"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Dog is afraid of eating and drinking out of a bowl.

– Posted in: Anxiety, Behavior Problems, Columns, Fear, Sounds, Thunder

[intlink id="2072" type="post"]Dog is afraid of eating or drinking from a bowl[/intlink]

Hello John,

Could you please help me figure out why for the last 3 years my 12 year old mixed black lab refuses to drink out of a bowl and now even a flat platter. She approaches her food bowl with fear as well. If there is even the slightest bit of noise or if her food drops on the plate (flat also) she cowers. She will eat snow, drink rain water off the deck and water from the bird bath.

Our vet said it was not uncommon for elderly dogs to do this. Because she has cataracts she explained it could be that she feels like she is going into a tunnel. I thought she would eventually get thirsty enough and succumb to the platter, but she circles around it and refuses, so I gave in and poured it on the floor where she lapped it up one glass after another. Is this just a bad habit? Should I just accept that she is old and continue with what I’ve been doing?

-Karen

Dear Karen,

When I first read this I found it mildly amusing. To hear of a dog with even a speck of Labrador Retriever being afraid to eat and drink is like finding a couch potato afraid of the remote. After a bit though I got to thinking were I in her paws and something was making me afraid to do something critical to my very existence it wouldn’t be so funny particularly considering how often she must face it.

Certainly something triggered this but what is moot. I’m betting this dog has other issues. Eccentricities that indicate a predisposition for anxiety. Thunder, fireworks, hot air balloon phobias for instance or just a nervous dog that when something scares her it sticks. In this case, the fact  that it’s associated around one of the basic necessities of life makes it likely that this is a “wiring” problem more so then cataracts alone.

If we were able to make it impossible for her to eat or drink any other way then out of regular bowls she would eventually succumb. I have never known a physically healthy creature to avoid water. Even animals that know full well there are crocodiles in the water will in spite of their fear drink when they must. However with your dog, even if I were willing to wait her out by making it impossible to otherwise get sustenance, what’s the point? She’s likely a dog predisposed to anxiety now going on 13, you’ve coped with this for 3 years, why not for a few more? Why put either of you through it. Besides, at 13 her kidneys may not be as efficient as they once were and it may be dangerous to wait her out.

If you want to try a couple of more things, see f she’ll chew on ice cubes.  Slightly more convenient and less messy for you. Or buy another bird bath made with the same material as the one she will drink out of but where the bowl is removable. After she’s been drinking out of that in the yard for a while. Bring the bowl part in and see what happens.

Trying her out on an anti-anxiety medication for 12 weeks might be worth a shot as well. For most behaviours you’d have to form a behavior modification plan as well but if we could calm her mind, I should think that the pleasure of eating and drinking would be enough positive reinforcement.

John Wade – www.askthedogguy.com

8 Comments… add one

Kimberly February 6, 2014, 4:03 pm

I have the same problem with my young 3 year old Shih-tzu. She is afraid to eat and drink from a plate/bowl of any material. We feed her straight on the floor. She even barks or growls at her water bowl. Sometimes she does get desperate and lap and then skit back. She will do that several times. Not sure what to make of it. Help?

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade February 9, 2014, 2:00 pm

How has she got by for water for 3 years? Does she have other issues?

Dale June 12, 2014, 6:30 pm

our 8 month old maltese that we got from a rescue all off a sudden has the same problem. He was eating and drinking fine from his bowls and now he is scared to death of them. He will eat the food off the floor with coaxing, and drink the water from a coffee mug and it takes a lot of coaxing for him to drink. Any sudden movement while he is eating or drinking and he freaks out. I don’t know what caused this or what to do. I wish I could send you a video of his behavior.

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade June 17, 2014, 5:28 pm

Hi Dale,

Here is the link for sending me videos. You will have to enter my email address, john@askthedogguy.com

I’ll have a look and get back to you.

John

Ashley June 17, 2014, 9:32 am

My chihuahua has the same problem he’s about 3 years old, we adopted him and have been trying to feed him out of different bowls or plates and the rattling noise seems to scare him and refuses to eat on his bowl.

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade June 17, 2014, 5:29 pm

Hi Ashley,

Did you just get him? Where? Did they have similar issues?

John

Chelsea September 13, 2014, 1:01 pm

My brother and his wife have a dog who is terrified of everything. Anxiety ridden. She is afraid of the water she drinks but will drink after much resistance. She also will urinate at the drop of a hat because of different fears and noises around the house. They refuse to seek the help of a trainer because they don’t believe in it. I have to live with the dog and want to help but am at a loss of what to do. I would hate living in fear like that and I’m sure it’s not enjoyable for her. Any advice? She is a rescue.

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade September 15, 2014, 12:29 pm

Hi Chelsea,

I agree that living in fear is not a state one should leave a dog when there are treatment options. This sort of problem requires a lot more background information before and advice can be provided. Did the rescue not provide any resources?

John

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