Thinking of Buying a Treadmill for Your Dog?
Great for Health
As is the case for us humans, treadmills can be a great way for our canine friends to get some much-needed exercise. Many of the health problems suffered by dogs today could be prevented with more exercise. For example, dogs who are not overweight are less prone to develop diabetes, a costly health problem found in many of our pets today. Also, dogs who develop arthritis later in life will be in less pain if they are kept at a healthy weight.
Great for Behavior
We’ve all heard the saying, “a tired dog is a good dog”. Dog behaviorists and dog training facilities earn big-bucks trying to help families deal with destructive dog behaviors, such as chewing, digging, and excessive barking. Many times a key component to treating a destructive dog is plenty of exercise, as such behavior often stems from boredom.
How is a dog treadmill different from a human treadmill?
- Dog treadmills are built quieter.
The folks who design the best treadmills know that noise can be an issue for some dogs and have made a point of keeping the motors on their equipment as quiet as possible.
- Dog treadmills are designed for a dog’s body structure.
Most of the treadmills built for dogs have a lower profile and a longer walking base to accommodate a dog’s stride. This makes walking on the equipment more natural and healthy for the dog than a machine built for humans.
- Some dog treadmill models have training aids.
You’ll notice on some of the dog treadmills that there are special attachments for toys or treats. These are great for training the dog to use the treadmill, or for keeping the dog motivated while walking.
You should definitely consider a dog treadmill if:
- You live in a climate that makes it difficult to exercise your dog during certain times of the year (e.g. summer in Arizona, winter in Chicago)
- You have a dog that doesn’t do well around other people or dogs, making outdoor walks or trips to the dog park difficult or impossible
- You have a super-high energy dog whose exercise needs far exceed your own stamina
3 Important Considerations Before You Buy
Are you short on space?
How much space do you have for your dog’s treadmill? With dog treadmills, there are compact models which are perfect for people with limited space as well as larger models. Plan to use about the same amount of space as a dresser when selecting a location for your dog’s treadmill. Dog wheels will have a higher profile, and treadmills for large-breed dogs will be longer than those made for small dogs.
Is noise an issue?
Treadmills can be noisy, and the same is true for specialty treadmills made for dogs. If you’re living in an apartment or townhouse, you’re best bet will be to find models that are silent or very low noise. Thankfully, most dog treadmills are built with quieter motors than human treadmills, keeping noise and vibration at a minimum.
For some dogs, any noise can be frightening or stressful. In these cases, a dog-powered wheel might be your best bet since there is no motor.
How often will your dog use the treadmill?
Will the treadmill be a seasonal use item in your home or do you plan on using the equipment on a regular basis? If you only need a treadmill for a few months out of the year, you’ll want to look for one with easy storage solutions. Most of the models have wheels for moving them around easily and some fold down for easy storage.
Types of Dog Treadmills
Electric treadmills work much the same as the ones we’re used to seeing humans use. A motor powers the machine and turns a belt. The speed can be adjusted at the touch of a button and there is usually an on-off switch. A person must be present to operate the controls.
Dog-powered wheels function just like a hamster wheel. The dog powers the wheel as he walks and controls the speed himself. The wheel needs absolutely no electricity and can be a great option for dogs who are very afraid of the sounds of a normal treadmill. The wheel also has the added bonus of being able to be operated by the dog without a person, allowing the dog to exercise even when left home alone (although I personally would not recommend that).
- completely dog-powered so your dog can go at his or her own speed
- includes a training break which provides more resistance while your dog learns how to use the wheel
- available in four different sizes
How to Teach Your Dog to Use a Treadmill
The keys to teaching your dog how to use his or her new treadmill are patience and perseverance. It’s perfectly natural for a dog to be unsure or awkward about the exercise equipment, so don’t be surprised if the first thing they want to do is jump off once the belt starts moving or the motor starts humming. I did everything wrong on my first try with my little guy, but by the end he was a pro!
Here are some basic steps to help your dog use a treadmill like a pro:
- Start slow. A good way to get your dog comfortable is to practice stepping on and off of the treadmill. Feel free to praise with treats at this point, but try to make sure your pup only steps off once you give the okay.
- Use a leash. Be sure to have a good leash in your hand to help guide the dog and keep him moving on the machine. You’ll want to keep the leash held taught in front of your dog’s muzzle with about 1 to 2 feet of space between your hand and the dog.
- Don’t turn the treadmill on until you and your dog are in position. It will be less confusing for the dog if you wait until you are both set before getting things going. Once you are both ready, go ahead and turn the power on but keep the speed pretty low until he gets the hang of walking.
- Don’t allow your dog to step off until he is successfully, and calmly, walking on the treadmill. This step can be the most challenging, but it is also the most important. If your treadmill is positioned beside a wall, you can use your leg to help keep the dog from jumping off of the other side. He may seem very upset, but if you let him off during this stage it will be very difficult to get him back on again. Block his attempts at leaving the treadmill and keep the leash taught towards the front of him. He WILL start walking and as he does, you will see him become less tense and stressed. Once he was walking calmly, slow the speed back down and turn the treadmill off. But remember, you say when it’s okay to step off.
- Keep practicing! Now that your dog has walked on a treadmill for his first time, do it again! You should practice getting on, walking on, and getting off of the treadmill several times a day until your dog knows the drill. Before long your furry friend will be begging you to go for a walk on his new treadmill!