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Imagine bringing an adorable puppy home. You are completely in love and he is your loyal companion. As he grows attached to you, he begins to follow you around your home, going from room to room with you, and chewing on his toys and curling up at your feet whenever you stay in one room for a while.You love his company, and you are glad that he is following you because he needs a lot of supervision at this age.
If your puppy is afraid to walk on hardwood floors, though, that can make the image just described almost impossible. It is important for your young puppy to be supervised while he is free. You will need to pay attention to when he needs to go potty, what he is chewing on, and where he is going. If you cannot have your puppy follow you into some of the rooms of your home because they have hardwood floors, then paying attention to him becomes almost impossible. Thankfully, puppies tend to be pretty adaptable, and if you begin to show him now that hardwood floors are nothing to be afraid of, then he will soon be roaming into all of the rooms of your home, hopefully, while supervised so that he does not get into mischief.
In addition to being helpful for keeping your puppy safe, teaching your puppy to walk on hardwood floors is also important for hundreds of other reasons. You do not want to be carrying your full grown dog across all hardwood floors when he weights fifty or a hundred pounds. You will also want to be able to take your dog with you to places that might have hardwood flooring, even if your own home does not have hardwood floors. Plus if you were to ever move to a home with more hardwood floors than your current home, your dog would need to be able to adapt to his new home, without too much stress.
While teaching this, remember to be patient with your puppy. Your puppy has likely never encountered hardwood floors before, and the slippery surface might feel unstable to him, making him feel like he is going to fall. Help him overcome his fear by being patient with him, by making the floors something fun, and by acting confident on the floors yourself.
To get started you will need a room with hardwood flooring to practice in, as well as patience, a positive and confident attitude, and a willingness to cheer your puppy on. If you are using 'The Mat Method' or 'The Treat Method' then you will also need tasty treats that are easy him to eat. If you are using 'The Mat Method' then you will need enough mats to reach from one end of the room with hardwood flooring to the other end, with about two feet in length between each mat. The mats can be anything that your puppy is comfortable walking or standing on, such as kitchen mats, door mats, pieces of carpeting, or small area rugs. You will also need a dog bed for your pup.
If you are using 'The Fun And Games Method' then you will need a couple of toys that your puppy loves to play with you with, such as balls, stuffed toys, Tug of War toys, or anything else that your puppy will chase after and pick up during play. You will also need a room that your puppy is comfortable in, without hardwood flooring, that connects to a room with hardwood flooring, so that you can toss a toy over the threshold between the two rooms, to get your puppy comfortable with going into the room with the hardwood flooring.
The Mat Method
Set up mats
To begin, gather several floor mats, such as small doormats, sections of carpeting, kitchen mats, or other mats made out of material that your puppy is comfortable walking and standing on. How many you will need will depend on the size of the area that you are trying to get your puppy used to. Place the mats across the length of the hardwood floor with two feet between each mat.
Encourage your puppy
Next, encourage your puppy into the room where the mats are. Sit on the floor with other members of your family, with friends, or on your own if you live alone. Spend time in that room often so that your puppy will want to accompany you. If he is hesitant to walk over using the mats, then occasionally toss treats onto the mats to encourage him to come over, or place the mats closer together so that he does not have to go across as much of the hardwood floor at a time, before reaching another mat.
Space out the mats
When your puppy will confidently walk from one mat to another, going across the small hardwood floor sections between the mats, then space the mats farther apart from one another by a few inches, then continue to encourage your puppy to spend time in that room, crossing the mats to get to you and the treats. Remove mats as needed during the spacing.
Repeat spacing the mats farther apart whenever your puppy becomes completely comfortable going from one mat to the next. Do this until the mats are so far apart that you only have one or two mats left.
Replace the mat
When you only have one or two mats left on each end of the room, remove the mat on the far end of the room and replace it with a dog bed, where your puppy can relax. If you have two mats, then remove the second mat entirely.
Continue to reward
Continue to occasionally toss treats onto the dog bed in that room for your puppy to find, so that he will associate that room with pleasant experiences and continue to want to be in there. Do this until your puppy will freely and comfortably go into that room regularly. Tossing the treats onto the bed also has the added benefit of encouraging your puppy to spend calm time on his own bed.
Repeat with other rooms
If there are other rooms with hardwood flooring that your puppy is still afraid of, then repeat the entire process with each of the other rooms, until your puppy will willingly go into each of those rooms as well.
The Treat Method
To begin, grab lots of tasty treats that your puppy loves, that are easy to eat. Go into a room with a hardwood floor and call your puppy to the entrance of that room, where the hardwood flooring starts. You can also place him on a dog bed in that room if the entire house has hardwood floors.
When your puppy arrives, toss treats a few inches in front of him, on the hardwood floor, and encourage him to get them. Practice this until your puppy will confidently step onto the hardwood floor in front of him to get the treats.
Toss treats farther
When your puppy will walk a few inches out onto the hardwood floor to get the treats, then toss the treats a few inches farther from him in addition to in front of him, so that he has to walk farther out onto the floor to get the treats. If he will not go to the treats at first, then just continue to replace the treats that he does eat, until he chooses to go to the farther treats also.
Repeat tossing the treats at the current distances until your puppy will consistently walk to all of the treats and eat all the treats each time. When that happens, toss the treats even farther away from your puppy as well as where you were tossing them before. Continue to increase the distance between your puppy and the farthest treats every time that he gets comfortable getting the current treats from where they are. Do this until your puppy will walk all the way across the room while eating the trail of treats.
Space out the treats
When your puppy will walk all the way across the room to eat all of the treats, begin to decrease the number of treats, and to space the treats out, so that your puppy has to walk a foot between each treat. As your puppy improves, space the treats out even more.
When the treats are so spaced out that your puppy has to walk halfway across the room before he gets to the first treat, begin dropping treats in random spots on the floor, for your puppy to find. This will encourage him to spend longer amounts of time in that room, and will take his mind off of the floor surface. Do this until your puppy loves being in that room and is no longer afraid.
Practice in other rooms
When your puppy is no longer afraid of the floor in the room that you used the treats in, then practice this method with each of the other rooms that your puppy is afraid of, until your puppy is also no longer afraid of those rooms. If your puppy is very food motivated then you can also use your puppy's own dog food for the training at this point.
The Fun And Games Method
To begin, grab a couple of your puppy's favorite toys that he likes to chase after or play Tug of War with you with.
Go to a comfortable room
Go to a room that your puppy is not afraid of, such as a carpeted room, that connects to a room with hardwood flooring. Bring your puppy with you. In that room, begin to play with your puppy, occasionally tossing the toy that you are playing with toward the room with hardwood flooring.
Toss the toy into the room
As your puppy becomes comfortable with retrieving the toy from the area near the hardwood floor, begin to toss the toy onto the hardwood floor in the other room. Toss the toy just far enough that your puppy has to reach into the other room with the hardwood floor, but does not have to walk onto the floor to get the toy. Do this until your puppy is comfortable doing that.
When your puppy is comfortable reaching into the room with the hardwood floor, then toss the toy farther into that room, so that your puppy has to walk onto the hardwood floor a bit to retrieve the toy. Encourage him, acting confident yourself, as he does so. Repeat this until he is comfortable walking a few inches out onto the hardwood floor.
Repeat tossing the toy farther and farther out onto the hardwood floor as your puppy becomes more and more confident walking on the hardwood floor. Do this until your puppy will walk several feet out onto the hardwood floor. When your puppy will walk several feet out onto the hardwood floor, then go into the room with the hardwood floor and continue the game in there, but stay close to the room that your puppy is comfortable in, so that your puppy can go in there if he needs a break from being on the hardwood floor.
When your puppy has gotten to the point where he is willing to go into the room with the hardwood floor to play with you, then regularly play with toys with him in that room. Do this until he is no longer afraid of that room and enjoys being in there.
Add other rooms
When your puppy is completely comfortable being in the room that has the hardwood floor, then repeat this method in each of the rooms in your home that has hardwood floors. Do this until your puppy is comfortable being on hardwood floors everywhere in your home.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 03/29/2018, edited: 01/08/2021