How to Train Your Dog to Use a Treadmill

Medium
2-3 Weeks
General

Introduction

Your dog was designed to run. His wild cousins travel in packs for miles each day in search of prey, to defend their territory, or looking for resources such as water. Unfortunately, your apartment or house does not provide your dog with this opportunity, and that is where problems can start. Dogs need physical activity, and if they don't get it they can develop all kinds of physical, emotional, and mental issues. Ask any veterinarian and they will tell you that obesity in pets is a major problem and responsible for a large number of health problems in our, pets including premature death. When we keep our pets in a restricted environment, such as indoors, the opportunities for natural activity are greatly diminished. Ideally, dogs should be walked long distances each day, but time and environmental restrictions sometimes limit our ability to provide this much-needed activity to our canine companions. One solution is to teach your dog to use a treadmill to get the exercise he needs indoors, when you don't have the ability or time to take him on a long walk each day.

Defining Tasks

You can teach your dog to use a treadmill to get the daily exercise and activity he needs, to burn off extra energy, improve his physical condition, and stimulate him mentally when you are unable to provide outdoor exercise. As pet owners, sometimes we are not able to take our dogs on the long walks they require daily, due to illness, weather, or time constraints. A motorized treadmill can provide a solution, however, you will need to train your dog to safely use the treadmill. Because treadmills make noise and the movement can be confusing to the dog at first, you will need to train your dog not to be startled or afraid of the treadmill and how to use it safely and calmly, not jumping off, balking, or bolting when the treadmills starts up. Most dogs do a steady trot while on the treadmill, a gait that is natural to them in the wild. You will need to watch your dog closely at all times while on the treadmill to make sure he does not get tangled up or injured: never leave a dog unsupervised on a treadmill. Also, you will need to closely monitor his activity so as not to over-exercise your dog, or cause him unnecessary strain. Avoid working puppies or very young dogs on a treadmill, as they do not always have the coordination necessary to work effectively on a treadmill and can become injured if they stumble. Large dogs, especially, should wait until they are mature to work on a treadmill as they can strain their joints if overworked and are more prone to injury on a treadmill. Remember, your dog doesn't have control of the speed and duration of activity when he is on the treadmill-- watch for signs of fatigue and keep exercise appropriate.

Getting Started

You will need an appropriately sized treadmill for your dog.  You can use a regular treadmill for most dogs, although large dogs may need a treadmill especially designed for large dogs. Specialized dog treadmills are available commercially and often have side panels to help direct your dog to stay on the treadmill and a feed dish at the front to reward your dog. Make sure you have a treadmill in good working order, with no loose or broken parts, and that is an appropriate size for your dog to work, given his natural stride. Determine what duration and speed is appropriate for your dog prior to getting started, and work up to that slowly. You should have treats available to help reward your dog for learning to use the treadmill, and you may use a leash but never tie your dog to the treadmill, as this can pose a serious safety issue. Never force your dog onto the treadmill, as this can create fear. It is also better to make sure the treadmill is facing away from the wall, so your dog does not feel that he is about to run into the wall, and to gives you better access to the treadmill from all sides to encourage and reward your dog.

The Practice Slow Method

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Step
1
Introduce obedience with treadmill
Encourage your dog to get up on the treadmill and then practice commands he already knows, like 'sit 'and 'stay'. Reward him for performing commands so he get comfortable working with commands on the treadmill.
Step
2
Leash your dog
Put your dog on a leash and face him forward. Hold the leash, do not tie it off, start the treadmill on the lowest setting, and say "ready".
Step
3
Encourage forward
Encourage your dog to walk forward while standing in front of the treadmill.
Step
4
Increase speed slowly
Gradually increase the speed as your dog gets used to moving on the treadmill. If your dog shows signs of anxiety, slow back down.
Step
5
Teach 'stop' and 'exit'
When you stop the treadmill, don't let your dog jump off. Have him wait on the treadmill until you command him with 'off'. This teaches him to only get off the treadmill when you command him, avoiding accidents, so your dog does not decide to jump off the treadmill while it is running.
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The Acclimatize Method

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Step
1
Introduce treadmill
Bring your dog to the treadmill with it turned off. Get on the treadmill and call your dog to come up with you, hold a treat out. Give him the treat when he jumps up.
Step
2
Lure solo on treadmill
Now ask him to get on the treadmill without you. Hold the treat over the treadmill, provide the treat when he gets on the treadmill.
Step
3
Teach 'stay' on treadmill
Ask your dog to stay, standing on the treadmill. Provide him with a treat at regular intervals until he is comfortable standing on the treadmill.
Step
4
Introduce running treadmill
Have your dog stand next to the treadmill with it turned on. Provide a treat when he stands calmly next to the treadmill with it running.
Step
5
Run treadmill
Ask your dog to get on the treadmill and give a treat. Put a leash on your dog and start at the lowest setting. Stand next to him holding the leash as though you were going for a walk with him.
Step
6
Encourage walk
Encourage your dog forward, hold a treat in front of him, reward him for walking slowly on the treadmill. Repeat until he is comfortable.
Step
7
Increase speed
Gradually increase speed a little at a time over several days or weeks. Provide treats only when stopped, never at faster speeds, to avoid choking. Praise your dog as a reward when moving faster.
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The Capture with Clicker Method

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Step
1
Capture 'on treadmill'
Put a treat on the turned off treadmill. When your dog jumps on the treadmill, click.
Step
2
Add command
Add a command for 'get on' the treadmill, combine with treat and click.
Step
3
Capture 'jump off'
Ask your dog to step off the treadmill, provide a command like "get off", click to capture the behavior
Step
4
Capture 'stay on' treadmill
Command the dog to get on the treadmill. Click and treat while standing on the turned off treadmill, for an extended period of time.
Step
5
Capture treamill on
Once your dog is comfortable standing on the treadmill, turn it on very slowly. Encourage your dog to walk forward, click and treat.
Step
6
Increase speed
Increase the speed, click and praise. Do not treat at higher speeds, wait to provide a treat until after exercise session.
Step
7
Remove click
Gradually remove the click as your dog becomes comfortable with what is expected of him. Continue to supervise and praise your dog for using the treadmill.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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