Dogs and floors: a match made in heaven. While your child will eventually graduate from his or her floor-dwelling period to standing upright like other homo sapiens, your dog will remain resolutely floor-bound.
If you are in the process of remodeling your home and have a dog, now is the time to adjust the floor to the dog, not the dog to the floor. This dog-to-floor adjustment, otherwise known as trimming the dog's claws, is a process fraught with the potential for error.
Even if your dog cooperates with trimming, you—the owner—have to keep doing this regularly. Let the claws grow too long just once, and the next time the mailman drops letters through the door slot, it is all over.
Consider Human and Dog Needs
Rating the best floors for dogs takes into account both the human and the animal side of things. On the human side, you want scratch resistance, sound absorption, and cleanability. On the animal side, it is mainly about traction, which means a great deal to older dogs that have a hard time standing up.
Durability and Reality
Floor durability should not be confused with scratch resistance. Durability encompasses impact-, moisture-, and scratch-resistance; you are concerned mainly with scratches.
You want a floor that is friendly to both you and your dog. Concrete resists scratches extremely well, yet few homeowners want to install concrete interior floors.
- What you think: You'll like vinyl flooring's low cost. Since you can easily install vinyl by yourself, the cost is potentially even lower. Since vinyl is so prevalent, competition means that you can score great deals on a decent floor covering. You'll also like the fact that vinyl flooring has improved recently. The easy gouge-ability of old-school vinyl is no more unless you purchase super-cheap, super-thin flooring.
- What your dog thinks: Your dog loves the cool surface during the summer and the warm surface during the winter because vinyl can accept radiant heating coils underneath. Most importantly, your dog's slick pads and claws do not ice-skate across the floor. Vinyl flooring has just enough grip for your dog to feel comfortable and safe when trotting across it.
- What you think: You are surprised to learn that laminate, though weak in the area of moisture resistance, excels in scratch resistance. It is easy to determine how well a prospective laminate can resist scratches by checking out the specs section of the product description. Abrasion Class (AC) Ratings go from AC 1 to AC 5. AC 1 and AC 2 floors are too light and are not suitable for dogs. AC 3 floors are designed for residential use with moderate traffic. Floors above AC 3 are rated for commercial use and will not present as many design opportunities for you. Finally, by purchasing a thicker laminate floor—12 mm—with underlayment, you eliminate much of the hollow click-clack sound that the dog's claws create on laminate.
- What your dog thinks: Your dog is not in love with laminate's slickness. Even laminate that does not have a glossy "piano finish" is smooth underfoot. The inescapable fact is that laminate's transparent wear layer is a double-edged sword; the slickness, though unfriendly to claws, also wards off scratches.
- What you think: Bamboo flooring is derived from an organic substance. It might conceivably be called "wood flooring" (though bamboo is a grass). Some types of bamboo flooring (specifically strand-woven bamboo) is off-the-charts durable on the Janka flooring hardness scale, mainly owing to the infusion of resins during production.
- What your dog thinks: Your dog likes the inherent warmth of bamboo during the cold months; there is little need to install radiant heating, though bamboo does allow for it.
Ceramic and Porcelain Tile
- What you think: Ceramic and porcelain floor tile wipe down so easily. Unlike water-averse laminate, tile can take pools of water during the mopping process. Due to the cement board underlayment, tile is solid from top to bottom—no hollow spots, no click-clacking claws.
- What your dog thinks: Your dog is keenly aware of the tile floor's slickness. Your older dog, especially, may have a more difficult time gaining traction when changing from a lying to a standing position. Your dog does thank you for having the foresight to lay tile with thicker grout lines, which aids with the traction. Also, if you check the coefficient of friction specs when purchasing your tile, you can buy one that has a better grip than others.
- What you think: You may not be a fan of vacuuming, yet vacuuming is the only way to remove dog hair from carpeting. However, the carpeting may not be the best floor covering for dogs who are older (i.e., incontinent). Still, your older dog finds it easy to move to a standing position without your help. By purchasing a lower pile carpet, you make the cleanup job easier.
- What your dog thinks: Your dog loves you for installing carpeting! Big wet slobbers all over the face are your reward for doing this. Your dog likes that carpet encourages you to get down on the floor more often to play with him or her. Best of all, your dog's claws can gain maximum traction when he races you to the mail slot.
- What you think: Simply put, dog claws gouge solid hardwood. The harder the hardwood, the longer you can go before re-sanding. Harder hardwoods, such as ipe and hard maple, also translate to expensive. You'll rue the day you ever installed red or white oak in a house with a Great Dane who protests nail clipping. Solid hardwood's ability to be re-sanded multiple times is your Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.
- What your dog thinks: Your dog likes solid hardwood's warmth. Since you lay down area rugs in a misguided attempt to retard the gouging process, your dog finds it a very amusing sport to run after the cat—thus gouging the wood—in all areas except for the area rugs.
Engineered Wood Flooring
- What you think: You'll like engineered wood's versatility and affordability. It is the only way you can hope to get an exotic hardwood such as mahogany in your home at a reasonable cost. After a couple of years of your dog creating deep scratches on your floor though, you'll need to contact a flooring pro and will learn that engineered wood can only be lightly sanded, and not many times.
- What your dog thinks: Your dog finds engineered wood to be as warm and comfortable as solid hardwood.