Maybe that old treadmill in the cellar, that you or a family member gave up on, might just be the perfect exercise machine for your pup.
Here’s how to start getting your pup in shape.
Place the treadmill so the dog isn’t walking into a wall (very important!) Use clicker training if you’re pup is clicker trained. Start by having the dog get up on the treadmill (without it running) to get used to being on the machine – and click and treat. Do this for however long it takes for your dog to be very interested in being on the treadmill. Then, have your dog stand or sit near the treadmill, and turn it on.
Have your dog get used to the sound a few feet away from the treadmill, click and treat, and continue until the dog is comfortable. Put your dog on a leash. If your dog is light enough to pick up, I recommend starting the treadmill at a very slow speed, and them placing your pup onto the treadmill using a treat as a lure. If they are big dogs, have the dog stand on the treadmill as you turn it on at a very, very slow speed, also using a treat as a lure to have the walk forward. Praise them, praise them, praise them. Your dog may be a bit frightened at first but stay calm and say encouraging words.
Keep trying these steps until your pup is comfortable walking on the treadmill. Stand next to your dog holding his/her leash taunt in an upright position as they walk on the treadmill – simulating a walk alongside you. If your dog is still uncomfortable, you may want to stand in front of the treadmill, holding their leash for them to be in the correct position, and use a treat as a lure to walk toward you. Pretty soon, your pup will be a natural at walking on the treadmill.
But please remember, always supervise your dog, and use a leash/harness to keep them centered on the tread for safety. And don’t feed your dog one hour before or after rigorous exercise. Teach your pup to walk at a pace of a good trot like you would see show dogs trot in a competition ring. It’s a good stride when you can see them walking in their footprints.
Have your dog walk on the treadmill from 5 to a maximum of 10 minute intervals to begin with, and increase the time very slowly, always watching them for any discomfort. When your dog gets in shape you can walk them about 20 minutes, two times a day, with a slow speed warm up and a slow speed cool down. When your dog is finished walking on the treadmill, walk them around your house for a few minutes. Getting off a treadmill is very disorienting (you know how you feel when you get off the machine). Walking them around will help them get over their ‘sea legs.’
Make sure your treadmill belt is the right length for your dog. For smaller dogs a human treadmill works just fine. But if you have a larger dog, like a Golden Retriever, you’ll need a dog treadmill, the belts are longer. To increase the difficulty for your dog and build more muscle, increase the incline on your treadmill. But make sure your dog can handle the extra ‘load’ and increase very gradually. Keep the treadmill clean from dog hair and drool. It’s not good for the machine. Make sure your dog’s nails are clipped properly for their safety. Most of all have fun.
Tara Baggerman, Trainer & Owner of Caliber Canines Positive Dog Training
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