How to dog-proof your hardwood floors

By: Valerie Howes

© Mann Photography Author: Canadian Living Credits: © Mann Photography


How to dog-proof your hardwood floors

By: Valerie Howes
Your pup may be your best friend, but it's potentially your hardwood floors' mortal enemy. Dan Hardick, a sales consultant at London's Flooring Canada, in London, Ont., shares his tips and tricks for keeping your hardwood floors beautiful when there's a dog living under your roof.

1. Consider laminate flooring

You may have your heart set on hardwood floors but synthetic materials like laminate flooring may be a better option for dog owners. "If you have a dog in excess of 100 pounds, you should really think about laminate," says Hardick, whose beech floors were once destroyed by his roommate's chocolate lab.

The sales consultant says that his girlfriend opted for laminate flooring. "She has an active 120-pound dog, and it looks like her flooring was done yesterday!" says Hardick. 

Laminate flooring has a scratch-resistant coat on it called aluminium oxide, so it's highly durable.

And while 10 years ago it got a bad rap for looking cheap, advances in high-definition photography and computerized textures have allowed the product to come a long way aesthetically. "If there's a pit or a knot or a distress mark in the surface print, and you touch it, you'll discover it actually has texture to it," says Hardick. 

2. Make hard choices

If you really don't like laminate flooring and are dead set on having natural hardwood flooring, opt for the hardest woods on the market; they're better at handling wear and tear. While Hardick maintains that dogs over 100 pounds and hardwood floors should never mix, owners of little dogs like Chihuahuas and pugs have several good options.

"Trees coming out of South America are harder and denser," says Hardick. "Brazilian cherry is very popular, as is Brazilian walnut," he says. And of the North American species, the hardest tree is hickory. Maple, ash, beech and red oak are all good choices too. Softer, native woods to avoid include yellow birch, black walnut and black cherry. 

3. Take precautions

"While a big dog will scratch and gouge more than a little guy, trimming nails is a good idea for dogs of all sizes," says Hardick.

You can also put down area rugs and runners in high traffic areas to protect the wood underneath. Just be sure to secure them with tape or underlay so that your dog doesn't go flying as he zooms up the hallway. And on that topic, you might want to train Fido not to run and roughhouse indoors regardless.

Some dog owners swear by vinyl nail caps, such as Soft Paws, for their dogs. These fit over the clipped claws and are glued in place. They last about a month at a time and prevent scratching and damage to hardwood floors.

4. Minimize water damage

Beyond scratches, house-training accidents and water spills can wreak havoc on hardwood floors too. You should mop up puddles and splashes immediately and put a mat under your dog's drinking bowl. Dog hair and muddy paws can mean more cleaning. It's best to do this task with a floor mop specifically intended for use on hardwood floors.

5. Consider pup-free zones

If you only have hardwood floors in certain areas of your house, it's much easier to keep them looking good by keeping your dog elsewhere. You can either train Rover to stick to carpeted or ceramic-tiled rooms and hallways, or put up baby gates so you're in control of where he roams.

6. Quick fixes

To prolong the life of scratched up hardwood floors, Hardick recommends investing in a touch-up kit. You can buy a special marker-like pen and fill it with your own floor stain to mask superficial damage. 

In the end, picking your flooring wisely, caring for it well and keeping your dog's nails -- and exuberance -- in check are all key. Take care of those basics, and your home will be filled both with beauty and puppy love.

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How to dog-proof your hardwood floors