Training Your Dog to Use a Treadmill

Lack of exercise is a major cause of of behavior problems. Having your dog use the treadmill is a fun and, well, different way of exercising your pet.

No, it’s not a bed. By: normanack

When I get home from a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is exercise my dog. I would much rather just curl up on the couch and watch a little television.

But every dog has a certain amount of energy that needs to be used, and if you don’t offer your dog times to release that energy, chances are that he is going to start having some serious behavior problems.

Because I don’t want to come home with a hole ripped into my couch, I suck it up and take Addisen to the dog park or on a nice long walk. If the weather isn’t cooperating or I am particularly exhausted, I have trained her to safely use a treadmill to release some of that crazy energy. That’s right, a treadmill.

Getting Your Dog Used to a Treadmill

Training your dog to use the treadmill safely takes a lot of time and careful training. But on days it’s so hot that I know we will both collapse if we walk to the end of the driveway, it’s extremely convenient.

Given that lack of exercise is a major cause of of behavior problems, having your dog use the treadmill is a fun and, well, different way of exercising your pet.

A few tips for beginning training:

  1. Introduce the treadmill to your dog with the machine turned off. If your dog isn’t too familiar with the treadmill, it may look like a big, scary monster that makes a lot of noise — like the vacuum cleaner.
  2. Lure your dog on and off the treadmill by treating/praising him when all four paws are on it and he is facing the correct direction.
  3. If your dog is scared of it, start to countercondition your dog to think of the treadmill as a positive object. To do this, incorporate the treadmill into your dog’s activities. Meals, special treats and extra attention should be given in the presence of the treadmill.
  4. Once your dog follows the lure onto the treadmill 90% of the time and he is comfortable with it, you can give the command a name such as “Get on” or “Right on.” The command should be tied only to your dog having all four paws on the treadmill and facing the correct direction. If you ever catch your dog on the treadmill on his own, praise lavishly!

Next Steps

Desensitizing your dog to the noise of the treadmill can be a little trickier. But then it’s all about movement. Try these training steps:

  1. Encourage your dog to come toward you and take treats from your hand when you are using it. Also praise and treat your dog for being near the treadmill when it’s turned on.
  2. Once he is used to the noise, turn the treadmill on its absolute lowest speed and have your dog climb on the back of it. Have your dog stay very close to your baited hand as the treadmill starts to move. Praise the dog when he steps forward and reaches for the treat.
  3. Once your dog is used to this sequence, you can place the treats on the non-moving part on the front of the treadmill. Start feeding your dog special treats from the front of the treadmill and very slowly increase the speed.

Caution: Do not give your dog treats at higher speeds; this presents a choking hazard.

After a few weeks of consistent training, you should have your dog running in sessions of five to 10 minutes. If desired, slowly increase the workout time by one minute. Your dog should be panting heavily once a day to get the needed amount of exercise.

Important Notes

Another caution: If done incorrectly, allowing your dog to use the treadmill can be dangerous. Never tether your dog to the treadmill so he cannot hop off. You should also be present and making sure your dog is doing well the whole time he is using it.

If you are concerned your dogs is going too fast, air on the side of caution and lower the speed. He also doesn’t necessarily need to be running on the treadmill either; sometimes a slow walk suits your dog much better than being a speed demon.

I encourage you to take your time when training this to your dog and take every precaution to ensure your dog’s safety.

Clarissa Fallis

View posts by Clarissa Fallis
Clarissa Fallis is a canine behaviorist and trainer from Upstate New York. She has attended Bergin University of Canine Studies, State University of New York at Cobleskill and Animal Behavior College. She is competent in training all breeds and ages of dogs, though she prefers hounds because of the challenge they present.

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