By Kierin Lund
July 29, 2022
It is no secret that dogs benefit from being exercised. The aerobic activity develops cardiopulmonary and muscular endurance, and is behaviorally stimulating. While there are many ways to exercise your dog, there are unique benefits to using a land treadmill. A treadmill allows you to exercise your dog in a controlled manner that is very convenient to their person. The most traditional methods of exercising your dog are either running with or bringing your dog to an off-leash area. Running with your pup can be challenging with a dog that does not do well around other dogs, has trouble with recall, and transporting and accessing these types of areas. Also, running is restricted by the pace and endurance of the person. The treadmill is also a tool that can be used year-round as it is not influenced by environmental or climate effects.
Now that we know the possible benefits of using a land treadmill, how long does it take a dog to become comfortable with it? In a study by Stigall at al (2022) they found that the average dog took 9 sessions over a mean of 29 days to become acclimated to the treadmill. In this study, they defined acclimation of being able to complete all the levels in the protocol or where physically unable to complete despite being behaviorally comfortable. The levels incrementally increased the treadmill speed from 0.5 mph (0.8 kph) to 5.0 mph (8.0 kph) at 2%, 10%, and 20% inclines. The maximum speed and incline were chosen to acclimate dogs for a subsequent treadmill assessment study.
The protocol has since been revised to a maximum speed of 7.0 mph (11.3 kph) with the same inclines. The dogs started off with a warm up and then walked at 2.0 mph (3.2 kph) for 2 min on the 2% (flat) incline. The speed was then increased by 1.0 mph (1.6 kph) every 30 seconds until a maximum speed of 7.0 mph (11.3 kph) or until the dog started to have trouble keeping up with the current pace. The dog was then rested for a min and then the process was repeated at 2%, 10%, and 20% inclines. The treadmill was stopped if the dog experienced physical or behavioral stress. The dog then performed a cool down by walking at 1.5 mph (2.4 kph) for 2 min. 9 of the 10 dogs were given a frozen food reward of water and peanut butter to lick about every 15 seconds. This treatment method decreased the chance of the dogs choking on kibble treats.
Overall this is a comprehensive protocol for acclimating a dog to a land treadmill. Most dogs were able to become fully acclimated and get to their top speed or the limit of 7.0 mph at a 20% incline in a fun and safe manner.
Written by Alexi Lund, BSc. Biology
Don’t have to worry about your dog being reactive with people or dogs
Don’t have to worry about your dog running away and not coming back when called
Ease of access: Don’t need to find off leash area
The dog isn’t restricted by the owner’s pace and endurance
Great substitute for people who are not able to walk their dogs
Dogs can exercise when it is hot or cold outside
An option for dogs that suffer from allergies
Improves dog health and longevity
Helps fight boredom
Reduces behavioral problems
Improves training results
Helps relieve stress in high-energy dogs