How to Train a Dog to Use the Treadmill

Filed in Dog Training on May 19, 2022

How to Train a Dog to Use the Treadmill

Lack of sufficient exercise can cause several dog behavioral and health issues.

We, as pet parents want the absolute best for our dogs when it comes to their physical and mental well-being.

Unfortunately, we don’t always have the time to cater to their never-ending need for play and exercise. This is where treadmills come in handy in helping our pets express their body’s need for physical activity.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss how to train a dog to use the treadmill. For ease of writing, I’ve used the male pronoun (he/him) when referring to dogs.

By the way, I have another post on choosing the best dog treadmill, if interested.

Benefits of Treadmills for Dogs

1. Quick, Multiple Workouts

There could be many reasons why regular walks may not be possible for a dog. Reactivity, aggression, extreme fearfulness, and unfavorable weather could be some of them.

A treadmill savvy dog can still get his daily walks in at a pace he’s comfortable and at a time he’s comfortable.

2. Beneficial for Overweight Dogs

Overweight dogs need frequent but shorter walks, so that they don’t get tired out too much. However, it can be challenging for pet parents to go out so often. A treadmill is a convenient alternative.

3. Beneficial for Working and High Energy Dogs

2 walks a day may not cut it for high energy and working dogs. They may need more exercise, much more!

A treadmill can not only help provide dogs with ample exercise, but can help evenly spread it out the whole day even if with shorter workouts.

You can also prevent overstimulation which can occur if walking them outside too much.

4. An Incredible Outlet for Dogs Who Prefer Staying Indoors

Yes, indoor dogs exist! Extremely fearful dogs, highly reactive dogs and aggressive dogs are a few examples of dogs who would prefer other forms of exercise instead of walks in populated areas.

Change your treadmill’s pace to match your dog’s needs.

How To Train a Dog To Use the Treadmill (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

Step 1- Introducing

treadmill introduction for dog

Depending on your dog’s willingness to explore new things, it could take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks to get used to a treadmill.

To begin introducing, let your dog get used to the sound of the treadmill while it’s running. To accelerate the process, you could physically use the treadmill a few times in front of him.

When you associate yourself with a stimulus, it’s easier for your dog to get comfortable around it.

Step 2 – Positive and fun association

Dogs learn to form associations very quickly. Teach him to form a super positive association with the treadmill by engaging in his favorite activities around it.

Figure out what motivates your dog. If your dog enjoys playing, play a few rounds of fetch or tug in the same room as the treadmill while it’s running.

Playing facilitates the release of oxytocin in dogs, which is associated with positive emotional responses.

If your dog is highly food motivated, give him some treats in an interactive toy around the running treadmill.

Involving an interactive toy will help keep your dog distracted and engaged in something else, while the treadmill sound becomes background noise.

Consistently engaging in fun activities around the treadmill will ensure your dog feels more comfortable with the treadmill’s sight, sound and functioning.

Step 3 – “On” and “Off”

Once your dog is comfortable around the treadmill, start teaching “on” and “off.” While getting your dog on the treadmill, make sure it’s off and stationary. Drop some low to medium value treats on the treadmill.

As soon as your dog puts his paws on the treadmill, reward and give him more treats. Take out the high value treats when the treadmill starts moving.

Get him off quickly, but don’t give treats for getting off. Let your dog associate climbing up with more rewards. Limit the interaction with the treadmill to only ‘on’ and ‘off’ for the first few days.

Moving too quickly too soon (even if your dog is doing well) will intimidate and overwhelm him, resulting in possible future reluctance.

Step 4 – The Steady Lure

Once your dog is comfortable climbing up on the treadmill and sticking around for a bit, add motion. Keep the treadmill at its lowest speed.

While your dog is walking, stand in front of him and the treadmill where you can show him his favorite chew stick and he can also reach it.

For the treat, use something that is engaging but not too hard for the dog to chew on. You don’t want your dog to put in extra effort in breaking it down while he’s already working hard on the treadmill.

Use something like a sausage covered in cheese or a soft chicken jerky.

As you advance, you can also suspend the treat by a rope at the far end of the treadmill, closer to your dog’s nose. It can act as a steady lure while your dog is walking on the treadmill.

Step 5 – Pacing the Treadmill

Start at the lowest possible speed setting and train your way up. Choose the appropriate speed setting depending on –

  • Your dog’s age
  • Activity level
  • Your dog’s overall health
  • Comfort with the treadmill

Tip – Keep a lot of soft cushions around in case of accidents.

While training your dog to use the treadmill, we are, unfortunately, also putting our dogs at risk of falling off of it. We can, however, reduce the impact of such accidents by having cushions and soft mats around the treadmill.

Step 6 – Running on the Treadmill

treadmill training for dog

  • Start with slow running for not more than 1 minute

How long should your dog run really depends on your dog’s breed, energy levels (at that time and in general), exercise requirements and age.

Puppies under 6 months, regardless of the breed, should not be running and sprinting because their muscles and joints are not fully developed.

Start by getting your dog to jog and then train their way up to more speed.

  • Transition between running and walking

Fit and healthy dogs can be trained to be on a running treadmill for 20-30 minutes. However, it’s vital to keep transitioning between running, brisk walking and slowing down.

Never let your dog continuously run for the entire duration.

It will have a negative impact on his joints, lungs and overall health

  • Increase and decrease speed very gradually

When we’re walking or running on the treadmill, we’re consciously aware of its options and the changes we make to it. Our dogs are not.

While it’s necessary to change the pace of the treadmill (see previous subsection), you must do so gradually in order to give your dog ample time to get used to it.

Precautions to Remember

1. Your Dog’s Form

Observe what your dog’s gait looks like while he’s using the treadmill. You’ll want to make sure they have a natural gait and ease in movement.

Your treadmill should be long enough to fit your dog’s strides while having a little scope to prevent slip offs.

2. Joint and Bone Health

If your dog is senior or has any hip and joint issues, it’s best to avoid the treadmill. Before considering a treadmill for your dog, consider getting approval from your vet.

3. Does Your Dog Enjoy Running?

Some dogs prefer taking long sniffing walks rather than sprinting. Such dogs may not enjoy treadmills as much. Furthermore, if your dog doesn’t have much practice in running, tone down his treadmill workout.

4. A Treadmill Shouldn’t Be Your Dog’s Only Source of Stimulation

training with dog treats

Running and sprinting will definitely end up with your dog panting with his tongue hanging out. However, your dog’s daily workout must be a healthy balance between physical and mental stimulation.

While physical exercise is crucial, mental stimulation will help you in raising a calm and confident dog with highly improved cognitive functioning.

Include brain games, interactive feeding, puzzle games, sniffing and training activities in order to provide your dog with an enriched lifestyle.

The dynamics of physical and mental stimulation are different and cannot act as replacements of each other.

5. Leash Your Dog

Having a leash on your dog will help you keep him safe and will prevent minor slip offs. However, never tie the leash to the treadmill. This can be very dangerous and may cause serious injuries including accidental trachea collapse.

6. Watch Like a Hawk

No matter how much of a treadmill expert your dog becomes, never leave him unsupervised.

An accident can occur in a matter of seconds. Have good working knowledge on dog CPR, in case of over exertion. Talk to your vet about more safety tips.

7. Avoid Inclines

The incline position puts a lot of pressure on your dog’s hind legs and joints. It’s best to limit incline to just a couple of minutes for smaller dogs and altogether avoid it for bigger dogs.

8. Make Time for Warm up and Cool Down

Just like in humans, a workout without proper warm up and cool down is a classic recipe for injury.

Warm-up and cool down ensure good mobility of your dog’s neck, back, legs and joints, which is of utmost importance while performing any intense activity.

Conclusion on How to Train a Dog to Use the Treadmill

Well, I hope I’ve given you clear instructions on how to train a dog to use the treadmill.

A treadmill makes an amazing alternative on those days when you’re unable to take your dog out for a long walk due to hot weather, heavy snow, heavy rainfall or when your dog would rather stay home.

Just keep in mind that a treadmill is not a permanent replacement for walks. The physical and mental stimulation that sniffing provides while on an outdoor walk is irreplaceable.

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