The Surprising Way Dogs Drink Water (Not Obvious)

Large dog bowls
© Aleksandra Dabrowa/

Written by Krishna Maxwell

Updated: September 29, 2022

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Dog owners tend to put their dog’s water bowl as far away from carpets and wooden floors as possible. Why? Because, quite simply, dogs make a mess when they drink. But the prowess with which dogs lap up water is worth watching. Read on to learn more about the surprising science behind how dogs drink water.

How Dogs Drink Water

When dogs drink water from a bowl, it looks like they are licking it with their tongue, but not quite in the usual way. Rather, they use their tongues to “scoop” water from the bowl. And although they seem to be drinking a lot, only small amounts actually reach their mouth.

Watching them would make you think that their tongues are shaped like ladles. But, in reality, there is a lot of physics and clever timing behind drinking this way.

When a dog places its mouth into the water bowl, it plunges its tongue into the water. Some water sticks to the front part of the tongue, and the dog quickly laps it up and closes its jaws in order to swallow some. They repeat this process until their thirst is quenched.

Because dogs forcefully insert their tongues into the bowl, they make a mess every time they drink. Though most people focus on the mess, dogs actually drink very efficiently.

The Shape of a Dog’s Tongue

Dogs have a straight tongue, but they curl it when drinking water. To ingest water more quickly, dogs accelerate their tongue’s speed and close their jaws at precisely the right time to lock in most of the liquid. Splashing their tongue deeper allows them to drink more water faster.

Their tongue scoops the water at an acceleration that’s equal to four times the force of gravity! This gives their jaws sufficient time to snap shut so they can swallow the water they just took in.

An Experiment to Prove That Dogs Catch the Water at the Optimal Time

Researchers used rounded glass rods to measure the volume of water that dogs extracted from the bowl. They dipped glass rods into the water at a dog’s speed and measured the volume. They recorded the dog’s pinch-off time, the time between when the dog’s tongue exited the water bowl, and closed its jaw.

Dogs know when to close their jaws to ensure that they retain the most water. They avoid doing it too early because that could result in biting their tongues. Closing their jaws too late would result in most of the water pouring out of their mouths instead of flowing into their bodies. Also, how deep the dog splashes its tongue in the bowl depends on how thirsty they are. Canines are slower when they don’t want to drink water or are not very thirsty.

Since Water Is Essential to Your Dog’s Health, You Can Encourage Them to Drink More by Following the Simple Suggestions Below.

Consider Switching to Wet Dog Food

Many owners feed dogs kibble. But 80% of a dog’s body is water. It helps your dog digest their food more efficiently, provides hydration, improves brain function, and maintains their overall health, including helping to prevent constipation. Most dogs have no trouble maintaining their hydration. However, some dogs can be very fussy about their water or refuse to drink while traveling or overstimulated. Elderly dogs sometimes need more fluids as well. In these instances, you may want to consider switching from kibble to wet dog food, which is moisture rich.

Best Chicken
Gentle Giants 90% Chicken Grain-Free Wet Dog Food
  • Contains 90% chicken
  • Contains antioxidant-rich blueberries and cranberries
  • Texture is ideal for senior dogs
  • Easily digestible
Check Chewy Check Amazon

Change the Water in Their Bowl Frequently

Dogs may refuse to drink old, stale water. It’s important that you clean and replenishes their drinking bowl with fresh, clean water often. Also, consider checking the water temperature to see if it’s too warm to be palatable.

Cool with Ice Cubes

Ice cubes are a great snack for dogs; they love chewing them on a hot day. They sometimes don’t want to drink water because it is too hot, just like the ambient temperature. Throwing two or three ice cubes into their water can increase your dog’s water intake.

Make Their Water Bowl More Accessible

You can make water more accessible to your dog by placing bowls in areas they enjoy hanging around within the house. Their water drinking habits may improve if they have access to several drinking water sources. Very tall, elderly, or long-legged dogs may benefit from an elevated water bowl.

Get a Pet Fountain

You can get a pet fountain to encourage your dog to drink more water. Dogs enjoy drinking running water more than drinking from a bowl, and the water from the fountain will always be clean and cool.

How to Select the Best Pet Fountain

A big reason why your dog might not be drinking enough water is that their water isn’t fresh. A water fountain for dogs ensures the water remains clean because it is filtered and constantly cycling through. But, buying the right pet fountain can be challenging, so here are some things to consider before the purchase:

Quality to ConsiderSuggestions
DurabilityYou want your dog’s water fountain to last. So durability should be a determining factor when browsing the available brands. Ensure that it’s well-crafted from a sturdy material.
PracticalityYou should select a fountain that’s appropriate for the location where you’re going to place it. If your dog is more of an outdoor dog, get a durable, step-on water station that your dog will enjoy gulping from. On the other hand, an automatic fountain will be a good choice if your pup will be using it outdoors.
MaterialDurability and quality materials go hand in hand. While you should get a fountain that’s virtually indestructible, you should also consider other factors like allergies and skin irritations. Ceramic and stainless steel are excellent choices for durability and low allergy risks.

Automatic Drinking Fountain Reviews

Once you have considered all the factors of a good fountain, you’re ready to sort through the available options. After much research we determined that the two best drinking fountains are:

1. Best Overall: Catit Flower Fountain

The Catit Flower Fountain is suitable for small dogs. This easy-to-clean and operate drinking fountain is made from durable material. Simply fill it with water once or twice a week and ensure that you replace the filters monthly.

The fountain is attractive; it looks like a flower. Some buyers state that the fountain makes grinding noises when the water level is low, so be sure to keep it filled at all times.

Best Overall
Catit Flower Plastic Fountain

•Aesthetic and durable cat water fountain

•3 liter water capacity

•Easy to clean and refill

•Triple action water filter

Check Chewy Check Amazon

2. Best for Large Dogs: Zeus H2eau Drinking Fountain

If you cannot find the first choice or you have a big dog, the Zeus Drinking fountain is a great alternative. It holds a high volume of water: up to 200 ounces. This fountain is easy to use and clean, and unlike the Catit Flower, it is quiet. You may, however, have a difficult time finding replacement parts.

Best for Large Dogs
ZEUS H2EAU Drinking Fountain for Dogs

•BPA-free plastic dog fountain

•For large dogs or multiple

•Triple filter system

•Silent water flow

Check Amazon

Getting the Best Dog Water Bowls

While getting a drinking fountain is an excellent way to get your dog to drink more water, getting a good water bowl is also a great idea. The dog’s water bowl should hold enough water to let the canine dip its tongue in as deep as possible.

When buying a dog bowl, consider factors like durability, safety, and hygiene. Some of the bowls to consider buying are:

Ceramic Dog Bowls

Ceramic bowls are great choices; They can come in fun colors or designs, and you can even get handmade ones. This material is also easy to clean, and you can get different-sized bowls. What you won’t like about ceramic bowls is their durability. They tend to crack easily, and bacteria can grow in the cracks. You should avoid ceramic bowls made in China as the glazes they use are not always safe.

Stainless Steel Water Bowls

Stainless steel bowls hardly crack, so there will be fewer chances of bacteria. The bowls are also dishwasher safe, and you can get them in different sizes. These bowls ensure the surrounding areas are dry because of the rim at the bottom that prevents spilling.

Steel can develop stains and rust due to moisture exposure, so ensure you choose stainless steel. Also, a dog’s strong teeth can easily pierce through the bowl, which can affect their life span. Generally, these bowls are hygienic and are the healthiest choice.

Elevated Bowls

Elevated bowls are more comfortable for big dogs and can help prevent gastrointestinal problems. The plastic or ceramic bowls are placed in a stand to make them higher. You can place them near a wall for additional support.

These bowls are expensive but worth the cost. You can also get those with extra storage, but this will only be useful if your dog is patient and not destructive.

Silicon Dog Bowls

Silicon dog bowls are suitable for traveling because they are collapsible. You can collapse them into a flat 2-D shape and store them in a bag. The bowls also come with clips, making them easy to attach to a bag. However, silicon is easy to destroy, and your dog might not hesitate to play with it.


The science and clever timing around how dogs lap water is interesting to read about. Dog owners can help their dogs stay hydrated by making their water clean and more available. Also, the type of bowl you give your pooch water in matters, so choose the best. Avoid plastic bowls as these can leech chemicals into the water and harbor bacteria. If you opt for ceramic, be sure to buy high-quality bowls made in the USA.

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About the Author

Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York which she shares with three dogs, four donkeys, one mule, and a cat. She holds a Bachelors in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching neighboring farmers about Regenerative Agriculture practices.

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