There are a few reasons dogs drink dirty water, none of which humans will probably understand upon initial observation. However, dogs typically exhibit behavior that makes complete sense to them, and when we look into why they’re doing it, it may also make more sense to us. 

The relationship between dogs and humans has obvious communication barriers. Still, because billions of households worldwide own at least one dog, we must try and understand why they behave the way they do. If you own a dog, chances are, you’ve asked yourself why does my dog drink dirty water, at least once. 

When we fully understand why our dogs are exhibiting certain behaviors, we have a better chance of knowing what they need or want. The communication is never seamless, but the attempt is what matters. Not only can you redirect undesirable or harmful behavior when you know it’s coming, but you can also begin to change it. 

Why does my dog drink dirty water?

Dogs drink dirty water for various reasons, often depending on the situation they’re in. Anyone who has ever had a dog that drinks dirty water knows how difficult it can be to get them to stop. 

Dogs that drink dirty water constantly can easily frustrate their owners because we know it’s not good for them to ingest contaminated water, yet that’s what they seem to want. No matter how much we scold, the behavior continues!

Getting to the root of the behavior is critical, and if necessary, professional training intervention. With a bit of work, you can get your dog to stop drinking gross water altogether. 

Your dog is thirsty

A thirsty dog will absolutely drink dirty water. If you’re out on a walk or hike and you come across a mud puddle, your pup will likely attempt to take a big gulp, even though you’ve probably already offered him fresh water. When you’re out and about, please do your best to keep your pup hydrated, allowing you to steer them away from dirty puddles and streams without fearing that they’re genuinely thirsty. 

Dogs are scavengers

The bottom line when it comes to dogs drinking dirty water outside, as though you’ve never given them a drink a day in their life, is that dogs are scavengers. Dogs love to walk around, nose to the ground, looking to take in as many calories as possible.

You have genetics to thank for this behavior, as the domestic dog is instinctually inclined to look for food and water even though we take care of those needs for them. When your pup happens upon a puddle, pond, lake, or toilet, they may attempt to take in as much water as possible to stay hydrated. The instinct is to take in food and water when to opportunity arises. 

Fortifying immune systems

If you find that your dog can’t get enough dirty water, such as constantly sneaking into the bathroom to drink from the toilet, they may be trying to fortify their immune system. Immune system fortification happens when a dog takes in calories that contain bacteria, such as feces or dirty water. 

Dogs that love to eat poop are trying to fortify their immune systems, and again, this behavior stems from instinct and genetics. When we feed our pups high-quality food, we give their immune systems everything it needs, but this is no match for thousands of years of evolution. 

Just as humans are equipped with the flight or fight response, even though we no longer really need it, dogs are always looking to take in calories or increase their immunity. Wild dogs are constantly preparing for times that get hard (drought, snow), so they get ready to stay full and prevent disease when they can. 

Hydration without chemicals

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, which means they can smell chemical alteration in tap water. While it may not be harmful, many dogs don’t like it and instead will turn to the toilet or puddles outside. If you notice that your pup has stopped drinking water after a family move, this might be the case!

What happens if a dog drinks dirty water?

In many cases, your pup will be fine, and the dirty water will feed the good bacteria in his gut. If he’s ingested quite a bit of contaminated water, you’ll want to contact your vet, mainly if your dog develops vomiting, lethargy, or diarrhea. 

The health of your dog will also depend on where your dog drank the dirty water. If it’s notorious for nasty bacteria and infected with animal or human feces, get your pup medical attention right away. Some water sources can be quite toxic to dogs, so read up on your local ponds and lakes, know what’s safe for your pup, and when in doubt, call the vet. 

What to do if my dog drinks rainwater?

Most dogs that drink rainwater will be just fine. Dogs do have a built-in defense system against harmful bacteria, just as humans do. Sometimes, taking in germs can help boost their immune system and keep them healthy. 

However, if your dog has taken in a considerable amount of rainwater and begins to act ill, call your vet right away for a urine, blood, and stool sample, which will diagnose the condition. 

Leptospirosis is a common condition that comes from drinking water contaminated with the urine of an animal that has the bacteria present in its body. Rainwater can definitely contribute to this condition. 

How to stop my dog from drinking dirty water?

Keep an eye on your pup at all times when he is outside. You must know where he goes and what he’s ingested, primarily if you don’t have a fence. On hikes and walks in the outdoors, offer your dog plenty of fresh water and steer them away from taking big gulps out of stagnant rivers, puddles, and ponds. 

However, it would help to avoid rewarding your dog when they drink dirty water and to give them rewards when they do not drink dirty water but they normally would.

It would also help to ensure that your dog has access to clean water whenever they might want it.

Much of this behavior is instinctual. Therefore, it can be hard to battle. Stay on top of it, and you’ll find that your dog will begin to resist even his favorite muddy puddles. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.