How do I keep my dog from self-serving ice cubes and water from my refrigerator? For months I thought the appliance was faulty because there were always pieces of ice and puddles of water in front of it. A few hundred dollars in service calls later, I finally caught my dog in the act. What now?
If your dog’s desire to obtain water is not because of a medical condition (and I urge you to have him checked immediately by your vet to rule this possibility out), then you’ve just learned what all good dog behaviorists already know – Dogs Learn Best What They Discover Themselves.
Whether it’s something you want them to learn (a “down” command), or not (using the toilet as a water bowl), if they gain the knowledge themselves, they’ll accomplish their goal more quickly than if you tried to teach them. Plus, as an added bonus, the behavior will most likely become hard-wired into their psyche (read: difficult to “re-train”). To fully understand this concept, think about how long it would take you to teach your dog to climb over the fence in your backyard vs. how long it would take him to climb over it if there was something he really wanted on the other side. Non-neutered dogs seeking the attention of females in heat would fall into the Warp 5 category of fence-vaulting.
In your case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Unplugging the water and ice capabilities of your refrigerator and letting your dog have a fruitless (or cube-less) month or so whenever he pushes the levers will eventually extinguish the behavior. However, if you take away his one-armed bandit game without substituting a few challenging dog toys, then you risk him quitting his ice cube habit and taking up another, equally entertaining (to him) game.