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Imagine setting down a bowl of water and watching your puppy as he walks over to take a drink. The image is far from glamorous or exciting for most people, but if you have a puppy that needs to wean from its mother and be able to drink water from a bowl, or a puppy that currently gets most of its water from wet dog food and needs to make the switch to dry food, or is becoming more active and you worry about dehydration, there is nothing more exciting than the thought of your puppy taking a drink of water. Perhaps your puppy is recovering from a surgery or an illness and lacks the motivation to drink. Whether you are teaching your puppy to drink water for the first time or you are reteaching your puppy to drink water after an illness, being able to drink water is vital for your puppy's health.
Teaching your puppy to drink water is fairly simple. It will take most puppies between two and eight days to learn. For an older puppy that simply needs to be motivated to drink it could take as little as one day.
If you are worried about dehydration at any point, and your puppy is not responding to the method quickly enough to resolve the issue right away, then contact your veterinarian immediately. Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially in small puppies, and your puppy might need to receive IV fluids while he is learning how to drink. Dehydration can make puppies nauseous and that can further discourage a puppy from eating or drinking.
If your puppy does not respond to these methods, or if your puppy used to drink from another bowl or in another location alright but will not drink anymore, your puppy might be frightened of something in his environment or might be sick. If you suspect an illness, then take your puppy to your veterinarian immediately. Dehydration can happen quickly.
If you suspect fear is keeping your puppy from drinking, look into the following possible causes. If your puppy's bowl is reflective, like a metal bowl, it might be frightening to your puppy because of the lights, shadows, and clanging noises that the bowl makes. If you are using a water jug or a water cooler that holds large amounts of water, then the jug or the cooler might be frightening for your puppy because of the random noises and bubbles that occur when your puppy drinks. There also might be something that your puppy finds scary in the location where his water bowl is. To test whether or not that is the problem, place the bowl in another room and see if your puppy will drink the water there. If you have multiple dogs, although rare, sometimes one dog will claim the water bowl as his own and will use intimidation or aggression to keep the other dog, such as your puppy, away. The threatening dog does not have to be next to the water in order to do this, but simply close enough for your puppy to hear or see him. Try taking your other dog out of the room, to where your puppy can no longer see or hear him, and then encourage your puppy over to the bowl with treats.
To get started you will need water and a small, non-reflective, water bowl. Once your puppy learns to drink from a non-reflective bowl then you can try using a metal bowl if you would like to. Only use a metal bowl if your puppy is not afraid of it though. If you are using the 'Broth' method then you will need low, or ideally, no sodium chicken or turkey broth. If you choose to make your own broth, do not add any salt. If you purchase your broth, then check the ingredients and make sure that they do not contain anything that is unsafe for dogs. Ingredients to avoid include onions, garlic, xylitol, nuts other than peanuts, grapes, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, avocados, and chicken or turkey bones. Some of these ingredients might be tolerated by your dog in very small amounts, such as garlic, but others can be extremely dangerous in any amount, such as xylitol.
If you are using the 'Ice' method then you will also need crushed ice. You can either crush cubes of ice yourself by placing them into a plastic bag and hammering them or, if you have a refrigerator with a crushed ice dispenser, you can use ice from there and simply pick out the pieces that are the appropriate size for your dog.
If you are using the 'Food' method, you will also need pieces of your puppy's dry dog food or treats that your puppy loves. The food or treats will need to be small and will need to float in water. Most dry dog food will float and most dry treats, including freeze-dried meat treats, will as well. With all of the methods, you will need patience, calmness, and a happy and encouraging attitude. You will need to make drinking from a water bowl something pleasant and avoid any sort of punishment or harshness that could lead to fear in your puppy.
The Broth Method
To begin, either make or buy low or no sodium chicken or turkey broth. If you are making the broth yourself, then do not add any salt to it. If you purchase the broth, be sure to check the ingredients to make sure they are safe for your dog.
Fill a small bowl with half a cup of water, then add one and a half tablespoons of chicken broth to it.
Offer the water and broth mixture to your puppy, and encourage him to take a drink.
When your puppy will drink the water and broth, then gradually decrease the amount of broth in the water. Decrease the amount of broth over time, until your puppy will drink the water without any broth in it.
When your puppy will drink the water without any broth in it, add water to the bowl, so that the bowl contains the amount of water that you would like to leave out for your puppy.
The Ice Method
To begin, crush a piece of ice into at least five pieces. If your puppy is a small breed puppy, then crush the ice cube into at least nine pieces.
Feed your puppy a couple of the ice pieces from your hand. If your puppy will not eat them from your hand, then slide them, one at a time, across the floor, so that your puppy will chase after them and become interested in eating them. After your puppy will eat the ice from the floor, try feeding them from your hand again.
Add the bowl
When your puppy will eat the ice from your hand, place the ice pieces into a shallow bowl and offer the bowl to your puppy. If your puppy seems hesitant, place your hand, with the ice inside, into the bowl, and let your puppy eat it out of your hand. Do this until your puppy is comfortable. When he is comfortable, try feeding it from just the bowl again, without your hand.
When your puppy is comfortable eating the ice out of the bowl, add just enough water to the bowl to cover the ice slightly. Give this to your puppy.
Add more water
When your puppy is comfortable eating the ice in the water, then double the amount of water in the bowl.
Remove the ice
When your puppy is comfortable eating the ice out of the water and will lap up the water to drink also, then remove the ice from the water, and give your puppy just water in the bowl.
The Food Method
To begin, choose which type of food you will use. You can use either your puppy's own dog food or treats for this. Choose something that your puppy loves, that is small, and that will float in water. Most dry dog food and freeze dried treats will float.
Place the food into a shallow bowl and cover it slightly with water. Offer the bowl of food and water to your puppy and encourage him to eat and drink it.
When your puppy will eat and drink out of the bowl, then double the amount of water in the bowl.
When your puppy is comfortable drinking from the bowl with the food in it, then begin to gradually decrease the amount of food that is inside the bowl. Do this until your puppy will drink from the bowl without any food in it.
When your puppy is comfortable drinking water from the water bowl, then increase the water, so that the bowl is as full as you would like for it to be.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 03/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021