My Maltese is afraid of the wooden floors

So I’ve done a lot of research on this (mostly Google) and have read about the two fear imprinting in a dog’s life as well as trauma, and we are not sure how or what really caused it but we noticed that when he was a little puppy he would get scared of the wooden floors sometimes but he’d get over it very quickly. Right after the holidays we had my little nephews over for early dinner and the kids are very high energy. Bowie (my little Maltese) is really good with little kids, he gets very excited when he sees our neighbors toddlers and plays with them (zooming around their yard), but somehow when my nephews were over, he must have been afraid they were going to step on him and he began to get really afraid of the floors. We didn’t think about slowly introducing children to him because hes always been so great with our neighbors.

Ever since January he’s only gotten worst
. He wouldn’t go on the hard wood floors unless we were sitting on the table having a meal, and only for a short amount of time and not far from the carpeted area. When we left out of town, he seemed like he was slowly making progress (like he followed me to my room once) but when we got back he wouldn’t even go close the kitchen. And yes we left clear instructions for our sitter on how we were trying to slowly desensitize him. We are not placing blame on her about that either, though it wasn’t the best experience we had (another whole topic I won’t get into here). Anyway, we have tried luring him out with treats, praises (when he goes to the floor), favorite treat snack trails, and letting him stand next to us - which he just climbs up my lap trembling.
At this point we’ve exhausted all tips we’ve read online and I ended up buying some foam mats, and he’s venturing to places again.

Does anyone have any recommendations? We are thinking about trying to find a professional dog trainer with experience on imprinted fear, but I’m open to anymore suggestions.

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Wow @wendy_chicago! Poor Bowie and poor you! I’m sorry I can’t help you find a way to ease his fears. When you do find the thing that ends up working for him, please let us know, in case one of us runs into something similar.

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I think it’s not uncommon for dogs to be concerned about hard floors. They find them slippy and if they hurt themselves slipping or just lose their balance it can be hard to convince them to walk on it again. My black Labrador didn’t like hard floors, I put runners down on the direct routes he’d use to the doors.


Yeah I’ve read is very common, he’s definitely afraid of slipping and tends to try to grab on to it with his claws which makes it even worst for him. The mats have been helpful, he ventures a little outside of them which is progress.

I asked his groomer if she knew of any professional trainers to help with that and she told me she didn’t but then she went on and asked me what happened (but she seemed kind of judgmental in her eyes) and so told her what we suspected to which she was very critical about on how I should have slowly introduced him to children, because not all pets are the same and he’s so little. Then she won’t on to say how I need to just make him walk on the floors which I don’t think is a good approach, I don’t want to continue to traumatize him.

I’m glad to hear someone else say is common and used a gentle approach.

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Poor Bowie, he’s so cute.

Disclaimer - I’m not a dog behaviourist, dog trainer or even a current dog owner… But I think the most important thing is for him to be comfortable in his own home, so I’d would be resigned to runners/mats/rugs everywhere for him so he can move around. At the moment, everywhere is a battle for him. Maybe once he’s relaxed he’ll be more inclined to go off-piste. Continue with the cuddles and praise for bravery.

(I have house rabbits - they have furry feet so smooth floors are the equivalent to an ice rink for them :smiley: My two current ones dont mind skidding around but my previous one hated it and would only travel from rug to rug.)


@wendy_chicago , I am not a dog trainer either but I’ve had dogs and cared for many of them and I agree with @Ketch. I would put rugs or mats down everywhere Bowie goes. He’s SO adorable, btw.

It may not be the exposure to the kids that caused him to fear the floors. Many dogs dislike them because they can’t get a purchase and slide around on them. I think you should just consider it an expense of dog ownership and get some pretty rugs that you like.


Thank you @mars! Yes after @Ketch input we are on it! We do have a long hallway he used to run around through so we are looking at ruggable runners.

And thank you, he is quite the lovable little guy, very sweet and sensitive. And we just want him to be happy and comfortable at home.


My heart just breaks for you and for what your sweet little Bowie are going through. I’ve found great trainers in the past through our Humane Society and by joining local dog mom facebook groups…then I do a lot of research on them before hiring them to do any training as it seems to me almost every trainer has a different philosophy.

If the training doesn’t seem like a possibility right now I highly recommend using something like “Ruggable” we love them! almost all our rugs are ruggables because #1 they are WASHABLE! you just pull them right off the padded mat and pop them in the washing machine which is so nice with having a dog and kids. They have super long hallway runner rugs which might help Bowie get around more places…with the added bonus of being comfy for your toes too. Just an idea. In all your work with him having you tried putting little globs of some spreadable treat like peanut butter on your floors for him to lick up? or try using a licky Mat? Our dog is terrified of getting bathed so I always use a suction licky mat and sick it to the side of the tub with peanut butter spread all over it and he doesn’t shake anymore during a bath or whine.


@Kelly_U peanut butter spread around in the bath tub–what a great idea! I wish I’d thought of that for our Misty. She would have loved that!

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Yep! Love Ruggable! It’s what we have in our home too, he spends a lot of time on the one by the living room and we are able to still play fetch with him there, now I just need to get a couple of runners. Thanks @Kelly_U ! I don’t use Facebook but I’ll check with the American kennel Club and talk to a few different ones. I agree that some have a different philosophy and approach.


@wendy_chicago could it possibly be he has extremely sensitive hearing and the sound of his toenails clicking on the floor? If so, you might want to try booties to see if that helps.

Hi @wendy_chicago you’ve had some great advice and feedback and I do hope you’ve been able to help Bowie with some of these tips and insights.

Another little one scared of wooden flooring, I’m sure you’ve Googled Bowie’s dislike and mistrust of shiny, wooden floors and you may have already seen this video and while we are not endorsing this video or the trainer in any respect, it may prove to be helpful …

Good luck to you and Bowie … Looking and hoping for for a happy and confident pup :dog: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :dog:


He hates booties lol @Debbie-L :grin:
I tried putting some on him for the snow, like different types too and he doesn’t like them. He tolerates them for like 10 seconds and then he starts biting them off.

Hi @Angela_L :wave:
I hadn’t seen that video actually but all very helpful tips!
He actually followed me to my bedroom this morning which he hadn’t done in a while, because I told him we were going outside but I needed to get out of my pjs! It was so brave of him, gave him lots of pets and doubled on the treats. But we’ve been putting foam mats in sections until our runners arrive. He seems to do okay with those around.

All the tips here have been helpful and really appreciate you all for it. I think we are slowly making some progress here. I’ll keep you all posted!


Making some big progress here! The last two days he’s been following us back and forth down the hall. Late at night when we’re going to bed he does seem a bit scared again, but in the evenings he’s back to his old self, we almost forgot what it was like to see him running down the hall!
Wish I could show you all a video!


Hi Wendy, as seasoned house sitters we’ve looked after quite a few dogs who slip on wooden and other slippery floors. We’ve never actually seen one scared of a floor - poor little Bowie! - but ones who spend most of their lives getting up, walking around and lying down on a surface that’s really tough for them. We always feel so sorry to see them struggle! So the people suggesting rugs and runners may well be on to something… good luck working through this with him!

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Bowie has been walking on wooden floors again but mostly just at home. He is scared at the groomer and other places, so we try to minimize taking him inside other people’s homes. We notice that when we’ve done that, his fear of the floors comes back (even in our own home) but all the advise/videos/suggestions here were super helpful. I also don’t feel alone when I hear people share their own stories of their dogs being terrified of the floors and seeing that it’s very common and not some significant traumatic experience that happened to our dog and being totally unaware of where/how it happened.