How can I stop my dog from drinking so much water?
My dog has a drinking problem. No, not that kind of problem. Ace does like booze, but we’ll save that for another post 🙂
What I’m referring to is Ace’s obsession with drinking water, and how I’ve managed to train him to think he’s not supposed to drink any water at all.
Ace came to me with a few OCDs – retrieving and drinking. He does not have an “off switch” and will literally keep on drinking water until it’s gone unless someone takes it away or tells him to stop.
He has drank an entire toilet bowl of water on several occasions, and he throws up almost every day from drinking mass amounts of water so quickly. I’ve seen him try to drink all the water from our kiddie pool and all the water from my mom’s fountain.
My “command” for Ace to stop drinking water has always been “that’s enough!” This works, but his obsession is so bad that I have to say it in an angry voice in order for him to “hear” me. Usually I actually am mad because I’m sick of cleaning up his drool and puke 🙂
I was sitting on the couch recently and Ace was lying on the floor crying. I could not figure out what the big baby wanted. I took him outside and he didn’t have to go.
Sometimes he cries if he’s hungry or if he wants to play ball, but he had already eaten and there wasn’t a tennis ball in sight. Then I realized he was facing his full water dish.
My dog was crying because he thought he couldn’t drink water without my permission!
I said “OK!” and he ran over and tried to drink the whole bowl.
My dog thinks he has to wait for a command to drink. Or, he waits until I leave the room and he can “sneak” some water.
My dog is obsessed with food, too
I’ve always made Ace wait until I say “OK” before he eats, and now he thinks the same concept applies to drinking. This doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but the second I go upstairs or into the garage, I can hear Ace run to his bowl and try to drink all the water as fast as he can before I get back! I’ve made my dog’s water obsession even worse.
Ace will eat any amount of food I give him. My dog is always hungry. If I were to give him six cups instead of his usual 1.5, he would eat the entire 6 cups. If I spilled a whole bag on the ground, Ace (and a certain fat cat I know) would attempt to eat every last piece.
Dogs are dependent on us and conditioned to eat whatever we put in front of them. They do not stop to think about the amount of food. They just eat whatever is there because it’s there.
My dog is the same way with water. He doesn’t understand the concept of drinking until he is no longer thirsty. He only knows to drink until the water is gone. If I fill the bowl up again, he drinks it all immediately.
How to stop my dog from drinking so much water
Since “correcting” Ace for drinking too much water has confused him, a better approach for this case is to use positive reinforcement. I will reward him whenever he walks away from the bowl on his own before the water is gone. The reward could be food or a tennis ball or maybe a walk.
This won’t happen naturally at first. Instead, I’ll “just happen” to have some treats in my hand when I fill his water bowl. We’ll see what happens!
Techniques that did not work to stop my dog from drinking too much water
1. Using a command stop my dog from drinking water
Using the command “that’s enough!” to signal Ace to stop drinking is not a solution to the problem because this makes him dependent on me to tell him when to stop drinking. If I’m not in the room, he drinks the whole bowl. It does work as a temporary solution if I happen to be in the same room. I usually say “that’s enough” followed by “go to your bed.”
I chose not to use “leave it” or “no” because I didn’t want Ace to think water is totally off limits. Obviously this didn’t work because my dog thinks “that’s enough” means “don’t you dare drink water in my presence.”
2. Keeping a giant bucket of water available at all times
With a ton of water always available, I was hoping Ace would realize the water wasn’t going anywhere so there would be no need to drink it all. This idea did not work since Ace believes all water is meant to be consumed immediately. When I left the whole bucket out, he tried to drink all the water and I had to eventually say “that’s enough.”
Some pet might prefer to drink from a fountain. See my PetSafe Drinkwell pet water fountain review.
3. Using a water bottle
I received a travel water bottle for Ace designed to hang inside his kennel (thanks, Tawna!). The water bottle is a large version of what a hamster uses to drink from. It’s designed so the dog can drink from the “straw” without spilling water in his crate. It also requires the dog to drink very slowly.
I tried using this as Ace’s only water source for a few days but he didn’t use it often enough, and he wasn’t getting enough water. It made him even more obsessive when I finally did put a bowl out again.
4. DogPause bowl
The DogPause bowl (pictured, top) is designed to slow the dog down while eating, and it is what I use for Ace’s water.
The bowl is divided into four compartments so Ace has to drink each one, pausing between each. He still drinks the entire bowl, but it does slow him down slightly. You may be interested in my review on the DogPause Bowl.
A dog’s water obsession could be a sign of a physical problem
I do want to mention that if your dog suddenly starts drinking a ton of water, it could be a sign that something is physically wrong, especially if this is not normal behavior for him. Drugs like prednisone make dogs extremely thirsty, and increased thirst can also be a symptom of kidney issues or diabetes. Talk to your dog’s vet if you have any concerns.
I talked with Ace’s vet about his water issue, and we concluded that it is most likely just another one of his OCDs. Now that I’ve put more thought into it, I’d like to talk to the vet again and consider some tests just to make sure.
Do you have any ideas for stopping a dog from drinking so much water?
Have you unintentionally trained your dog to do (or not do) something?
Let me know in the comments!
Aug. 9, 2011 update: Ace drinks less water these days as long as I keep a big bowl of water available at all times. He still drinks a lot of water at once, but he’s less obsessive about drinking the whole bowl.
As long as there’s always water available, he doesn’t try to drink it all at once. I still have to tell him “that’s enough” sometimes. And if he’s had a lot to drink, I have him stay on his dog bed for a good 20 minutes. This has decreased his throwing up almost completely. Instead of cleaning up dog puke every day, I clean up dog puke about twice a month.
2018 update: Sadly, Ace has passed away but he lived a long, happy life.