19

One of my Chihuahuas has small problems with her balance so she's afraid of walking on wooden floors. She will walk on carpets, grass, stone and snow just fine, but she won't go on wooden surfaces with all four legs. She will very rarely walk back to the carpet if left stranded in the middle of the wooden surface. Once she starts walking, she will usually walk till the end. The longer she stands still, the more her legs spread out and soon she will be lying on her stomach.

How could I make her more confident in her ability to walk on wooden (and other slippery) surfaces?

11

We had this problem with both of our Labrador Retrievers when they were young, but fortunately we didn't have much wood except in 2 rooms that they rarely visited. What was even more confusing is they didn't have any problems with the tile or vinyl flooring, just the wood. And they would usually walk into the room just fine, but leaving was another problem.

When they did venture into those rooms, they would get themselves stranded on the area rug in the middle of the room and would stand there trying to figure out how to get out without stepping on the floor, and their solution would usually involve trying to jump to the surface they were more comfortable with. but since the span was usually too far to jump, it would usually end up with them landing on the wood and result in a crash landing, which would make them more nervous on the floor and eventually would leave them barking from the room when they were stuck.

So what worked for us was encouraging them to walk across the floor with us nearby.

  • We'd place a treat near them on the floor, close enough that they could reach it without stepping on the floor.
  • We'd then repeat, slowly moving the treat further away and encourage them to reach for it any way they wanted to.
  • When the treat was far enough away that they needed to step onto the floor, we'd offer some support (physically help support them) while encourage them to walk slowly.
  • Eventually, they learned to take small steps to keep their weight centered and they would be confident enough to walk across the floor.

This was not a quick process (I think it took 3-6 months for each of them), but we'd only do it a few times each session a couple of times a week. We also tried to end on a success so we cut a few session short if they had a couple of positive results in a row.

3

To elaborate on the training idea, use a good steady harness (making sure that it won't dig into the dog's skin), or some sort of a sling of your own design, you can partially support your dog's weight while he/she walks on the floor.

Start out by holding the harness/sling taut and support almost all of the weight, just letting the legs touch, and gradually let the dog support more and more of its own body weight. That way, it will get used to the sensation slowly and gain some confidence in its own movement.

3

I tend to agree with this answer, here a few things I would also consider.

First, make sure that the dog can't physically get hurt. Toy breeds usually have very fragile bones. With time the dog will get used to the slippery floor and he manage to move around in a better way, but at the beginning he'll be nervous and that could make him fall.

Second, for these kinds of problem the strategy that I would adopt is to use counter classical conditioning in combination with positive reinforcement for approaching the location. That means that you'll first reward the dog for approaching the place, stepping on the floor, etc. Step by step, very progressively and with many short training sessions. Then, as the dog approaches the slippery floor and stand on it, the counter conditioning means that he will associate the place with positive events and not with his fear. You could imagine to feed him some portion of his meals there.

The two key points are:

  • make the dog think for himself and decide to approach and step on the surface (that's operant conditioning, you reward every tiny step)
  • suppress completely the old fear that the dog have, that's the classical counter conditioning part

This is explained in details in this video: How to train your dog to get over his fears! using clicker training. That's for a dog who's afraid of the kitchen slippery floor.

When dealing with fear problems two things have to be avoided: correcting the dog for the "bad" behaviour and "flooding" the dog, that means exposing him to a very high level of fear/stress thinking that if the dog overcomes his fear he will be treated. That's the equivalent of locking an arachnophobic person in a closed with hundreds of spiders. I don't think any sane person would recommend that or would volunteer to be treated that way. In the approach I describe above, you start reward the dog as soon as the level of "stress" is present, at a very low level, say 3 meters from the bad spot.

2

If your dog's paw pads are in good condition, they will help prevent your dog from slipping, just like your feet do.

  • If your dog's pads are hard, apply some pad wax (it's called wax, but is more like a moisturizer to restore the rubber-like quality of the pads).
  • Make sure the hair between your dog's pads is trimmed so the dog is not walking on hair.
  • Keep your dog's nails trimmed so it's walking on it's pads and not it's nails.

Walk slowly with your dog on the laminate flooring until your dog gains confidence that it can walk on laminate without slipping. Like skiers, your dog may have to, through use, strengthen the muscles that keep its legs from splaying on a slippery surface.

1

My dog is a lab and he's now 8 years old. He hasn't come fearful or unable to walk on the wood floors until the last year and a half. He isnt always afraid of the floors but when he doesn't walk on them I use treats and positive reinforcement to let him know it's okay. I also will put his collar on and get his leash so he's excited and thinks he's going for a walk. This helps but still didn't cure his fears completely. I'm not sure if there is but these tips do help for improvement.

0

Get rubber back carpet runners to place around the house. It is safer then having your dog slip and get hurt. They are cheap, come in all colors and if they get dirty, easy to wash in the tub or outside with a hose.

  • 1
    Rubber back carpet runners also have a habit of staining or altering the shade of wood surfaces compared to uncovered wood surfaces over time. Had a set of these for kids on a wood floor, which had to get completely resurfaced after we took them up two years later. – JoshDM Jul 16 '14 at 20:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.