There are few things as frustrating as repeatedly coming home to a flipped water bowl. Why does your dog keep flipping is bowl? What’s going on when it does? Some dog behaviors are just mysterious, but usually there are a few specific reasons why a dog will paw its water. And luckily, they are issues that can be resolved.

Why does my dog paw its water?

First, let’s take a look at why a dog might paw its water. There are more reasons than you might think.

Your Dog Is Hot

Have you ever seen a bird taking a bath on a hot day? Your dog could be doing the same thing. Dogs regulate temperature primarily through panting and through their paws. A hot dog wants cool, wet paws. So, if your dog comes in from outside and immediately gets into or paws its water bowl, it’s because it’s too hot. This is often what’s happening if your dog “digs” at its water bowl. It’s just getting the nice, cool water on its paws rather than trying to make a mess. And because dogs have to thermo regulate or they get heat stroke, it may actually be necessary for the health of your dog (but that doesn’t mean it should continue to do so; there are better solutions).

Your Dog Doesn’t Like Its Bowl

If your dog hates its bowl, it’s likely to put its paws in. It’s possible the bowl is too small or tall and it feels uncomfortable putting its head into it. Some bowls, like plastic bowls, can become filled with bacteria over time and your dog may sense this and seek to take the water out of it. When in doubt, you can try a different bowl to see whether your dog might react any differently.

Your Dog Sees Something in the Water

Dogs may paw at water if they see something inside of it. It’s possible your dog dropped some kibble in or a treat that it’s trying to get out. With some dogs, it’s even possible that it’s seeing a reflection inside of its bowl that it’s trying to get to; not every dog is very bright. If your dog sees something in the water, it may bat at it once or twice, but it will probably learn eventually. 

Your Dog is Playing

Sometimes dogs display weird behaviors just because they’re playing. A dog might just play with their water if they’re feeling feisty or if they otherwise want your attention. If your dog doesn’t seem to be playing with their water for any good reason, it could just be that they are enjoying the reaction they get out of you.

Your Dog Doesn’t Like Where the Bowl Is

Dogs don’t have a lot of ways that they can move things. If your dog is trying to move its bowl somewhere else, it’s going to need to paw at it. This will usually happen if your dog feels uncomfortable or vulnerable drinking in a spot. It may be that the bowl is in a highly trafficked area or maybe it’s just too close to the cat. Whatever the situation, the best thing to do is move it to a quiet corner.

Dogs and cats alike actually don’t like to drink water where their food is. This is because water that has food next to it is usually contaminated; they’re breeding grounds for bacteria. So, a dog is likely to move its water bowl away from food, too.

Your Dog Has Learned the Behavior

A lot of dogs come back from the dog park with this type of water digging behavior. They see it from another dog and then they mimic it. The good news is that this isn’t harmful to your dog. The bad news is that it can be irritating to you. Usually in this case, you just need to redirect and correct your dog’s behavior. 

Because the reasons for pawing at water are so varied, the solutions must be varied, too.

How to stop my dog from playing in the water bowl?

You’ve checked the water and the water is fine. You’ve also made sure that your dog is the right temperature, that its environment is temperature-controlled, and that it isn’t too hot. So, how do you stop your dog from playing in the water bowl?

Get a Wide Bowl

 If the problem is that your dog keeps tipping over the bowl, get a wide-based bowl. These bowls flair out at the base, so they’re much harder for the dog to tip over. This isn’t going to solve any issues relative to the quality of the water (if your dog doesn’t like the water, it still won’t like the water), but it will resolve behavioral issues such as flipping over the water because your dog is bored.

Get a Water Fountain

If your dog doesn’t like stagnant water, it could be fixed with a water fountain. Do keep in mind that water fountains are higher maintenance because you have to regularly fill them and also change the water filters. Water fountains also need a power source to keep running. But they can be healthier for your dog because they encourage them to stay hydrated.

Get a Separate Bowl

Many pet stores sell combined food and water bowls but this is actually a bad idea. As mentioned, dogs hate it when food bowls and water bowls are next to each other, much less connected. Get separate food and water bowls if you currently have them combined and move them apart from each other, potentially even in other rooms.

Get Something to Put in the Water

If the problem is that your dog is inhaling water too fast or that your dog is digging all the water out of the bowl, you can buy special bowls that have maze patterns so that your dog can’t get it all. This may be important if your dog keeps digging water out and leaving itself with no water, because it is important for dogs to stay hydrated.

Get a Water Filter

Water filters might be necessary if your dog just hates the flavor of the water. You can use your water filter in your refrigerator to fill its bowl or you can use a filter attached to a pitcher to fill its bowl. Dogs are more sensitive to the flavor of water than people. Also, because of their smaller size, they can be more affected by impurities in tap water.

Get a Bigger Bowl

It’s possible your dog is uncomfortable using a smaller water bowl. If your dog doesn’t seem to drink water a lot and seems hesitant when it does, consider trying out a bigger bowl. A bigger bowl can also hold more water and be filled less frequently, so your dog will get more hydration throughout the day.

Get a Small Pool

If your dog appears to be getting into the water because they’re hot every day, consider a tiny dog wading pool. These pools tend to be very affordable and can be filled with water on a hot day so that your dog can splash around outside without disrupting anything inside. Over time, your dog will get the idea that certain water is okay for digging and other water is not.

It’s important that you make sure your dog has water at all times. Both cats and dogs can get dehydrated faster than we can, and they need water to regulate temperature. So, if your dog is regularly emptying out its water bowl, you have to find a solution as soon as possible.

Why does my dog keep flipping its water bowl?

What if your dog isn’t playing with their water but actively flipping the bowl over?

This can, again, be for a few reasons.

First, your dog could be detecting something wrong with the water. If the water doesn’t taste right to them, they may not want it. Hence, flipping the bowl. You can solve this by getting bottled or filtered water and seeing if there’s a difference in behavior.

Second, your dog may want fresh running water. Most animals have this inclination because stagnant water is dangerous. Getting a water fountain, as mentioned above, can help.

Third, your dog may be trying to get your attention. In essence, throwing a tantrum. If you give your dog attention every time it flips the water, it’s going to learn to do it and keep doing it.

Fourth, your dog may be trying to drink the water but may be uncomfortable. The bowl may be too small and may be irritating to use. It could even be a tooth issue. You should ask your vet.

For the most part, dogs aren’t going to flip their water supply for no good reason. So, it makes sense to take a deeper look.

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.