Automatic Dog Dish Filler Never Goes Dry


[Avatar-X] has a Siberian Husky that gets a lot of exercise throughout the day, and as you would imagine, drinks a ton of water as well. We all suffer from memory lapses at one time or another, and while he is normally good about keeping the bowl filled, he occasionally forgets. He has tried a handful of various auto-filling dog dishes, but none of them seemed to work all that well, and they often rapidly built up healthy bacterial colonies.

With the help of some friends, he rigged up an automatic water dish filler, that ensures his pup always has a sufficient supply of water. He tapped into his kitchen water supply with a standard refrigerator hookup kit, and ran some tubing up into his cabinets, where he placed a garden irrigation valve. The valve is controlled using an Arduino which senses the bowl’s water level using a pair of wires.

The system looks like it works pretty well if the video embedded below is any indicator. [Avatar-X] provides code and schematics for the water control circuit on his site, free to anyone looking to build a similar system for their pets.

If you are interested in learning more about automating some of your pet’s care, be sure to check out these hacks we featured in the past.


37 thoughts on “Automatic Dog Dish Filler Never Goes Dry

  1. Nice setup.

    I’m paranoid about water leaks, so I think I would consider a “water alarm” type of feature–put the dishes into a larger but shallow container which contains a water sensor, if water is detected on that sensor you can enter the error condition and stop any new water from entering.

    I assume the error condition also contains some feedback to you?

  2. Yeah, this really is a nice setup. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work for me. I have a Bull Mastiff and an English Mastiff – they’re the two most slobbery dogs you’ll ever meet. Once the water bowl gets down to a low enough level, it’s all doggy backwash, and absolutely MUST be rinsed/wiped out.

  3. I’d be afraid of failure scenarios. The valve not working, the arduino malfuctioning, the feed pipe springing a leak are all possible scenarios leading to a minor disaster after a long day at work.

    Not to mention the doggy-backwash mentioned above. A clean bowl free of dead bugs, mud, and the random other things I’ve found in the bottom of my dog’s bowl is required.

    Simple solution- set an alarm clock on your phone and in your house to remind you to change the water. I just saved you a few hours, a few 10s of dollars in parts, and a possibly uncomfortable call to your insurance company. You’re welcome.

  4. Haha I KNEW it was the guy from as soon as I saw the dog… He’s the only guy I know of, who is taking home automation to this level…

    Even projectjarvis get’s beaten to hell by him ! ;)

    Anyway, you should check out his other stuff… Like his “car washer” and especially his home automation set up… His touch screen is freaking awesome!

  5. I used a toilet float valve in mine. That combined with a gravity feeder that would hold a 40 pound bag of dog food made weekend trips a no worry event. Got the “bowl” from a farm supply store, then cobbled together a cover from a bucket so the dogs couldn’t break off the float valve.

  6. @fotoflojoe — Actually, I think this rig could work just fine for you, as there’s no reason to wait for the bowl to get empty before it is refilled. Just have the circuit top off the bowl whenever the water level drops at all.

  7. Regarding doggy backwash: I see water-fountains repurposed for cats. Flowing your water through some simple filtration/sanitation and occasionally automatically topping off your reservoir seems like it’d reduce your need to clean, same as in a pool.

  8. Automatic food and water dispensers always make me nervous. When you’re designing something that helps support life, you have to consider the consequences of a failure situation. Automatic feeders can have lethal results if they fail. And nobody has thought of a way to make this kind of product completely fail-safe. If a timer mechanism breaks down, or a circuit doesn’t have adequate power, what will happen? Either the dog will starve, or if all the food is released during a failure situation it will eat all the food it can, and starve for the following days.

  9. Perhaps it could email/text you of there is a fault? An uninterruptible powersupply maybe with the option to charge from the mains, a tge main water supply fed through a pump to generate power, solar, wind extra) and if the water presure gets low it uses an 80L barrel untill the supply comes back on(maybe only
    filling the bowl half way once/twice a day depending on the dogs size/number of dogs)
    with a ball valve to refill the barrel when the water does return. Only notifying you if things could get critical soon.
    — sarcastic overkill… (:
    But some people do take things this far haha

  10. Absolutely must shut off in 2-3 bowl-refill times, and lockout. If vacationing, the bowl must be fixed to hose-tap. I had a washer-flood a month ago. Wet-vac, fans!
    Automatic filled food ie. endless filled food bowls make me nervous and make for some fat cats and dogs. Uncleaned water bowls and fountains ditto and breed powerful germs and now nanobacteria implicated in tartar and plaque. Nature never concentrated into such a veritable petri-dish such conditions. Bring it on. Bathroom sinks have to have a cloaca from the sewer pipe to the top of the basin. It’s called the overflow safety, but it’s actually been functioning as our germ pool culture along with the common toothbrush holder and glass for more than a century. Somehow kitchen sinks and commercials are exempt from this gag.
    Keep it clean.

  11. why not make the bottom conical and a hole in it and after 3 hours the whole bowl gets drained and refeshed water , if the stream of water is strong enough it will take most of the filth with it.

    as such you’ll need to either dig a hole in your floor or raise the bowl , by this eliminating the situation that the dog can flip the bowl over or move it.

  12. Hi everyone,

    Wow, thanks for all the awesome comments! To those who say this is unnecessary and silly and I should just get an alarm clock: Take a look at the site you are on :)

    Doggy backwash: My dog isn’t that slobbery, and he likes to finish the bowl right to the bottom. That combined with the evaporator timer means that any slobber is pretty much gone. I still clean the bowl every few days.

    Water alarm: The flow rate isn’t very high, so if the dish somehow got knocked over, only a few litres would flow onto the floor before the alarm noticed and stopped it. It wouldn’t be a big deal.

    Reliability: I’m using industrial gardening valves that are designed to go outdoors, so I’m pretty sure they won’t fail :)

    Life support: This isn’t designed to sustain the dog over a long weekend or anything, just for when I am home!

    Toilet: I know I could train him to drink from the toilet, but that’s just gross, I’d rather not :)

    If I travel, I will simply shut off the water supply. It’s not really a huge deal.

    Draining: Yeah, draining and refreshing it would be nice, but then I’d need a plumbing hookup to the drain as well!

    Thanks again for all of your awesome comments! The project was a lot of fun and allowed me to get rid of my “DogIt” water fountain (what a piece of crap)

  13. @Stevie, no, it won’t unless you have a toilet that is significantly different from most of the toilets sold for the past 50 years. You have to flush to get water from the top reservoir to the bottom bowl. You’re probably seeing some other effect and confusing it.

  14. @ehrichweiss Yeah you are correct — the bowl will appear to refill because it goes back further into the back of the toilet. But if too much water is removed from the bowl, it will allow sewer gases into the home as the water in the bowl serves as a trap, as well as a siphoning system (this is what actually sucks your waste down).

  15. @Henrik Pedersen It’s cool that Avbrand has such a big fan in you. I got to hang out with him and Taiga last week and saw the place first-hand. It really is a super cool spot.

  16. I wondered how many avatar-x’s could be out there. Now I know the answer is one.

    I love UER. I never knew about avbrands, so now I have another way to waste time at work.

    Great build. Keep it up.

  17. About that toilet thing:
    You also clean your toilet with chemicals, so if you just did that and the dogs goes for a drink you’d have him in trouble.
    Not to mention the blue stuff or fresheners many people use in it.
    Also you’d need to keep the lid up and the seat too unless you want to sit on drool and dog-mouth residue.
    And you’d need to keep the bathroom accessible by the dog, not ideal in many homes.

    And that’s just what I think of on the spot without pondering on issues.

  18. I love all the germaphobe comments. Guys, and gals, dogs will eat their own crap. People will wash out a dog bowl because it looks icky, long before it will actually hurt the dog.

  19. @Davo111 : There are several major problems with your suggestion:

    1. The float valve would keep constant water in the dish, never allowing it to empty and be completely replaced. That would allow bacteria and crap to grow very quickly. Part of what makes my dish work is the “empty and evaporate” cycle.

    2. Your design is actually extremely unreliable, as if knocked over, it will continually flow onto the floor with no safety.

    The image you linked is from a dish designed for outdoor use, where spillage or overflow isn’t a problem.

  20. @AV
    you “empty and evaporate” cycle do nothing more than annoying the dog, Think how all living stuff get into the water in the first place, most bacterias can survive dry for months and its airborne

  21. @AV

    1. the “bacteria” would be there with or without the water. dogs lick each others assholes, germs isn’t really a concern over a few days.
    2. Just place it on a piece of plywood attached it with two small latches.

    OR Better yet, dont connect the pipe to a tap, just a 2L jug (like a funnel). If the bowl gets knocked over, 2L of water will pour onto the floor, not have a constant stream overnight.

  22. Heh, 2L of water would be enough to fill the bowl once. My dog empties the bowl maybe 3 or 4 times a day. There are already commercial products on the market that have a large reservoir that refills the bowl. I tried one; after three days there was green stuff growing in the bowl and it smelled really bad.

    I’ve found that having the bowl empty and then become refilled with clean water simply works. Green stuff does not grow.

    I’m not sure why all this negativity is here — if you don’t like my design, you don’t have to use it. I’m telling you that I’ve tried the other commercial solutions on the market and they don’t work for me or my dog. My solution is simple and it works, and it was pretty cheap too!

  23. av, I think your water rig is a great solution.

    Some of the comments regarding failure and the like are more scare mongering than anything else. Your refrigerator’s ice/water pump is just as likely to get “stuck on” as your dish filler is. At least you have some fail-safes built in.

    As far as the negativity goes, welcome to Troll-a-day, I mean Hack-a-day!

    It’s good stuff – keep on keepin’ on my friend.

  24. I think this is a great start even if it is an old post now. I too have had problems with the pet fountains. My cats LOVE the fountains with constantly running water. Unfortunately, the reservoirs on them are tiny compared to actual needs and evaporation rate. I am planning on re-purposing one of these fountains to hook up via the same system as my refrigerator ice-maker/water. Then I can use their filters with it, the running water my cats want, and the fresh water they need. I was thinking something that would drain old water and bring in a fresh supply at a regular interval, maybe once a day. I know from experience how quickly bacteria can build in these systems, so I would probably do a weekly clean on it, but the constant fresh water and the filter should help a lot with that. Anyway, I know this is an old post, but it is helpful to see other people’s work so I can make mine better. If anyone has seen newer trials for systems like this, I would love to hear them.

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