Winter Fitness: Dog Treadmills

philgroundhogWinter is dragging on and on…and on.  It seems that our winter-predicting groundhog friend, Punxsutawney Phil, has said another six weeks of this cold, nasty weather that has held the dogs pretty much hostage in the house other than trips to indoor venues and the occasional winter event – like the snow pulls we’ve attended.  The dogs are going stir crazy and all that pent up energy has expressed itself in a few inappropriate actions too since they’ve started to nitpick and nag at each other more than usual.  It’s getting rather old but we thankfully have a few options to exercise not only their minds but their bodies as well – the treadmill.

Thanks to dog owners becoming more and more interested in the fitness of themselves andryker-october2013-4148 their canine companions, finding these types of exercise equipment available is becoming more and more readily available.  Years ago, when I first got into the APBT as a breed enthusiast, having a dog-powered treadmill and the use was often linked by everyday pet owners as a sign of dog fighting.  Thankfully, this is no longer the case and much of the so-called dog fighting propaganda is being realized to be useful for all breeds and types of dogs.

There are many types of treadmills that can be used for dogs.  Some treadmills are dog-powered and others are electric.  I personally prefer the dog-powered variety since it allows the dog to set their pace and not be forced into something that is uncomfortable for them but it can also allow a lazy dog to balk at doing more then they want to – which can be a pain if you have a dog who needs to shed a few extra pounds.

With dog-powered treadmills, there are two varieties that are typically seen – the carpet-type and the slat-type.  The carpet-type tends to be harder to turn and will develop a bunchier, flashier muscling on a dog.  The slat-type is much easier for a dog to move and tends to develop lean muscling which is phenomenal for a dog who needs a boost of endurance.  They both have their pros and their cons and we personally recommend that if you’ve got the room and funds to purchase both and use both in a conditioning regiment that you do that – especially if you have multiple dogs.  There are quite a few dogs who will balk at the use of a carpet mill because of the difficulty level.

lyric-october2013-4167In the case of electric-type treadmills, many people convert humane-designed treadmills for the use with their canine companions but there are other options available which are geared in size and type toward canine companions.  They are free-spinning like the slat-type treadmill and will typically allow for a more lean muscle-type to be created.  For many people, this is the easiest option because you can find inexpensive electric treadmills (often called e-mills) on places like Craigslist for next to nothing.  The only down fall, in my opinion, is that you have to watch and gauge when your dog has had enough and for many dogs that can be a pain since they don’t want to admit to being tired!

There are a few safety and training precautions to remember when using a treadmill with a dog.  Please make sure to read them and follow them for the safety of all involved – especially the dog:

  • No matter which direction you choose to go if you decide to look into a treadmill, you always need to make sure you do slow, positive introductions to the equipment.  Some more sensitive or nervous dogs may be afraid of it at first.  We always recommend teaching a load up onto the treadmill for a few days before turning it on or allowing it to be moved so that they’re able to figure out how to get their feet under them as they jog/run.
  • A well fitting harness that allows for proper breathing ability is also a big requirement because you don’t want your dog to end up short of breath from construction from a connector cutting their airway off from the collar.
  • Always keep it positive and build up your dog.  Don’t expect that they’re going to be able to jog for 30 minutes right off the bat when you couldn’t do it if you weren’t used to it either!

Has this post inspired you to look into treadmills for your dog?  We hope so!  If you are, here are a few companies you can look into for them:

  • Grand Carpet Mill – Carpet-type treadmill, as the name implies.  We have this particular brand and won it in a raffle a few years ago at a dog show.
  • Jog A Dog Treadmill – Electric Treadmill.  It seems to be very spendy.  I’ve seen these in action but not personally used one.
  • Dog Trotter – I’ve heard great reviews on this one.  It’s probably the most commercially available slat-type treadmill out there.

If none of these fit your budgets, there are other manufacturers out there that are easy to track down with Google.  I’ve also seen plans available if you’re a DIY-er and want to try your hand at making your own dog treadmill!  Happy exercising!

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