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Using a dog treadmill can be a great way to exercise your pup in-house, especially when the weather conditions do not favor outdoor activities.
Investing in this dog workout machine is also convenient for people with busy schedules or those living in packed neighborhoods.
In this blog, we will outline how to teach a dog to walk on a treadmill safely and effectively.
Before we start, it’s important to remind you that treadmill running should never replace outdoor exercises for dogs.
Some countries and states have challenged the legality of dog treadmills because of their connection with illegal dog-fighting rings.
We can only recommend using a treadmill at home as an alternative for outdoor walking or where the circumstances do not allow your dog to go outside.
Understanding the Basics of Teaching a Dog to Walk on a Treadmill
1. Why training your dog is useful
Training your dog to walk on a treadmill can be an incredibly useful skill that all dog owners should have.
Proper use of this machine provides a great way to exercise your dog at home, especially during nasty weather conditions.
It can also be helpful for dogs who are recovering from surgery or those suffering from acute physical limitations.
Furthermore, running on a treadmill provides a great way for your dog to maintain a healthy weight, in combination with a proper diet.
2. Choosing the right dog treadmill
Pet parents should always choose the right treadmill for their dog’s comfort and safety. We recommend opting for those that are appropriate for your dog’s breed, size, and age.
Dogs can be startled by loud noises, so you should choose a treadmill that operates quietly. A noisy machine will scare your dog off and make the training session more difficult.
Your dog’s safety should be your top priority when scouting for a decent treadmill. Ensure that your desired treadmill has side rails to prevent your dog from walking sideways while on the machine.
It also helps to go for treadmills with a stable base and a non-slip surface to prevent your dog from slipping off and getting injured.
Safety precautions and considerations
During the introduction and training periods, you should never leave your dog on the treadmill without supervision.
Always be there to monitor the progress made and intervene when the dog slips off from the running surface.
Additionally, you should avoid pushing your dog beyond their abilities during training. We suggest having intermittent breaks in between sessions to reenergize your dog.
Preparing Your Dog for Training
There are a few things you should keep in mind when preparing your dog for treadmill training.
1. Desensitizing and familiarizing your dog with the treadmill
Your lovely dog will certainly not get used to the treadmill right away. It’s therefore important to familiarize them with the machine’s looks and how it operates.
You can desensitize your dog by introducing the new treadmill while it is turned off. If your dog’s first interaction with the new machine is noise, they will get scared and create a negative association.
Give your dog the space and time to sniff and investigate the new machine for a few days. This will allow them enough time to get used to the new objects at home.
You can also desensitize your pup by turning the unfamiliar treadmill into a positive object. Give your dog their favorite food and treats around the treadmill and place a few toys near the area.
Once your dog seems comfortable around the non-moving treadmill, you can turn it on at low speeds and encourage them to stay calm.
Reward your dog with some tasty treats and verbal praise for positive behavior during this process.
If they show any sign of anxiety or stress, you can redirect them to another room until they calm down.
2. Teach basic commands
If you haven’t done it already, you should teach your dog some basic commands like sit and stay to give you better control during the training period.
Knowing that your dog can respond to commands will give you peace in knowing that you can recall them from danger at any time while using the treadmill.
Getting Started on The Training
Once your dog has created a positive attachment with the treadmill, you can introduce them to a stationary treadmill using a leash.
Guiding your pup to this new machine using a leash and a few commands will help them develop obedience and focus while training.
If your dog is not willing to get on the treadmill, you can use their favorite treats to lure them onto the stationary belt.
While placing treats on the treadmill surface, you can utter the words ‘Get On’ to encourage them to make a step and reinforce a positive response to the command.
Make sure to verbally praise your dog when they make the first step on the treadmill and offer them a treat to reinforce the behavior.
Ask your dog to stand on the treadmill using the ‘stay’ command and offer them a treat every time they stand still on the machine without making movements.
Repeat this procedure a few times a day until the dog gets on the treadmill with the command ‘Get On’ for the most part without being offered a treat.
Important Training techniques
1. Starting slowly
Once your dog steps on the treadmill, while responding to your command, we advise pet parents to start the training slowly for a few reasons.
Your dog is capable of building confidence when starting the treadmill at slow speeds. This also allows them to adjust their posture accordingly to avoid slipping off on the moving belts.
It also allows you enough time to redirect your dog’s focus while walking on the exercise machine.
Starting slowly and building up the pace prevents the dog from getting injured due to exhaustion or muscle strains.
Running on a treadmill at slow speeds allows your dog’s muscles to adapt to the changing motion and gives them a proper posture during the training period.
2. Proper body positioning
It’s not uncommon for dogs to lose their focus during training sessions due to improper body posture.
Dogs should always keep their feet at the center of the moving belts and keep their heads straight forward.
By placing your dog in the center, you are reducing the risk of slipping off to the edges and getting injured.
You should also allow your pup to walk with a natural gait while on a treadmill. Avoid adjusting the machine’s speed beyond the limits of your dog.
The main advantage of instilling a proper body posture while walking on a treadmill is that your dog reduces the risk of suffering muscle strains and minimizes the chances of slipping off the machine.
3. Different walking styles
The moment your dog is walking comfortably on the treadmill, you can increase their pace in tandem with their ability.
Increase the speed of the machine slightly to induce your dog for a gentle jog. Monitor your dog while increasing the speed and watch for the signs of exhaustion.
If your dog seems uncomfortable with a higher speed, it is advisable to tone it down and allow them to rest before resuming another session.
With consistent training and practice, while observing your dog’s tolerance levels, you can gradually increase the speed to induce your dog to run.
Make sure the run is steady and occurs at the center of the moving belts. Treadmill running gives your dog an intensive controlled workout to support their physical health.
4. Exit safely
Train your dog to stay on the treadmill until you give them a ‘Get Off’ command. Jumping from a moving doggy-walking machine is risky and may cause injuries.
Reduce the treadmill’s speed until it comes to a complete stop, and ask your dog to descend from the platform while giving them verbal praise.
Troubleshooting Common Challenges and Solutions
Training your dog to walk or run on a treadmill is typically not a straightforward process. The sessions can be made more difficult if your dog fears using the machine.
Some dogs may be scared of the machine and you can know this by observing their reaction around it.
A fearful dog will bark or growl when taken close to the actual device. Never force your dog to get accustomed to what they consider strange.
You should focus on the introduction steps and allow your dog to create a positive association with the machine before taking any step further.
It also helps to leash your dog and provide assurance when taking them to the treadmill surface.
The other challenge you may encounter during this training is overexciting your dog when using the walking machine.
Large dogs with muscular bodies are less likely to show reluctance in using workout machines such as treadmills.
For such dogs, they may get overstimulated and run to their maximum potential without following the set pace on the treadmill.
If your dog is showing overexcitement on the treadmill, you need to reinforce their obedience training and encourage them to follow your guide during training.
Avoid using maximum speeds on the treadmill for dogs who can easily run beyond their limits.
When to consult a veterinarian
If your pup is showing signs of discomfort or they’re unable to maintain a normal gait when walking on a treadmill, you need to inform your vet.
Limping on the treadmill, reluctance to walk, or walking sideways may be indicators of underlying conditions that need to be examined promptly.
Advanced Training and Variations to Try Out
After a few weeks of training and using the treadmill, your dog will probably become confident in getting on, walking, running, and getting off on command.
It’s only then we can recommend exploring advanced techniques and variations with your dog’s workout machine.
1. Inclined walking
You can give your dog a tougher challenge to match their physical potential by adjusting the slope of the moving surface.
Most dog treadmills come with a pitch angle setting that starts at 0% and increases by 0.5% to a maximum of 15% slope. The degree of inclination will vary depending on the brand and model.
You can gradually increase the gradient angle to provide your dog with an intense workout that burns more calories.
The intensified challenge also helps your dog to improve their cardiovascular system, muscles, and mental agility.
Some high-end dog treadmills even have the option to adjust the decline angle, which can simulate downhill walking for an easier workout.
2. Consider dog-specific treadmills and attachments
We encourage dog owners to invest in dog-specific treadmills instead of using human-grade working equipment for exercising their pups.
Dog treadmills are specifically designed to be used by our furry friends, and they include safety features such as side rails to keep them secure on the motorized surface.
The speed adjustments on dog treadmills are also fine-tuned to correspond to what most dogs can handle without pushing them to the limits.
Some models come with attachment points for clipping a leashed dog for added control and extra safety.
Attaching your dog to a treadmill may help to keep them steady and prevent them from slipping off while running.
4 Alternative Options for Dog Treadmills
There’s nothing wrong with your dog if they fail to learn the skills of walking on a treadmill. Some dogs may also have physical limitations that hinder them from stepping on moving belts.
The following are some of the alternatives you may consider for your case:
1. Slat mills or Carpet Mills
Slat mills are non-motorized treadmills, powered by the dog’s movement. These machines do not use motors to move the surface belt, they instead have slatted surfaces where the dog walks on.
Slat mills can be a good option for dogs who don’t want their movement to be controlled by an electrified motor. These machines will instead allow your dog to work out based on their specific abilities.
2. Outdoor walking
If there are no environmental or physical restrictions on your dog, we suggest taking them out for regular walks and runs.
Walking your dog in the open allows them to explore nature and it also relieves emotional distress and anxiety.
3. Interactive dog toys
You can engage with your dog using interactive toys to stimulate their body and mind. Aim for toys that make your dog move at a distance such as playing fetch or tug of war.
If the weather allows, you can go swimming with your dog at a nearby pet-friendly pool. Swimming provides a great way for your dog to get some low-impact joint-friendly exercise.
It also improves the dog’s cardiovascular health and provides a full body work out which is good for the dog’s overall health.
Maintenance And Safety of Dog Treadmills
It’s paramount to maintain your dog’s workout devices to ensure safety during training and when using the machine.
The first step in caring for the treadmill is to clean it regularly using a damp cloth and a mild soapy solution.
This helps to remove all dirt, germs, dog fur, or any other debris that may gather around the machinery.
Cleaning the treadmills also helps in maintaining hygiene and prevents your dog from acquiring infections.
We suggest referring to the manufacturer’s guide to know the do’s and don’ts, and the areas that should not come into contact with water.
The guide will also outline the lubrication needs and the type of lubricants to use when servicing the belts.
5 Safety Precautions to Observe During Training Sessions
- Never leave your dog unattended when using the treadmill, even if they’re leashed on the machine.
- Don’t make the training sessions too long for your dog. You should incorporate regular break sessions to allow the dog to hydrate and regain some strength
- Do not overstimulate your dog during exercises. Avoid increasing the speeds beyond the capabilities of your dog.
- Pet parents should always observe their dog’s health and fitness before, during, and after using the treadmill.
- If you notice any sign of emotional distress or physical injury, you should stop the training and attend to your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
1. How long should I put my dog on the treadmill?
Most adult dogs can handle a complete 30-minute walking session on a treadmill or two 15-minute sessions per day.
However, puppies and senior dogs should be allowed 10 to 15 minutes per session with breaks in between.
Your vet will advise you on the duration of walking your dog on a treadmill in post-surgery recovery.
2. Can any dog be trained to use a treadmill?
Nearly all dogs can be taught how to walk on a treadmill irrespective of breed, age, and size. But this is not to say that all dogs will enjoy it.
Training generally requires patience and consistency but some dogs may master the skills faster than others.
The best recommendation is to start slowly at low speeds and increase the pace gradually while monitoring your dog.
3. What are some alternatives if my dog doesn’t like the treadmill?
‘Dog-powered’ slat mills can be used in cases where a dog does not like the traditional motorized treadmills.
You can also take your dog out for their walks and runs if the weather is good and the dog does not have any physical limitations.
Taking your dog to swim in a pet-friendly pool is also a great way of ensuring they get their daily exercise needs without stressing their joints.
4. Are there any specific safety concerns for certain breeds or sizes?
Large dogs and giant breeds may be overstimulated to run beyond the speed potential of the treadmill. It is therefore important to invest in a treadmill that is good for the specific dog breed.
Two things that stand out in how to teach a dog to walk on a treadmill are; creating a positive association and starting slow.
Training your dog to make a proper treadmill walk or run should not be a tedious process. It’s important to focus on your dog’s abilities and avoid pushing them off limits.
Safety should come first when using dog-training machines at home. Always supervise your dog during the walks and ensure the treadmill has side rails and a non-slip surface for maximum traction.
The training process can be long depending on your dog’s abilities and past experience. Always exercise patience and redirect your dog with understanding when they make mistakes.
Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.