Hardwood floors and neurotic dog -- need advise

kmarcelMarch 11, 2011

I know this is not the place to write about this; I should be writing a pet psychiatrist (or a human one) instead of a home decorating forum. But I am really feeling bad about my neurotic sheltie. I have 2 shelties. One of which is very leary of stairs. I live in a split with 2 steps in the foyer to go up to 1st floor -living room, dining, kitchen, and access to 2nd floor. There is also a 2nd set of steps in my familyroom to get into the kitchen. Five years ago I had hardwoods put in my familyroom and kitchen so the 2 steps there are hardwoods. Since that time my one sheltie goes around to the other set up steps (which are carpeted) to go into kitchen to eat.

Now I want to put hardwoods in my living room, which would mean there those stairs will no longer be carpeted either. My dog is so afraid of the stairs without carpet on them. She won't even go on them with carpet steps. My husband thinks I should just replace the living room with carpet instead of hardwoods mostly because of the dog and he prefers carpet. I really like the wood.

I have tried leash and treats to no avail.I even put her on the one step and tried to give her a treat. She was so stressed being on that step she wouldn't touch the treat, a good meaty one! I know this is not the place for dog advise, I need Caesar for that, but maybe those of you who are dog lovers can appreciate my sympathy for this neurotic animal. Those of you who aren't dog lovers probably think I'm just wacked!

I guess I'm looking for reassurance I should do the hardwood and hope my dog will get over it.

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How about putting hardwood stairs in but then adding a stair runner? If your dog hasn't gotten over her fear of hardwood stairs in 5 years then I can't see her suddenly deciding that the stairs are okay. Hardwood stairs are really hard for dogs to cope with. They are slippery and dangerous and your dog is no fool:)

One thing you may want to be sure of is that you keep your dogs' nails short. Other than that, I think you are probably going to have to accommodate your dog's very valid fear of hurting herself on those slippery steps.

Another thing to consider is that dogs that have trouble with stairs often have painful hips. It could be that your dog isn't physically comfortable when negotiating stairs and her discomfort makes her more anxious about her slippery footing. Just a thought. Also, as your dog ages she will probably have more trouble with stairs, so this situation will probably get worse in her old age.

I know this isn't what you wanted to hear but I hope this helps.
- Susan (who has four dogs and yes, I vacuum constantly:)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:08PM
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stbonner, I have thought about a runner, not sure where to stop it. It's actually only 1 step and the 2nd step you are on the next floor.
You are right about the stairs and hips. We have stairs off our deck into the yard and she has had times where we have given her some kind of pain pill because she wouldn't come up them. That was a while ago, she's been fine lately.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:34PM
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I don't think you're dog is neurotic at all. There must be something about going down those steps that hurts her. It could be her hip or something in her joints, arthritis or a spur maybe? Have you mentioned this to your vet? Maybe there is a logical reason.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 1:52PM
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I had an old lab who was terrified of hardwood stairs too. I tried every positive reinforcement trick in the book, but she could never overcome her fear. My hunch is the stairs just felt too slippery for her to feel comfortable climbing them. I figure the pads of their feet don't really offer much traction on slippery surfaces....

I put in a runner and she was fine after that.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 2:27PM
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I do appreciate your empathy for your Sheltie...our pets give us so much, don't they!

One of our dogs (Shih Tzu/Bichon mix) navigates hardwood floors with no problem. The poodle (higher center of gravity) tends to run from area rug to area rug. He literally tippy toes around corners. We have area rugs in all rooms to help him navigate the house (we already had wood floors when he came to us). I vote for putting down area rugs and putting a runner on the stairs. It would be hard to live life every day feeling unsure of footing or in discomfort (physical or emotional).

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 5:09PM
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If it were me and my dog, I would find a way to give my dog a carpeted pathway.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 5:17PM
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Oh man, you haven't seen a neurotic dog until you've met mine. Chewing through drywall (twice), shattering plexiglass... those are only a few of the incidents. And she's only 14 lbs. But anyway, I agree with the other posters that your dog has a valid reason for being afraid of the steps... it's also hard for humans to navigate wood steps in socks, I'd be afraid I'd slip on them myself. I would do whatever I could to accommodate the dog.

My dog is having an issue in our new house because the stairs are longer than in the old house. (It's a true 2-level as opposed to a split level.) She takes all the stairs in one sprint, so it's messing her up now that she has twice as many stairs. Plus it doesn't help that the door to the basement was closed when she ran up the stairs and she ran right into the door. Poor thing... she's afraid of those stairs now, but I just put her on the stairs and give her a boost up a couple of them and then she goes up.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 6:39PM
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Poor baby. ;o( I would have a piece of plywood cut the width of the stairs/whatever length you need, staple a piece of carpeting to it, and use it as a ramp. It's something that can be left in place when you're not home, or keep it set aside to use when needed. I would want to accommodate 'man's best friend' since I know how paranoid a pet can be, and that would be easier for me to deal with also. ;o)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 7:39PM
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``````If it were me and my dog, I would find a way to give my dog a carpeted pathway``````

I couldn't agree more. Something is going one either physically or emotionally with your best friend. I am certain your dog makes decisive actions to make you happy on a daily basis. This one is a mighty small concession in return...

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 8:25PM
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Is she ok on the FR hardwood but just doesn't like the stairs? Or does hardwood freak her out altogether? If it's just the stairs, I like patty cake's idea to build or buy a carpeted ramp. Seems like that would work for one step pretty easily.

If she's freaked by all hardwood, you're setting yourself up for a dog who can't leave the kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 9:22PM
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No surprise to see we're a dog lovin' group here. Love the ramp idea, if it would work. If not, don't see why you couldn't simply put down a runner for the two stairs. Such a tiny amount needed, you could get scraps from another install job. Find a carpet store with a dog lover! I want hardwood in my mbr, but it's the only carpeted room in the house, and the only place where she rolls about on her back with glee just cuz she's happy. I'm keeping the carpet.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 2:27AM
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I have a friend who is currently living in a rental house with lots of hardwood stairs. She found small oval braided rugs that fit on individual stairs. They must be double taped down because they don't move at all. Hers are cream color, so they are not real obtrusive. Something like that might work for you if you don't want to commit to a runner.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 6:54AM
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One of my dogs is like bambi on ice on hardwood stairs, and he's a big dog. We have a bilevel so if I want to get him in the kitchen we go the long way around via outside and up the deck. I hope you find a workable solution. I used to have a Sheltie, great breed, so loving and loyal.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 7:11AM
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Thanks to all of you for the feedback. I guess there are alot of dogs who are uneasy with the wood floors. They all have their own quirky personalities.

I have been putting off having the hardwoods done for over a year now. I don't want to even tell you how old my living room carpet is. I should have gotten rid of it a long time ago. I have really wanted the wood vs. carpet and have put it off because of the dog. Now that I have decided on the hardwood, got the estimate, now just waiting for warmer weather, I feel guilty - about my dog.

The hardwood floors alone don't bother her, it's just the hardwood stairs. I definitely am planning on some type of runner. If the runner went up on to the next level, instead of just on the stairs I think she will go up them. My concern is if doesn't go up past the stairs to the "landing" on the next level she won't go up them. How would that look going beyond the stairs and on part of the floor in the living room?

The ramp is an idea that if the runner doesn't work I could try. I have thought that someday she'll need a ramp on the deck stairs, because there's times she learly of those. She's offically a senior now so I guess I have to make my house some accomodating for the elderly. She is famly after all and I hate to see her stuck to one room in the house, especially when my other dog goes everywhere.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 10:17AM
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We used to have a sheltie. He passed away about a year ago. :( He developed arthritis that made it painful for him to go up and down stairs - especially up because it was really bad in his hips. He'd follow me everywhere -even when I'd run up and down multiple times doing laundry or something so I started blocking the stairs off, and then would just carry him up at night. He really loved the elevator service, but I didn't because he was a really big sheltie! I'm just saying all this because maybe it's not just a fear; it may be that it really hurts your dog. I'm sure a runner will help, but if he's getting arthritis, he still may not want to go up stairs.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 1:44PM
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We just put hardwood flooring all over downstairs. I now have hardwood with sisal rugs and runners all over the house so my 13 year old lab can get from place to place. She walked on our old hardwood just fine. Just something about the new flooring that made her skittish. She will not do the hardwood stairs up to the bonus room. So we don't go up there much. The runners all over the house probably look goofy but I'm glad she is comfortable.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 5:49PM
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Is it possible that your dog has cataracts and a depth perception problem?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 7:49PM
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We have a 13 yr old husky with spinal arthritis and vision problems, an 8 year old GS mix with severe hip dysplasia and 2 4 year old border collie mixes and hardwood stairs. The 2 younger dogs have always navigated the stairs with no problem but the 2 older dogs, especially the husky, completely avoided them. We put a runner on the stairs and now even the older dogs run up and down them all day without issue. We also have hw throughout the house but the floors in the kitchen are slightly different than the rest of the house and the husky seems to have a real issue with them. Seems to be a combination of the floors there being slightly slicker and the lighting in the room. I echo the posters who have suggested runners or carpet for the stair tread and would also suggest you make sure the area is well-lit (we put in some nighlights in the lower outlets to help light the way for our husky). Small solutions that really make a difference in the quality of life for our companions...

Here is a link that might be useful: stair tread

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 10:15PM
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If it's not a physical problem with your dog, as a last ditch effort you could try putting some dog booties on his/her feet and see if that makes a difference on getting pooch used to the wood floors. You never know what may work.
I have a problem with my dogs running for the area rugs when they need to vomit. I have no idea why they have to do it on the carpet when there is tile everywhere. Not that they do it often but when you have three dogs it's often enough.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 10:56PM
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jterrilynn, my dogs also head for the rugs when they are sick. To be exact, they head for my very favorite, most expensive, vegetable dyed rug every single time. I swear, they come from other parts of the house to hurk on this particular rug. My youngest dog doesn't, however, and is the only dog I've ever had who runs for the outside door if she is about to get sick. Bless her.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 8:09AM
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