Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Dog Treadmill
A Great Alternative
When I got my last injury (an iliopsoas muscle pull) at an agility trial in January 2008, I had a lot of rehabilitation to do to get back in shape for running agility again. Mum helped me with lots of stretching and strengthening exercises, but she also taught me, a dog, how to walk on a treadmill to get additional exercise.
Even though I'm kind of scared of machines (like our Dyson and Mum's Sonicare toothbrush), the way she taught me helped me not be afraid of the treadmill. Now I'm a treadmill walking machine and I love it!
Walking on a treadmill is great exercise for dogs, like in the dead of winter when it's too cold for a walk, or during the extreme heat of summer. It's no substitute for a nice long walk, run, or hike, but comes in real handy when I need my exercise and can't get outside.
You can train your dog to walk on a human treadmill (or a dog treadmill), just like I do. It's easy . . . so sit back and learn how!
Before Mum taught me to walk on our treadmill (it's a human treadmill), she got a few tips from friends and from various websites. Here is what she learned and utilized to help me learn:
- Place the treadmill so the dog isn't walking into a wall (very important).
- Use clicker training if your pup is clicker trained.
- Start by having the dog get up on the treadmill (without it running) to get used to being on the machine—and click, and treat!
- Do this for however long it takes for your dog to be very interested in being on the treadmill.
- Then, have your dog stand or sit near the treadmill, and turn it on.
- Have your dog get used to the sound a few feet away from the treadmill, click and treat, and continue until the dog is comfortable.
- Put your dog on a leash.
- If your dog is light enough to pick up, I recommend starting the treadmill at a very slow speed and then placing your pup onto the treadmill using a treat as a lure. If they are big dogs, have the dog stand on the treadmill as you turn it on at a very, very slow speed, also using a treat as a lure to have them walk forward. Praise them, praise them, praise them!
- Your dog may be a bit frightened at first, but stay calm and say encouraging words.
- Keep trying these steps until your pup is comfortable walking on the treadmill.
- Stand next to your dog holding his/her leash taught in an upright position as they walk on the treadmill, simulating a walk alongside you.
- If your dog is still uncomfortable, you may want to stand in front of the treadmill, holding their leash for them to be in the correct position, and use a treat as a lure to walk toward you.
Pretty soon, your pup will be a natural at walking on the treadmill. But please remember, always supervise your dog, and use a leash/harness to keep them centered on the tread for safety. Don't feed your dog one hour before or after rigorous exercise.
Mum has me walk at a pace of a good trot like show dog trots in the competition ring. Now that I'm used to it, I walk on it about 20 minutes, two times a day, with a slow speed warm up and a slow speed cool down. Remember, I'm a working breed, so I am used to being very, very active. Have your dog walk on the treadmill from 5 to a maximum of 10 minute intervals to begin with, and increase the time very slowly, always watching them for any discomfort.
When your dog is finished walking on the treadmill, walk them around your house for a few minutes. Getting off a treadmill is very disorienting (you know how you feel when you get off the machine). Walking them around will help them get over their "sea legs!"
Here are a few more tips:
- Make sure your treadmill belt is the right length for your dog. For smaller dogs, a human treadmill works just fine. But if you have a larger dog, like a Golden, you'll need a dog treadmill; the belts are longer and you need that to keep their stride natural.
- To increase the difficulty for your dog and build more muscle, increase the incline on your treadmill. But make sure your dog can handle the extra "load" and increase very gradually.
- Don't have your dog walk on the treadmill at least one hour before or after a meal. Just like swimming, okay?
- Keep the treadmill clean from dog hair and drool. It's not good for the machine.
- Make sure your dog's nails are clipped properly for their safety.
- Have fun!