When dogs slip on hardwood floors, dog owners are often concerned about their canine companions falling and potentially getting hurt. 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 a 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 and creator of "Toe Grips."

When we open our hearts and homes to our canine companions, they therefore 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. 

Even just one single scary event can cause a dog to develop a fear of slippery floors. When this happens it's called "single event learning."

Activity keeps dogs happy and nails short.

Dog paws were designed for natural terrains.

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 is moving under him. From the dog's perspective, it's almost as if the dog was 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 dog's toe pads preventing them from allowing the normal, weight-bearing contact with the floor. This ultimately decreases traction on hard floors making dogs more prone to slipping.

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 discomfort of even 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. 

Long nails impact a dog's ability to gain traction on floors.

Long nails impact a dog's ability to gain traction on floors.

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. You may want to see a groomer for this though as it's a delicate job that requires your dog to stay very still and calm.

Did you know? The hairs between a dog's toes are referred to as "interdigital hairs."

Underlying Medical Conditions

Sometimes, dogs may develop conditions that may impact their ability to walk well. Sometimes, the issue stems from some sort of instability originating in the hips more than the paws. This can happen with hip dysplasia. 

In some other cases, the issue may stem from a bulging intervertebral disc. This can cause neurologic loss in the hind end and consequently slipping.

The Effect of Aging

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, senior dogs may also be stiff or feel pain in their hindquarters as they struggle to gain their balance back. 

Now That You Know....

As seen, dogs slip on hardwood floors for various reasons. It is therefore important to take steps to reduce such slipping considering that slips may lead to soft tissue injuries, fractures and a general fear of walking around. Following are several tips.

  • See the vet if your dog has suddenly started slipping. Your vet may order x-rays to ensure your dog isn't suffering from joint, spinal issues or other possible medical condition.
  • Keep your dog's nails trimmed short. This allows your dog to walk on his paw pads which help provide tractions. Have your vet or groomer clip them if they are very long.
  • Have a groomer remove the interdigital hairs. Such hairs interfere with the paw pads providing traction, promoting slipping. 
  • Senior dogs benefit from several changes in their environment. You can try placing throw rugs on slippery areas and investing in special products meant to increase traction. For more on this read: 15 ways to stop your old dog from slipping on the floor. 

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