How do I get my dog to walk on hardwood floors?
May 2, 2006 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Why is my dog so terrified of the hardwood floors of my new apartment?

My new place is almost completely hardwood flooring.
My dog won't walk on them, even for treats. If I set her on the floor she scurries to the closest person and jumps onto them, or finds a towel or blanket on the floor. Now she barks when she wants to go outside/elsewhere because she refuses to walk on the floor!

I see how it can scare her, but is it possibly actually hurting her? Shouldn't she have figured this out by now (we've been here for four days)? Please please please what can I do to fix this short of carpeting the entire floor?!

Thank you for your reply!
posted by ackeber to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
She knows she'll ruin it by scratching it up, and she's anticipating your reaction when you realize that your hardwood floor is destroyed and will cost you lots of money.

Have you had the dog since she was a puppy? A previous owner may have trained her not to ruin hardwood floors. Most of my friends with hardwood floors have trained their dogs not to walk on them.
posted by JekPorkins at 2:49 PM on May 2, 2006

My dog used to hate them because he could never get good footing and would slide around everywhere like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. He totally hated Tom Cruise.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 2:50 PM on May 2, 2006

Response by poster: Lol the floor is shitty quality anyways, I rent.
I have had her since she was a puppy, but I haven't had hardwood floors until now. We're trying to train her TO walk on them! (It isnt working)
posted by ackeber at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2006

His inability to get good footing/traction was my first thought, too. Also, maybe the sound of his nails clicking on the floor seems strange or scary to him?
posted by scody at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2006

Response by poster: How do I get her to understand that it is OK?
posted by ackeber at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2006

She's probably having trouble getting traction. You might try laying out a pathway of carpets for her so she can navigate to all of the rooms. She will probably, eventually, learn to walk on a slippery surface.

If she's old, it may very well be beyond her to actually stand. My mom's older dog got to the point that her back legs would slide out from under her.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:54 PM on May 2, 2006

If it's the claw thing, maybe she would respond well to Soft Claws claw covers. I haven't seen arguments for or against claw covers -- I'm sure there are a ton -- but you could ask your vet if such a thing would be likely to help.
posted by brina at 3:08 PM on May 2, 2006

For claw covers: my vet said that they won't bother or hurt the dog, but they'll fall off every day and you'll grow tired of putting them on after a week or so anyway.
posted by muddylemon at 3:12 PM on May 2, 2006

Trim his claws.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:13 PM on May 2, 2006

If the dog need some paw grooming, take care of that, too. When my dogs' paw fur grows out, they slip and slide and they hate that, especially the little dogs. (I'm guessing that your dog is small, too, little dogs don't have any ballast on a slick surface.)
posted by Dreama at 4:19 PM on May 2, 2006

A friend of mine has a Collie that will not walk on hardwood floors. After a year or so of trying to get him accustomed to it, he gave up and now the dog has runners to get to where he needs to go. That was over 5 years ago - somethings never change.
Good luck.
posted by walleeguy at 4:33 PM on May 2, 2006

My dog used to seem scared of the clicking noise his feet made, but after a short time seemed to grow used to it and later had no problems.

It wasn't to the same extent as your dog is though.
posted by knapah at 4:34 PM on May 2, 2006

A long shot--is she perhaps frightened by the reflection of "another dog" she's seeing in the floor? The hardwood floors in my place are so shiny I could probably tell a girl in a skirt what color her panties are.
posted by sourwookie at 4:45 PM on May 2, 2006

Have you had her since a pup? I know some people train their dogs to not walk on their hardwood flooring; I've trained mine to not go in the kitchen or the bathroom, and when we visit my mother's house my dog right out refuses to walk on the linoleum, even in a common area such as the mud room.
posted by rhapsodie at 5:11 PM on May 2, 2006

My parents' dog was completely freaked out by the lawn in the backyard and the stairs in their house when they first got her, but after a couple of weeks, she got used to it. Knapah's suggestion that the clicking of her toenails may freak her out is a good one too. With more time, she'll probably get used to it and realize that the sound and lack of traction are normal.
posted by clarahamster at 5:23 PM on May 2, 2006

Give her time and don't force her into anything. I also wouldn't accomodate her by laying rugs everywhere. Dogs have to learn to adapt to our world (for the most part). She will.
posted by MrZero at 6:27 PM on May 2, 2006

Not dogs, but our rabbits have big problems with out hardwood floors if we don't keep their nails trimmed. Even when trimmed, upon the first meeting of animal vs. floor, it was chaos and sliding about.

So trim the nails and be patient!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:30 PM on May 2, 2006

Every time we have a question about dog behavior, I have to bring up my hero (and secret TV boyfriend) Cesar Millan.

He had a similar case to yours in the first season. Here's a description of it from the San Diego paper:

One of the most incredible successes on "The Dog Whisperer" was the story of Kane, a 160-pound Great Dane who was phobic of shiny floors. Kane's owner is a Pasadena teacher and the dog had slipped on the linoleum of the school hallway, crashing into a glass door a year before. Traumatized, the 2-year-old gentle giant fearfully stopped in his tracks at the sight of shiny surfaces, even wet streets.

With coaxing and a few words, Millan sat in a chair in the school hallway and allowed the leashed Kane to take baby steps to him until the dog overcame his fright.

"Kane is completely over the whole thing," marvels owner Marina Dahlen, whose dog has marched over many shiny floors since the show taped six months ago. "Cesar just let him know he wasn't going to give up on him."

That doesn't exactly do justice to the training Cesar did, but if you watch the show, you probably can get the jist of it. I think season one may be out on DVD soon, not that it helps you now.

OK, not sure if that was helpful at all.
posted by SashaPT at 7:07 PM on May 2, 2006

It's probably that she doesn't get enough traction to be comfortable, and/or that she is just not used to this kind of footing (dogs survive by being able to move, it's very common for dogs to find slippery flooring worrisome). Definitely trim her nails. I would also look into two other things at the same time to deal with this.

First, there is a product called Show Foot, which is an anti-slip spray you put on the dog's feet - this should at very least help your dog stop experiencing the thing she's worried about (slipping), which is going to be very helpful to you.

Second, after you've applied some Show Foot (you absolutely DO NOT want her first brave efforts to walk on the scary floor to be rewarded with slipping and sliding, you want to teach her that the floor is okay to walk on, and you teach her this by making it true - not only are there very special treats involved with stepping on the floor, it's also not slippery after all!), get a clicker and some treats she really loves (I don't mean Milk Bones, I mean bits of cheese, steak, chicken or whatever she REALLY loves, and almost never gets, the treats for now are only to be associated with the floor, the only time she gets them is when you're working on the floor issue, the bits of food should be no bigger than pea-sized, they're a taste, not a meal), choose a time when she's exercised and hungry, find an area of the house where the dog can sit on a flooring she's comfortable on (not something you have to carry or lure her onto, carpet or at least a doormat, and she needs to be able to move away from the hardwood floors if at all possible).

You should sit a few feet away from the dog on the hardwood floor (you're not trying to lure her, you're demonstrating that the floor is safe, and you are providing her with a target to look at, i.e. you), start by just clicking the clicker and tossing her a treat immediately afterward (toss the treat TO her, do not toss the treat on the hardwood, all you are doing at this point is teaching her that the click means food is coming her way). Once you've done this a few times, she should be pretty interested in what sort of game is going on. Then, start clicking and treating her for looking even remotely in the direction of the floor, if she doesn't do this at all, place a treat right in front of her, then right in front of her but on the hardwood floor (and then click and give her a second treat for sniffing or eating the first one). You must follow every click with a treat, even if you click by mistake, and you must give her the treat within a few seconds of the click for her to make the connection easily. The more gradual you can be at this stage, the more likely you are to succeed later. It's better to have four or five two minute sessions in a day than one ten minute one. If all you accomplish in the first day is a dog who looks at you expectantly when you click the clicker, that's still good. Take baby steps for the first week at least, looking at the floor, sniffing at the floor, standing up near the floor, leaning toward the floor, putting one toenail on the floor, etc. It's better to over-reward miniscule steps than start raising your criteria too soon, and do not call the problem solved prematurely.

Be patient, and if possible, carry her over the floor for now (although I usually really don't approve of carrying dogs of any size, this may be the one sort of case where it's useful). You need to manage the situation such that the ONLY times she walks on the floor she will a) not slip and b) be rewarded greatly for it. ALWAYS stop before she gets bored or full (and remember to cut her regular food back to account for the extra calories from the treats), ALWAYS stop when she's really interested, and NEVER push or force her. If this is a fear/discomfort issue, forcing her will make solving the problem much harder, if not impossible, since forcing a scared dog to do something they're scared of just reinforces their idea that they were right to be scared.
posted by biscotti at 7:13 PM on May 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I knew someone would mention that Dog Whisperer show. That technique is called "flooding", it is very controversial (and not generally the best choice unless you need a problem solved in the short time your TV show offers), the dog in question was clearly terrified, and that is not a method that most modern behaviourists would choose, let alone one that average owners should use, it can backfire spectacularly. JMO, mind you, but one that's shared by a lot of dog trainers.
posted by biscotti at 7:18 PM on May 2, 2006

Scatter rugs and/or carpet runners? Enough of them to give the dog "stepping stones" over the hardwood. When she's comfortable, start widening the hardwood area by removing one rug at a time, and moving the remaining rugs farther apart?
posted by Savannah at 7:31 PM on May 2, 2006

Man, Biscotti - every single dog question on AskMeFi I have ever seen has an amazing answer from you in it. Fantastic.
posted by buddha9090 at 8:36 PM on May 2, 2006

FWIW, I recently installed new floors and my *toddler*freaked out. He cried when he saw the flooring and was distraught and clingy for several days. (We had wall-to-wall carpet before.) He only settled down when I got a new area rug. In fact, he put his head down on the rug and said, "Aaaaaaaaaaah!" It still took him a week to get comfortable with the flooring. He's a very perceptive little guy.

So, perhaps try putting down an area rug in a corner. Then your dog has a safe place where things seem "normal". From there, you can coax him out to the floor, on to other rugs, or use the slip-foot stuff.
posted by acoutu at 9:53 PM on May 2, 2006

I use Soft Claws on a cat, and they work fairly well. You just have to make sure they dont gnaw them off in the first five minutes, then the glue should hold. After that, I replace about two a week, as they fall off. Its worth it to me to protect the furniture. Not sure how it would work out for a dog though...
posted by gilsonal at 10:12 PM on May 2, 2006

I knew a girl with an old German Sheperd with a similar problem. She'd put little rubber booties on his feet. The hound's problem wasn't just with walking on a smoth floor, even standing was a concern, as his feet (either pair, fore or aft) would slip apart, kinda like a splitz, and his owner sensed this causing him great pain. Hence, the booties.
posted by Rash at 4:05 PM on May 3, 2006

Response by poster: thanks everyone!

well, she has mostly gotten used to them...but sometimes she starts running and wipes out, which slows her down for a few days. and she refuses to go into the kitchen still, but oh well.
posted by ackeber at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2006

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