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Ask AKC

with Lisa Peterson
July 2008

Dear Lisa: I have a ten month old German Shepherd Dog that I am training to be my service dog. He is doing beautifully with one exception which will pose a problem for me. When he drinks he walks away from the bowl with a mouthful of water and spreads it all over the floor. This is a lot of water not just small drops. I have tried narrow necked bowls, I have tried holding his head over the dish after a drink and he resists this and then will not drink. I have tried putting just a little water in his bowl, nothing works. This will cause difficulty when we are out in public and is a constant irritant at home. He has done this since I got him from the breeder at 12 weeks.Water Bowl Woes    

Dear Woes: Many years ago I saw this fascinating science show on how animals drink water which included slow motion video of dogs. It showed that dogs plunge their tongue into the bowl of water and then curl them backwards to create a ladle to scoop up the water into the bottom of their mouths! They are literally splashing the water to the back rather than politely sipping which can be quite messy. I had a female show dog once who was also a real messy drinker. Here are some tricks I learned to help keep things dry.

In the Home and on the Road
At home I placed a small ceramic water bowl in each room of the house with a very small amount of water in it. I also put a towel or cotton bathroom mat under it to absorb any water which spilt. Since it was so little water there wasn’t much to spill. If she was still thirsty she went to the other bowls in the house. The towels really helped and could be easily hung out to dry.

On the road or at dog shows when large bowls of water weren’t readily available, I used ice cubes and a spray bottle. You can request ice cubes in a bowl at a restaurant. It will keep your dog occupied chewing on the cubes and give him the needed hydration. Also, you can take a spray bottle and lift his lip and spray several squirts at a time and have him swallow that as well. These tips work well on the road, but when you get home he may still want a decent amount of water. Place him in a crate with a bowl on a towel which will keep the water limited to the floor of the crate for easy clean-up.


Dear Lisa: I have a total of 3 elkhounds, 2 being pups. This breed is the best I have ever been around during my life long love of animals. My male is very sweet and minds quite well. However, my female is very hard headed and when loose will NOT come when called. I have used all the training techniques suggested in the book I have on elkhounds but with no luck. We have tried the long leash and rewarding with treats when she comes when called. But she knows that the second she is free away she goes. We have 12 acres of mostly woods but I don't want her to get hurt plus I want her to learn to come on command. HELP!!– Educating an Elkhound

Dear Educating: Before we begin, I have to agree with you 100 % that the breed is the best (full disclosure I currently own three of them!). But I had to laugh when I read your question because I too have a female, Jinx, who is just like that. She has “me” trained very well that when I say “come” in the backyard she will not move. She waits for me to go in the house and get a treat before she comes.

Teaching old dogs new tricks
Jinx figured out the “come” command always meant we were going inside the house. So, to prolong playtime she would wait for the treat, which bought her extra time running around the fenced-in yard playing with her ball. Then I discovered her love of bananas. She will do anything for a banana, including run into the house at lighting speed. I gave up on the “come” command and retrained her to come with the word “banana” as the cue.

But to outsmart her I had to do a variety of things with her after she came to get the banana or she’d quickly figure out what that meant. When she now comes just before I give her the banana, I ask her to sit, I do nothing but give it to her, I let her run around the yard some more, I give her a belly rub, I bring her inside, or I sit down on the ground and play with her.

Now each time I say banana she comes running over to 1) get her piece of banana and 2) see what fun activity I have in store for her. She still ignores me when I say “come” but when I say banana she comes every time. Take the time to teach your dog a new word, use a new treat that she really loves, maybe steak or a hot dog, and before you know it your elkhound will be right at your side every time! 


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses.

© 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.