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8 Common Dog Treadmill Exercise Mistakes

DogTread Dog Treadmill ExerciseFor the past 7 years I have been using dog treadmills and training hundreds of dogs to use it. The reasons are different for different folks –  but the common goal is to keep dogs fit and healthy.

It can be used on a hot, cold, icy or rainy day.It is great for those with busy schedules. It can give your dog the intensity (s)he needs to release pent up energy and improve behavior. It can be a wonderful way to add variety to your dog’s exercise, play and training.

I have seen a lot of good techniques, and a lot of bad. In an effort to shed some light on providing your dog with the best possible experience, here  are 8 common dog treadmill mistakes I often see and how to avoid them to keep your dog running healthy and happy…By the way these mistakes also apply off the treadmill and can be used on your outside run or walk as well!

1) Skipping Warm Up or Cool Down
Expecting your dog to go from couch to treadmill time without any warm-up is a recipe for injury. The good news, you can do something to prevent it. Simple canine warm-up exercises that stretch your dog’s back, neck and leg muscles will help warm up the muscles and increase blood flow.  Equally important is the cool down. Stopping suddenly can cause your dog’s muscles to tighten up. Depending on how strenuous the treadmill workout is – set aside 5-10 minutes to warm up and cool down.

2) Improper Form
Understanding what your dog’s gait looks like at a walk, pace, and trot will go a long way in helping your dog utilize his/her body correctly on the dog treadmill or during your outdoor adventures. You should watch for a natural gait – no short choppy strides or over striding. If the treadmill is not long enough for your dog, (s)he may have a tendency to chop step. Understanding the best speeds and movement patterns will help your dog utilize his/her body in the most efficient manner possible.

3) Not Challenging Enough
If your dog is healthy then intensity can be your dog’s best friend. The goal of a cardio workout is to increase and elevate the heart rate. This enables the body to do its job to increase metabolism, send out good endorphins, and strengthen your dog’s entire body. Try adding interval training to increase intensity without out going all out for the entire run.

4) Jumping Off While Moving
As your dog’s coach you are in control of workout parameters. Use a leash and guide your dog with hand targets or treat lures to show your dog where you want them to be on running deck. Once your dog figures out that (s)he is in control and can jump off whenever, your quality sessions have ended.  If your dog jumps off, simply walk them back and start again. Train your dog properly running on leash on the dog treadmill before trying it without the leash. Always end a treadmill workout with your dog on the treadmill with a reward to reinforce position and desired outcome.

5) Repetitive Workouts
When you walk, trot or run outside with your dog you change speeds, avoid obstacles, stop for traffic, climb hills etc. Mimic outdoor conditions as much as possible during your dog’s treadmill session to keep his/her mind stimulated instead of anticipating every step. Change incline, change speed, consider adding additional dog treadmill exercises into the mix to make it fun and interesting for your dog.

6) Running Too Much On an Incline
Avoid running more than 5 minutes on an incline over 5-7% for unconditioned dogs. This position puts a lot of force on your dog’s lower back and hips. For humans anything above a 7% incline continuously can lead to Achilles and back injuries. Although your dog is structurally different than you are, exercising at extreme inclines for long periods of time can lead to overuse injury – especially when there is a weak core or back to begin with. While increasing hind limb strength is important, don’t make excessive incline work the entire workout. It would be better to slow down the speed and encourage targeting of all the major muscles of the hind limbs and lower back.

7) No Fun Fitness
Exercise can be play time for your dog. It is something they do with their human(s). The movement eases their anxiety and increases your bond. Incorporating playful fun goes helps your dog understand the enjoyment of the activity. After your cool down spend some time playing. Or doing another one of your dog’s favorite activities. This will go a long way to shaping your dog’s behavior towards the treadmill to make it something they enjoy doing.

8) Tying to the Treadmill
The absolute worst mistake commonly seen is the use of a leash to bind a dog to a treadmill to force them to run in place. Would you tie yourself to a treadmill and let someone else manage the controls? How about your toddler? The answer is NO. So don’t tie your dog. They can’t speak or tell you if they are having an off day. They rely on you at the other end of the leash as their responsible human to watch and guide them to a successful workout. Don’t walk away, don’t tie your dog to a treadmill, be in the moment and assist your dog like the good friend that (s)he looks for you to be.

Krista Wickens Owner PetZen ProductsAbout the Author: Krista Wickens is an athlete, lifestyle fitness advocate, author, speaker,  inventor, and co-founder of PetZen Products, a manufacturing and design company dedicated to designing canine fitness products and programs under the DogTread brand. She is also the co-author and producer of the first Treading for Dogs DVD and 30-day Dog Treadmill Training Program. As a former fitness product manager, Krista created best-selling products and programs used by some of the biggest names in Human Fitness, including iconic brands like Reebok, Gold’s Gym and NordicTrack. Krista’s love and understanding of animals, particularly dogs, started on a Montana Cattle Ranch where she was raised. She trained her first dog, Bear, at the age of 7. Her unique understanding of the mechanics of fitness and canine experiences have led her on a mission dedicated to helping develop healthy and beneficial relationships for dogs and their humans.

3 responses to “8 Common Dog Treadmill Exercise Mistakes”

  1. Great tips!… especially about fitness time = fun time!

  2. SlimDoggy says:

    Thanks for sharing these – folks don’t realize that there is a proper way to workout your dog on a treadmill…it’s not just hop on and go.

  3. Good Idea to post some tips. I bet a lot of people assume they know whats right for their dogs without really thinking it through….