Dog treadmill training can be a bit daunting so I decided to ask canine physical therapy and conditioning expert, Debbie Gross Saunders, wizardofpaws.net how she starts dog treadmill training.
HOW DO YOU START A DOG ON A TREADMILL?
Face the treadmill towards something interesting – most dogs (and people) do not want to walk towards a wall! Use a well-fitted harness. Many canine treadmills have harness systems and make sure they fit the dog well. In addition, many human and canine treadmills have a safety switch that can attach to the harness. If the dog slips off the treadmill, the unit will automatically stop. Begin by asking the dog to walk on and off the treadmill with treats, or other positive reinforcement. Also, while standing back from the treadmill, turn the treadmill on so the dog may become accustomed to the noise.
HOW DO YOU BEGIN?
Place the dog on a treadmill, and if possible, begin with two people. One person should be in the front of the dog at the front of the treadmill and the other person should be on one side. If only one person is available, position yourself where ever you think the dog will be more comfortable. Most treadmills start at 0.5 mph and this is very slow, but gradually (over the course of a minute) build it up to an ample speed. 2.0 to 3.0 mph is a normal walk speed for dogs. Some larger breeds may need to go faster. Encouragement in the form of treats may be used initially, but I like to stay away from feeding a dog too much when they are involved in endurance activities.
DO DOGS INSTANTLY LOVE A TREADMILL?
Some dogs love it immediately. Others take a bit longer to understand they can walk and lift their head at the same time – walk and chew gum! Most of the time, it takes under five minutes for the dogs to find their rhythm. Surprisingly – I find herding breeds have a tougher time with the treadmill and I wonder if it is because they cannot ‘control’ it. Once the dogs get used to the treadmill, they usually love it the second, third time, etc.
WHAT ARE COMMON DOG TREADMILL MISTAKES?
The length of the treadmill belt needs to be long enoughfor the dogs’ stride length. Often I see people place a large breed dog, such as a GSD on too short of a belt and it their stride length is reduced causing issues. People also tend to ‘push’ too much on the treadmill and do not read or ‘hear’ the sounds of fatigue.
WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE WOULD NEVER – EVER – DO TO A DOG ON A TREADMILL?
Never, ever, put a dog on the treadmill and leave them alone on it. I have heard horror stories where dogs have been dragging while their owners are on TV, in the other room, etc.
Debbie has produced many productsto help you support/condition your dog at home and, I am happy to say, she’s a long-time personal friend. It is always a pleasure to have her share her wisdom, which she does generously.
Thank you, Debbie!