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Teaching Your Dog to Walk on a Treadmill

Dog treadmills started out as machines used in physical therapy and motion rehabilitation for dogs with leg and joint injuries. But nowadays, they have gained popularity as an exercise machine for battling dog obesity and as a form of indoor exercise. Scroll below to learn how to train your dog to use such a treadmill.
DogAppy Staff
Last Updated: Mar 5, 2018
Dog and walk. Dog and leash. Dog and treadmill. The last one doesn't sound right, what would a dog do with a treadmill? Actually a treadmill is a great form of indoor exercise for your dog. Walking along a treadmill corrects a dog's gait and form. It's good for overweight dogs who need regular exercise and for keeping a dog active during rain and snow, when it is impossible to take a walk outside. And for show dogs, who need to be in top form and shape and picture-perfect motion, a treadmill can help train a dog in the proper way to walk in the professional arena. But walking outside and walking on a treadmill are two different things. And walking on a treadmill doesn't come as naturally to dogs as it comes to humans.

A treadmill can be a rather formidable machine, especially for a four-legged user. Think about it from a dog's angle. You walk and walk but never actually move anywhere different. The view remains the same. There's nothing to sniff at, nothing new to explore. It seems as if the room is standing still and just you are moving because the ground beneath you is moving. And if you stand still on this moving ground, you fall off the edge! Plus the speed of the moving ground increases and decreases randomly and it makes a horrible noise. All such points can confuse a canine walker and make the joy of walking, a frightening experience, all thanks to this machine. The key with teaching your dog to walk on a treadmill is to take things slow and steady.

How to Teach Your Dog to Walk on a Treadmill

Initial Steps
  • Dogs are very wary of previously unseen and unheard of things, be it alive or a machine. So the first step is introducing your dog to the machine. Let your dog sniff and examine the machine to his/her heart's content. Keep the machine off.
  • Walk your dog around the treadmill. Assure him/her repeatedly about it being just a machine and give it a treat, to help your dog realize this is a good thing and he/she needn't be afraid of it.
  • With your dog's leash firm in your hand, put the machine on. The dog may bark or show excitement, speak in a firm but even tone and calm him/her down. Slowly he/she will get used to the noise, keep talking and giving praise and slip it a treat.
  • If at any point in the following and above steps, your dog gets upset or excited, take it out of the room and play fetch or some outdoor exercise to distract it.
  • Now turn the treadmill off. To get your dog on the treadmill, lure it on the machine with some treats. Some dogs will jump up without hesitation, some will try front, then back paws. Be patient, until the dog is on the machine, give it praise and bribe it.
  • Once the dog is on the machine, urge it to get off and then take it on and off the machine, such that it is comfortable with getting on and off. Try to train your dog to get on and off the machine on command. Follow the above steps for a few days, such that your dog recognizes the treadmill as part of the house.
Using the Treadmill
  • Leash your dog. Lead it up to the treadmill and let it climb onto it and "stay". Keep treats handy, do not tie the leash to the treadmill. Talk to your dog in a calm and soothing tone.
  • Stand at the side of the treadmill, parallel to your dog, hold the leash (make sure it does not trail or it might get stuck) and start the treadmill on the lowest speed setting.
  • Keep praising your dog, it may get frightened but it will soon start to walk naturally. Give it a treat. Do not tug on the leash. If the dog is panicking a lot, stop the treadmill, let it get off and give it a break. Your dog may keep looking at his feet, this is natural, he/she just needs to get more confident about the machine.
  • After sometime of walking, try increasing the treadmill's speed by a notch. Let your dog gradually advance its steps with the increase in speed. Do not overdo it, keep praising your dog and let it walk naturally.
  • Use the treadmill only for 5 minutes for the first time. Your dog should get used to the exertion and the machine, then only he will be comfortable.
  • Reduce the speed gradually and turn the machine off. Let the belt come to a stop completely, then only let your dog off. Praise it, cuddle it, let it know what a good dog it's been and give it a treat.
  • For a week, increase the time of usage, add 1 minute per day but do not exceed 8-10 minutes. During this time, your dog is getting used to the motion and the exercise of the treadmill.
  • After 1-2 weeks, try removing the leash and see if your dog walks comfortably without it. You can even increase the workout timing and the treadmill's speed but do so gradually as the dog must get used to the strain slowly.
Dos and Don'ts
  • Do purchase a specialized dog walking treadmill, designed for animal use.
  • Place the treadmill in a well-ventilated room, make sure it does not get too hot, as your dog will sweat a lot.
  • Position the treadmill away from walls and doors, at its back and front. Try to center it in the middle of the room.
  • Just in case, place a rug or carpet behind the treadmill.
  • Be patient and calm with your pet. You know what's going on and that the machine will not harm you, the dog doesn't.
  • Keep praising and rewarding your dog with treats.
  • Make sure your dog has done its toilet business in advance, before running on the treadmill.
  • Dogs have personalities and moods too. Some dogs will love walking on a treadmill, some will show extreme reluctance and be very scared. As the owner, you need to be patient.
  • Try to provide a brief warm-up before walking your dog on the treadmill, especially if your dog was napping.
  • Be realistic with workouts, the motion of a treadmill can be very tiring, so maximum workout time should be 10 minutes or 15-20 minutes if your dog is fit and very active.
  • If the treadmill creaks or make unusual noises, try to fix it, as it will distract your dog while walking.
  • Rub your dog down after a workout, to avoid cramps and muscle pulls.
  • If the dog is tired and dragging its feet, stop exercising.
  • Some dog breeds like German Shepherds or Labs are naturally athletic. Small breeds like Pekingese and Pugs with short legs, will find it difficult to walk on a treadmill freely. Plan workouts accordingly.
  • Do not stand in front of the moving treadmill and dangle a treat in front of the dog while it is walking. It might leap up to grab it and fall.
  • Do not let your dog use the treadmill after a meal.
  • Do not leave your dog alone on the treadmill, walking unsupervised.
  • Do not ever tie your dog to the treadmill.
  • Do not exercise dogs with joint and muscle ailments on treadmills.
  • Do not walk elderly dogs or young puppies on a treadmill.
In summation, training your dog to walk on a treadmill, need not be torture for both you and your pet, once he/she gets the hang of walking on the treadmill and you get the hang of handling it while walking.