You do your best to make sure your dog is happy and healthy; this includes ensuring that your canine companion is fed and has a bowl of fresh water available at all times. It can be frustrating, then, when your dog gets into the habit of continuously flipping his food or water bowl over, pawing at his water bowl, or picking the bowl up and carrying it around the house.

While your dog’s behaviors may seem like a mystery, there is likely an explanation behind them. By having a better understanding as to why dogs flip their bowls, carry them around, or even dip their paws in their bowls, you can take corrective action to ensure that your dog is staying happily fed and hydrated.

Why does my dog flip his water or food bowl over?

You just gave your dog a full bowl of food or water, only for him to tip it over and spill it everywhere. How annoying! Why would your dog do this? There are a few possible explanations, actually.

Your Dog Wants Attention

As silly as it may seem, some dogs just like the attention they get from doing something sudden and messy (like knocking over a bowl of food or water). If your dog has gotten a strong reaction from you after tipping over a food or water bowl, there’s a good chance that he just wants to see you react again. This may be especially true if you were amused by your dog’s antics the first time or two that it happened.

Your Dog Senses a Threat or Problem

Dogs can be very territorial and cautious about where they eat and/or drink. This is an evolutionary survival habit that the species has acquired over the years. If your dog feels as though his or food or water is not safe, he may tip it over and spill it in an effort to let you know.

It could be that your dog simply doesn’t like the location of his food/water (perhaps it is too close to a perceived threat, such as another pet’s hangout), or it could be that your pet perceives that there is something wrong with the food/water itself.

Your Dog Has Picky Taste

While most dogs aren’t too picky about their food or water, some are. If your dog is repeatedly tipping over his food or water, there’s a good chance that he’s trying to tell you he doesn’t like it. This is more likely to be the case if you have recently switched your dog to a new food or if you’ve moved to a new place with a different water supply than what your dog was used to.

Something Else is Going On

If none of these explanations seem to apply to your dog, it is possible that something else is doing on. Your dog may be experiencing some discomfort from a tooth/oral problem while trying to eat or drink, for example. As a result, he may try to get your attention by tipping his food or water bowl over. 

How to Discourage the Behavior

So, what are some things you can do to discourage your dog from tipping over his food or water bowl? You might want to start with small, simple changes, such as switching to a different bowl. A bowl that is too large or small can be uncomfortable for your dog to eat or drink from.

If your dog seems to be tipping over his water bowl, then it could be that your dog prefers running water to stagnant water (which can be perceived as a threat). Fortunately, there are dog drinking fountains you can try to see if that resolves the issue.

If you think your dog has picky taste, try switching up your dog’s food to find something he likes better. If the water is the problem, you might consider filling your dog’s bowl with filtered or bottled water to see if that solves the behavior.

There are also non-tip bowls that are weighted in the bottom; this makes them more difficult for a dog to tip over and may be worth a try, as they can discourage the behavior. If none of these solutions makes a difference, then it may be time to see a vet so you can rule out any health problems causing the bowl-tipping.

Why does my dog pick up his water bowl?

Perhaps your dog isn’t tipping over his food or water bowl, but is instead picking it up and carrying it around the house. What could cause this behavior and what can you do about it? Let’s consider a few possibilities.

A Friendly Reminder

One of the most common reasons that a dog would carry his water or food bowl to you is to remind you that he needs fed or needs fresh water, If the bowl is empty and your dog is bringing it directly to you, this is most likely the case. It is possible that you’ve forgotten to feed your dog or that he is simply out of water and is requesting a refill.

Stress or Anxiety

Another possibility to consider is that your dog is picking up his food or water bowl out of stress or anxiety. Dogs are often emotionally attached to their food and water sources, so it makes sense that an anxious dog may pick up his food or water bowl in an effort to comfort himself when he is stressed. If your dog seems to engage more in this behavior while you’re away or while displaying other signs of stress, this is the most likely cause.

A Teething Puppy

If you have a younger dog who may still not have all of his teeth, there is also the possibility that your poor dog is teething. When teeth come in, this can cause a lot of discomfort and pain in the gums that may be relieved by biting down on something. As a result, your dog may be carrying his food or water bowl in his mouth in an effort to find relief from teething pains. It is possible that you might also catch your dog chewing on other things in your home for the same reasons.

How to Discourage the Behavior

If your dog is carrying his food or water bowl around and you want to discourage the behavior, there are a few things you can try (depending on the suspected cause). If you think your dog may be teething, then make sure he has access to plenty of other chew toys that he can use to get some relief. Soft, rubber toys tend to be the best options here. If your dog seems to be in serious discomfort from teething, consider talking to your vet to see if there is anything else you can try.

If your dog is bringing his empty food bowl to you on a regular basis, make sure that your dog is getting enough to eat. Check with your vet to find out exactly how much food you should be giving your dog each day. If your dog is getting enough to eat, it can be helpful to start feeding your pup on a set schedule so he has a general idea of when his next meal is coming. This can help to cut down on the unwanted behavior.

If your dog seems to be carrying his food or water bowl around due to stress, you’ll need to focus on reducing the source of the stress in your dog’s life. Separation anxiety is a common cause of stress in dogs, and there are plenty of steps you can take to help your dog overcome it. Of course, if all else fails and you’re still having trouble getting your dog to stop carrying his food or water bowl around, then it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with the vet to rule out other issues.

Why does my dog keep playing with his water bowl?

Your dog has plenty of toys; why does he insist on pawing or playing with his water bowl? As innocent as it may be, this behavior can be very messy and frustrating for dog owners. And of course, if your dog is spilling water while he is playing with his bowl, this can become a problem because your dog may then not have enough water to stay hydrated.

There are several possible reasons that your dog may be playing with his water bowl; the good news is that all of them can be addressed and resolved with the right corrective action and a little persistence. 

The Bowl is the Wrong Size

If your dog’s bowl is too small for his head to comfortably fit in, it is possible that your dog is pawing at his water and then licking his paws in an effort to take a drink. Even if your dog’s bowl seems large enough for his head to fit in, many dogs feel uncomfortable drinking or even eating from a bowl if their whiskers touch the sides of the bowl. In general, it’s best to air on the side of having a bowl that is too large rather than too small.

Your Dog is Being Playful

Many dogs simply enjoy playing in water. If your dog is not the type to shy away from water, this could be the case. It is also possible that your dog may be trying to get your attention in order to get you to play with him by pawing at his water.

Your Dog is Trying to Cool Off

If your dog is feeling overheated, it only makes sense that he will turn to a water source to cool down. If your dog seems to display this behavior when the temperatures are high, then it’s most likely that your dog is pawing at his water in an effort to stay cool.

There’s Something in the Water

Your dog could also be trying to tell you that there’s something wrong with his water by pawing at it. For example, if you keep your dog’s water near his food, there could be ants or other insects making their way into the bowl. This could be bothering your dog. It is also possible that your dog is seeing his own reflection in the water and that is getting him riled up!

How to Discourage the Behavior

Dealing with a dog that frequently paws at his water bowl can be messy and frustrating. There are some tips you can follow to try to discourage the behavior, though. If your dog seems to be struggling with a bowl that is too small to comfortably drink out of, then upgrading to a larger bowl may be all that is needed to stop the unwanted behavior. Ideally, your dog’s bowl should be large enough that he can comfortably eat or drink without his ears or whiskers touching the sides. Some dogs are pickier about this than others.

If your dog seems to paw at his water in warm weather, make sure your dog has other ways to keep cool. If your dog spends time outdoors, make sure he has access to a shaded area with plenty of cool water for a break from the heat. 

If your dog is pawing at the water because he is startled by his own reflection, it may be worth it to try a water fountain for your dog as opposed to serving stagnant water. Moving water can be more attractive to your dog, and may help to obscure his reflection as well.

Sometimes, simply discouraging the behavior by telling your dog to stop playing with his water bowl may be enough to break the habit. On the other hand, some dogs may actually be more likely to engage in the unwanted behavior if you call attention to it, so you will need to decide what the best course of action is. After all, you know your dog best!

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.