Dogs vary. Some dogs will eagerly hop on a treadmill, and there are others who will do almost the opposite. They will freak out when you turn on the treadmill.
If you are reading this, you probably have a dog who is afraid of using a treadmill. This brings us to the question of the hour, ‘how to get a scared dog on a treadmill’?
Before we address this heated question, let’s get some facts straight. Most dogs prefer walking/running outdoors as opposed to being stuck in a room.
Basically, they like to roam at their own pace, sniff stuff along the route, pee on appealing surfaces, urinate at parked cars, and, of course, enjoy all the sightseeing that the outdoor environment has to offer.
For many pet dogs out there, the outdoor walk/jog is the number one source of entertainment. So, you shouldn’t be depriving them of this joy.
If you are too lazy to walk your furry friend in the open, then you may not be the right candidate to pet a dog. You should probably get a cat. That said, there will be days when you won’t be able to take your dog out for a walk due to bad weather, hectic schedule, ill-health, and whatnot.
During these days, a treadmill walk can serve as a great alternative. Keep in mind that there are dedicated treadmills available for dogs. Animal treadmills are much safer than human treadmills. However, human treadmills can work fine as well as long as you can coach your dog to use the treadmill properly.
That said, larger dogs may need treadmills that are specifically designed for dogs. Most of the commercial dog treadmills have side panels on them to help the dog stay on the treadmill for long.
Of course, the challenge is to get a scared dog on a treadmill. How do you achieve this feat without injuring or scaring your furry friend in the process?
Dog Treadmill Training Steps:
Take it Slow
Yes, Rome was not built in a day. Nor will your dog convert to a treadmill user in a day. So, focus on small improvements. To begin with, encourage your dog to be comfortable around the treadmill.
If it’s a human treadmill, you can lead the way by using the treadmill in the presence of your dog. It will send out a clear message that the treadmill is not harmful.
Needless to say, don’t exhaust yourself in front of him/her. You don’t want the dog to see you gasping for breath on a treadmill. It may send out an unpleasant and intimidating message.
You can do intense workouts when he/she is not watching you. But, don’t train hard when you are being watched. You can also brisk walk on the treadmill while holding the pet in your hands.
It will get your pet accustomed to the moving motion of the treadmill, making it easier to coach him/her. You can try brisk walks for 10-15 minutes, several times a day.
If it’s not a human treadmill, lure your pet to get on the treadmill (when the treadmill is off). This can be achieved by placing a high-value treat on or around the treadmill.
**Always start the training with a non-moving treadmill belt. **
Keep in mind that the goal is not to force your pet to use the treadmill, but to get him/her accustomed to the feeling of being around the treadmill.
Keep offering treats until your dog hops on to the treadmill without any second thoughts. Once on the treadmill, practice usual commands, such as ‘stay,’ ‘sit,’ etc.
Believe it or not, this little trick will actually break the ice and make your dog feel comfortable around the treadmill. For some pet dogs, this process may take a few days or longer. But then, consistent efforts usually pay off.
Use a Leash
Once your dog gets accustomed to stepping on the treadmill without any fear, you will be able to do the second part of the mission. You will be walking the dog on the treadmill. The treadmill speed will be normal walking pace.
Using a leash/harness can be of great help over here. A leash will ensure that the dog stays in the center when the treadmill’s belt is moving.
Of course, don’t tie the leash. Just hold it in your hands, and turn on the treadmill at the lowest speed. When the treadmill is turned on, encourage your pet to walk on it.
You will be standing next to the dog holding the leash as if you are walking the dog. You can also stand in front of the machine and encourage the dog to walk towards you.
If your dog gets really nervous, stop or slow down the treadmill. But then, don’t allow the dog to jump off the treadmill. Let him/her wait on the treadmill.
Keep repeating this process until your dog feels comfortable walking on the treadmill. Of course, don’t forget to reward him/her for every successful attempt.
Do Speed Intervals
Bear in mind that the faster the treadmill runs, the less safe it will be for your dog. Believe it or not, even the slowest setting on a human treadmill can be too fast for small puppies.
It can even result in a serious accident, and ultimately, a trip to the ER. So, make it a point to increase the speed gradually. When you increase the speed, you will notice the dog lag to the back of the machine.
You can encourage the dog to stay on the front by using verbal praise. If your pet struggles to keep up with the treadmill’s pace, you can turn the treadmill to normal walking speed.
You must do speed intervals (increase speed, decrease speed) for many sessions to increase the pet’s confidence. Once you notice that your dog is able to stay on the front of the treadmill at a higher speed (for at least 3-5 minutes), you will know that you are progressing with your training.
Keep praising your dog whenever he/she is able to move faster. Offer treats. Of course, do not provide a treat at higher speeds. Wait for the treadmill to turn off.
When increasing the speed and time of exercise, watch for signs of exhaustion and dehydration. Turn off the treadmill if your dog looks dehydrated or fatigued. Don’t take any chances.
Basically, you should have an eye to spot an overworked or tired dog. As hinted earlier, some dogs can last on a treadmill for a long time, and others can get tired pretty quickly.
If your dog has been overworked on any given day, pick him/her as soon as you turn off the treadmill. Let the dog regain his/her breath. Let him/her drink some water. Then, massage him/her a bit.
Generally speaking, it may take a few weeks or more to treadmill train your dog. So, have the patience of a saint. Over time, your four-legged friend will start enjoying the treadmill run/walk.
Once it becomes a part of his/her daily life, he/she will be able to exercise without the harness, and, of course, with very little human intervention.
How to Overcome Difficulties along the Way?
In this section, let’s address the most common issues that you might face when you are training a scared dog to use a treadmill.
Jumping Off the Treadmill
If you are facing instances when your dog jumps off too quickly from the treadmill, you may want to revert back to the last step.
This is to say that if you have been coaching your dog to jog on the treadmill, revert back to walking. If you have been coaching him/her to walk, revert back to making the dog stay on the treadmill.
It’s advisable that you stick to a step for a week or two before moving on to the next step. As advised earlier, don’t rush into the process. Also, make the pet sit on the machine before it hops out of it when the workout is over. This will send out a clear message that he/she needs to stay on the treadmill for long.
If you increase the speed slowly, the dog won’t lag behind. So, begin slowly. Also, make sure to lower the speed if you notice that the dog is not able to keep up with the speed.
More than often, lagging is a result of increased speed. Lagging can also occur due to tiredness, where your dog may not be able to match the treadmill’s speed due to fatigue.
In any case, don’t expect a lot from your dog initially. An increment in speed has to be a slow and gradual process. If your dog lacks motivation, do encourage him/her a lot as well.
Word of Advice:
-Don’t make your pet jog/run on a full stomach. It’s generally advised to use the machine after toilet time.
-For cushioning purposes, place a rug behind the treadmill. Should your pet pause during the workout, the rug might save him/her.
-Do not over train dogs under the age of 2. It can be harmful for their bones and joints.
-Limit treadmill time to 30 minutes or less every day. (depending on the dog you own).
-Don’t vary the speed in between the session. Your dog should not be confused about whether to walk or jog.
-Provide your pet with a warm rub after an intense workout. It will improve blood circulation and reduce the chances of cramps.
-Don’t rush through the training process. Also, do your best to enjoy the process.
-Consult your dog’s vet before attempting any advanced level of jogging.
If dogs do not get enough physical and mental stimulation, they can get pretty violent. Not to mention that obesity in dogs is becoming a major problem these days.
When environmental restrictions come in your way, you can utilize a treadmill to provide your pets with the much-needed physical activity.
Remember, your job is not done once you coach your pet to use the treadmill. Ideally, you should never allow the dog to run on a treadmill without supervision.