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Chapter 11: Indoor Walks - The Treadmill

A treadmill is a wonderfully safe way to help your dog get the extra exercise that he or she needs.

Why A Treadmill?

You can use a treadmill to:

  • Add to an energetic dog’s daily exercise quota.

  • Exercise your dog when you’re too sick to take him or her out.

  • Close the gap somewhat between two varied-energy dogs before taking them out for a walk together.

  • Exercise your dog when the weather is unsuitable for going outside (eg. heatwave, hail, heavy rain, or snow).

  • Keep your dog out of wet weather forty-eight hours after he or she has had topical flea treatment. (You could use a doggie raincoat to take your dog out, but the more your recently-treated dog stays totally dry all over, the better.)

What The Treadmill Is Not

What a treadmill is NOT is an excuse for you to be lazy.
Unless there’s an issue with the weather or your health,
you still need to get out there with your dog every day.

 

Commands?

No commands required - just praise (ie. good boy/girl).

But what about the command come so you can get the dog to the treadmill in the first place?

Well, one of the cardinal rules of dog psychology is that when you plan to do something that a dog considers unpleasant (eg. medicine, bath time, nail clipping, etc) go to the dog rather than calling the dog to come to you. So unless your dog loves the treadmill, don't use the command come but instead go to him or her when it’s time for a session.

Equipment Needed For The Treadmill

  • Treadmill.

  • Lead.

  • Harness.

What Kind Of Treadmill?

All you need is a regular treadmill. You can easily rig it up for your dog's use simply by adding a harness and a lead.

Look for a treadmill that’s:

  • Quiet.

  • Automatic.

  • Easily moved.

  • An appropriate size for your dog’s gait.

Optional Purchase: The Treadmill Mat

A treadmill mat helps reduce hair, dust, carpet fibre, fur, etc,
from being sucked into the motor. It also provides shock absorption,
and protects a wooden floor from being marked by the treadmill.

 

The Sports Store

It’s ideal to go to the sports store with your dog to try before you buy. Call beforehand to see be sure the store manager is dog-friendly.

Tips For The Trip To The Sports Store

Your dog might be that sport store’s first canine customer. You want other dogs to be welcome there in the future, so make a good impression by:

  • Taking a clean, brushed dog into the store.

  • Allowing your to dog relieve him- or herself just before going into the store.

  • Keeping an eye on your dog while in the store for signs of wanting to go to the toilet (and taking him or her outside straight away if you suspect that’s the case).

Love At First Sight?

Take along treats to ensure a pleasant first encounter, but don’t expect your dog to fall in love with treadmilling.

Examples: Jake And Jasmin

Having said that, my dog Jasmin runs into the room and jumps onto the treadmill when she hears it being programmed (sometimes she even stands or sits on it at random times during the day).

In fact, she seems to quite enjoy going on the treadmill with Jake. She doesn’t mind it too much on her own either, but definitely prefers having company.

On the other hand, Jake, although he tolerates it, doesn’t show any real liking for the treadmill - either on his own or with Jasmin.

How Will Your Dog Feel About The Treadmill?

There's no telling. Your dog could go either way, but as long as he or she tolerates it, regular use of the treadmill will greatly benefit your energetic canine companion.

In The Sports Store: The Test

For the initial test, your dog needs to be wearing a harness and you need to have treats ready. Here’s the procedure:

  • Lift (for smaller dogs) or coax (for larger, unliftable dogs) the dog onto the machine and give him or her a treat.

  • Keep holding the lead, and turn the treadmill on to the lowest speed setting.

  • 'Walk’ along with your dog using just one leg (the reason for just the one leg is simply that there won't be room for both legs).

  • Give verbal praise to your dog for calm behaviour as he or she walks along (but NO treats while the machine is in motion).

  • Notice if the treadmill is big enough for your dog’s gait.

  • After about a minute, turn off the treadmill, give your dog a treat and let him or her get off the machine.

Stationary Treats

Give treats to your dog only when the treadmill is still.
 

The Lead

To make treadmilling for your dog safe, attach a lead to one of the handlebars. Taller dogs will need a shorter lead, and smaller dogs will need a longer lead. Experiment to find the right length so that your dog can comfortably walk without any danger of falling off the back of the machine.

The Harness

Your dog will need a harness when using the treadmill. Any comfortable harness will do as long as it's not a front-attaching one.

Different Harnesses For Different Things

A harness is a versatile piece of equipment.

Besides a treadmill, your dog will also wear a harness when you use a recall lead (Chapter 12:In The Park Using A Recall Lead) and wheeled equipment (Chapter 14: Putting The Wheels In Motion). Plus, a harness can be used for securing your dog into a car, carrier, stroller, trailer, or bike basket.

You can have a separate harness for each activity you do with your dog. That way your dog will build an association between particular harnesses and particular activities. It’s not necessary, but it’s an option.

Another choice is to use the same harness for everything. I use the same harness for everything except the treadmill (the reason for which I’ll explain right now…).

One Dedicated Harness

I permanently house one harness on each handlebar of the human treadmill I use for my dogs. And those harnesses are the only harnesses that Jake and Jasmin wear on the treadmill.

The reason is that my dogs don't exactly adore the treadmill and I don’t want them to feel tricked - thinking that, for example, they're going for a car ride and ending up on the treadmill - and start avoiding me when I have a harness in my hands. (Being transparent with your dog so that he or she feels able to trust you is an enormously important part of your relationship with your dog - and trickery has no place in an honest relationship.)

Do the same if your dog doesn't adore the treadmill. If your dog loves the treadmill, then this won't be an issue - use whatever harness you want.

Use A Fan

Dogs can’t sweat to lose heat like humans do, so on warm days you must put a fan on for your treadmilling dog.

There’s no need to blast the dog with the fan at close range, especially if it’s a very powerful fan. Point the fan in your dog’s direction with some distance between the dog and the fan.

Post-Bath Treadmill Sessions

My aging dog Jake frequently gets the post-bath shivers -
even in warmer weather and after being blow-dried. So
after a bath and blow-dry, I pop him (and Jasmin, of course)
on the treadmill for a ten minute session to get his
blood flowing so that he can feel a little warmer.

 

Stay With The Dog

You must NOT leave the room when your dog is on the treadmill - always, always, always supervise.

What Should You Do While Your Dog Treadmills?

If you have the room and money to buy two treadmills - one for you and one for your dog - an obvious option is to get on your treadmill while your dog uses his or hers.

If you have just the one treadmill, stay active so that your dog has something to look at while he or she walks (presumably being on a treadmill is just as boring for a dog as it is for a human). An idea is to do some exercises of your own like Pilates, Yoga, dancing, stretching, or weights.

If your dog is treadmilling because you’re unwell you (of course) shouldn’t exercise. So get a book to read, a DVD to watch - whatever you need to keep yourself entertained and in the room while your dog treadmills.

No Phone While Your Dog Is On The Treadmill

It’s important to frequently praise your dog
while he or she is on the treadmill. If your mouth
is busy talking to a friend, you won’t be able to
do that adequately, so chit-chatting on the
phone while your dog treadmills is out.

 

Strange Behaviour

Although you’ll be occupied with an activity while in the room with your treadmilling dog, you must regularly look up from your activity and check up on your dog for any signs of anxiety.

For example, if the dog displays body language cues of discomfort (like looking around nervously and continuously licking his or her lips) then you need to lower the speed. If that doesn’t stop the nervous behaviour, put an end to the session - your dog might be feeling a little off.

Distractions From Other Dogs

When I first got the treadmill, it wasn’t uncommon for one dog to decide it’s time to play while the other was on the treadmill. With some timely verbal reprimands from me, they both clued in pretty quickly that treadmill time is no time for play.

While your dogs are getting acquainted with this rule, you’ll need to intervene the nanosecond you see signs of the desire to play from the non-treadmilling dog: playing dogs and moving machinery don't mix.

Safety Rules

  • Always put your dog on a stationary treadmill.

  • Start the machine only after your dog has been
    safely attached to it via harness and lead.

  • Always wait until after the treadmill has completely
    stopped
    before unclipping your dog from the machine.

Paws

A dog’s paw pads are tougher than the sole of a human foot, but they’re not made of rock. They can be damaged from too much time on a rough surface like a treadmill belt, so you must gradually increase your dog’s time and speed on the treadmill.

If your dog has had paw pad problems in the past, ask your vet whether your dog should wear booties while treadmilling. (More details on booties in Chapter 14: Putting The Wheels In Motion.)

Speed And Incline

Increase the speed little by little with each session. If your
treadmill has an incline mechanism, steadily increase the
incline as the weeks go by to intensify your dog’s exercise level.

 

Kilometres Per Hour (Or kph)

Between 1 and 5 kph is a general guideline for the minimum and maximum walking speed, depending on the size, age, breed, and physical condition of the dog. As ever, it’s best to ask your vet for their advice on your dog’s ideal speed range.

Set Speed Or A Sliding Scale?

As your vet whether you should use either:

  • A series of set speeds.

  • A sliding scale of speeds.

  • A combination of the above.

Set Speeds

Having set speeds is pretty straightforward - you just put the dog on one of those set speeds each time.

For example, the set speeds for my dog Jake are: 1.0, 1.5 or 2 kph. Jasmin’s set speeds are: 3.5, 4.5 and 5.5 kph. I’ll use the lower speeds on days where we do a lot of other exercise, and the higher speeds when we do less or no other exercise.

Sliding Scale

I’ll use my dogs as an example to explain what I mean by a sliding scale:

I put my twelve year old, Jake, on anything from 1 to 2 kph. Over many days I slide up and down through the ranges: Jake goes from 1.0, to 1.1, to 1.2, etc, until he reaches 2.0 kph. Then I’ll start sliding down the scale from 2.0 to 1.9, 1.8, 1.7, etc, until he reaches 1.0 again. Then I slide all the way back up the scale, and then all the way back down. And so on.

My six year old Jasmin’s range is between 3.5 and 5.5 kph, and I do exactly the same with her as with Jake, but through her range of speeds.

However, I stay flexible about it too - if either dog seems particularly tired or particularly energetic I’ll deviate from the sliding scale to a speed that I think is more suitable.

As Your Dog Ages

As the years go by, you’ll need to lower the kph to suit.
For example, during the writing of this ebook, Jake’s
maximum is 2 kph and Jasmin’s is 5.5 kph. By the time
this book is online, those maximums will have lowered.

 

Double Dog

Once both dogs became used to the treadmill, I started putting Jasmin on during Jake’s sessions (I’m sure you’ve cottoned on by now that she needs as much exercise as she can get!). They go at Jake’s speed, and NEVER the other way around.

If you have two dogs that can both comfortably fit on one treadmill, give it a try. Use two leads, one for each dog. As I mentioned before, I use a human treadmill for my dogs, so to have the two dogs treadmilling at the same time, I attach one lead to one handlebar and the other lead to the other handlebar.

Single Dog Before Double Dog

Get each dog used to treadmilling alone
before putting them on the machine together.

 

Length Of Time

Jake’s sessions last ten minutes, Jasmin does twenty minutes at a time, and both dogs together do ten minute Jake-Paced sessions. Ten and twenty minutes are ideal maximums for my dogs - ask you vet how long you should build your dog’s sessions up to.

Toilet Time

No matter how long or short the session, if it’s early
morning and your dog has just woken up, give him or her
a chance to go to the toilet before going on the treadmill.

 

The Rest Of The Day

How much exercise in total a dog should do on the treadmill in a given day depends on what other physical activities the dog has already done that day and what you plan for the rest of the day.

In other words, use common sense to make this decision. If in doubt, ask your vet what they think a daily maximum should be for your dog.

Desensitisation Plan For Treadmilling

The following guideline will help you safely get your dog used to the treadmill. Repeat each stage as needed - depending on the dog, it will take anywhere from minutes to weeks to get to the last stage. Remain patient and relaxed, and reward calm behaviour with treats and praise.

Stage One: Introducing Your Dog To The Treadmill

Put the treadmill in plain sight for your dog to see. Supervise the dog as he or she investigates the machine, gently praise the dog, and give a treat.

If your dog's mouth starts to open, or the paws get involved, or the dog makes a move to pee on the treadmill, give a sharp uh-uh to stop the behaviour. Note: use this verbal reprimand but (as usual) NO punishment either physical or verbal - you want your dog to to stop the unwanted behaviour, not develop a negative association with the treadmill.

Detour: Caught In The Act?

Unless you catch your dog in action doing damage to the
treadmill (or anything else for that matter), you must simply
be content to clean up the mess or put up with the damage.
You can’t reprimand your dog for unwanted behaviour after
the fact because he or she won’t have a clue what you’re
on about: dogs simply can't connect a reprimand now for
an action done hours (or even minutes) ago.

 

Stage Two: Sit (You, That Is, Not Your Dog)

Wave some treats under your dog’s nose so that he or she knows you have them, and go sit on the floor next to the treadmill. Allow your dog to approach and give treats and quiet praise for relaxed behaviour.

Stage Three: Training Your Dog Next To The Treadmill

Pop your dog on lead and take him or her for a short walk. Once back home, walk up to the treadmill together.

Be assertive in your desire for the dog to come close to the treadmill but don’t force (or ever punish) if your dog is fearful and you don’t get as close as you want. However close you manage to get, do a few minutes of obedience training at that spot using treats.

Stage Four: Training Your Dog Next To The Treadmill While The Treadmill Is Turned On

Exactly as Stage Three, but this time have the treadmill running at the lowest speed (on its own - not with your dog on it) while you do treat training near it.

Stage Five: Training Your Dog On The Treadmill

Exactly as Stages Three and Four, but this time the dog is standing on the treadmill for the obedience training.

Stage Six: Walking On The Treadmill

You might end up on any of the below steps for a substantial period of time depending on the dog. For example, for some weeks Jake wouldn’t walk unless I was on the machine with him. Now he just grooves along nicely on his own, but it took quite some work. Jasmin, on the other hand, literally took minutes for the entire process. Allow your dog to go at his or her pace through the following steps.

During this learning process, give your dog a treat once he or she is fastened onto the treadmill. Then, as your dog walks:

  • ‘Walk’ along with your dog using just one foot (the other foot remains on the non-moving edge of the treadmill).

  • Straddle the machine.

  • Stand with both feet on one side of the machine.

  • You’re off the machine.

To Treat Or Not To Treat…That Is The Question!

Don’t ever feed your dog while the treadmill is going.
Give your dog a treat after you’ve fasten him or her onto
the machine, and be sure your dog has swallowed
the treat before you get the treadmill started.

 

Treats Every Time?

There's no harm in giving your dog a treat every time he or she treadmills.

Unless your dog loves the treadmill it will never be fun for him or her to be on it, so make the experience a little sweeter by giving a small treat each time your dog is on there.

>>>On to Chapter 12: In The Park Using A Recall Lead

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Treadmill
This treadmill I use for my dogs is just a regular human treadmill.

Harnesses on the treadmill
As you can see, there are harnesses permanently attached to either handle - one for each dog.

Folded treadmill
I also suggest that when choosing a treadmill you pick one that can easily be folded up (as this one is in the photo) and get moved around if needed.

Attaching dog onto treadmill
Strapping Jasmin into her harness for her treadmilling session.

Clipping dog on to treadmill
Jake gets closer as I strap Jasmin into her harness. He knows that treadmilling often means a treat and remains close by to see if there is a treat for him.

dog gets a treat
Unfortunately for Jake unless you're the dog on the treadmill, there'll be no treat. Of course, Jake knows this, but in true doggie fashion (and with Jack Russell nerve!) he's ever the opportunist and I have to hold him at bay while Jasmin gets her treat.

dog walking on treadmill
Even though the treadmill has started up and there are no treats to be seen, Jake hangs on to hope that one will magically appear if he stares at Jasmin long enough.

dog wants treats
Jake even gives John (who's taking the photos) the third degree about those darn treats! Still no luck, though, but he'll get his treat when it's his turn on the treadmill. We always play fair in our house.

Fan on
I always put the fan on in warm weather.

Stretching
I keep myself occupied by stretching or doing Pilates or Yoga while the dogs are on the treadmill.

Incline
When Jasmin's on the treadmill on her own, I put it on a maximum incline.

dog jumps on
While Jasmin will jump on the treadmill on her own when she hears it being programmed...

Putting second dog on the treadmill
...Jake needs some 'encouragement' in the form of being picked up and put on there.

second dog is harnessed in
Jake gets strapped into his harness while Jasmin waits with a very bored look on her face.

The dogs wait on the treadmill
Jake looks hopefully to where I am (off-camera) getting the treats ready.

Treats
Jake and Jasmin getting treats before treadmilling.

Dogs walking on treadmill together
And off they go! Whenever the dogs are on the treadmill together, they only ever go at Jake's slow pace - never at Jasmin's which would be too fast for Jake to handle.

No incline
When Jake and Jasmin are on the treadmill together there's no incline at all. The reason is the same as why both dogs together go at Jake's pace - when you have two different-energy dogs at very different ages, the session must be tailored for the older, slower dog.

Step 1: walking with your dog
Getting dogs used to walking on a treadmill bit by bit is important. To do that, first walk along with the dog using one foot (there's no room for two!), as I'm doing here with Jasmin...

Step 2: straddle the treadmill
...
then straddle the treadmill while your dog walks...

Step 3: stand on the side
...
and then progress to standing with both feet on one side of the treadmill while the dog walks...

Step 4: dog walks alone
...
and finally, your dog will be walking on his or her own as Jasmin is doing here. Easy peasy.

 

SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!

Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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