Book First Walk Free!
The Root of the Behavior
Some dogs prefer moving water, as if they are drinking from a stream, so they put their paws in the bowl to get the still water to move. It does not register that in splashing in the bowl to get the water to move, he is making a mess. Dogs also take any attention as reinforcement of behavior. If the first time he put his paws in the bowl you laughed because you thought it was cute, he took that as a sign to do it again because you paid attention. If you yelled and said ‘no, stop’, he took that attention as a good sign and will likely put his paws in the bowl to get your attention again. Finally, your dog may be putting his paws in his water bowl because he cannot help himself and he feels a compulsion to do so. Getting his paws wet makes a connection to his sense of sound, sight, touch, and even taste. He may have a compulsion to splash in all water forms, or in all bowls. If you have worked with him and made changes to stop the behavior and it continues, there is a good chance he is struggling with a compulsion to splash.
Encouraging the Behavior
Paws in the bowl for attention does require more than a bowl change, but is completely within your control. Begin by ignoring the behavior. If the splashing continues, provide less water in the bowl so that he cannot make as much of a big mess or a big deal with the water that is in the bowl. Before he puts his paws in, praise him for his good behavior, shower him with attention and even offer a treat. The minute he puts his paws in the water, stop the attention and leave the room. If his splashing persists, discuss with a trainer alternative methods to eliminate the behavior. Do not withhold water from your dog as it is essential to his health. If you have tried everything else to no avail, or inherently feel he is suffering from a compulsion, speak to your vet about options to help him. It is important to address compulsive behavior as soon as possible as it can generalize into other situations and become more of an issue for your furry friend.