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.
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
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.
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!
Tip: You might want to invest in a high-quality pair of dog shoes or boots for dogs who need more stability and traction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂
But they also learned not to run on tile, as their paws didn’t exactly have the greatest traction on it.
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.
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!
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 😉
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!
- Dog car anxiety – how to travel with an anxious dog
- Dog training, exercise, travel & lifestyle
- 6 ways to socialize puppies