Dog Treadmills, what are they and how to train your Pit Bull to use them?
Using a treadmill is one way to get your dog in shape in all sorts of weather conditions. Many owners use them only when the weather outside doesn’t permit hand walking. People who show their dogs use treadmills to get their dogs in peak condition before the show. However, they are mostly used for general exercise.
What is a Dog Treadmill?
The name speaks for itself here. A dog treadmill is a treadmill designed to be used by dogs. There are two primary types of treadmills used:
- Animal Powered
Pro’s and Con’s
Both types of treadmills have their good and bad points. Animal powered treadmills are less expensive than motorized treadmills. However the down side is since your dog has to power the treadmill it is harder on their paws. I have had reports of dogs tearing paw pads off their feet and snapping off toenails when using the animal powered mills
Let’s look at the animal powered treadmills first. There are two kinds of animal powered treadmills you can choose from. Carpet and Slate.
These type of mills have been around for over 100 hundred years. It wasn’t that odd to see a dog running a mill back in the early 1900’s.
Many of them served a dual purpose too. For example they churned butter, ice cream, and helped with lots of other tasks.
Today, finding a high end slate mill isn’t easy. The one slate mill maker that I knew about has all but disappeared. I think he stopped making them but I’m not sure. I searched for his site for this article for several hours only to meet with failing to find him.
Searching the pit bull sites, pit bull equipment dealers, or pit bull forums might turn up a place where you can get a high quality slate mill. With that, let’s talk about the next type of dog treadmill on the market, the type of mill I recommend.
Most Pit Bull owners prefer carpet mills. They are much quieter, less complicated to operate, easier to maintain, and your dog can get a full 30 minute work out in 5-10 minutes.
Your dogs weight increases the friction of the carpet against the running surface making it a bit harder for them to spin. When this happens the dog is using more leg power and energy to make the carpet move.
Work outs should be kept very short on carpet mills, especially at the beginning. Starting with 5-8 minutes at a nice brisk walking pace is recommended.
I recommend only two carpet mill makers:
Colby Treadmills – The Colby Family has been making treadmills for their dogs for ages. The are extremely nice and reasonably priced. I’ve heard only good things about their mills from owners.
Grand Carpet Mills – Grand Carpet Mills offer a solid carpet mill in three set ups. Regular, traditional and their custom Big Dog models. They are all very affordable.
Personal Note: I ordered a mill from Grand Carpet Mills and the order went super smooth. My mill arrived precisely on time and it was a pleasure doing business with them. They have the best priced carpet mills on the market and deliver high quality work. The one thing I don’t like is the waiting period. For my mill I had to wait nearly 2 weeks but it was well worth it.
There are several motorized pet treadmills on the market these days. Motorized mills do offer some advantages over carpet mills. They are quieter, easier for dogs to run/walk on (helps with older dogs), and you do not have to replace the belt as often.
Some models offer adjustable incline which helps increase the difficulty. If you want your dog to walk for shorter periods but still get a good walk in adjusting the incline is a killer feature to have.
Okay, now that we have covered the types of mills let’s look at teaching your dog to exercise on them.
Teaching your Pit Bull to use the Treadmill
Below is a step-by-step process for teaching your dog to run/walk on a treadmill. Here’s a few things to keep in mind before you start:
- Keep training sessions short (10 minutes at a full run or 20 minutes at a brisk walk at the max. Cut that time in half for dogs who are not in really good shape.)
- Never leave your dog alone on a treadmill.
- Warm them up before putting them on the mill by taking them for a 5-10 minute walk and cool them down after each workout. Again, take them for a 5-10 minute walk until their breathing returns to normal.
- I rub my dogs down after hard work outs. This helps keep the blood moving and reduces the chance of cramps. Think about the last time you had a leg cramp. We don’t want that happening to our pups. A brisk 5-10 minute rub down works wonders.
The Actual Steps For Training the Mill
Step One – Introduce your dog to the mill. Let them get used to the mill being there first. Even if you have a very confident dog, take this process slow. Set your mill up and then let your dog notice it. Watch how they react. Don’t’ make a big deal out of it.
If you dog acts scared or cautious (most sound pit bulls will show some caution to a new object in their surroundings) don’t sweat it. Just take them away from the mill without any fan fair. Go play ball or something. Do this again and again until the mill becomes just another item in their area. Like a chair or a couch or some other piece of furniture.
Step Two – Once they are comfortable with the mill being around. Put them on it. Do not run them or attach them. Simply put them on it and praise them.
Take them off the mill and go do something fun. Like play or do a few obedience sessions. Again, without making a big deal out it. Do this everyday until they are completely comfortable being on the mill.
Step Three – Put a harness on them and attach them to the mill. Do not expect them to understand what to do yet. So just be patient. Stand in front of them and call them to you. Encourage them to move their feet. If they don’t, don’t worry.
Stop, praise them, and take them off the mill.
Two things to keep in mind:
- Never use a collar to hook them up to the mill.
- Try not to bait them. If you need to bait them in order to get them to run, then fine, but its a lot easier for you if they figure it out for themselves and want to run on it.
Repeat this process until they start to walk on it. Notice I said, walk and not run. The idea is to get them completely comfortable with the mill, being on the mill, and once they are used to it, your dog will start to walk on their own.
When they start walking on it, you can encourage them to run by standing in front of them and praising or calling them to you.
Extremely Important Factor: – Not every dog will like using the treadmill. Some will flat out refuse to use it. In fact, many dogs that are introduced to them wrong get frightened of them. So take the process very slow. Your dog liking the mill and wanting to use it is the goal.
Extremely Important Factor #2: – The steps above may take 48 hours or 48 days. How long it takes depends on how confident your dog is. My dogs are yin and yang in this department. Honey (the youngest) is quite nervous around new things in her area. Angel (the oldest) has always been extremely confident around new things in her environment.
Angel learns things faster than Honey. Your dog will learn at their own pace. My point is don’t rush it and possibly ruin any chance of your dog loving the mill. First, you don’t want to freak your dog out and second, you paid good money for the mill. You don’t want to turn into a clothes hanger. :o)
Treadmills are an excellent option for getting your Pit Bull in shape. I recommend you talk to the mill makers for the best ways to use their mills. After all, they are the ones who built them so they would know some tricks on how to make it easier for your dogs to use them.
Finally, take it slow and don’t expect your dog to be a treadmill super star the first day it arrives. By following the steps above and taking each step slowly you shouldn’t run into any problems. If you do start over slowly and you should remedy the problem.