Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Teaching your dog to walk on a treadmill

We do alot of obesity management in my practice. With many dogs (and cats), there comes a point where calorie restriction isn't enough. We need to institute exercise programs both to burn calories and also to increase the ratio of lean body mass to fat mass (lean body mass has a higher metabolic rate and therefore burns more calories). The animals with orthopedic problems need special handling and we usually recommend underwater treadmills or swimming for them. For dogs with good joints and no pain, the owner's own treadmill can do a world of good.

I was looking recently for information on how to train a dog to use a treadmill and found alot of them on YouTube. One was absolutely terrible - a guy simply gets on the treadmill and plops his dog on it, forcing the frantic dog to stay on it. In response to the variability of recommendations out there, I asked my technician, Vera, to research the issue. She wrote this and I think it's good:

How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Treadmill

1) Purchase a treadmill. Many owners use a human treadmill but special animal treadmills are also available. You can find animal treadmills on these and other websites: www.hammacher.com, www.frontgate.com, and www.dogtrotter.net.

2) Allow your dog to get familiar with the treadmill in the room for a few days. Do not turn it on.

3) Allow your dog to smell the treadmill. Reward your dog’s behavior if s/he goes up to the treadmill by offering small treats. Placing small treats along the length of the treadmill is also recommended so that s/he gets comfortable stepping onto the treadmill.

4) After a few days, turn on the treadmill. Let your dog get familiar with the sound of the treadmill. Reward your dog’s behavior by offering small treats beside the treadmill while it is running. Do not place your dog on the treadmill at this time. Let your dog see you having a slow pleasant walk on the treadmill if using your own.

5) Once your dog is comfortable with the sight and sound of the treadmill, it is time to get him on the treadmill. Ask the dog to step onto the treadmill and while giving a stream of treats, turn it on to the lowest speed. Start the treadmill at the slowest speed. Offer small treats to keep him on the treadmill. You may want to stand in front of the treadmill so that your dog stays in position.

6) You can use your dog’s leash as an aid, but NEVER tie your dog to the treadmill.

7) Once your dog is comfortable walking on the treadmill, you can slowly increase to the recommended speed for your dog.

You may be able to find instructional videos using a google search. Use search terms such as “teach train treadmill dog.” The following youtube videos may be helpful in your training:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I25QXJLXHNg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eXNOMkcFGc

These trainers used various methods but what they have in common is a slow introduction to the treadmill, avoidance of force, and lots of treats.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite method or success stories to tell?

7 comments:

  1. Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
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  4. Letting your pet know how to walk on the treadmill is another great idea for a dog treat. Our Golden Retriever does his exercises on the treadmill whenever we don't get the chance to take a walk at the park. He does the routine for 15-20 minutes. Then, after the hard work, I reward him with his favorite dog treats. He loves attention from people as well as from the lady pups. They think he's a handsome dog!

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  5. Weird. It took about three hours to get our ten month old Lab used to and on a moving treadmill. By day three I could get him to walk on it without treats. He currently is walking in three minute increments, but he logged 1.25 miles today. Pretty good for day four. Oh... and he has several times tried to cage treats off of me by 'assuming the position' on the treadmill and then yipping for me.

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  6. My border just jumped on the tredmill as soon as he saw it. It was something new in the enviornment and he was curious. He loved it even more when it started moving! Took a bit to get his footing and he couldnt coordinate getting a treat and walking at the same time but he had a ball.
    Now we are on day three and he has slept next to it all day, jumping on it everytime i walk past. He even just jumped back on it after his session. He loves his new toy.

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  7. Much better advice than a certain self proclaimed "expert", possibly from the video you spoke of, gives. Flooding would be a good way to turn a fun exercise into a fearful, hated event.

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