Wood floors and dogs don't always mix. And since declawing a pooch is never a good option, you need to adjust the floor to the dog, not the dog to the floor. Trimming nails is not a comprehensive solution, either. Blunt, broad-tipped nails can still gouge the floor's sealer, creating long, shallow dents. Layout as many runners as you like, but your dog will not remain confined to them, guaranteed.
Ideal Options for Dog-Friendly Wood Floors
The best floor for a home with dogs is not wood at all. Take your pick of any alternative: vinyl, laminate, tile, or stone. All might be better than wood in a house with a dog.
But if you still want wood, take note. Softwoods such as pine or fir are poor choices for houses with dogs. No amount of site-applied surface preparation can shield against dog claws. Instead, go for super-hard species as measured by the industry standard, the Janka hardness scale. In addition, look for pre-finished wood floors that are stained and sealed in the factory with multiple layers of alligator skin-tough aluminum oxide-impregnated urethane finish. There's also a softer choice to consider.
Brazilian Walnut or Ipe
Whenever you want the hardest hardwood, domestic species tend to be the way to go. However, Brazilian hardwood flooring is universally hard and dense. Ipe, often called Brazilian walnut, is hard enough that it is even used on outdoor decks. A number of years ago, ipe entered North American markets at premium prices. Today, ipe has come down in price so it's affordable to more homeowners.
If you are looking for flooring on the domestic front, hard maple is a top choice. Hard maple has long been used as a surface for basketball courts, so it'll stand up well to pet traffic. Hard maple hits a Janka rating of 1,450 or higher (anything over 1,000 is considered excellent for flooring). Do not confuse hard maple with just any old maple. It is a specific type, alternately called sugar or rock maple.
According to industry group Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA), hard maple "is produced from trees grown north of the 38th parallel [roughly above a longitudinal line drawn between San Francisco and Richmond, VA] where shorter growing seasons produce maple with closer, more uniform grain."
Despite its impressive hardness ratings, hard maple can gouge if the dog is heavy or unusually active.
Bamboo is a grass, not a wood. But in the flooring industry, bamboo is often classified as wood and can be subjected to a Janka hardness test. Bamboo flooring is durable, but its secret lies in the manufacturing process. The only reason that grass can function as a "hardwood floor" is because it is impregnated with hard resins.
For example, one brand of bamboo from Cali, called Fossilized, has a Janka rating of an astronomical 5,000. Compare this to an equally admirable Janka rating of 2,000 to 3,000 for conventional strand-woven bamboo flooring.
If you're looking for an unusual and soft wood floor, consider cork. The material has many dog-friendly characteristics. It's non-slip which means your dog won't need to use claws to move around. It's also impervious to hard impacts. It can also be finished and even repaired on site in case your dog's claws gouge the material.
Solid Wood Beats Engineered Wood For Dogs
Engineered wood flooring, a sandwich of laminated wood with a real hardwood veneer on top, is an excellent product. The only issue is that it can take only a limited number of light sandings. Scratch marks from pets can be sanded down hard one time. But then the subsequent sandings pose a risk of exposing the structural wood beneath.
Ideal Options for Dog-Friendly Non-Wood Floors
Recently, many types of floors that contain no wood have begun to look very similar to wood due to improved imaging and embossing techniques. If you love dogs and the look of wood flooring, consider a wood-look substitute such as these materials.
Wood-Look Ceramic Tile
Tile doesn't have to be only square; it also comes plank-sized, just like wood plank flooring. More importantly, the graphics are now more realistic. It only becomes obvious that many wood-look ceramic and porcelain tiles are not the real thing if you examine the material up close.
Wood-Look Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring may not have the cachet of real wood, but it is superior to most woods in one way: it's scratch-resistant. Laminate will not resist deep scratches of the type caused by sliding a refrigerator, but its wear layer does an excellent job of warding off lighter scratches that a dog's claws may inflict.