By Josiah Neuman CMT, CDT
Neuman K-9 Academy, Inc.
Dogs and treadmills go back to the early 1900's. Back then they served a dual purpose; for instance the slate mill (animal powered treadmill) was used to churn butter, ice cream, and helped with lots of other tasks.
The benefits of using treadmills and dogs are endless. Canine professionals incorporate them for show ring practice, gait analysis, physical therapy (recovering from an injury), behavior counseling, and year around physical conditioning in harsh climates (MN!).
There are a wide variety of treadmills available for dogs. Generally speaking they are broken up into two categories:
* Motorized (electronic)
* Animal Powered
The animal powered treadmill is usually referred to as a carpet mill. These treadmills have varying options like resistance control, incline adjustments, etc., these are non-electronic (manually) dog propelled treadmills. They range in price from $300 - $600 depending on the make and model.
Motorized treadmills are what you would buy at a sports or fitness outlet. They can range from $500 - $5000 depending on the bells and whistles. These are electronic motor driven treadmills with speed control, powered incline, timer w/intervals, and distance tracking.
Regardless of the style of treadmill (animal powered or motorized) I recommend some key features that will ensure the best workout for your canine companion.
1. Incline Control
2. Speed Control
3. Track Length - In proportion to your canine
4. Time and Distance Meter
Incline control enables the handler to increase the grade of the walking surface to simulate walking up a hill. This is an important feature for dogs that are overweight, prone to hip displaysia, or dogs going through physical rehabilitation (physical therapy).
Speed control is a big benefit and the main reason we use a motor driven treadmill. We start dogs very slow (walking) to help get them become acclimated to the treadmill and work them into faster speeds. For some dogs a brisk walk is a better work and more difficult than a trot or fast jog. Higher speeds might be used for conditioning a hunting dog in the off-season or for building muscle tone in the sport competition dog.
Track length can impact the gate of the dog. What size is right for your dog? Measure the dog fully extended (in a down position) and look for a treadmill that is at least this size. At Neuman K-9 Academy we use a motor driven treadmill with a 60" deck which covers a wide variety of breeds / sizes.
Time and distance meters allow you to gauge the intensity of the work out - how long and how far your dog has been running/walking. I recommend developing a fitness or work out plan and the ability to monitor the time and distance is important.
A feature that didn't make the top four but is worth mentioning is low impact shock absorbers. They provide a healthier workout for your dog and are worth paying the extra $$.
As stated previously in this article, we use a motorized or belt driven treadmill (electronic). If you keep the treadmill clean, greased and maintenance it according to the manufacturer's specifications you will get several years of use with no problems. Dogs disperse their weight on 4 paws instead of two feet and in general there is less wear and tear than a human running on it.
Do not feed or water your dog before or after a strenuous work out. This can cause bloat and can also result in bathroom accidents on the treadmill (not fun to clean up).
Have the dog on leash with a flat collar to ensure control of the exercise. DO NOT tie the dog to the treadmill and leave them unattended. The possibilities for injury and/or death are most certain.
At the beginning of the exercise I like to do a warm up and after a cool down. Just like athletes your dog can get muscle cramps and needs both.
You will find that after your dog becomes familiar with the treadmill, they absolutely love it. The positive impact it has on the dogs health (physical and mental) is significant. Each and every boot camp dog that graduates our program goes through physical conditioning which includes daily work-outs on the treadmill.
We have a unique process to teaching our dogs to walk or run on the treadmill. If you are interested in training your own dog, continue reading - I have included step by step instructions with a video to help you train your dog at home.
Treadmill Training Your Canine - Instructions Part 1 (click here)
If you would like more information about the types of training offered by Neuman K-9 Academy click here ---> Dog Training Services