Exercising on a treadmill is a powerful tool that can help dogs improve muscle strength and stamina, prevent obesity, aid weight loss, and provide mental stimulation. If you have a hyperactive or obese dog, treadmill training could be your answer to a calm, well-behaved, and fit dog.
Related Article: Learn all the ways treadmill workouts benefit dogs!
So if you’re thinking your dog needs at-home exercise and you have a treadmill available, you really can teach your dog to love treadmill exercise. They benefit in many of the same ways we do, plus it’s a solution for them to get their zoomies out in a home environment. If you’ve been wanting to get your dog trained on treadmill workouts, follow these tips to help them understand and succeed.
Here are five easy at-home steps to train your dog to exercise on a treadmill.
Your first goal is to get your dog comfortable around and on the treadmill. (Never force your dog to do anything he or she is not ready to do). You first want to lure your dog over to the treadmill with something positive like treats or a favorite toy to get him accustomed to the track and machine. Keep it turned off during this phase. Place the treats near the treadmill for him to enjoy. Once he seems comfortable around it, try to get him to stand on the treadmill in the right direction. Reward your dog for each milestone – and then repeat. After repeating this a few times, you’ll only need to use positive reinforcement to get your dog on the track and into the correct position.
Now that your dog willingly steps up on the treadmill without hesitation, it’s time for a little action. Place a sturdy harness on your dog and click a leash onto the harness while you hold the other end. Never clip your dog onto the treadmill and walk away! Now you are ready to turn on the treadmill.
Turn on the treadmill at a speed that allows your dog to walk at a normal pace. Too slow is confusing, as well as boring, but too fast could scare your dog. Watch your dog’s gate to make sure he’s walking naturally. Do this for 5 to 15 minutes. Reward your dog. Repeat the next day.
Once your dog has mastered walking on the treadmill, you can try to increase the speed to a trot and later a run. Keep in mind that some dogs have a difficult time converting from a trot to a full gallop. Make sure the pace is set to meet the needs of your dog’s gate. Start at 5 minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes, watching your dog for any signs of dehydration or exhaustion. Stop the treadmill if your dog looks fatigued and wait to resume training another day. Don’t forget to provide water, too.
After some practice, you’ll find that your dog really relishes treadmill time. Once the treadmill becomes part of your dog’s routine, he’ll be able to exercise on the treadmill with very little instruction and without a harness.
If you are not willing to take the steps at home or do not own a treadmill, we recommend booking an appointment at a facility, like Fitdog, where experienced handlers can train your dog for you.
This article was originally published on 3/29/2012 and updated on 5/21/2020.