Downtime

My Puppy Always Spills Her Water Bowl and Splashes Around

How can I get her to drink up?

A dog, dripping wet.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by HannamariaH/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Beast Mode is Slate’s pet advice column. Have a question? Send it to beastmode@slate.com.

Dear Beast Mode,

About two weeks ago, our 5-month-old puppy began stepping into her water bowl, splashing the water around, and flipping the bowl over. She then likes to play in the water that is on the floor. (It’s not an issue with her food bowl.) We’ve taken to holding a small Tupperware container that she can drink out of until she splashes, and then we take it away. This is not sustainable. What can we do to keep our house dry?

—Waterlogged and Water-Dogged

Dear Waterlogged and Water-Dogged,

In going through emails for this column, I often divide topics into two categories: stuff I know about and stuff I don’t. The reader who asked for help because his cats wouldn’t stop rubbing their butts against him? That fell into the latter camp (as do most things on earth), and when addressing those conundrums, I am careful to consult experts who can fill the chasms in my brain. Your issue, however, is a familiar one, as my own dog exhibited the same type of behavior when she was a puppy. Please know that I am drawing from a deep satchel of personal experience when I pass along this very important advice: Record a video of your puppy splashing around in her water bowl. I never did, and I spend my days filled with regret because of it.

Recording that video should be the very last thing you do in direct response to your pup’s splashing. Dogs take any action as a sign of encouragement, and you must ignore her when she turns her water bowl into a wave pool. Your current strategy of yanking away a Tupperware container only reinforces her behavior, and I’d guess that this whack-a-mole routine has become her favorite game in the whole wide world.

A cute dog can’t pay to fix water-damaged floors, so prepare for her aquatic ballet by buying a spill-proof bowl or laying towels under and around her drinking area. You can also reduce the water level in the dish so she has less liquid to play with. Walk away when she begins to splash and wait a moment before cleaning up the mess, ideally with her out of the room. You’ll want to reward good behavior, so give her a tasty treat whenever she follows her Emily Post and drinks from her bowl without spilling.

There are other factors to keep in mind in case this isn’t merely a phase. Some dogs will dip their paws into water to cool down, so make sure your pup isn’t overheated. She also might be enticed to dig into her bowl if there’s sediment or food at the bottom, so keep the dish as clean as possible. Sorry, pup, no chunky-style H2O for you.

She’ll soon grow out of her wet-and-wild stage and commit to hydrating like a mannered adult. It’ll be a welcome respite for your floors, but don’t fret when you find yourself missing the sight of her adorable water aerobics. Thankfully, you were wise enough to record a video for posterity.