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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.


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 – 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 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.


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.


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5 thoughts on “Water Bowl Fear”

  1. 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 ?

    1. 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.


  2. My dog has these issues. I am pretty sure that a vision problem is making the reflections off her bowl seem scary. I am looking for a non-reflective bowl for her. She eats her food off a white paper plate OK.

  3. Leah Thomas

    I had the same issue with my dog. For the first year and a half after I found him he ate and drank out of his regular metal bowls just fine. Recently he developed an unexplained fear of them, especially his water bowl. I had them elevated so he could reach them easier, but he didn’t seem to like it. I removed the stand, still scared. I removed his collar so it wouldn’t clink, still scared. I just replaced both bowls with non-metal, non-reflective bowls and he started drinking like he was dying of thirst. And happily munched his food. His eyesight is excellent, as is his health. I don’t know why, but switching the bowls out worked. These two are also notably smaller than the old ones.

    1. Ashleigh Patterson

      Which bowls are you using, I have searched online and can’t seem to find any. Thanks 🙂

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