Treadmill Training Introduction
One of the cornerstones of the Doggytread Protocol is a treadmill manufactured for human beings on which to walk your dogs. It is a humble and often overlooked piece of exercise equipment that, until now, has not been recognized for its full potential.
DoggyTread began in November of 2014 when St. Chico the Rottweiler began experiencing hip pain at the relatively young age of 5.5 years. It was during this time that the first treadmill was purchased from Craigslist for $5.
Using the treadmill to keep his hips healthy, strong and mobile, St. Chico lived for an additional five years after the onset of hip inflammation without pharmaceutical painkillers or anti-inflammatories.
What types of dogs can benefit from treadmill therapy?
- Older dogs with arthritis
Dogs yelping in pain after laying down for an extended period is a common symptom of arthritis, and stressful for dog owners. A few minutes of treadmill therapy in the morning before or after work can reduce or alleviate these symptoms.
Treadmill therapy drains the energy of high drive dogs and has them sleeping on the couch all day.
- Dogs prone to hip dysplasia
The hips are the largest joints in the body. The gentle, steady, uphill gait of the treadmill can potentially prevent, reduce or reverse hip inflammation.
Just like any athlete, doggies needs to warm up before strenuous exercise.
- Rescue dogsTreadmill therapy gently rehabilitates inactive connective tissue and muscles after long periods of confinement, as well as teaching trust and confidence.
- Service animalsDog owners that may be mobility impaired can exercise their animals in the privacy of their home.
Treadmills provide consistent, predictable exercise for doggies in areas where open spaces are scarce.
Dogs that are reactive to people or other animals can be exercised in the privacy of your home.
Treadmills are, simply put, an engaging and fun way to spend time with your dogs in all stages of their lives.
Rain or shine, your dogs will love their treadmill time!
Doggytread Treadmill Therapy Guidelines
- Never go faster than a slow or medium pace.
- Provide space in front of the treadmill to stand, if necessary. (Also, your dog won’t think it is walking into a wall.)
- Keep the training sessions short. Watch to see if your dog looks stressed or unhappy. If your dog spooks, it can take a very long time to reverse that aversion.
- Give the dog a “marker” to let them know when they’ve succeeded. We will use “Yes!” as our marker, followed by verbal praise and treats.
- Reinforce the desired behavior immediately with a “Yes!” (marker) followed by verbal praise and treats.
- Timing is important. The bigger the training milestone, the bigger the treat.
- Have fun!
“Everything is a trick.”
Your interactions with your dog during this time are 100% positive and reinforced by a high value treat of your choice.
Pepperoni is an excellent choice. Extremely fragrant, lots of fat and salt. Who doesn’t love that?
If your dog isn’t happy, back up to an earlier “trick” until it is comfortable.
- Watch for wide, stressed eyes and a tucked tail.
- Never tie or leash your dog to the treadmill.
- Never leave your dog unattended on the treadmill.
A comfortable walking speed on a gentle incline is what you want. Start slowly and include lots of treats.
A slower speed on the treadmill will prevent injury and negative associations with unpleasant experiences.
The dog receives a treat every time it completes a trick.
Don’t place a timetable on when you think your dog should be progressing to the next trick.
Focus on sharing positive and enjoyable moments with your best buddy.
The magic happens when everyone is having fun!
Trick #1: Going Potty
It’s no fun to play when you have to pee or poop, so don’t forget to let your doggy out to relieve themselves before a treadmill session.
Reinforcing this behavior with a treat makes for quick trips!
Trick #2 Doggy looks at the treadmill
The treadmill is not yet in the house. Perhaps doggy accompanied their person on the ride to get the treadmill. Perhaps the treadmill is outside in the bed of the pickup truck.
Where ever the treadmill is, doggy finds it to be an EXCITING PARTY and is given the HIGHEST VALUE TREATS the second your doggy sees the treadmill.
This makes a big impression on your doggy and lays the foundation for happy, cooperative, 100% positively reinforced training sessions.
It’s a pepperoni party! Everything is fun!
Trick #3: Doggy approaches or stands next to the treadmill
**** Treadmill is not yet turned on ****
Place treats on the edges of the treadmill for your doggy to find. Allow them to “discover” the treats next to and on the edges of the treadmill.
Every dog is different. Each one has their own comfort zone for stimulation and it is important not to force the dog on to the treadmill and create negative associations.
Some dogs may hop right up and start walking, others may take a bit more time to warm up to a new object in their space. Shorter training sessions a couple times a day is preferable to a single longer session.
Your dog is the bees knees, it’s true! Doggy has already learned three “tricks” if they’re standing next to the treadmill. Keep up the good work and the positive pepperoni reinforcement!
Trick #4: Doggy gets up on the treadmill
**** Treadmill is still turned off ****
You get the picture. Your dog thinks of the treadmill as a giant pepperoni dispenser.
Allow your dog to climb on, sniff and explore their treadmill.
You can place toys and treats on the treadmill to be found later.
Feed the doggy its meals on the treadmill.
Trick #5: Doggy hops on and off the treadmill on command
**** Treadmill is still turned off ****
Put treats up on treadmill itself and ask the dog to climb aboard.
Dog hops on the treadmill.
The JACKPOT is a major milestone and deserves major rewards!!! Handfuls of treats, lots of hugs, verbal praise, YOUR DOGGY HAS HIT THE JACKPOT!!
Continue to hop on and off the treadmill for practice and to make the dog comfortable with the activity.
Keep it fun.
Keep it playful.
Don’t move too fast.
You’re doing great! You must really love your dog.
Trick #6: Sushi Belt Doggy Treats
**** Treadmill is moving very slowly ****
Treat is placed on the edge of the slow moving belt and the dog eats it off the moving belt.
“Sushi belt” style of treats is continued.
Treats are gradually moved closer to the center of the belt, and the dog must reach further and further to get rewarded.
**** Treadmill is still moving very slowly ****
Give yourself a jackpot (pepperoni?) for getting this far! Great work!
Trick #7: Doggy puts a paw (or paws) on the moving treadmill
Doggy is still feeling a bit shy about the moving treadmill and not quite ready to commit to jumping up on the moving belt. Give your pup a treat and encouragement if / when he puts his paw up on the moving treadmill!
Trick #8: Doggy is walking on the treadmill
Keep the treadmill flat and never go faster than a slow to medium walking pace.
Your doggy may need you to stay next to them on the treadmill at that point.
JACKPOT!! When the training session is over, deliver the JACKPOT. Lots of praise, lots of treats, make it a big deal!
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve taken a big step toward a HEALTHIER, HAPPIER, LONGER life for your dog! Keep up the good work!!
Problem: My dog is walking too far forward / back on the treadmill and not staying centered in the track. What should I do about that?
Person may use their position to influence where the dog is walking on the back (e.g. to the front/rear of the track, right/left)
**** Treadmill speed increases slightly to a slow, comfortable walk ****
As dog gets more comfortable staying on the treadmill, person will step away from the treadmill for longer and longer periods of time.
Walk around side to side, back and forth, reward the dog with a treat every time you return to the treadmill.
Gradually increase the duration of the walks on the treadmill, and increase intensity by raising the ramp so that the dog is forced to walk on an incline.
Keep your dogs pace down to a slow or medium walk. This assures that your dog wont get spooked if it stops walking and falls of the back (which it probably will).