Last updated on August 12, 2019
Water is is the basic foundation of life and dogs need it. If you want to know how to get your dog to drink more water, this blog post is the equivalent of a gushing waterfall: Full of energy and something to come back to time and again for water drinking tips.
NOTE: If your dog has increased thirst or is generally not drinking or drinking very little on a continuous basis, seek veterinary care immediately. Do not wait. This article is designed to get your dog to drink more water and how to ensure dogs are well hydrated, both at home and on the go.
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How Much Water Does a Dog Need?
There are statistics and studies galore, but the bottom line is this: Because water is the most important nutrient to a dog, clean, fresh water should be available at all times. We recently wrote a piece about how to keep dogs cool in summer, and surprisingly, getting a dog to drink more water came up in our research over and over. You aren’t alone if your dog isn’t a big water drinker, but you should be concerned.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual 10th Edition, “Dry pet foods contain 3 to 11% water and semi-moist foods contain 25 to 35% water. As a result, dogs (and cats) consuming predominantly canned food generally drink less water than those consuming predominantly dry diets.” In response, some dog owners add water to kibble to encourage water consumption. This isn’t a good idea because plaque may more easily form on teeth and the food will soften.
Canned dog food contains more moisture, but dogs still need to consume a decent amount of water on a daily basis.
Since dogs don’t chew as humans do, as they don’t have the “side to side motion” to break food down, there are other better ways to encourage your dog to drink more water.
The folks at petMD say that as a rule of thumb, dogs should drink approximately one ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. So a 35-pound dog should consume about 35 ounces, which comes out to a little over a quart of water. Further, “dogs suffering from illnesses like kidney disease, metabolic disorders (such as diabetes), cancer and pregnant/nursing animals are at risk of becoming dehydrated more readily.”
Our dog consumes a rehydrated food diet mixed with vegetables and organic meat. As such, his food is mixed with water, but he is still a good drinker. You want your dog to consume fresh, clean water because water is needed but also because it helps to flush the kidneys and overall digestion.
When you consider that 80 percent of a dog’s body is made up of water, so you can understand why access to the clean, cool liquid is mandatory on a regular, daily basis.
Teach Your Dog the Word Drink
No matter how old your dog is or even if he is deaf, teach your dog a word associated with water. For us, the magic word is “drink.” Every time your dog takes a drink of water, say “drink” a few times in a super happy, pleasant voice the way you would if rewarding your dog for a job well done.
Whenever your dog comes into contact with the clean bowl of water, say “drink” and maybe even lightly clap. It’s a mini party that your dog knows “drink.” When my Cocker Spaniel was a puppy, he would saunter over to his water bowl, start drinking, and without scaring or startling him we would say, “drink, Dexter” or “good boy, drink Dexter.” When he was done, we would say drink again.
If you have a deaf dog, hand signals are the way to go. Here’s what the folks at Deaf Dogs Rock have to say about teaching a deaf dog hand signals. When you see your deaf dog take a drink because you nonverbally instructed him to do so, the effort is so rewarding.
In the same way you taught your dog other words, like sit, stay, food, play, etc., you will teach drink. It’s all about the association of the act with the verbal word. He drinks, you say drink.
These days when I say to my dog, “Dexter, take a drink,” the majority of the time he will (unless he is not thirsty and then I get stink eye). The key to teaching a dog to drink water by using a verbal or nonverbal cue is consistency. Pick a word or a signal and never divert from it. Everyone needs to speak dog and use the same command.
How to Get Your Dog to Drink More Water
So how can you get your dog to drink more water? Here are 12 time-tested tips, techniques, and products to get your dog drinking water and staying on the road to good health:
Change the Dog’s Water Frequently
You know that first refreshing drink of water when you are parched? It feels so good going down at just the right temperature, right? It’s not too cold and it’s nice and clean. Your dog feels the same way. Make sure the water is clean, cool, and toss that nasty Internet ice cube rumor down the drain with the old water.
Fact: In a report for ABC News, Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, reports this is totally false.
“This is not true,” said Dr. Wismer. “Dogs do not bloat from drinking ice water on hot days… They can be given as treats or put in the water bowl. Some behaviorists even recommend freezing toys or treats in ice for dogs to chew on.”
Why the rumors about dogs and ice cubes then? Everything you read online is not true: Surprise surprise! There are dangers associated with dogs and ice cubes and they are:
- Allowing dogs to chew ice cubes and the possibility of the cube(s) getting lodged in the dog’s throat;
- Dental damage to teeth due to chomping on ice;
Keep the water bowl clean by scrubbing it with warm soapy water every day. I use the Scrub Daddy scratch-free sponges ever since I saw them on Shark Tank and love them! You don’t want that nasty slime building up around your dog’s water bowls.
Use Fresh Filtered Or Bottled Water Free Of Chlorine And Chemicals
We live in modern times and most tap water has changed. In most parts of the United States, bottled water tastes good and is actually better for dogs. Have you heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? If you wouldn’t drink the water, neither should your dog. Frankly, if you drink tap water, your dog probably shouldn’t without some form of filtration.
Around here, we have a filtration system installed on our kitchen sink and we use bottled water for ourselves and the dog.
Municipal and well water that is contaminated with bacteria or any number of nasties doesn’t discriminate and can harm your dog.
Since hard contaminants in water cannot be smelled or seen, consider testing your home water supply.
Put Multiple Water Bowls Around To Encourage Drinking
Cocker Spaniel mom, Donna Zygarlicke says, “I have a water bowl in the garage for the dogs when we are outside. My Belle lets me know very loudly if it is empty. She will move that thing around the concrete until I fill it up.”
Not all dog water bowls are created equal. We aren’t fans of plastic bowls because they are very porous, so they absorbs things, can easily get scratched, and creates a perfect environment for yukky things like mold, bacteria, and algae to form. Some dogs can even develop a sensitivity or allergy to the plastic in their bowl. Lip fold dermatitis and other oral issues are on that list, so avoid plastic.
I also get really nervous about the presence of chemicals like BPA in plastics.
Stainless steel dog water bowls like this one are durable and dishwasher safe. A lot of them have a nonskid base and are exposed to far fewer chemicals than plastic products during the manufacturing process. Consider a cute stand to keep the water and food elevated off the floor and you’ve got an adorable piece of functional furniture.
We tend to use the stainless steel water bowls for travel along with silicone collapsible water bowls, which are easy to transport. Because I like function and form, we have ceramic dog water bowls in our home. You just want to be sure the glaze used to coat the bowl doesn’t contain anything harmful like lead. I scrub daily and make sure there are no cracks.
Multiple water bowls mean multiple opportunities for the dog to consume water. I am a single dog household, but if you have a dog who roams the house all day and/or have a multiple dog household, consider spacing out multiple water bowls throughout the house (a few different rooms, floors) for easy access.
Dogs may spill the water, one dog may drink more, and you want to ensure access to water is there, especially if you aren’t. Toss old bowls out as they wear and replace with new ones. Here are some of our favorite dog water bowl selections:
Elevated Dog Water Bowls Are Functional And Fashionable
Several members in our Club Cocker: Wigglebutts Worldwide Facebook group swear by elevated water bowls. Cocker mom, Celia Anne, says her vet recommended raised water bowls and it worked for her pooch, Angus.
Elevated water bowls also are believed to decrease the risk of bloat to dogs.
Consider Purchasing a Dog Water Fountain
Dog fountains constantly circulate and filter the water, so it stays cleaner and tastes fresher. Also, running water is often more enticing to a dog, so consider an in-home dog water fountain. We had one for a number of years and then gifted it to a friend whose dog had water consumption issues. The fountain really worked for her dog! Here’s the PetSafe Drinkwell Fountain we used.
Take Water With You On the Go
Whether it’s a walk around the block, a jaunt in the neighborhood, a trek to the dog park, or a trip in the car, please on a stack of dog biscuits, please take water with you on the go. Your dog will thank you for it. I’ve been taking water with me for my dog for my entire adult life. I wish I had a dollar for every time a stranger’s dog stopped by and wanted a drink from our dog’s water bowl. I’d be rich!
One of my favorite on-the-go water containers for dogs is the Swell bottle. I love how cool it keeps the water for hours and hours on end. I’ve been using the same portable water bottle for Dexter for the past three years. If you prefer something more minimalist that has its own bowl on board, here’s a portable water bottle to try.
When we travel, we tend to take bottled water or get our favorite bottled water brand on arrival to our destination. Dogs may get stomach upset or traveler’s diarrhea, which can even lead to having a dog with colitis. Allay your fears and keep dogs healthy when traveling by not switching their water source. I never use tap water of any sort when traveling either.
I am not about sharing my bowls with other dogs because of virus, diseases, and bacteria. To each their own, but I don’t know what a strange dog might harbor in his mouth or saliva.
Exercise Your Dog To Encourage Him To Drink Water
Since dogs need daily exercise, get your dog used to moving around. If the dog isn’t panting, he isn’t losing moisture and his body may not crave water as much as a more active dog.
In the cooler months, dogs may not be exercising as much so they don’t drink as much water. A slight decrease in water intake is not a cause for concern. Regularly refusing to drink water on an ongoing basis may indicate a deeper problem, so seek veterinary care for your dog if he or she is consistently refusing water. If my dog didn’t drink water for a day, I’d be very very concerned and at the vet’s office.
When you travel with your dog or go for a walk, carry the water supply with you and every 10 or 15 minutes, offer the dog the water. Say “drink” very nicely and happily when offering the drink. If your dog drinks on the go, he will be more inclined to drink at home.
Take The Dog Outside To Urinate More Frequently
If there is one thing I have learned in being a lifelong dog parent it is this: Dogs are happier if they can pee more. Their bodies are even healthier if they can pee more. I kid you not. Think about how it feels to hold in urine. If it’s uncomfortable for you, it is certainly the same for dogs.
Knowing the amount of water your dog should drink helps you determine if your dog is drinking too little or too much. Flushing the kidneys and urinary tract is one way to keep crystals from forming and to keep dogs healthy. Take your dog out. Let him pee. Let him sniff. I do this every two to three hours at the most every day with my dog (except during the overnight).
Learn more about how to prevent a urinary tract infection in dogs.
Feed a Quality Diet
Want your dog to drink more? Feed the best food for dogs, and each dog has their own unique dietary needs just like people. There is something to be said for feeding a dog a natural, high-quality pet food, free of by-products and fillers, and appropriate to their nutritional requirements. We feed a whole food for dogs to which we add warm water from Dr. Harvey’s and ensure our dog drinks an adequate amount of water daily.
Entice Dogs To Drink With Water Additives
When all else fails, consider making the water more palatable and pleasing for the dog. When my first Cocker Spaniel fell ill with irritable bowel disease, we tried everything including adding low sodium chicken broth to her water.
Cocker Spaniel mom, Julie Anderson, says she adds organic chicken bone broth to her dog’s food, which is lower in sodium than cooking broth.
Cocker mom, Christina Haynes, adds unsalted beef broth to her dogs’ food.
Whatever you add, don’t use anything with Xylitol, sugar, or sugar substitutes. There are water additives available that claim to eliminate water in bacteria and in your dog’s mouth. I am not a big fan of these. I am old school and believe in washing water bowls and brushing teeth.
Overcoming Bad Experiences With Water Bowls
If a dog ever had his tail or paw stepped on while drinking water or someone yelled at him as he was drinking, the dog may be traumatized. I know of one dog who slipped on her kitchen floor when attempting to take a drink of water from the bowl. The solution in this case was to move the location of the water bowl.
Try putting the bowl in a new location, trying multiple bowls in various locations around the house, and rewarding the dog for good behavior when he does take a drink. Some dogs love ice cubes and others not so much.
Offering Ice Cubes and Cool Treats For Dogs
If your dog drinks too fast and you fear bloat, offering some ice cubes can be a great way to keep a dog hydrated. Just be sure the cubes aren’t too big nor too small.
Is your dog a good water drinker or could he or she use improvement? Do tell in the comments below.
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