"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Water Bowl Fear

– Posted in: Behavior Problems, Columns, Newsletters
water bowl fear

I have a lab/pit mix afraid of water. He’s two and for about a year or so he has been terrified of his water dish. His water bowl fear leaves him absolutely mortified. He eats his food just fine if it’s not next to his water dish, but if the water dish is present, he struggles. He creeps towards the dish crouching in fear when he’s thirst and stretches his neck long to take a few drinks and then he will dash away from it.

I know hes not drinking enough water. Sometimes I will hold the bowl for him and it helps as he’ll drink as long as he can stand to. I can tell he’s very very thirsty. It’s like I am protecting him from from the dish. If he tries to go to the dish on his own I will try to be reassuring and tell him, “good boy” as he approaches it, but 9 times out of 10 he will give up and run back to his bed. Its heartbreaking and I dont know what to do. We have swapped out his bowl three times. Tried different sizes. I have put food in his water, but after he gets the food, he retreats.

Admittedly we live in a small apartment and I work full time and my husband works out of town. We also live in a climate with a very cold winter so outdoor play is lacking. We are moving soon to a warmer state with a big, big yard so any anxiety that he has will soon be helped, but I just don’t see why it would be a factor.

Thank you for your time.

-USA

Dear USA,

I don’t think his lack of outdoor access during winter is directly behind your dog’s water bowl fear. Exercise of a cardio vascular nature is relatively speaking something very few dogs actually get (walking with their owners isn’t what I mean by cardiovascular exercise – http://www.askthedogguy.com/dog-walking-wrong/). However, cardio is in my view, certainly a way to help improve a dog’s ability to cope with stress. In any event, it can’t hurt but I doubt it will impact this water bowl fear behaviour.

The first thing that comes to mind is wondering what would happen if you did the reverse and poured some water into his kibble bowl? Just a bit at first, a bit more a few days later, etc.

Water Bowl Fear Video

Take some video of him in action. It will make a great addition to the archive I’m putting together. I’d like to see video as well of how he reacts when you try adding water to his food bowl. I’m hoping if enough people do so, I’ll see a pattern. Water bowl fear is a puzzling problem and far more common then I’d suspected. I get a lot of email and videos about it.

You can send the video to me using www.wetransfer.com by addressing it to the same email address I’ve used to correspond today. Add in the message line – water bowl fear. It’s a free service, you don’t need to register or anything. Sent as an email attachment sometimes works depending on the size of the video.

-John

Reply – Dear John,

I will record him and get that video to you as soon as I can. Its quite sad.

I will also try the water in his kibble bowl.

Thank you so much.

-USA

2 Comments… add one
Cora

My poodle does the same thing with her water bowl. She is very afraid of it. She is also afraid of threshholds, lines on the tile floor and grass but especially her water and food bowl. Since she was a puppy she has had this reaction.(9 now) She refuses to eat food out of a bowl, saucer etc. what is she seeing that makes her fear these things ? Can you help ?

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

Hi Cora,

Might not be what she sees, but what she doesn’t see. Have you had her vision checked? Send some video of her behaviour in these various instances as perhaps many eyes on her will lead to some clues.

John

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