We all know that adequate water intake is essential to a dog’s health, especially since it is the only fluid they should be drinking. But recently, with high definition cameras and the rampant inquisitiveness that comes with being a modern internet user, we’ve become more interested in how dogs drink water. Water consumption and keeping hydrated is just as essential to dogs as it is to us, possibly even more so, since the panting dogs do in hotter climes leads to moisture loss pretty rapidly in canines.
When you watch your dog drink water, it can seem like a pretty uncomplicated, if not messy, concept. With a lot of larger or heavy dogs, it appears that they just kind of lap it up and splash it in the general region of their mouths, while splashing a liberal amount on the surfaces around them. Some dogs, if they prefer a neater, drier drinking experience, position their faces at the edge of the water bowl furthest from their bodies, and appear to gently take in the water. Both dogs are probably doing the same thing with their tongues, though, and both of them are definitely working optimally within their genetic capacity.
How Dogs Drink Water
The nature of water plays a role in how dogs drink, too. A pliable and most precious natural element, dogs can use the motion of their tongues to keep the water ‘flowing’ in a kind of stream, or column, that seems to maintain itself between the pool of water in the dish and the tongue. If you watch very closely, you can see that a dog closes it’s mouth between laps of water. This successfully ends the drink of water, from what was gathered in the tongue, to the column of water just beneath it.
But how exactly it is that dogs drink water differently from us humans all begins with the cheeks. Humans can create suction to eat and drink things, because our mouths are smaller, our lips are often much more prominent, and our cheeks cover our mandibular area. If you close your mouth and bring air up from your lungs, your cheeks inflate. This works both ways. With an open mouth, you can suck in air. Do it hard enough, and your cheeks collapse inward with the force of the air. This is similar to how we drink fluids. Dogs, cats, and many other animals have what are commonly referred to as incomplete cheeks. Their mouths are easily able to open much wider. An example of this would be when you observe your dog panting, and almost all of their teeth are visible. Wider mouths are critical in grabbing, trapping, and catching prey. You’d think it’s a rather unfortunate characteristic when it comes to drinking water, but dogs have it figured out. The wide open sides of the mouth also make the tongue a lot more available for use.
When you make a pot of soup, you probably serve it with a ladle. When a dog drinks some water, this is the shape they make with their tongue as they are gathering the water to drink. The interesting detail that humans are not aware of is that the ladle shape of the tongue is formed backwards, cupping and tossing the water from the underside of their tongues, directly into their mouths. You usually see your dog with its tongue curled up and inward, but they can and do flip that cupped tongue the other way to bring in fluids.
Your dog already knows how to drink water, but you can still make the experience easier for them by choosing the appropriate vessel. When selecting a water dish, consider the size of the dog, and it’s capabilities. If you have a larger dog, an elevated water dish is an excellent choice, because it is better for their digestive systems than stooping down to drink or eat. A tiny dog should never have to strain or climb to access their regular water dish, so if you have a small breed, make sure their water dish is low enough to the ground that their throat doesn’t catch on the rim. This impedes appropriate swallowing, and is uncomfortable. And while you may be tempted by the lower price points on a plastic water dish, try stainless steel. It generally isn’t much more expensive, is easy to clean, and will last a very long time compared to other products. Plastics, ceramics, and other materials stain, scratch, and break. You wouldn’t drink water out of a cracked or dirty glass, would you?
Dogs also, unsurprisingly, prefer to drink water that isn’t hot. Hot water is not as cooling, and you already know by now that dogs overheat much more easily than humans. Keep your dog’s water dish out of sunny areas, indoors or out. If the temperature rises, replace the water inside with something fresh and cool. If the temperature is consistently average, stick to the general rule of emptying and refilling the water dish twice a day- dust particles, allergens, skin cells, and dog hair collect in their water quickly.
A dog knows how much water it needs, just as you do, and will regulate its own water intake accordingly. However, if your dog is tired out after an adventure, and finishes all of their water, wait a little bit before offering them a refill. It’s best to remember to keep them hydrated while being active, rather than all at once afterward. There are actually products on the market to help keep your dog in water on the go, such as a portable water bottle with attached dish, that unfolds to give your dog a drink while traveling.
Now that you know how your dog drinks water, you can watch carefully and appreciate the age-old, wondrous biological technique that your otherwise ordinary-seeming pet has been carrying out effortlessly all along. After you’ve seen it in action, try observing other animals drink, and marvel at the diverse tools nature has given each living creature.