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Best hardwood flooring for Dogs

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is:

“What types of hardwood flooring are best for dogs? (or pets)

Hardwood flooring that is good for dogsMany of my customers have pets, and they would love to have hardwood floors that stand up well to dog claws. Can dogs and hardwood co-exist and live happily ever after?

 

It’s a challenging question to answer because all hardwood will dent and scratch over time – it’s just a matter of how much and how much it shows. But, I don’t think this is a reason to avoid getting hardwood for your home if you have pets. Usually, this question is less of an issue for with cats and more of a concern with dogs, especially active dogs. And, while there are things you can do w/ your pets (e.g. clip or file nails), I’m going to focus on hardwoods that can take a better beating and will last longer.

 

Here are some guidelines to help with your furry friends.

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

best types of hardwoods for dogs

 

Types of hardwood flooring that are good for dogs

1. Avoid the soft woods:

    • Amercan Walnut Pine, fir, cedar
    • American Cherry
    • American Walnut
    • Carbonized bamboo (caramel colored)

These woods are softer and will dent very easily – even without dog or without kids. They look beautiful, but they are not very practical. And, ironically, most are more expensive (because fewer people buy them and there is lower supply). Note: American Cherry and Walnut are different than Brazilian Cherry and Walnut. American = soft; Brazilian = hard.

 

solid hardwood flooring is better for dog2. Use solid hardwood rather than Engineered hardwood. Solid hardwood is often better quality and most engineered hardwood floors have a limited number of sandings. It’s always good to have an insurance plan, and you will have stronger peace of mind with solid, since you can refinish solid hardwood floors if you get deep scratches or if you get pet stains.

 

 

What types of hardwood are best for dogs. Which hold up the best?3. Take off your shoes. A lot of customers blame their pets for scratches, but often we do more damage to our floors than our pets do. While high heels are often not wonderful for hardwood floor, the biggest culprit is not the shoes themselves, but rather what gets caught in the shoes. It’s those pebbles and dirt that get caught in our shoes that cause most of the scratches.

 

Or, sometimes w/ high heels that have been worn a while, the rubber wears off and there is a nail at the bottom. So before blaming your furry family members, look at your own habits. For my customers that take their shoes off, their hardwood floors are in way better shape and it’s a much longer time before they need to be refinished.

 

distressed hardwood good flooring for pets4. Consider distressed hardwoods. This is a stylized look that some customers love and others hate. It tends to be in style in the South, certain areas in the west, and more rustic homes in the Northeast. This look is not for everyone. But, here’s why it’s good for pets…it shows the scratches and dents less because that’s how the wood is designed – it dent looks like it fits right in. Likewise, hardwood that has more knots and character marks will hide the dent and scratches more. Anderson Virginia Vintage Line has a great line of authentic handscraped products and you can buy them on this link at Wayfair.

 

5. All things being equal, harder hardwoods are better. This is tricky because not all things are equal – see the next point. But, Hickory is great choice (1820 on the Janka scale). There are many other hardwoods that are harder…see the janka scale of hardness…but you can’t just look at hardness by itself.

 

hardwood floors good for dogs and pets6. Woods with stronger graining are better for HIDING the scratches. Oak is a great example of this, especially red oak which has stronger graining than white oak. While Red Oak is only 1290 on the janka hardness scale (which is still hard and is hard enough), it does an excellent job of hiding the dents and scratches due to the strong graining. In fact, it usually hides them better than Brazilian Cherry (2,350) and Brazilian Walnut (3,684) which have less and smoother graining.

 

Hickory is another example of a hardwood with strong graining, and it’s harder than oak (1,820 on the hardness scale). Conversely, hardwoods with smoother graining (e.g. maple, birch, exotic hardwoods such as Santos Mahogany and Brazilian Cherry, Walnut and Teak)

 

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7. Satin and matte finishes/less glossy finishes. Satin (or even Matte) finishes are usually best. The glossier the finish, the more it will show the scratches from the light reflecting off of it. This is true with or without pets.

 

light hardwood flooring best for dogs8. Usually, lighter colors are better for pets and show scratches less. First, darker colors seem to show the scratches and the dirt more. Second, oak is the most common type of hardwood and oak is naturally light. So, if you have a scratch that penetrates the stain color, it will show less on lighter colors since what is revealed beneath is similar in color. You may also want to consider a color that is similar to you dog’s fur as it will blend a bit more.

 

 

9. Bamboo is very “iffy” with pets – can vary greatly – some are good; most are not. Bamboo’s resilience can vary widely pending the type and the type of bamboo as well as the brand, and what follows are some generalizations.

 

a) stay away from stained bamboo – these scratch very easily and bamboo does not accept stains as well as oak does, b) carmelized bamboo is weaker than natural as the process of heating it weakens the grass, c) strand bamboo can be very strong – so if you have pets and want bamboo, this is a GREAT option – more expensive, but will hold up better, d) buying bamboo from big box stores and/or cheap bamboo results in a lot of dents, e) even though natural bamboo is technically stronger than oak, it shows dents more easily (and carmelized bamboo is usually softer than oak). See my page on bamboo flooring for more info and for pictures.

 

Hickory - Shaw Jubilee good for pets and dogs10. Use felt pads underneath furniture and area rugs/entrance mats. This is especially important for chairs that are used a lot. Avoid chairs with wheels – often dirt gets caught in the wheels and cause scratches.

 

If you do have chairs with wheels, put an area rug underneath. And, make sure you have area rugs/entrance mats at all your main entries. You should also put one outside, too. These are the areas that get worn down the fastest due to rain, snow, salt, dirt, so protecting these areas will go a long way towards preserving your floors.

 

And, remember that your pet isn’t wearing shoes and therefore won’t take them off, so it’s even more important to have an area rug here.

 

11. If you are refinishing your hardwood flooring on-site, then use oil based polyurethane and add an extra coat. Oil based polyurethane lasts much longer than water based polyurethane. And, adding an extra coat will help protect your floors a little bit extra and prolong the time before you need to refinish your floors. You can read more about oil vs. water based polyurethane in this article.

 

Types of Hardwood Flooring for dogsI hope this is helpful. Sorry it’s long, but there are a lot of things to consider with hardwood and this is not an easy question to answer.

 

Above is meant to address denting/scratching. If you are concerned about pets peeing on the hardwood, that is a whole different issue…basically no hardwoods will stand up well to that, so clean up the mess quickly is the best advice I can give you on that (Plus get solid hardwood so that it is easy to replace sections and refinish the hardwood if you need to).

 

Also, if you have pet stains already in the hardwood, when you refinish the floors, try to replace those boards as that blackness from the water/urine, will not sand out. If you replace them and refinish, your floor will look good as new. Alternatively, if you can’t replace them/can’t afford it, then use a dark color to hide the dark marks.

 

Other tips for hardwood floors and dogs:

  • Be sure to place a mat underneath the dog’s water bowl (and food) to help protect the floors.
  • Doggie slippers3 for hardwood flooringConsider doggie socks. Yes, we understand that this is not a good option for some dogs, but I’ve had a few customers that have used these effectively, and their dogs LOVE them, especially in the winter as it helps keep their feet warm. It was actually one of my customers that told me about this idea. Here’s a link to get some Doggie Socks on Amazon. (While you’re there, you can get some felt pads, too.)

doggie socks to protect hardwood floors if you have dogs
best types of hardwood flooring if you have dogs

  • For the back door, consider a microfiber chenille dog mat.  This one is called Soggy Dog mat and it absorbs 5X the water than regular cotton doormats.  It’s quick drying and incredibly soft on your feet, so they feel great on your dog’s paws.  This one comes in gray with a bone, but they come in other colors, with or without the bone (some with a paw print).  They are also available in larger sizes.

best types of hardwood flooring if you have dogs

 

  • If your dog sheds a lot, consider choosing a hardwood color (or an area rug) that is similar to your dog’s fur.

 

  • Plan B – What to do if you have a scratch?  This is not a perfect solution, but consider buying a Minwax stain marker.  It can help camouflage your scratches, especially if you only have a few.  It comes in many colors including ebony, dark walnut, red mahogany, golden oak, provincial and cherry.  Some people will even get 2 similar colors (e.g. ebony and dark walnut) as there is color variation in the wood.

 

  • If your dog has an “accident,” be sure to clean it up quickly. The uric acid (along w/ the moisture) can damage the polyurethane and wood floor and even turn it black. Avoid using ammonia to clean (which can wear down the poly and potentially attract your pet to use the same spot), and instead use vinegar and warm water. Note: this is another reason why site finished hardwood is often better than pre-finished hardwood as the seams are usually sealed with polyurethane, whereas pre-finished hardwood may have some spaces on the edges without protection.

 

  • Use walk off and/or entry mats by the key entrances that you and your pets use. This will reduce water, snow as well as grit getting on your hardwood floors. It’s ideal to have one inside and one outside at each entrance.

 

When it comes to hardwood flooring and your dogs, choose wisely.

 

color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.

 

For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.

6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook

Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors

 

You may also find these hardwood flooring articles helpful:

 

 

Best hardwood flooring for Dogs

49 thoughts on “Best hardwood flooring for Dogs”

  1. Living in New York City, it can be difficult to find places with good,durable flooring that’s dog-friendly. Your suggestion regarding light colored floors is definitely true! Our pets wouldn’t have been very kind to dark flooring.

  2. Thank you for this very detailed article. I agree. The best way to protect floors from damage from pet stains is to housetrain your dog. Even if your dog has been making errors for many years, as long as your dog is healthy, he or she can still be successfully housetrained by an expert dog trainer.

    The Cultured Canine has helped many pet parents in Westchester, Manhattan and Greenwich successfully housetrain their puppies and adult dogs. We board dogs in an apartment with oak hardwood flooring and are proud to state that our floors are in great condition! Yours can be, too, when you combine expert flooring advice with expert dog training.

    1. Hi there. Your comments were great. I just started a doggie boarding in my home and an=m now looking to put in hardwood floors . Did you have a coating applied on top of your hardwood to prevent urine from seeping in between the boards? Thank you for your time.

  3. I have recently heard there is a flooring material that looks like wood but is made from hardened rubber. Its supposed to be slip resistant. Have you heard of any products like this?

  4. Is this luxury vinyl plank good for large dogs (150 lbs) with bad hips? Is it slip resistant? Have a dog with multiple hip surgeries.. he has trouble standing up on typical wood floors. Looking for either a residential or possibly commercial product. I felt something in a hotel over the weekend that was similar where it would stop a slide from happening.

    1. Michael – Some types of luxury vinyl should be able to help reduce the sliding. You’ll need to find one of the higher grade ones that have texture/embossing. Some of the cheaper ones are more flat so those won’t help as much. Regarding shock absorption, that’s a completely different matter, and I don’t think it will cushion the fall, if the dog falls, but it is probably more likely to result in a fall/slip.

  5. we had a client asked us this just the other day and I knew the perfect place to go. Of course I sent them to your website and this post was perfect for them. Thank you Debbie

  6. This is an excellent resource. I learned a great deal. The only point (and it is an important one) is that dog owners should strongly using water based polyurethane as oil-based is more toxic for dogs.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Eric. I actually think it’s better to use oil based poly when you have dogs as it will up much better and much longer. The dogs should be out of the area while the work is done and should not walk on the floors for 2 weeks.

  7. What a great article, thank you. I live in the Pacific Northwest where we usually get rain 10 months of the year. I’ve always wanted dark hardwood floors, but with 4 German Shepherds, after reading this article, I would say no. I am looking at houses now and wanted to put in floor heating, so would all the advice in this article still apply? Unfortunately I’m thinking I will have to go with lighter floors. You would think I would find clumps of black hair, but no, most of my German Shedders clumps are white. And there is a lot of it. So I guess I will have to go with a lighter floor?

    1. Hi Patty. Yes, lighter floors will hold up better. This is primarily because you won’t see the scratches as much. The fur can just be swept up, the scratches remain.

      Radiant heat tends to work better under tile as tile conducts the heat better. But, most areas w/ wood floors do not need radiant heat as they tend to be warmer on your feet vs. the tile (which conducts heat away from your feet).

      I hope that helps.

  8. What do you think about acaia wood? I have a rental and the local flooring store recommended that as something that would hold up against pets. (I don’t allow pets but you never know when somebody will try to sneak a pet in.)

    1. Dana – I have heard that this wood does not hold up well and dents easily. A lot of stores push it because it’s cheap and it looks nice…at least initially. Lumber Liquidators was the first to push acacia, if that is any indication.

  9. Thanks for the warning. I looked at the Janka rating, and it seemed fairly high with a 1700 and 2100 rating so I thought it might a good choice.

    I got that recommendation about acaia from one of the small, local independent flooring stores here. And, it sounds like you’re warning me to stay away from Lumber Liquidators.

    Any recommendations about where to buy flooring from, other than your place of course?

    1. Dana – Most local wood flooring stores are great! I would just be very cautious with some of the big box stores and those that offer highly discounted prices. There is usually a reason for that.

      A great place to find reputable contractors and stores is Angieslist.com. In general, you will be better off when you a place both supplies and installs the wood.

  10. Is the whole closeout thing I see at Lumber Liquidators and other discount box retailers a real thing or is just a marketing gimmick?

    Are there really hardwood flooring that goes on closeout, where you better buy them now or else it will be too late?

    And, what’s wrong with the flooring so it has to go on closeout like that?

    One thing I will say that I prefer the big box retailers is that they give you the prices for the different flooring.

    I don’t like going into a local wood flooring store and having to ask somebody the price for anything I’m interested in.

    I don’t want to fall for something only to find out it is out of my price range.

  11. hi
    I read your article on hardwoods for dogs. My question would be what is the best for a dogs in pre- finished hardwood floors. we live in NC . thank you for the info.

    1. You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They will look different. And, also the tongue and groove will probably not line up, so you’ll need a transition between rooms. If you are consider using this for the same room/area, then don’t do it. That would be a big mistake.

  12. Your website is a huge help… We live in Dallas and are having our floors refinished this week… Planning to go with a Minwax Classic Grey (and maybe add 1 part ebony). Can you help us decide Satin vs. Matte sheen? We have a dog and re planning for a Dura Seal poly finish – two coats. Would you recommend that and where can we find good pics of matte vs satin finished? I’ve searched all over Houzz and google images with nothing really helpful….

    1. Rob – Glad this was helpful. Yes, I would definitely consider adding some ebony to Classic Gray. Classic Gray is rather watered down and most people don’t like the end result.

      You should NOT use Duraseal in oil based if you are doing gray. You need waterbased poly, otherwise it will yellow. You should use Bona Traffic with gray. It is the best, and will hold up best to your dogs and it will cure faster. It will cost you more, but in my opinion it is the BEST and only way I’d recommend you go.

  13. Just wanted to send you my appreciation for this article. I have had so many different recommendations from several different local companies- but I don’t think any of them were nearly as knowledgeable as you. I will be much better prepared in my shopping going forward (and thanks for stealing me clear on bamboo- nearly made a big mistake there). Have a great holiday season and thanks!

  14. Just wondering if you ever recommend any type of the hardwood imposters? Sometimes scratching is not as much of an issue as housebreaking issues.

  15. Hi! We are building a house and have 2 golden retrievers. We are considering this European Oak that’s 7+” wide. It has a lot of light and dark grains. I’m wondering if this oak will be good with the dogs and their paws! It has a mat oiled finish i think. It is HF design – Ferno collection –
    Is oak hardwood a good choice? Thanks! Wishing I could attach a photo of the sample!

    1. Amy – This wood would be good in camouflaging the scratches. But, please note that with the oiled finish, you are not protecting your floors from water (or pet accidents). Be sure to put plastic underneath their water bowls in particular. I love golden retrievers, BTW and grew up with an awesome companion.

  16. I disagree with some points in #2. solid hardwood is not of better quality than engineered. it is different for different applications. the quality of the area that would be scratched is the same as the solid. Engineered construction will sometimes raise the janka hardness witch doesn’t have anything to do with scratches but does have a lot to do with how bad a dent will show.

    1. Brian – Great point. Engineered is better for some applications and I agree on the stability aspect. But still, when it’s possible to use solid, I always prefer that as it lasts much longer and much better for pets/scratches, as well as if you have pet accidents (or other water damage) and need to just replace a few pieces.

  17. Actually one of the better articles on this issue. Tired of other articles just saying to cut dogs nails, like that fixes it all :). You provided solid information, now to pick the perfect wood floor….

    1. Diane – Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Yes, I’ve had a dog (and love dogs) and that aggravates me, too. I grew up with a golden retriever…you really couldn’t cut her nails. Also, sometimes, when you have small dogs and cut their nails, it can sometimes make things worse if there are edges/not filed.

  18. I have 115 year old pine floors, and they have been refinished 1 more time than they should. As a result, I have a few spintered areas and nailheads showing.
    My 50 pound Plott Hound has not hurt the floors in the two years that I have had her. Her nails do not really get professionally trimmed often. Two months ago, I inherited my brother’s 10 year old Lab, who has very short nails but some arthritis, and she sort of drags her feet. My floors have suddenly become scratched like CRAZY. They are actually ridged, from where she has worn down the softer spring growth of the rings, and the harder late wood is still high.
    Vacating the house is not possible for oil-based ply. What would you suggest to refinish the floor with? (Sanding is not a step in my options, sadly.)

    Thanks so much!
    Maria

    1. Maria – Oh gosh, sorry to hear this, and you are not going to like what I have to say. It sounds like you need to completely replace the floor since sanding is not an option. And, pine is a very soft floor which is why you’re having these options. If you can’t vacate the home, I would get prefinished hardwood.

      Poly by itself will NOT solve the scratches…only sanding will.

      Have a flooring professional come there to provide options. it’s probably best to rip up and replace floor since the base sounds weak. but, if you want to go a cheaper route, if it is stable and level and if there is enough height, you may be able to install on top, but it’s not what I would recommend. Alternatively, if you can’t afford that maybe put a laminate floor on top for a few years (if floor is flat/level) until you can afford to do the floors right. The laminate will be most resilient to the scratches.

  19. We have a big dog (a prancer) and another med/large dog (a runner). We’d like to put in hardwood. Are we crazy? Also, we were looking at hand scraped (engineered and solid hardwood) in a red oak because we understood it would hide scratches better. But I just heard you can’t sand down hand scraped. Is that true? If so, what would you recommend?

    1. Elizabeth – YOu are not crazy to use hardwood with dogs. Tons of people do that. But, you would be crazy to do an engineered wood with dogs. Regarding handscraped, if you get solid wood, you can sand it down, but the handscraping will no longer be there. There are some crews that will later do handscraping on site for you, but they are few and far between (unless you live in Texas where this seems to be popular). and, it is very costly as it’s difficult and time consuming to do (as its done by hand).

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