I need help with a one-year-old beagle mix that has suddenly become afraid to walk on tile. She whines in a room or hallway until you go and get her. I have tried rugs, but that has not worked, and treats, which works fairly well, but I have to go get her. I am buying a pair of shoes for her to try, but I know she won’t want to keep on. I am afraid of the paw wax as I don’t need to fall myself. I am 67. My veterinarian recommended Xanax for her, and she seemed better, but still whined a lot. I feel badly for her.
– Diane, Fort Lauderdale, FL
I am glad you ruled out health problems first. If your beagle was older, my first concern would be an undiagnosed orthopedic problem. But your dog is young, and since this is a sudden change in behavior not related to a health problem, then your dog probably had a slippery experience on the floor that has shaken his courage. He may have even fallen.
For some dogs, walking on a slick wood or tile floor may feel like walking across a sheet of ice: you can’t get your grip and you feel like you’re going to fall. The uncertainty of that experience may be what’s causing his whining. He wants to cross the room, but doesn’t trust the floor any more, so he whines to express his anxiety and frustration to you.
The anxiety medication can help reduce his unease, but he will still need to build his trust with the floor again. The best way to do that is to replace that memory with a more positive experience. That might involve putting treats across the floor or giving him a puzzle toy or Kong with treats to play with in that area. The goal is to keep his mind busy on or near the floor. It’s like chatting with someone on an airplane to keep their mind off their fear of flying.
At this point, any movement under his feet, whether a slippery floor or bunched up rug, will only increase his anxiety. Keep his nails trimmed, so his paws can better grip the floor, and try rugs again, but this time, make sure they are weighty or have special padding, so they don’t bunch up.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal