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How to Help Your Older Dog Navigate Slippery Floors

Slippery floors can be hard for all dogs to walk on but they can be particularly difficult for older dogs to navigate. Not only do they make the dog feel insecure on its feet, but slippery floors could cause your older dog to get injured if it falls or pulls a muscle while trying to prevent a fall. If your older dog is having a hard time navigating your floors you have several options to help the situation. These options include minimizing the slipperiness of the floors, making your dog's paws less slippery, or even training your dog to overcome its fear if you feel that it's unwarranted.

Minimizing Slipperiness

1. Cover the slippery area. The easiest way to help your older dog navigate slippery floors is to cover them up. Use area rugs to cover up the area without having to change out the floors or refinish them.

  • When you place area rugs on slippery floors you need to use a non-slip rug pad between the rug and the floor or you need to get a rug that has a rubberized bottom so that it won't move around. This will help your dog, and you, from slipping and sliding when you step on to the rug.

2. Give your dog a safe path. If you cannot cover up the entire slippery area, consider at least giving your dog a safe path through the area. Use small rugs or runners that have a rubber backing or non-slip pad, or use a plastic or vinyl runner in an area where items on the floor need to be easily cleaned.

  • For example, if the kitchen floor is too slippery for your dog, consider using a line of kitchen mats that are easily cleaned to give your dog a safe path. They will help your dog navigate the area at the same time as minimizing the difficulty of cleaning rugs that get kitchen messiness on them.

3. Use a different cleaner or floor finish. Sometimes the cleaner or finish you use on floors can add to their slipperiness. For example, if you have been waxing your floors, consider using a different type of cleaner that will not promote such a slippery surface.

  • To figure out if a different type of cleaner will be less slippery, you will probably need to do some tests. When you run out of your regular cleaner or floor finish, try buying a different product that you suspect will be less slippery for your dog.
  • There are some floor cleaners that are marked as "slip resistant." These products may help to reduce the danger for your older dog.

4. Put in different floors or refinish them. If your dog is having a really hard time walking on your floors, you do have the option of putting in different floors. This is an extreme solution to the problem of slippery floors but if you are considering getting new floors anyway, this could be the way to go.

  • The least slippery option for an older dog is wall-to-wall carpet.
  • There are even floor coatings that you can apply that are made to prevent slipping. These are often vinyl coatings. Make sure that you test any products you want to apply to your floors in an inconspicuous spot before applying it in the main area of your floor.

Making the Paws Less Slippery

1. Trim the dog's nails. Make sure that your dog's nails are trimmed short so that the dog is not resting on the slippery points of nails. These are slippery and can diminish your dog's ability to get a grip on slippery floors.

  • You will also want to trim any fur that has grown onto the bottom area of the paws. Fur that is covering up your dog's paw pads will make it's pads more slippery.
  • Be careful cutting your older dog's nails. They could bleed if you cut them too short. If you're not sure how short to cut them, ask your vet for assistance or use a nail file to file them down instead.

2. Put booties or grips on the dog. Dogs with hip dysplasia or arthritis may risk serious injury if they slip and fall. To avoid this you can put non-slip foot coverings on your dog.

  • In a pinch, you can place non-skid baby socks on your dog's paws to stop the slipping.

3. Use a paw wax. There are some products sold that can be applied directly on to dog's pads. Products such as paw wax give the dog more traction by making the pads have more friction.

  • Search for products like this in your local pet store or online.
  • Make sure any product you use is non-toxic to your dog. Your dog is likely to try and lick the substance off, so whatever you use should not hurt the dog if ingested.

4. Cover your dog's nails with rubber grippers. Rubber grippers will slide over your dog's individual nails to give them more traction. You can find rubber grippers online or at your local pet store.

Training to Overcome Fear

1. Assess whether the floor is a risk to your dog's health. If your dog is afraid of an area of floor you should decide whether the fear is actually a problem or if the problem is just in your dog's head. If you have ever seen the dog slip on the flooring, then the slipperiness does need to be fixed. However, if your dog is still steady on its feet and you have not seen it slip, then it may be worth a try to train your dog to overcome its fear.

  • Older dogs can have a variety of health problems that can make them precarious on their paws. If your dog has arthritis or problems with its joints, it may not be a good idea to try and coax it on to flooring it fears. That fear may be well founded.

2. Don't force the dog on to slippery floors. It will not help your dog to force it into a situation it doesn't want to go in to. This has a risk of making the dog even more afraid of the slippery floors than it already was.

  • Forcing a dog into a situation it sees as dangerous could also impact your relationship with that dog. If you push it in to a bad situation, the dog may not trust you as much or may even have an aggressive response toward you.

3. Help the dog relax. Some of the problems associated with slippery floors stem from the anxiety that they cause. In order to get your dog to overcome its fear you need to make it calm before trying to coax it on to the floor.

  • There are a wide variety of ways to make a dog calm. These can include petting it, talking to it in a calm voice, or giving it a treat that it loves.
  • Exercising your dog can also make it calm. Try taking your dog for a long walk before trying to train it to walk on a floor surface it fears.

4. Feed the dog on the slippery floor. Food can be a great motivator for healthy, mobile dogs that are scared of slippery floors. Give your dog its meals at the center of the floor or place a food puzzle in the middle of the floor. Just be sure that the food bowl or the food puzzle is secured to the floor so that it doesn't move.

  • Securing the food bowl or puzzle to the floor will assure that your dog doesn't move it off the slippery floor the first chance it gets.