay”, “come”, “lie down” and “don’t dig”), mini obstacle courses, petting sessions like butt scratch, ear rub, belly rub, gentle stroke on their back and a comforting conversations so that they feel engaged and loved.
Keep Them Cool
If your dog is digging in water bowl to cool itself, you can provide them a kiddie pool or cooling mat.
You can also consider turning on the air conditioner after walk or install a fan to allow your dog to cool down in summer days (it worked wonders for my dogs.) if you lack space.
Establish a Routine
Keep your dog mentally and physically active.
Provide plenty of opportunities for play, exercise, and mental enrichment.
A tired and content dog is less likely to engage in destructive behaviors like digging.
Whenever they approach the water bowl and don’t dig, shower them with praise or toss them a treat.
You can also call them to you when you see that they are in a playful mode ready to dig.
Positive reinforcement can gently steer them away from their water aerobics.
Be observant of your dog’s behaviour, you do not want them to stay thirsty. Maybe they just want to drink water so use positive reinforcement wisely.
Potential Health Issues That Causes Dogs To Dig In Their Water Bowl
While digging in the water bowl is often attributed to behavioral aspects or natural instincts, there are some health issues or discomforts that might prompt your dog to dig or paw at their water dish.
Seek professional help from a certified dog trainer or vet if the digging behavior persists.
They can offer personalized advice and strategies to address the issue effectively.
Here are a few potential health-related reasons:
Dogs experiencing discomfort from paw irritations, allergies, or other skin conditions might subconsciously seek relief by soaking their paws in cool water.
Excessive thirst, possibly stemming from dehydration or conditions like diabetes, can lead to obsessive behavior around their water bowl.
Pain or Discomfort
If your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort, they may engage in unusual behaviors, such as digging in their water, as a way to cope or distract themselves.
Dogs with declining vision might paw at the water to better understand its location and level before drinking.
Older dogs might start displaying peculiar behaviors due to cognitive dysfunction, which is somewhat similar to dementia in humans. Pawing at water might be a manifestation of confusion or anxiety.
If lacking certain nutrients, your dog may develop peculiar behaviors, such as obsessive digging, as a form of pica (craving non-food substances).
In some cases, dogs with nausea or other gastrointestinal issues might display unusual behaviors, including around their water bowl, as they might be attempting to provoke vomiting or alleviate discomfort.
Psychogenic Abnormal Water Drinking
This is a rare behavioral condition where they interact with water in unusual ways, such as excessive drinking or strange behaviors like digging in their water bowl, not because of a medical issue but potentially stemming from stress, anxiety, or environmental changes.
Are there specific breeds more prone to this behavior?
Yes, certain breeds might be more prone to digging in their water bowls due to their natural instincts, historical roles, or behavioral tendencies. For instance:
Historically, terriers were bred for hunting and burrowing after underground prey, making them more inclined to dig as part of their inherent behavior.
Similar to terriers, dachshunds were also bred for hunting burrow-dwelling animals, which might explain an inclination towards digging behavior.
Huskies and Malamutes
These breeds are known for their pawing and digging behaviors, which might extend to their interactions with water bowls.
Labradors and Golden Retrievers
Labradors and Golden Retrievers love water. This might sometimes be demonstrated through playful splashing in their water bowls.
Highly intelligent and energetic, they might engage in digging in water bowls if under-stimulated or bored.
Energetic and playful, boxers might engage in water bowl digging as a playful act or if they’re bored.
Remember that individual personalities and experiences also influence a dog’s behavior.
A dog of any breed can exhibit water bowl digging behaviors due to a myriad of reasons like boredom, curiosity, or even medical issues as discussed above.
Always observe your dog’s behavior and overall demeanor and habits to ensure they are healthy and adequately stimulated both mentally and physically.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe for my dog to play with water?
Yes, it’s generally safe for dogs to play with water, as long as they don’t ingest excessive amounts. However, it’s essential to ensure they have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
How can I keep my dog hydrated despite their digging behavior?
You can keep your dog hydrated by monitoring their water bowl and refilling it as needed. Providing a separate play area with water for them to enjoy may also help.
Can using a larger water bowl help?
Using a larger water bowl can sometimes help mitigate the digging and splashing behavior in dogs.
1. A larger surface area might satisfy your dog’s curiosity without leading to splashes.
2. Your dog might dig less if the water is not easily displaced due to the sheer volume of a larger bowl.
3. Larger bowls tend to be heavier, especially when filled with water, potentially making it harder for dogs to tip or move them during their digging adventures.
4. Sometimes, dogs dig to make the water move so it’s easier to see and drink. A larger bowl might make the water more visually apparent and accessible.
However, it’s crucial to observe and ensure that a larger bowl does indeed decrease the unwanted behavior and doesn’t inadvertently encourage more vigorous digging due to the increased water volume.
Additionally, make sure that the bowl is still easy for your dog to drink from – it should be low enough to the ground that your dog does not have to strain to use it.
It is important to recognize that digging behavior can stem from various reasons such as boredom, anxiety, or even natural instincts.
You can apply several effective strategies to manage this behavior – providing alternative outlets for digging, offering mental and physical stimulation, and reinforcing positive behaviors.
These measures not only divert your dog’s attention from the water bowl but also helps alleviate the root cause of the digging behavior.
However, remember that each dog is unique and what works for your neighbour’s dog may not work for yours.
Be patient and try different methods until you find the most suitable one for your furry companion.
If your dog’s digging in water bowl persists despite these efforts, seeking professional help.
A veterinarian or animal behaviorist can provide expert guidance and individualized solutions to address the behavior effectively.
Remember, the sooner the issue is addressed, the better it is for your pet’s overall well-being.