When you have a high-energy dog, it can be hard to give them enough exercise. Regardless of your dog’s exercise needs, bad weather can also be an obstacle to making sure your dog is getting enough activity. In these cases, training your dog to use a treadmill can help make sure they get enough exercise and movement regardless of the weather outside or other limitations. Here’s how to train your dog to use a treadmill:
1. Wait Until Your Puppy Has Finished Growing
Although it may be tempting to start treadmill training early, it’s important to wait until your puppy has finished growing. A slow walk would probably be fine, but puppies tend to be uncoordinated and are easily injured when they stumble.
Plus, their exercise should be kept low-impact while their joints and bones are developing. Puppies finish growing at different rates, so make sure you know what to expect for your puppy before jumping into any strenuous or high-impact exercise.
2. Make Sure They’re Not Afraid of it
What you can do when your dog is still a puppy is help them get used to the noise a treadmill makes. Even treadmills built for dogs make noise. The noise, movement, smells, etc. can all be scary for a dog.
So, start getting them used to being around the treadmill and to not be afraid of it. This will make it much easier to introduce the concept of walking on it once they’re done growing. If your dog is already fully-grown, you can still slowly introduce them to the treadmill with reassurance and treats to make sure they are not afraid of it.
Also, make sure the treadmill is not facing a wall. Once you start training your dog to walk or run on it, it can be more difficult if your dog feels like they are running towards a wall. Plus, it limits the methods you can use for training and limits where you can stand to reward and encourage your dog as they learn how to use a treadmill.
3. Slowly Introduce Getting on the Treadmill
If your dog is used to the treadmill being around, introduce them to actually getting on it. With the treadmill off, you can stand on it and call them to you so they are standing on it as well. You can also place a treat on the treadmill while it is off to get them on it and also start pairing a command or clicker with it.
The goal here is to get your dog accustomed to being on the treadmill while it is off and to make sure they are comfortable. This is also a great time to solidify whatever command you want them to learn and associate with getting on the treadmill to walk or run.
4. Encourage Them to Walk on the Treadmill
Once they are comfortable with the treadmill and being on it while it is off, it’s time to train them to actually walk on it. There are a few ways you can do this and it all depends on what works best for your dog.
You can leash them and lead them onto the treadmill while it is off. While you stand in front of the treadmill holding the leash, you can start the treadmill on a slow/low setting and encourage your dog to move forward towards you.
If you don’t think your dog will respond to just you encouraging them, you can entice them to respond to a command to move forward with a treat or a bowl of food at the front of the treadmill.
The goal here is to make sure your dog is comfortable moving on the treadmill while it is on. You don’t want to ever force your dog on the treadmill if they don’t want to get on as that will just make them dislike it or even fear it.
As your dog gets more comfortable responding to a command to start walking on the treadmill, it’s also a good time to teach them an “off” command. Essentially, when you stop the treadmill, you want to make sure your dog doesn’t jump off until you tell them to. In the future, this can help avoid accidents and injury, especially as you work up to faster speeds.
5. Move to Faster Speeds When Your Dog is Ready
It may take some time to train your dog to be comfortable walking on a moving treadmill, so make sure you bring plenty of patience. As they get more comfortable and are consistently responding to commands, you can slowly increase the speed in intervals to a steady trot. If your dog starts showing fear, discomfort, or anxiety, then slow back down to where they are comfortable.
6. Always Supervise Your Dog
It’s important for you to keep a close eye on your dog at all times while they are on the treadmill and never leave them unsupervised while they are on it. In addition to watching for any signs of injury or issues, you also want to keep an eye out for signs of fatigue or strain.
Keep the speed and time on the treadmill appropriate for your dog and make sure you do not over-exercise them. Too much exercise can cause unnecessary strain on joints and cause injury. A tired dog may be a happy dog, but an over-exercised one is prone to injury and other health issues.
7. Regularly Check Over Your Dog and the Treadmill
As your dog continues to use the treadmill, it’s important to regularly check them over to make sure they are not injured or sore. You also want to make sure their paw pads are remaining healthy and in good condition and that their nails are kept trimmed.
In addition to checking over your dog, you also want to check over and maintain the treadmill. Loose parts, worn-out belts, etc. can all pose a threat to your dog. By making sure your treadmill is in tip-top shape, you can help protect your dog and keep them safe as they use it.
These are a few tips for how to train your dog to use a treadmill. It’s not the right fit for every dog. Some dogs may too afraid of a treadmill to use it and that’s okay! Training your dog to use a treadmill should never be forced and it should be something your dog enjoys learning to do. Who knows? If they’re willing to learn how to do it, it could become one of their favorite indoor activities!