Treadmill training is essential for dogs having certain injuries or health issues. Pet owners who aren’t able to walk or exercise their pets on a daily basis find treadmill training a blessing. Every dog, irrespective of its size or breed, needs daily exercise. So a treadmill is useful to ensure that one’s dog gets adequate exercise even if you cannot take him out. Dogs with aggression or trauma/abuse in the past do very well with treadmill training. Treadmills help dogs exercise even in adverse weather conditions which, in turn, can prevent unwanted behaviors and boredom that come from lack of exercise.
So let us study some top tips on how to get a scared or aggressive dog on a treadmill.
Get familiar with the dog first
If you are training a rescue dog, you may first want to establish a relationship of trust with him. Many dogs with traumatic pasts tend to show signs of aggression. You can work with a canine behavior expert who will teach you how to soothe the dog and earn his trust. You can also use food treats and praise and speak lovingly and kindly with the dog to become his friend first. Once the dog starts trusting you, you can introduce the aggressive or scared dog to treadmill training.
Invest in a dog treadmill
Decide whether you want to invest in special dog treadmills or use a human treadmill. Dog treadmills are available from brands like Jog A Dog or Dog Pacers. Dog powered treadmills are usually shorter and smaller and they are suitable for a variety of breeds. It is a worthwhile investment if you are using the dog treadmill program to rehabilitate an injured or sick dog. Here are some more salient features of dog treadmills:
- The belt is long enough for accommodating expected dog size
- They have an incline/decline capacity
- Most can go in the reverse direction
- One button push start/stop and emergency stop
- Exact speed is visible
- Has side rails for safety
When placing the treadmill, do ensure that you can sit in front of it. This is handy while training as you need to hold your dog’s leash while he walks.
Use the leash
Dogs that are leash-walked can be easily trained to use the treadmill. So, whether you are trying to start your own dog on a treadmill program or working with a rescue dog; you must leash him first. Simply walk the dog around the room with the leash, before getting him on the treadmill right away. Make sure that the treadmill is on its slowest speed as you introduce your dog to the treadmill.
Lead the dog towards the treadmill
Slowly lead the dog to the treadmill. Dogs are naturally curious and would want to investigate the moving surface. Put slight pressure on the leash as you lead him to the moving surface. Your dog might try putting two front paws on the mill. This is a good sign; it shows that he wants to get on the moving surface. However; the movement can scare him so he might try and jump off right away. This is okay. Simply walk him once or twice around the room, and then again put pressure on the leash and lead him on the treadmill.
Let the dog take his time
As your dog tries to investigate and jump on the treadmill, allow him to get on and off the moving belt. Pace him again around the room and then, putting slight pressure on the lead, allow him to try and come up on the treadmill.
Once he is fully on the treadmill
At some point or the other, your dog is bound to jump on the treadmill and place all four legs on it. At this point, keep the firm pressure on the leash from the front so that the dog remains on the mill. Now, you can adjust the pace of the treadmill because the slowest speed will lead to a rather awkward gait for the dog. Increase the speed a bit so that your dog starts running slightly. Very soon, your dog will adjust his speed so that he is walking briskly on the belt and is comfortable as well.
Allow the dog to get a feel of the end of the belt
At this point, you are still holding on to your dog’s leash. Loosen the leash a bit so as to allow him to move backward on the belt. This will help him assess that the belt ends at some point and that he needs to correct himself and stay centered on the treadmill.
Do not force the dog to stay on the treadmill
Some dogs panic and attempt to jump off the treadmill. If this happens, allow him to do so. Do not force him to stay on. If he shows signs of wanting to stop, stop the treadmill and let him get off.
Once the session is done…
Reduce the speed and shut the treadmill off. Slowly lead your dog off the treadmill so he understands he must jump off. Praise and reward the pet.
Understand that some dogs are more resistant when it comes to treadmill training
Younger, untrained dogs often tend to be more aggressive when it comes to treadmill training. You just have to be more patient with such dogs. Understand that you might need several attempts to even get such dogs to put their front paws on the treadmill. Keep praising the dog and leading him back on the treadmill. Allow him to jump off and get back. Be patient. This could take several hundred takes! Remember: let your dog step off if he starts to get nervous. Once you successfully get him on the treadmill and he starts awkwardly walking on it, slowly increase the pace just a little bit so he is comfortable.
Dogs retain their experience
Always keep the first treadmill training session short and reward ad pet your pet anyway. This way your dog understands what he is supposed to do on the treadmill, the next time around. The next day, he will be a lot more comfortable getting on the treadmill as he retains his experience on it. Once he is comfortable, increase the speed so that it is just right for him. Larger dogs can easily tackle higher speeds so that they are both mentally and physically stimulated.
Always be vigilant when your dog is on the treadmill. Never leave your dog unsupervised while he is walking. Never over-exercise your dog. If he shows signs of exhaustion, allow him to get off. Provide him with clean water post-workout.