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Why Do Dogs Make A Mess While Drinking Water?

Neat, clean and tidy is not a description that is commonly applied to dogs. Dogs approach the world with great enthusiasm and many seem to actually enjoy making huge messes- get a bunch of them together at a dog daycare and see how proud they are when they turn a toy into a mess spread across an entire room. When it comes to drinking water the same doggy enthusiasm usually results in a giant puddle. If your dog is a bit jowly or has a beard, substitute “lake” for “puddle” in the preceding sentence.

No Cheeks

People drink by pouring water into the mouth from a cup- a manufactured cup, or in a pinch a cup made from a curved hand. We have cheeks, so the water enters and stays inside the mouth. Dogs don’t have cheeks; if they tried to drink by pouring water from a cup into their mouth the water would just pour out the sides of the mouth. They also don’t have hands, so cups are out of the question anyway. They do have tongues.

Smash the Water

If you’ve ever watched a dog closely while it’s drinking you can be forgiven for thinking the dog is deliberately trying to create a puddle. For those who prefer not to crawl around on their hands and knees near the dog’s water bowl, here is a slow-motion video of dogs drinking water.

A dog drinks using a very interesting mechanism- he smashes his curled tongue into the water and then scoops a column of water up into his mouth with the tongue, spraying and dripping water everywhere. The process looks very messy, and as all dog owners know, it is messy. Apparently dogs can’t help it due to the design of their mouths?

Elegant Cats

Except that cats have the exact same mouth design. And cats don’t make giant puddles of water when they drink. Here are two videos side-by-side showing cats and dogs drinking. Cats delicately touch their tongue to the water and pull a column of water up into their mouths. It’s much more elegant and far less messy than the dog’s approach. Yes, it does seem that the dog makes a mess while drinking water because it’s more fun that way. Mopping up around the dog water bowls is almost a full-time job at most dog daycare centers.