Best Flooring for Dogs
Dogs are a lot like kids only with four legs and claws:
High energy, love to play with no regard to what they’re playing in (that mud puddle looks fun), have claws to scratch floors, and don’t always go potty where they should (pee and many floors don’t mix)
Oh ya, and dogs shed. So maybe they aren’t that much like kids, but here’s my point:
Dogs aren’t easy on flooring.
So what’s the best flooring for dogs?
But both your floor and your dog can co-exist. You just need to be 1. aware of the floors that works best with dogs and 2. know the weaknesses of the floor you pick. Let’s start with some of the challenges you’ll face when shopping for a new floor:
Top 6 floors for dogs (in order)
Ranking floor that’s best for dogs isn’t easy (more on this after the rankings).
The reasons are everyone and every dog is different. One person might have a dog with a pee problem. Another person may have a reckless puppy that scratches the floor. Or maybe you don’t care about your floor, just which is best for your dog to play. Each of these may has different winners.
The way I handled this is to rank them, but give you options by listing my top 6. They’re in order, but I also give an explanation on what is good and bad about each winner:
So there’s no perfect, but if I’m picking a floor for a dog, here’s the top 6 floors with dogs:
1. Luxury vinyl
Luxury vinyl is my winner for dogs because it’s relatively inexpensive, resists scratches and moisture, and is easy to replace.
It is less expensive than bamboo or tile flooring and has a naturally grooved texture which allows your dog to run on it reasonably well.
Luxury vinyl may be able to handle a dog running or jumping on top of it, but it can be scratched or pulled up entirely by a dog suffering from separation anxiety or boredom. To avoid that, make sure the floor is installed and glued down securely with as little gap as possible between tiles and planks.
Older dogs may appreciate that luxury vinyl is soft and has some “give” under their paws, compared to the heavier and less-forgiving surface of a hard floor. Vinyl floors are made out of plastic, so even though they are durable, they are fairly easy to walk on.
Cleaning a luxury vinyl floor is pretty easy. Most require little more than regular sweeping and damp mopping to stay clean. For dog owners, the luxury vinyl is water and moisture resistant, which is a major bonus in case there are any accidents.
It’s also easy to DIY and replace, so if your dog can break through your luxury vinyl’s armor, you can replace pieces individually.
Interested in luxury vinyl? Check out my unbiased luxury vinyl guide.
Tile floors are one of the easiest floors for dog owners but have some drawbacks for your dog.
Regardless of their materials, tile floors are very hard and not comfortable to lie down on for long periods of time. Like any solid floor surface, you should make sure your dog has a favorite rug or bed to sleep on.
Tiles tend to be cold year-round. If your dog needs a cool place to lie down during the summer, this is perfect, but short-haired and cold-sensitive breeds may need help staying warm on the tile in winter.
Dog messes are easy to clean up on tile floors. When properly sealed and maintained, tile floors will be protected from housebreaking accidents and spilled water bowls, but you should still clean any messes promptly. Fur, dirt, and spilled food are easy to sweep or mop up on tile floors.
When picking out a tile floor, you should make sure to choose one that will have enough texture to let your dog walk on it safely. Some tile floors are made with a shiny, smooth surface which can be dangerous for your dog to run on in case they slip and fall.
If you have a dog and would like a hardwood floor, but worry about how the dog’s claws and accidents will affect the wood, bamboo is a great alternative.
One of the things you have to consider with bamboo is that not all bamboo is manufactured equally. Bamboo that has been harvested too soon, for instance, will be less durable and your dog is more likely to damage it. You should always check into the origins and quality of the manufacturer when buying bamboo floors.
Bamboo offers several advantages to dog owners. The floors are easy to clean, so shed fur, paw prints, and other daily messes can be swept or vacuumed up without any mess.
Strand bamboo is probably the best bamboo for dog owners. It is very strong and resistant to scratches.
For your dog, bamboo is a mixed blessing. The floors are very dense and hard so you will need to lay out rugs or bedding so your dog has a soft place to sleep. It also can be slippery underfoot, so you should purchase bamboo floor with as much texture as you can find.
A laminate floor is often used by dog owners as a direct alternative to hardwood. Some laminate floor companies even market their product as pet-friendly, and they have a fairly good point.
One of the best things about laminate for dogs is that the surface layer has a protective coating which will keep the floor from being damaged from above. If you have a dog who loves to run and play indoors, especially the larger breeds, you know how easily playtime could scratch up your flooring.
Another positive feature of laminate is its convenience. The floors require very little maintenance, and like the luxury vinyl floor, regular sweeping and vacuuming will keep it looking at its best despite whatever your dog may track inside.
On the other hand, laminate does have its drawbacks for dog owners. Once the protective layer is scratched off, there is no effective way of fixing the damaged boards and they will need to be replaced entirely.
Laminate floors are also sensitive to water and moisture damage, although not as much as a hardwood or carpeted floor. You will need to clean up any accidents or spills as soon as you can.
From your dog’s perspective, laminate floors have another major issue; the surface layers are very smooth and can be difficult to walk on. Unlike other materials, there are not many choices for a textured laminate floor, so you will need to to use rugs and mats to give your dog a safe place to play.
If you’re interested in laminate, I have a page specific to laminate and dogs you can check out here.
Conventional wisdom aside, you can combine dogs and hardwood floors, it just takes a little creativity and preparedness.
The wood hardness ranking is the first thing you have to consider. Some wood species are difficult to scratch or dent when laid down as flooring. Hardwoods such as maple, hickory, and exotic species such as teak and mahogany are good examples of this.
You will also need to pay attention to the finish and gloss. High-glass stains show almost every mark that lands on the floor, but a semi-gloss or low-gloss wood stain helps to hide any scratches.
Another thing to consider is the finished texture. Some manufacturers sell distressed or hand-scraped hardwood floors where a marred or scratched finish is part of the floor’s character. With those floors, you might not notice a few claw scrapes here and there and they also hide some of the pet fur and dirt.
Floor texture can make a big difference to your dog. Knots, grooves, and natural variations across the surface give traction and stability, which makes it more comfortable for your dog to walk on.
Hardwood floors do require some extra maintenance, especially with pets. If your dog scratches or damages the floor, it can be repaired with wood putty, stain, or other materials without replacing the entire floorboard.
The dogs are going to be mad at me for listing carpet last; after all, it’s their favorite.
A dog will love the softness of carpet, especially for curling up at nap time. Older dogs and dogs with injured or sore legs often appreciate the ease of walking on carpet, since there is little risk of their paws slipping out from under them.
Some homeowners do not think that carpet works for dogs, but it can, assuming you are willing to put in the extra cleaning work. Shed fur will need to be vacuumed out of the carpet at least once a week or so, and you may need to deep clean it in order to remove built-in dirt and pet hair.
Accidents and spills need to be cleaned out of the carpet as quickly as possible. There are special cleaning products for carpet that you can buy and should keep on hand for when you need them.
Some carpet styles are a good compromise for both dog owner and dog. Try not to purchase “looped” carpet fibers because those can catch on a dog’s claws. If you are worried about stains, white or light-colored carpets show the most dirt.
You can also try to match the color of your dog’s fur to the carpet. Fur from a dark-furred dog will show up every time on a white carpet, and vice versa.
If you want to make carpet work with your dog, I have an article on picking the best carpet for dogs here.
Challenges you face with floors and dogs
You’ll run into multiple challenges finding a floor that fits both you and your dog. “Both” is the part to key in on there. One of the first challenges you have is what works best with dogs, isn’t always your dogs favorite. And maybe you can accommodate your dog by giving it time outside or a dog bed as its own area, but sometimes you can’t accommodate—this is especially the case with older dogs.
The second challenge you’ll face is picking the floor that holds up to everything your dog throws at it. Here are things many dog owners have to watch out for:
- mud, dirt, debris tracked in
- dog hair
- urine stains
The hard part is often times one floor is good in one department but bad in another. There might be one floor that’s better for scratches, but another floor that is better against urine. Or…
You can even have differences within the same type of flooring. In example, you might have one type of hardwood that is excellent against scratches and one that is poor.
This makes canned answer on the best floor difficult.
What to consider with floors and dogs
Now that you know the challenges, it becomes easy to see what you need to look for in your new floor. But let’s break it down:
Scratch resistance/general durability
When I think of a floor worn out over the years from a dog, I picture a hard floor with a bunch of deep scratches in it. So what you need to look for—possibly most importantly—is a floor that resists scratches. Harder materials do the best at this: think tile floors. Wood and similar floors are more of a wildcard. There are some hard woods and some softer. More on this below.
Carpet is kind of an outlier here. It certainly doesn’t scratch, but your dog can tear it up. I give it a mid-grade here because it tends to wear but no immediate damage.
Cleaning debris and dog hair
This is an important category but one that can almost be thrown out. The reason is most floors are equally easy to clean. You use a mop and broom no matter what type of hard floor you have.
Carpet is the loser here. A dog running in with muddy paws isn’t fun on a beige carpet. Dog hair can be vacuumed but still is easier on a hard surface.
Nothing is urine resistant but moisture resistance helps. I didn’t weight this category too heavily because it’s not a problem with most dogs (although if it is with yours, I feel your pain).
The best floors for moisture and tile and luxury vinyl. Again, carpet is probably the loser here, but you also have to watch out for laminate which can be permanently damaged by moisture.
And even though it is not as sensitive as carpet or laminate, who wants to have to replace their hardwood? This brings me to the next point.
Cost of replacement
If you have a puppy, or an old dog who has problems peeing everywhere, your floor may get ruined no matter what efforts you put to protect it. If this is the case, would you rather replace a $500 area of flooring or a $3,000 area of flooring?
Okay, you don’t have to answer, but I think you get the point. For some people, their winning floor may be one that costs less to replace, even if it doesn’t resist dog scratches quite as well.
Ease of replacement
Another factor is how easy a floor is to DIY. Luxury vinyl and laminate are some of the easiest. This puts them high on the dog winner list for me because if a piece gets ruined, I can replace it.
Captain’s parting words!
So the takeaway is the best flooring for dogs is… well… it depends.
Take carpet for instance, it ranks last on the list but your dog will like it best, and if your dog avoids peeing on your carpet, it can actually be a pretty good choice.
Hardwoods another example of the bottom of my list, but if you get a hard hardwood and don’t have moisture problems, hardwood can be refinished if there are any scratches making it a great choice. Another reason hardwood was at the bottom is its such a big investment.
With all this said, luxury vinyl is still the clear winner to me. It ranks high in all categories.
Agree or disagree? Any questions on floors to dogs? Let me know in the comments below.