Why do dogs slip on hardwood floors? Let’s face it, dogs weren’t really meant to live in homes with slippery hardwood floors. Nature crafted dogs with an anatomy ideal for walking on different types of terrains as found in natural settings, where slipping was unlikely.
A dog slipping on hardwood floors is not only risky business as dogs can get hurt, but is also a scary experience for dogs; indeed, it’s not unheard of for some dogs to even develop fear of walking on slippery floors. Fortunately, there are some steps dog owners can take to help their dogs gain more traction on such slippery surfaces.
A Foreign Surface
A dog’s paws were specifically designed in such a way to allow him to dig, walk and run around on natural terrains. If we take a look at the dog’s toenails we will see that they are meant to dig into earthen terrains, just like cleats, explains veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby.
When we open our hearts and homes to our canine companions, they have a hard time getting a grip on tiles, linoleum and hardwood floors. This lack of traction causes dogs to slip, which can be a scary experience for dogs who lose their footing and risk getting hurt.
Dogs tend to learn quickly from scary experiences, so it doesn’t take long for them to develop fearful responses after a negative experience such as falls or near falls involving a slippery floor.
Loss of Traction
Let’s put ourselves in our dog’s paws for a second. When a dog slips on a hardwood floor, he likely doesn’t understand exactly what is happening to him, especially if he wasn’t exposed to hardwood floors before and doesn’t know how to negotiate them as a seasoned dog who grew up on such flooring would. He therefore loses control of his legs as the floor feels as if it’s moving under him, almost as if walking on some imaginary treadmill.
Have you ever felt that unpleasant sensation of walking on ice? Dogs likely get that same unsteady sensation, but on top of that, they don’t understand what exactly is going on. And to makes things even worse, they react by trying to move quickly over the slippery floor with their nails tightly clenched, rather than relying on their paw pads.
The Long Nail Effect
A further aggravating effect, that makes it even difficult for dogs to walk on smooth, hardwood floors, are long nails. When a dog has long nails, the nails elevate the toe pads preventing them to allow normal, weight, bearing contact with the floor, this ultimately decreases traction on hard floors, explains Dr. MelJ, a graduate of the University of MN College of Veterinary Medicine.
On top of that, when walking on a hard, slippery floor, the long nails cause the toes to splay apart in an awkward fashion which causes pain upon walking. Appropriate nail care will not only improve your dog’s posture and gait, but it will also drastically improve traction… at least to some degree, further adds Dr. Buzby.
Hairs Out of Place
On top of long nails getting in the way, the hairs between a dog’s toes may further decrease traction making dogs more likely to slip on tiles, linoleum and hardwood floors.
This is mostly seen in long-haired dogs such as Golden retrievers as they travel around the house and the hairs between their paws interfere with their paw pad’s ability to give traction. In this case, removal of these hairs may be helpful, according to Animal Behavior College. You may want to see a groomer for this though as it’s a delicate job that requires your dog to stay very still.
Old dogs, dog with orthopedic problems and special needs dogs, may have a harder time walking on slippery surfaces. Unlike younger dogs with healthy joints, older dogs may struggle if one leg starts to slip, as they may lack the necessary strength and balance to correct themselves and rely on their other legs, explains Dr. Petty in the book: “Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs: The Complete Medical and Integrative Guide.” These dogs may therefore not have the strength to draw back the legs that give out, leaving them in a sensation of overall helplessness.
On top of feeling the unsteady sensation as they walk on these surfaces, they may also be stiff or feel pain in their hindquarters as they struggle to gain their balance back. These dogs can be helped out by trimming their nails short, placing throw rugs on slippery areas and investing in special products meant to increase traction.
Did you know? The hairs between a dog’s toes are referred to as “interdigital hairs.”