How to build dog confidence with different surfaces

How To Build Dog Confidence With Different Surfaces

Today’s blog entry is all about how to build dog confidence with different surfaces!

This strategy was part of my puppy socialization checklist.

Because here’s the thing – a well socialized puppy is very likely to turn into a confident adult dog. A pup who’s not easily thrown off by new environments, and who’s outgoing and curious about new things in general.Β 

That said, puppies are most impressionable within the first 4 months of their lives, so I highly recommend you socialize the heck out of your puppy during that time!

My own Boxer mix puppies Missy & Buzz got introduced and used to:

  • Different sounds
  • Different people of different ages, genders, and ethnicities
  • Any objects I could possibly think of, including an upside down vacuum, umbrellas and agility tunnels

And yep, the puppies also learned to be comfortable walking on different surfaces.

Now without further ado, here’s my list of surfaces I included in their socialization!

Heads up: Of course you can also introduce older, adult dogs to these surfaces. They may just need a bit more time to get used to them.

How To Build Dog Confidence With Different Surfaces

How to build dog confidence with different surfaces

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you. 

Rocks

You’re quite likely to encounter rocky terrain on weekend hikes, or maybe you live in the mountains where there’s naturally more rocks than in an urban setting.

Either way, always use your best judgement before rock climbing with your pups, and always put safety first!

K9 Confidence Building By Walking On Different Surfaces

Tip: You might want to invest in a high-quality pair of dog shoes or boots for dogs who need more stability and traction.

For example, Ruffwear Grip Trex Dog Boots or QUMY Dog Shoes.

Boxer mix Buzz trying on Ruffwear's Grip Trex

Boardwalks

Boardwalks not only feel different from many other surfaces, they also might make a sound or two & creak!

Tip: Watch out for nails poking out of the planks, as they pose a potential risk of injury.

Feist dog Wally & I walking the Wilmington boardwalk

Grass

We probably don’t think of grass as a unique surface for dogs.

But it’s quite the change for young puppies who begin to explore the outdoors!

The same applies to all rescue dogs from puppy mills or labs.

These poor guys spent the majority of their lives in cages prior to being freed and are not used to the feeling of grass on their paws.

Missy & Buzz Going For Their First Leashed Snow Walk

Gravel

We had some construction going on in the vicinity of our first apartment complex we lived at with the young puppies, so we encountered gravel on a daily basis.

Watch out for smaller pieces of gravel getting stuck in between pawpads.

We also experienced gravel at a dog park once, which, quite frankly, I don’t consider a dog-park friendly surface to use.

Grass or mulch are much more gentle on the sensitive pawpads.

Dog Park fun in VA

Road Pavement

The most common road surface is probably asphalt, but we have also encountered a variety of pavers, particularly in larger cities.

Asphalt retains heat very easily, so I recommend the same hands-on heat-test as I mentioned earlier before you walk your pups on it during the warmer months.

Walking 3 of my former dog walking clients
Walking 3 of my former dog walking clients

Linoleum

Linoleum can be a tricky surface to walk on as it can be quite slippery.

Remember to stay calm even if your pup slips & slides on linoleum ~ always make each & every experience a positive one.

Offer a treat or other pup-specific motivator to get back on all 4 paws and keep walking.

Wally with his snuffle mat

Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors can also be more slippery than other surfaces..our pups learned very quickly not to try and run on them!

If you’re concerned about potential scratches on your hardwood floors, keep your pup’s nails trimmed!

Boxer mixes Missy and Buzz are being nosy at the front door

Tile

We had tile in our first kitchen when the puppies moved in with us, and the pups sure loved how cool it was in the summer.

It was their go-to area to lie down and cool off on in the heat of the summer πŸ™‚

But they also learned not to run on tile, as their paws didn’t exactly have the greatest traction on it.

Boxer mix puppies Missy and Buzz with their blue and pink puppy collars

Carpet

High quality carpet & rugs can make for wonderful doggie beds if they’re nice & fluffy.

Carpet is probably the easiest surface for dogs to walk on, especially as they got older.

Boxer mixes Missy and Buzz in my home office

Acrylic/Fiberglass

Another slippery surface candidate, acrylic & fiberglass are the most common materials bathtubs are made out of.

We introduced bathtubs super early on, and both pups are comfortable sitting & standing in them.

They’re even able to jump in & out of them ~ we’ve incorporated them a lot in games of hide & seek!

Playing A Game Of Hide And Seek inside with my 2 Boxer mixes

How to Build Dog Confidence With Different Surfaces: Bottom Line

Whatever surface you’re introducing your pup to, make sure to keep the experience a fun & positive one!

Food & toy rewards can entice a hesitant pup to take a walk on the wild(er) side πŸ˜‰

What surface(s) is your pup comfortable and/or hesitant to walk on?

As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.


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18 responses to “How To Build Dog Confidence With Different Surfaces”

  1. Emma Avatar
    Emma

    Good ideas. We never thought about surfaces, but we are all over the place from when we are puppies on up, so we naturally experience most surfaces. Bailie did have a panic on linoleum a while back. I guess we don’t have any for her to try out and it scared her. I don’t like slippery, shiny surfaces like marble, but I walk…just a bit lower to the ground. Thanks for joining the hop!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks, Emma! We haven’t experienced marble yet ~ that’d be a slippery one for sure!

  2. Tenacious Little Terrier Avatar
    Tenacious Little Terrier

    Mr. N will walk on just about anything. He does not appreciate having to walk through water but he will.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Good job, Mr. N! Water wading is another (almost) inevitable part of hiking πŸ™‚

  3. Kate Obrien Avatar
    Kate Obrien

    Really great ideas – people assume dogs will just walk on anything, but that’s not true. Exposing them to different surfaces is a smart thing.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks, Kate ~ the old saying “practice makes perfect” really applies here.

  4. 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

    Great tips. It took Freighter forever to be OK with our bathroom tile…lol. I figured if he wanted to come in there, he would eventually get over it and he did. But for a long time he would walk in but back out rather than turn around. Not sure why.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you! Maybe Freighter felt like he didn’t have enough traction to comfortably turn around? Whatever his motivation was to finally turn around in it (was it you?!), made him come out (mentally) stronger!

  5. Elaine Avatar

    I’m so glad you wrote about this, since a lot of people don’t think about walking surfaces when they think about socializing puppies. There weren’t many of those crosswalks sections of sidewalks with the bumps sticking up when Haley was a puppy, but she hates walking on those now. Maybe it’s because they hurt her feet, but she always tries to avoid them. I guess I don’t like walking on them either though, haha.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you so much for the feedback, Elaine! Sounds like Haley is aware of the fact that you don’t like them πŸ˜‰

  6. Jan K, Wag N Woof Pets Avatar
    Jan K, Wag N Woof Pets

    What great advice! It’s something I’d never thought of with puppies since our dogs have never had trouble with different surfaces. My sister did have a dog once who all of the sudden refused to walk on their hardwood floors though, she never was sure why (he probably slipped when running). We have a good variety of surfaces in our house…hardwood, tile, carpet, and a pretty good variety in the places we walk too….but it’s something I’ll be more aware of now too.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks, Jan! It’s great having a variety of surfaces at your own home for socialization purposes πŸ™‚ It’s important for us humans to not make a big deal when our dogs slip on a surface, because they then tend to make a big deal out of it themselves, which can result in becoming scared of the particular surface. Always stay calm & positive, no matter what πŸ™‚

  7. HuskyCrazed Avatar
    HuskyCrazed

    Fabulous advice!

    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks, Husky Pack πŸ™‚

  8. MyDogLikes Avatar

    We got our boys past the window of optimal socialization and its apparent. Charlie was afraid of everything. Now, he is growing to be a confident adolescent but still has some fears but can be cajoled with treats and conditioning. The biggest residual in both boys is that they are just less flexible with changes in their environments still so socialization continues to be important.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Sounds like you are doing a nice job at working on Charlie’s socialization skills! It’s never too late to work on it, it just may require a little more patience on our part πŸ™‚ I’m a firm believer in ongoing socialization throughout a pup’s life!

  9. JoAnn Stancer Avatar
    JoAnn Stancer

    Great post, one thing also to do is go to the vet and go on the scale often and make it a fun experience, a lot of dogs hate going on it because it is raised off the ground.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thanks, JoAnn ~ I love your scale suggestion!! That’s a great idea, and one that can be practiced at those larger pet retail stores who have a vet in their building ~ we’ve practiced that with our pups by letting them hop on the scale, rewarding with a treat, then having them sit not he scale, and rewarding again!

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