6 min read


Why Do Dogs Put Toys In Water Bowl



6 min read


Why Do Dogs Put Toys In Water Bowl




Oh, the horror! For the third time this week, you've come home from work to witness what appears to be a drowning ritual in Fido's dog dish. What compels him to dunk his toys into his water bowl? Do you have some sort of strange sociopathic dog on your hands? Whatever the motivation behind the behavior, dogs dropping toys in their water dishes is a common phenomenon in most households with dogs. Through careful consideration of our dogs' origins and by observing their natural instincts, we can garner a great deal of information about why our dogs do what they do. As with most dog behaviors, there is likely a logical explanation for why Fido decides his toys could benefit from a splash or two of H20. While we may never be able to definitively pin it down to one precise factor, we can certainly learn more about what makes our favorite furry friends tick. Is your dog's water baptism of his toys normal? What does he get out of this seemingly strange behavior?

The Root of the Behavior

There are many possible explanations for why our dogs have a penchant for dragging their toys into their water dishes. So many of them choose to do it that we can easily deduce that this is a common favored activity for our dogs. What are they trying to accomplish with this practice that seems so bizarre to us? We could safely assume the obvious. Maybe the toys aren't quite up to Fido's hygienic standards, and thus, he's helping the process along by giving them a bath. This is a logical conclusion. However, simply immersing an object in water is not sufficient to suitably clean it, and our dogs are smart enough to understand this themselves. Thus, it would stand to reason that should our dogs be endeavoring to sanitize their toys for future use that they would also at least make an effort to swish them around in the dish to remove any offensive materials. Another thing to bear in mind is that if our dogs were attempting to clean their toys through their stint in the water dish, they are cleaning them in water intended for them to drink. Does your dog continue to drink from this same dish after dropping and leaving some of his toys in there? If so, cleaning is likely not the reason why Fido is performing toy baptisms.

A different theory suggests that perhaps Fido's preference for well-dunked toys is an instinct based on the same premise as soaking kibble to soften it. Some dogs do prefer food that has been "loosened up" with a splash or two of water. However, this is not something that is seen in all dogs, and therefore, is likely just an individual preference. Also, we know that dogs in the wild would not have been afforded the luxury of such a plentiful water supply to allow them to soak all food prior to consumption. Time was of the essence to the wild dog. When a food source was procured, it was quickly eaten, buried for later, or taken back to the den for consumption by other members of the pack. One of the more popular suggestions for this behavior is that dogs who choose to dunk their toys in their water dish are engaging in a common practice seen in other wild animals. Many animals in the wild are involved in a process called "caching." Caching is simply the act of burying or hiding food for future use. 

Need advice about your pet's health?

Get answers fast from a veterinary professional 24/7 in the Wag! App.

Get Vet Chat

Encouraging the Behavior

Since animals in the wild would have to hunt for their food and prey was not always readily available; the wild dog understood the meaning of true hunger. When a wild dog was able to kill a large prey animal, he would then eat his fill. However, he would not be able to eat all of this food in one sitting and to leave it to waste was unconscionable. Therefore, he would "cache" it. Some dogs choose to cache by digging a hole in an obscure place and burying the food source there. Others hide it in well-camouflaged areas. However, it is also possible to hide food underwater. Water sufficiently cool in temperature could act as a preserving agent for meats which would otherwise spoil if left out in the harsh elements of the land. But there is another plausible factor to this possible reasoning for our dogs choosing to drop their toys in their water dishes. Water would act as an excellent vehicle to mask scent. Burying food reduces its potent smell, but since dogs possess scent receptors that are 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than our own nasal capacities, they would still likely be able to source the meat given enough determination.

However, submerging the meat deep underwater would eliminate any lingering meat fragrance. What better way could there be to keep predators away from the dog's next meal? Some dogs not only place objects in their water dishes, they also like to play in them. This could be for a number of reasons. There are some breeds that are considered "water dogs." Because all dogs are highly individual when it comes to personality, likes, and dislikes, there are also some dogs that just really like water. They enjoy playing in it and they are happiest when they are wet. So, it is possible that your dog just really likes water. It is also feasible to consider that maybe Fido is trying to communicate to you that his water is not as fresh as he'd like it to be. Dogs that drop things in their water or even dig their paws in it could potentially be trying to stir up any debris at the bottom of it. It is their attempt at getting to water that is more potable for them. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

If you see your dog swishing toys around in his bowl or even digging his feet at the bottom of the dish, it may be time to for some cleanup. Take the time to give Fido's dish a thorough scrub down with a mild antibacterial soap. Once washed and thoroughly rinsed, you can then refill the dish with clean, cool water for Fido to enjoy. Lastly, it is possible that your dog simply sees his water dish as a multi-purpose item for him to enjoy. Your dog uses it to drink water from, and how handy! When he's bored, it can also become a toy. It can even make old toys that are no longer that interesting become exciting and fun again. You didn't know your dog was so great at multi-tasking, did you?

Our dogs taking their toys and dunking them in their water bowls is not generally a problem that really bothers most owners. It is a relatively harmless behavior that at worst can be mildly annoying from all of the little puddles you find yourself stepping in. If Fido's water play is problematic in your home, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the frustration for you and your family. First, ensure that your dog's dish rests on an absorbent towel to catch any errant splashes or spills. This will save you changing your socks a lot! Secondly, you can reduce Fido's access to his water dish, leaving it available to him only for drinking. This is not preferable as it requires a great deal of management to ensure that Fido is able to get a drink whenever he feels thirsty throughout the day. You do not want him to become dehydrated.


Does Fido enjoy performing regular toy baptisms? Many dogs do! This behavior is normal and largely harmless for our dogs. Keep towels under Fido's water dish and nearby to quickly clean up any spills then sit back and enjoy the show! Watching our dogs at play is one of the most satisfying and relaxing parts of dog ownership. While we cannot necessarily pinpoint the precise reason behind this seemingly strange behavior, we can embrace it as one of the unique quirks that make Fido the lovable little lad that he is!

By a Parson Russel Terrier lover Jason Homan

Published: 03/22/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

What do you think?

Wag! Specialist
Does your pet have a supplement plan?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.