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

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

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 rainwater 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?



(Monday, September 17th, 2018)

I will shortly be looking for volunteers to test a theory I have as to what is causing this issue with at least some of the dogs. It may provide a potential and relatively simple and inexpensive treatment. (Or it may be a dead end.) It’s going to take me a while to find the time to get everything written out. Please be patient.

– John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade

Embracing Science and Common Sense

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 –

Much to my surprise, based on the comments and private emails I receive this problem is more common then I would ever thought. I’m beginning to develop a theory as to why. I need to see some video of dogs refusing to eat and owners attempts to encourage them. So feel free to send. If the file is to large send to my email by uploading to It’s a free service that works simply and well.

Here are some of the videos sent in so far (and comments below the videos):

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296 thoughts on “Dog is afraid of eating and drinking out of a bowl.”

  1. Kimberly

    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?

      1. Laura Cole

        I have a toy Pomeranian who has always been fearful of eating out of her food bowl and drinking water. Ever since I brought her home has a tiny puppy she has been afraid of movement of the food in the bowl, Movement of water in the water bowl, Shadows in the kitchen area caused by her own body, I have radiators that make noises when they turn on and there is one in the kitchen that when the heat goes on in the winner she refuses to go into the kitchen. She is afraid of the Refrigerator noise and my water cooler noise as well. I have to stand over her in order for her to eat and I switched to making my own homemade dog food because she was afraid every time she crunched Kibble in her teeth. She loves going for rides and going outside and she barks like a ferocious dog at anyone who walks by. She is not afraid of people or going to places. Yet feeding her is a chore. As far as drinking water I have to give it to her in a small tiny dish and hold it for her or give her water in a Dixie cup. She refuses to drink out of the community water dish used by my other dog and the cats. It’s actually quite ridiculous how I’ve had to cater to her her whole life but if I didn’t she would never eat or drink water. I have never been able to figure out why she has always been like this.

      2. My 11 months old pincher is afraid to drink and eat from her bowls. She barks to them a lot. Do not know what to do? By the way she is afraid of the busses too….

    1. Erin Mantle

      Was just wondering if you ever figured out anything that helped your dog. I have a 10 year old Shih tzu that does the exact same thing. He will go outside and stand in the sprinklers while they are all on to get a drink, but has a hard time with his water bowl.

      1. Hi Erin,

        Nothing yet. I have some ideas but I’m going to need to create a research on-line survey and “things to try and report back” survey for people to fill out. I have to software in place but I don’t have the time yet to create the forms myself. Unless I get some help from someone familiar with the software I’m using it will be a while as I have too many other projects on the go right now. I hope to find the time soon as this is a puzzle that I would really like to solve.


        1. I have a five-year-old Chihuahua mix that has just started being so scared of her food and water to the point that she will go all day without eating or drinking! We kept thinking it might be the mat we had it on, so we changed that. It didn’t help. We changed the bowls we fed & watered her out of but that didn’t help either. I have been experimenting different ways to encourage her to eat and drink again & tonight I squatted beside her, petting her & talking to her. She finally ate. I also started her on two Bach Flower Remedies to see if that will help. I feel like she has suddenly developed some kind of anxiety issues. Before this started, she was pretty aggressive and not scared of much, other than thunder. We do have to leave her by herself when we work and I wonder sometimes if she didn’t get traumatized during one of the storms while we were gone. I wasn’t aware of the problem was so common until I read these post. Please keep us posted if you come across anything that might help our fur babies!

        2. Hi John,
          any progress on this yet? My 7yo Shih Tzu started doing this with water and later with food.
          I may have scared him by dropping my phone next to his water bowl while he was drinking, although he didn’t look too scared at the moment.
          OK, but it’s been over a month and it was in a different house altogether! We moved the feeding place and changed bowls. He will eat and drink but someone must hold it up for him. If we put the bowl down he stops. He’ll sit and growl at the bowl for half an hour until someone comes and holds it.
          And yes, he quizzically looks up at the human while he drinks or eats. I think I know why this happens but
          How Can I Fix This???

        3. John,
          Was the form ever made available? I have a 7 year old Morkie (Yorkie/Maltese) who suddenly became terrified of her water and food bowls. She used to use the self feeding and watering bowls and when she’d drink the water, sometimes the water would displace and there would be a big “glug” noise as the bubble released so I was thinking maybe that scarred her. But I replaced those with regular bowls and nothing has changed, despite no “glugs”. I caught her drinking really nasty water out of remote areas of the back yard, got rid of all of them, thinking that would force her to use her bowls which, obviously, it has but…she still approaches the bowls skittishly, leading back, ready to retreat quickly. I’ve tried all different kinds of bowls, too. I also thought at one time maybe her eyes are going bad and she might see her reflection in the water and it might be freaking her out so I started putting her bowls where there’s a shadow (it reflects more if it’s in the light). Nothing has helped….except….if/when I OVERFILL. If I have the water bowl full up to the rim, she’ll drink. Same goes for food. It has to be FULL to the top. Once a little bit of the bottom of the bowl starts peeking through, that’s it, she won’t go near it. I hope this helps someone!

          If the survey you mentioned is available, I’d be interested in participating. Thanks!

        4. Bernadette Mulvey

          I have an almost 5 year old border collie mix that has eating and drinking fear. A human needs to stand over each bowl or he won’t eat or drink. So strange. His brother has no issues like that and they were adopted together at 8 weeks

        5. Please help me!

          My 7 year old dogs has all of a sudden become terrified to eat or drink from the same things she’s always eating and drinking from. I’ve tried everything including buying new ones etc. she circles around crying until I pull food out to the floor or tip water on to the floor also.

          The vet said they are not sure and all I can do is put her in an antidepressant and see if it helps. It’s becoming a full time job and I don’t know what do do next

          1. I have an almost 8-year old greyhound (rescued when he was 2) who is on a fear-driven hunger strike. He was licking his food bowl clean at the end of breakfast last week when it fell onto the floor from the stool it sits on and landed with a bang. Now he basically refuses to eat breakfast and has started peeing a little near where I feed him when I try to encourage him. I also put the bowl in his face to show him there was some left, and that must’ve been the kiss of death. He is VERY stubborn and nervous when I try to train him into new behavior. I’ve tried putting the food in different containers and locations, but breakfast is just OUT. He will hesitantly eat some of his dinner at least, and he takes treats… He’s not showing any signs of illness… knowing him, I’m convinced this is all fear related, and I don’t know how to help him because he sees me as part of the problem ☹️

        6. Leischen Celsur

          I have a 13 year old Pomeranian who came to me about a year and a half ago after his first owner died. For the first year he was alright and then in September we moved. Since we moved for about 3 months now, the food and water bowls seem to scare him and he will not use them. I put his dry food on the floor now I put him in the dry empty bath tub and let the water barely run and he drinks water as it runs. He seems scared of bowls now even though he didn’t before. He is a nervous dog, separation anxiety from me but I just thought it was because he had lost his owner of 12 years.

    2. Anthony

      Same here with an older Shih-tzu. I did discover that if I stir the water slightly with my finger she will quickly lap some water. I think her eyesight is going, and she may see her reflection in the water and react negatively to that.

    3. I have a rescue chihuahua minpin who is afraid of eating out of a bowl too. She used to be ok with it but eventually she developed this fear. She’ll be 2 yo in October. Other of her phobias include: being pulled by a leash, the leash itself sudden movement, kids, puppy pads (she slipped on one once and after that she would panic if I put her on one).
      Surprisingly she is not afraid of fireworks.

    4. We are experiencing the same thing, it all started after we lost our Abbey, 13 year old wheaten terrier who was a very dominant Alpha female, our Zoey 10 year old Mini schnauzer only ate after Abbey finished eating. We were not sure how much Zoey actually ate since we always left food in their bowls. Once Abby passed I noticed the food not being touched so I thought my husband was filling it up and me just not knowing it & sMe with water . I bathed her and noticed how thin she was I weighed her and she lost 3 pounds which was a lot for a 11 pound dog & noticed as well her water bowl not being drank out of and her licking the shower door and floor after a shower and water on the floor .
      I become very concerned I started hand feeding her she refused her food , I tried some hamburger meat and she would eat that but only if I hand fed her or put it on the floor. She will only drink out of a white disposable bathroom cup , I tried every kind of bowl there was I put them in different areas of the home Iike the vet suggested / did not work. Therefore each day I measure a cup of water and make sure she drinks that much & I cook her hamburger & chicken and hand feed her.
      She has always been a bit quirky but she is scared of her own shadow now, I do not know if this is depression from losing her mate. She has never been alone until now.
      I am afraid if we held out until she ate from her bowl or drank we would have a dead dog and I donor want that!! So for now we had feed and water her. People think we are crazy but she is our baby, I don’t know if getting another mate would help or not.

      Suggestions !!

    5. Has it resolved and if so how? I have the same problem with me shish Tzu also 3yr.

      1. Jeanette Hollinghurst

        Our shtzu is three he always drank out his bowl and eat now he will only eat his food if we put it on the floor , he stands then lies down next to his bowl but will not eat ? Sometimes he will bark at his bowl how do we make him eat from his bowl ? We have bought hi 4 new ones no change ? He had his man things chopped off 6/8 weeks ago but was fine now fir the past week or so he won’t have his food out of his bowl , can u help plz

    6. My 4 month old pup is the same but will drink from the plate under a pot plant. I’m going to try putting a heavy object in her water bowl to see if this helps.

    7. joann vitiello

      My 17 yr dog who has glaucoma was suffering from the same problem and would bark at water and would only drink from the floor. My son-in-law’s suggested raising the bowl to the dogs chest concerned the dog suffered with depth perception. It worked, my dog approaches the bowl without concern, no longer afraid . I hope this works for your dog .

      1. Patricia Franklin

        Joann, thank you for your comments, this makes total sense to us as our 9-year old lab/setter mix will drink out of the bottom dish of a plant that is closer to chest level. We’ll be trying this. Thank you!

      2. Bobbette Mattis

        I have the same issue with my 12 year old shitzu. I have to dump his food on the floor. He won’t even take it off of a flat paper plate. His water bowl has to be completely full to the brim before he will drink from it. He prefers also to lap at the wet shower floor when he can. I think it’s his vision causing this.

    8. Samantha

      My 10 year old shitzhu has this exact reaction as well. He will growl at the bowl full of fresh clean water until some one pours water on to the floor, he’s survived this way for well over five years. Have you found any alternatives? We’ve tried special water bowls, plates, saucers and tiny cups, but he continues to growl for the floor. When he eats he will take a mouth full of food and drop it on the floor and eat smaller bites. Perhaps bowl phobia? Just wondering if you had any success since your post.

    9. could all these dogs that refuse to drink—- possibly creating static electricity and getting shocked when they try to drink? I have gotten shocked when I first put my hand in the dish water, during the dry winter time.

    10. Jerry Spradling

      I too have a Shih Tzu that cowers from his food and water dishes.
      The little man would jump in the tub for whatever he could get of water.
      I now just open the faucet and let him drink his fill.
      You can drop some small pieces of something tasty in there and he or she can have a buffet.
      Washing up afterwards is a snap.

    11. Heather

      My schnoodle rarely eats his food from a bowl, I’m tipping it onto my rug. He does drink out of a S/steel bowl though, I think it’s the noise his food makes in the plastic bowl (s/s is a no no as it’s very noisy)

    12. Paige K

      I have a shih tzu also that does the same thing! I have tried everything and it just seems to be getting worse as he ages.

    13. Natasha

      I’m unable to post a general comment. The site will only allow me to reply to one that is already posted. But I hope this helps someone, even if only one person. My dog also stopped drinking from her water bowl (Metal…Which she’d been drinking from for years). She also suddenly stopped eating her food. I tried several different bowls. Started feeding her homemade food on a plate. I gave her water in a cup and bingo! Success. Try a cup. I switched her food and she’s now eating dry and wet mixed which she’s fine with in her metal bowl. Still refuses to drink water from the metal bowl. The cup is annoying. But if you’re desperate, give it a try. Worked for us.

  2. 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.

      1. sandra montes

        My 12 year old mix terrier has been showing signs of the same thing, that’s why I googled to see what was going on. ?????

    1. Michelle

      Our golden doodle is the exact same. He was fine with food and water dishes up until 6 months or so… trying everything. Will eat off floor not plates. Will drink out of a cup sometimes . Afraid of any type of bowl at any height

    2. Holly Obrien

      We have a similar problem here. Our Husky/Chow/Retriver mix has always eaten and drank perfectly fine out of her bowls. Suddenly about two weeks ago she became very ill we had to take her to the ER for vomiting. Ever since then she refuses to eat or drink out of any bowls. She acts as if she is scared of bowls. She will drink a small puddle of liquid off the floor but not out of a bowl. If we put a flat plate down and put a small amount of liquid in there along with her food she will eat and drink that after some coaxing. She will not even drink chicken broth for beef broth out of a bowl and that’s some pretty tempting stuff. All her food and water bowls are kept inside so no chance of any type of poisoning occurring so we don’t think eating or drinking is what made her get sick a few weeks ago. ALSO she has never been particularly skittish of noises, even thunderstorms and fireworks were well tolerated. But all the sudden in the past couple weeks she is jumping at any sudden noises and seems more on edge than she used to be. All blood work at the vet came back clear for any type of disease or illness. We rescued her a year-and-a-half ago and she’s always been such an easy going and well balanced dog so this change in her behavior is completely out of character and very bizarre.

      1. I have a 3 month old Schnauzer who has developed the same problem. Will drink from bowl in crate but not nowhere else. And refuses to eat unless from floor or hand feed?
        What should I try?

      2. Hi we have 7 years old newfoundland female, she was always an anxious dog but lately this is progressing more.. She is afraid if someone calls to our house, she would run to hide somewhere safe.. Lately she is afraid of eating from her bowl, she has metal bowl, but we tried different one and nothing works, she would eat no problem from my hand but I don’t know if this is a good thing to keep doing it? We checked her bloods and her results are OK, she will eat treats and dental sticks from hand with excitement, she is in a good form, running, playing etc, but when it comes to feeding its a problem and we can see she is hungry…
        Can I continue feeding her from hands 9r what other solutions could you give us?

        1. Hi Joanna,

          That’s a lot of work; feeding a Newfoundland by hand every day. Hopefully, you can find an easier solution.

          Left untreated or ‘treated’ with the sort of nonsense advice usually provided by well-meaning amateur dog trainers, veterinarians and vet techs it is not uncommon to see anxiety blossom as a dog ages. Even working with someone that has the correct expertise can have limited impact but better to work with someone that has better quality and more ‘rice’ to ‘throw against the wall’.

          By any chance does the room/area she normally eats have more than it’s fair share of electrical devices? Has anything new been installed anywhere in the home or in particular the room she eats?


          John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
          Embracing Science and Common Sense

          I PRESSED ON

      3. 5 months ago, Our 3.5 year old rescue mix (mostly Doberman and chow) became fearful of his bowls. we’ve tried different materials, shapes and sizes and elevating the bowls. He will eat and drink if we hold the bowls and will drink out of any bowl if our neighbor’s dog is also drinking from same one. So we know it’s not a physical issue. In the last 2 weeks, he’s afraid of his bed and occasionally paces while panting heavily and now is afraid of thunder and the vacuum cleaner. We went to vet for his annual physical and no physical issues. We believe it’s all related to anxiety but don’t know the cause as he’s always been a chill dog and there’s not been any changes in the household or any recent traumatic events.

      4. Holly Brittingham

        Sounds similar to what we are dealing with. Our 14 year old whippet German Shepard mix is suddenly afraid of food and water. She had bad allergies that made her very itchy and this seemed to coincide with this odd behavior. If I lift the bowl up to her mouth, she will eat and drink but otherwise won’t. Vet told us to see how it is in a couple of days but I’ve never seen anything like this with her before.

  3. 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.

      1. My third rescue shih tzu molly is exactly how everyone else is describing down to a tee. I will email some videos. The only things I know about mollys past are that she lived with an older lady with alzeimers who hand fed her. I wonder if she used to forget to give her clean water so she drank water from else where. I really don’t know. Molly will eat off 2 sheets of kitchen roll but is still a little skittish when eating and sometimes a little reluctant to approach it. Any suggestions welcome. Good luck with all your lil babies. X

    1. julie Ann pearson

      My recently adopted from a shelter female 7 year old Chihuahua is the same way. They even said at the shelter she had to be hand fed. Well, I started he on rotisserie chicken and place it on the very rim of a white desert size plate and she will eat it, but if it gets to the center of the plate she cowers and backs off, so I just nudge it and she eats it. We are working on her favorite things to eat as she is painfully skinny, her science diet small bite puppy food I now put a little hamburger fat on it and feed it to her on the rim of the plate and she laps it down. She can’t resist the fat on it. NOW, she struggles with drinking water from a bowl, but now I found that if I only use sealed ceramic bowl that are white with no rim she will drink if I use my fingers to splash the water to show her it is water. She was looking for water to drink on our wood deck boards? She is afraid of stairs, so I have been using positive reinforcements with chicken to coax her on the stairs, it is a lot of work but I feel she is weird for a reason, I am going to get her eyes checked out too.
      She is also only 4 lbs and needs to put on some weight. Eventually I think she will come around with patients and understanding.

      1. Brittany

        Hi Julie Ann,
        My new 3 y/o rat terrier is very similar. Rescued from a shelter and clearly never socialized, she’s coming around quite well in just 2 weeks. She and my 2 chill cats get along well, much to my relief. However she’s terrified of 3 things: other people, dogs, and the food bowl!! She clearly wants to eat, as I’m trying to make a schedule where she and the cats are fed at the same time and she’s gets very excited when the food bags start rattling. When her turn comes up and the food is poured in her bowl, she stops a few feet away and starts shaking. At first I felt awful, then annoyed, then helpless. She’ll eat from my hand, the floor, and at desperate times, the real chicken on the bowl rim.

        The cats are very good about not bothering her food, but I also don’t want to leave it there all day or night for them to be tempted.

  4. Chelsea

    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.

    1. 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?


    2. Ann Jones

      I have a 10 weeks shih tzu x chihuaha & he seems spooked by his food & water bowls, I think we’ve tried about 5 different ones but it’s made no difference, he seems to prefer to starve rather than have a try, very rarely he will take some water but usually only once or twice a day, my vet said to hand feed him but I don’t want him to get used to that, if I drop his food on the floor he eats it, I tried making a trail of food towards his bowl but once the food trail ends he walks away. totally baffled

  5. My 3 year old whippet mix has the same problem. I rescued him when he was about 5 months old. He will drink out of his bowl as long as I hold it for him. But while I am holding it he looks around scared. Same issue with eating. He will eat all of his food out of the bowl but I have to sit with him and feed some of it to him. Still looking about scared like something is going to happen to him. I know he has anxiety issues. Anything I can do to help him? I do not want him to live in fear the rest of his life.

    1. Sherié

      This is the same behavior my 5lb, soon to be 10 yr old Yorkie-Chinese Crested Powder Puff dog began having one year ago upon moving into a new apartment. It began with just her food. No matter what type of dish, where or what was in that dish, she would not eat it. If I feed it to her by hand she will eat. If I place it on the couch or my bed on napkins and sit next to her she will eat that way, though tentatively. (I hate having food on either of these surfaces, but it seems to be the only way she’ll eat with the least amount of angst). She’ll eat it from my hands if I sit on the ground with her too but any noise at all and she jumps & stops eating. The last few months, she began crying at her water bowl, walking around it & sometimes barking at it. Now, she comes & gets me, brings me to her water bowl, I’ll squat down & place my finger in her bowl and she will drink like crazy. I can’t seem to coax her into drinking throughout the day. She’ll wait until she’s completely dehydrated – often waking me in the middle of the night. If she is at my parent’s house, or outside, or in my truck with me after a walk, she’ll drink water just fine.
      It’s very strange & clearly brings her great anxiety. It hurts my heart. She has become much more jumpy when it comes to noises at my apt and often jumps & skittishly runs off at the drop of a pin. She otherwise isn’t a skittish, anxious dog. It’s quite bizarre and concerning. I’m surprised to hear so many people also experiencing this odd behavior with their adult pets. Hmmm

      1. Hi Sherié,

        Thanks for adding your experience. I agree it is extremely surprising that this issue is as common as it is. That is not to say it’s common but this is one of the most visited threads on the website. Have you tried timed feedings with her? First 24 hours, fast her. No food of any kind but water readily available. Next 4 days, food down for 3 minutes and then taken up twice a day for 4 days with zero treats in between? Again, water should be readily available at all times. In some, it triggers a reset.

        Send video of what she’s doing now.


        John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
        Embracing Science and Common Sense
        London’s #1 Referred Puppy and Dog Trainer

      2. Lisa Robles

        This is exactly how my 10 year old carin terrier/yorkie behaves! I’m so relieved to have found this site and these responses. We haven’t gotten to the issue with the water bowl (yet), so far it’s only her food bowl and only at home. She comes with me to work and eats just fine there. I’ve tried moving her food to various parts of the house and used different containers and surfaces. It’s exhausting and I feel so bad for her.

        We just went to the vet yesterday and they suggested I try switching her food to wet and see what happens, it was the same result. Now we’ll go back to see if there is some sort of antianxiety meds I can give her but I’d rather solve the problem than drug her.

      3. Hi Sherie,
        I suffer exactly from the same problem. Did you find a solution?

  6. Our 8 yr old Australian Terrier has the same issues. We first noticed bowl anxiety with his food bowl about 4 yrs ago. He was losing weight to the point that his ribs were showing. I took him to the vet but they found no obvious physical problems. One day my wife poured his food on the floor and he ate it immediately, and has gained back his lost weight. However, his water bowl anxiety has continued. His coat is dull and his poop is dry and hard. He’ll lick water off the sidewalk, out of puddles and from the creek but he can’t bring himself to drink out of a bowl or plate. He’d lay by his bowl until my wife holds it for him to drink. Now, he’s resisting that. His vision seems to be ok because he can see squirrels in the yard from the window. Help!!

  7. My Maltese Shihtzu x has started doing this too. I bought a self filling bowl, which made bubbling noises. This frightened her, so I switched back to her original bowl… But now she’s afraid of that too! She gets so thirsty I’ve found her drinking water from the shower floor (so unlike her). I’ve resorted to leaving different bowls all around the house. I hope this works. Do you have any ideas?

    1. Kerrylee

      My 9 year old Maltese shihtzu chopper” is frightened of both food and water bowls. He barks at both bowls, and is scarf to walk past them. Water bowls outside he is also afraid of, but quickly drinks from it. What do I do??


    My dog has this fear too. hes 4yrs old. it just started a month ago. his vet acted like I was crazy. he fears the blanket too. and when I pet his head near the left ear towards the neck he yelps and runs away. he is a pomchi. I got him from the breeder at 8 weeks old. he has anxiety previous to these new fears.

  9. Michael McKee

    My female Border Collie will not drink from a bowl outside but will drink from the same bowl if I put it in the house. She is 18 months old. She will drink from a small mud hole in the back yard.

  10. Renata K


    I have a three year old rough collie that has been having a similar problem for the past year. First we started out by changing the location of his water and food bowls and that helped for a while. One day while drinking from his bowl something fell and our dog got very scared from the noise. Since then I have changed the bowl from a round metal one to an oval plastic one and it helped a bit but still he can go without drinking for a long time . He will come up to the bowl stand over it might take one or two licks and will run away as if he is very afraid of something . I want to help him get over this because I can see that he goes through this fear all every day. Usually I hold the bowl of water for him and he will drink that way without a problem. Please advise on what I can do . Thank you

    1. Sabrina

      My 5 year old poodle is just starting to gain this fear. Something in her ceramic bowl made her jump (I think she actually knocked it and the water started moving in it) and from then on she refused to drink from it. For two days at night time she stood in the kitchen whining and I couldn’t work out what she wanted. I’ve tried switching bowls and that works for a time until she does something to scare herself again. I noticed if I put the bowl down and the water is moving it partly triggered this. At the moment I’m giving her water out of a pot I have to hold which isn’t sustainable!

      1. Sabrina

        !!Update!! Since knocking the bowl seemed to be the cause of why she refused to be drinking from it I bought a new set of bowls where the water and food bowls are in one unit (More solid, less harder to knock based on overall shape). She then watched me fill water from the kitchen into her little water pot and then I poured the water into her new bowl. She then drank from it with some encouragement and I gave her lots of positive reinforcement (petting and positive words, no treats). I did that the first few times she drank from that bowl and now she seems to be fine! It’s harder for her to knock this bowl and have the water move around so fingers crossed this is resolved!

  11. I am very surprised that searching the internet it seems like there are no “experts” that have any idea what is going on, despite this being a common issue. My Schnauzer is exactly the same way, terrified of any bowl of any material shape or size. She stands there contemplating approaching what is terrifying because she is very thirsty. A few laps and then you hear nails scuffing at the ground as she is trying to run away as fast as possible. There are no bugs, ants etc that could set her off… nothing. Yet she goes outside and drinks from the planter water trays with her face pressed up against the pot to get in there… none of this makes any sense whatsoever.

    1. Hi James,

      I don’t think it’s common at all. That’s one of the factors contributing to why in those rare instances people like yourself encountering this are struggling to get to the bottom of the why and what to do about it. It’s also unlikely that “nothing” sets her off. I’d be curious in your case to see what happened if you used a planter water tray in the exact same area her current water dish was. If she spooks does she stop using the outside water tray. I’d also try removing the outside water tray and put an identical water bowl as her inside bowl in its place and see what happened.


      1. Bobbette Mattis

        I have the same issue with my 12 year old shitzu. I have to dump his food on the floor. He won’t even take it off of a flat paper plate. His water bowl has to be completely full to the brim before he will drink from it. He prefers also to lap at the wet shower floor when he can. I think it’s his vision causing this.

  12. Suzanne Brookman

    Have a Lhasa Apsa she is 9 years old and has just started this I have to pour her water on the floor for her to drink it and just started thinking her eye sight is getting bad and can not see the bowl good???

  13. My 12-year-old Maltese is also afraid of his water bowl and his water bottle. The only way he will drink is if I stand next to the bowl with my foot next to it or my hand touching the bowl. He will eat but he’s kind of skittish of that too. I have thought of everything you have said above. We have tried everything! This has been going on over a year now. He’s had these fears off and on but it seems like this past year has been really bad. Now he has decided that during the night he wants to sleep with his face right next to my face or my husband’s face and he used to love to sleep under the covers but he doesn’t want his head covered up anymore. He wants his head on the pillow touching my face. He also wakes up all throughout the night barking because he wants to get a drink but I must be standing touching the bowl for him to drink. It is really driving me crazy and interrupting our sleep so much that it is upsetting me!!!

    1. Hi Sue,

      That’s a pretty late onset for this sort of thing. I’d have him thoroughly vetted. Blood work, xrays, detailed dental etc. If it’s not physical it likely is a relationship based problem. If he’ll drink with you touching the bowl then it’s possible that bit by bit he’s become manipulative and you receptive to his machinations.


      1. Leean Birmingham

        Is there any more info on this, dog afraid of drinking, my lab too has been doing this for a long time it’s sad and pitiful. And yes he has issues.

        1. Hi Leean,

          This is it so far. However the comments, some with input/suggestions grows weekly. The more video I get sent the greater the likelihood I’ll see some pattern that we’re missing.


        2. Desiree Steele

          My 8 year old Yorkie Just suddenly started this behavior after a grooming session at a new place!! I’m suspecting maybe has something to do with her inner ear ….. not sure if this theory but will flush her ears with colloidal silver and see if it makes a difference… anti anxiety remedies have not worked

  14. Maria Kuczer

    My 3 year old rescue has become afraid to drink from her metal raised bowl. Vet said could be her reflection. Suggested seeing a behaviorist. I can’t afford that. She eats from the same type of metal bowl right next to it even when her tag hits it. She has always be a anxious dog. Afraid of other things (Fireworks, storms, quick movements, noises). I have tried different bowls outside and inside. She will drink from the floor and my hand and puddles. But needs coaxing each time to come and drink. I’ve tried milk in the water and chicken broth but sometimes she drinks it and sometimes she doesn’t. Vet said not to let her drink from my hand. I’m so afraid of her becoming dehydrated. It’s been a week and so far physical came back fine. May do blood work. Vet doesn’t think meds will help. Any help you can provide is appreciated.

  15. My dog will drink out of the bowl part for water and won’t eat or even touch the food I get really worried because she goes around eating the cats drive and canned food.
    We have tried everything wet,canned,dry but none will she eat.

    1. This isn’t that uncommon. Cat food is often more palatable to dogs then their own food apparently because the protein content is significantly higher. The protein quality is often higher as well. Separate feeding times or separate feeding areas where the dog can’t access the cat’s food (up higher) may help. It may take as much as 4 days of stubbornly missing served meals before your dog caves and goes back to it’s own food. I would also check the quality of the food. Send me the brand name and a picture of the list of ingredients and I’ll offer an opinion.



    Dear John: This summer, I started to give my Lab water in a metal bowl from the outside hose. He drinks it up in a sec. Now he will not drink from in house metal bowl . Comes,the winter and I won’t have access to the outside hose. I am afraid he will not drink at all.What to do?

    1. Is he healthy? How old is he? Has he been playing catch the water coming from the hose? If he’s old enough to rigorously exercise do so then take him to his water bowl in the home and video what happens and send to me. If he drinks stop worrying.



    Dear John: Thanx for your reply. My rescue Lab is now about 6/7 yrs and I have had him for about 51/2 yrs. He is healthy but is very, very lazy & a couch potato. He was bred to be a hunter but did not want to hunt as the breeder did not want his lazy genes mixed with his hunting dogs and make them lazy so he put him in the shelter; I got him the very same day. From day one my Lab “Sonny” never jumped, kissed or cuddled. He just lolls around. When I take him to the dog park, he lays on the cement while all the other dogs are frolocking. A friend suggested I take the outside water bowl and fill it with the hose water but bring it into the house. I did this and “Sonny” followed me into the house but would not drink from the raised metal ‘hose’ water bowl. When I went out to get this water, I fell down and twisted my right knee and could not walk….”Sonny” has now stopped eating his reg. food too. It has been three days, no food, no water and I am on a walker laid up. Now I am really worried. ….Adele

    1. It’s unlikely he’s not drinking for three days. He’d be near death. Food possibly. Either way take him to the vets. It’s possible he’s drinking somewhere (toilet maybe). When you take him to the vet – mention his life long lethargy and get some blood work. Thyroid may be off.



    Thanx John for your reply. When I saw how lazy he was, I did take him to the vet and checked his thyroid which turned out just fine. All in all, he is very healthy and used to gobble his food. Now that I am laid up, he is not eating nor drinking nor does he have access to the toilet. Thank you for your insight. …Adele

  19. Donna Everhart

    Well. I’m glad I’m not the only one with a quirky eater/drinker. We adopted our small Yorkie when he was three, back in Dec 2012. When we first got him, he ate/drank – no problem. He will be six in Nov, and for the past 1.5 to 2 years, he’s become nervous about eating, more so with the drinking. Like many of the others above, he approaches his water bowl, same one he’s had all along, (color is pale cream/with little black bone designs) and growls or barks at it, and I have to “encourage” him by saying, “noooo, drink your water. Drink your water.” Bark. Bark. Bark. RRRRR. RRRRR. “Noooo, drink your water, that’s GOOD water!” Like the others, if I approach his bowl and act like I’m going to fill it up more, he’ll drink a few laps. Sometimes I just tell him to drink, and eventually he will. I’ve tried ignoring this, and he’ll give up and not drink at all, and I KNOW he’s thirsty. Even if I’m not in the house, i.e. if I’m outside, I can hear him barking at it. My husband’s conclusion – he’s not doing it to get attention, he’s truly thirsty, and he wants it, but…

    The food is weird too. He’s better about that than the water. I had to sort of “re-train” him to get him to eat. I put one piece of kibble down at a time, and then he “circles” me while I sit on the floor. More than one piece? He won’t eat. It’s like it screws his little head up.

    Since he was “normal” when we got him, I have tried to figure out what went wrong and where. I fed him a homemade diet and he at that off a plate. To be honest, I think his first trip with us (a long 13 hour ride) back a couple years ago was the turning point. Getting him to eat in that strange environment where the noise level was much higher (my in-laws house – they are old and talk loud and have the TV loud, etc) might have been the trigger.

    Somehow, we’re getting by.

  20. It’s really funny my dog that is 12 yrs old started not drinking water out of her bowl. My wife bought gravity feed water bowl so we never noticed she wasn’t drinking water. Then she started whining every night 2 to 3 times in the middle of the night to go outside. At first we thought she needed to go to the bathroom but after awhile I’ve noticed the dog licking the water off the grass. So we thought maybe it was due to the gravity feed water bowl so we went back to the metal bowl but she still refuses to drink. So now I have to put water on a plate or out of my hand even off the floor she will drink but not out of bowl.

  21. My 8 year old dog (Eski-poo) stopped wanting to eat and drink from his bowls a couple of years ago. Two issues I thought had happened: 1) he had some bad teeth and has since had them removed. 2) Last winter when drinking from his metal bowl I think he got a “shock”. Not sure if either one of these has caused a food/water bowl phobia. He will drink from the lake, or any outdoor bowl, or if I lift the bowl to his face. Otherwise he starts to drink/eat and then runs away like he’s been shocked or scared by something… I wish I knew 🙁

  22. My 8 year old dog (Eski-poo) stopped wanting to eat and drink from his bowls a couple of years ago. Two issues I thought had happened: 1) he had some bad teeth and has since had them removed. 2) Last winter when drinking from his metal bowl I think he got a “shock”. Not sure if either one of these has caused a food/water bowl phobia. He will drink from the lake, or any outdoor bowl. He will drink non-stop when I lift the bowl to his face. Otherwise when he starts to drink/eat at his normal bowl he runs away like he’s been shocked or scared by something… I wish I knew 🙁

  23. Jackson

    My dog Blanket is a 8 year old chihuahua terrier mix I adopted from an unknown but clearly abusive life 5 years ago. He has always been afraid of bowls, but it has usually resulted in him waiting a long time to eat or drink and then finally getting the courage to nervously do so.

    Over the summer, our cat, who had been his companion the whole time I’ve had him, passed away, then we welcomed two new cats into our home, the head to get most of his teeth extracted due to bad and worsening oral health that has been an ongoing problem.

    Somewhere in the midst of those changes, he switched from being able to work up the courage to eat and drink on his own eventually to not. Instead, he will bark at us until we hold the bowl at a specific tilted angle and even then he will only sometimes drink. We changed the food/water locations many times, but it has not helped. Sometimes if we put the water in the middle of the bedroom doorway he will drink on his own but obviously that is not a practical place to put it since we keep stepping in the bowl or slipping on the water around it.

    His food we were able to manage by putting it in a large silicone bowl and placing the bowl outside when we put him out there (bringing it in when he comes inside so slugs don’t get in the bowl). We have not tried this with the water but I know that he can sometimes find areas in the backyard where there are little bits of water. We also don’t have a sillicone bowl for the water because I got the other one years ago and have had trouble finding a second.

    It has gotten to the point where he spends half the night barking at us to let him in and out or to hold the water bowl so he can drink. We live in an apartment so letting him bark is not an option.

    I’m also having trouble determining whether it is a factor of either of the changes in cats or the fact that the cats (try as I might to stop them) eat his food and drink his water, or a factor of pain related to the now two month old tooth extractions or if it is a maladjustment to having no teeth or something else, since it started in the midst of a lot of big changes.

    I should also mention that I have spoken with the vet about this a little less than a month ago and we decided to put him on some herbal anxiety treats (composure) that we give a couple times a day. Haven’t noticed any changes and if anything he is continuing to get worse at the same pace. Yesterday I also went to brush his teeth for the first time since surgery and noticed his gums were bleeding BEFORE I actually put the toothbrush in his mouth. Made me wonder if he is having pain related to the extractions and wondered if dogs can get dry socket or anything like that, as I know my partner’s dry socket took a long time to recover after he got 3 teeth pulled at once in the spring.

    1. 12 1/2 yr schnauzer, same issues with food & water. Never an issue until about 2yrs ago. 1yr ago I bought Calm & Peaceful + Senior Formula from Kingdom of Basil & started her on 100mg Sam-E. She has some moments of anxiety but only last a few minutes. I also covered her water bowl with plastic table cloth. She drinks now where she would not at all before. Some days she won’t eat off her glass plate, maybe 1x per week, but if I throw the food to her on the floor she eats. Since the product from Kingdom of Basil it is very tolerable. I will never abandon her, she is everything to me. Hope this might help you some!! Also after giving her the Sam-E & herbs we had a thunder storm, usually she is terrified for hours, she didn’t react at all, I almost fainted. Godd luck!!

  24. Jeanine

    I have an 11 yr old Chihuahua that I adopted from a rescue 7 yrs ago. He would