For the owners of sporting dogs the treadmill can be an invaluable piece of
equipment, largely misunderstood by the general dog owning public, who feel that
it is only used by dog fighters or dog owners of the more seedier type.
The treadmill has been used for well over a century to exercise dogs and its
general design has changed little over the time. Of course the invention of ball
bearing wheels have made them far smoother and easier to run, some have been
motorised, but the basic design has remained the same. In the present day the
mill is used to exercise not just dogs, but many of the top racehorse stables
use them, and of course many gymnasiums are equipped with human versions, all
used for the same purpose, to condition a person or animal despite the weather
or space available. Those wishing to obtain a treadmill, soon realise that it is
not a cheap piece of equipment. You could expect to pay from £350.00 and
upwards for a well made, easy running mill with ball bearing wheels and wooden
slats. Whichever type you choose to buy however, it must be EASY TO RUN. This is
a point that cannot be emphasised too strongly, especially if you have a young
or timid dog that you wish to get started on the mill.
The introduction of a young dog to the treadmill can be a very frustrating time,
particularly if you have spent a lot of time and money actually obtaining one.
It might not be long before you think that all that effort has been in vain, but
the key is not to rush the dog/pup into using it. Patience will eventually win
through and providing that you follow a few simple rules there should be no real
problems. Of course, some dogs just won't run a mill at all, but with the right
guidance the majority will.
A pup is never too young to be shown the treadmill or allowed to stand on it,
but care should be taken not to move the belt as this might spook the young dog
(say up to 6 months of age). You want to create a fun climate for the pup, so
plenty of encouragement should be offered, but always be watchful. The first
rule of putting dogs and treadmills together is that ALL EXPERIENCES SHOULD BE
GOOD ONES. A friend of mine's dog recently fell off a mill, although the dog was
over 8 years old and had run treadmills for most of his life. It has taken well
over a month for the dog to regain his confidence. Now if you were conditioning
for a show, then such an event would ruin his training program. The older dog
that is showing little interest in the mill can be shown another dog running it,
which will usually excite the dog and get him used to the noise that it makes.
The treadmill will assist in building terrific wind in your dog and because it
can be used for high intensity exercise it can help to burn fat and calories.
The food that you feed a dog is vitally important if he is to be working hard. I
have found that about four to six weeks before competition, it is good to change
the dogs diet from ordinary food to a high protein type. These are usually about
31% Protein and give the dog boundless energy which seems to increase the
eagerness for work.
The mill, good though it is, must be used in conjunction with other workout
methods, such as the spring pole and long distance walking. Walking in
particular is good for you the owner as well and helps to stop your dog becoming
bored. The spring pole can help to develop the dogs bite as well as exercising
their neck and back muscles. NEVER let your dog hang with his feet off the
ground, as they injure themselves severely and several pitbulls in the USA have
broken their backs from falling. Apart from looking good, it does not work the
dog much anyway.
Eventually, the time will come to put the dog on the mill and see if he will run
it. Where possible, the dog should always be lifted ON and OFF the mill. The
gaps in the wooden slats can easily catch a toe and rip it off, which is not
only painful to your dog but to your wallet as well - I know from experience and
have the vets bills to prove it. Once he has the confidence and is able to use
the mill effectively, you should encourage him to speed up by "siccing" him or
whatever command he responds to. I have found that clapping rhythmically works
well and the dog keeps pace with the claps. You must remember that a treadmill
can be very hard work for the dog and so its endurance must be built up slowly.
For everyday use there is no need to run the dog really hard. Just allow them to
go at their own pace and speed and without being baited. Using the mill every
day or every other will help to keep your dog in great shape.
When the dog is being trained hard for competition, etc. there are certain
things which must be done in order to ensure the good health of your dog. These
01. Walk the dog out before placing him on the mill. Ensure that he empties out.
This is important, as the dog cannot give 100% if he has waste in his system and
it could strain his kidneys.
02. If you are using a slat mill, always lift a dog on and off in order to
prevent foot injuries and subsequent vet bills
03. Immediately after the workout, walk your dog in order to cool him down. Do
not allow them to gorge themselves on cold water. Let them drink a small amount
of tepid water. If the dog gets real hot during work then use a sponge to dampen
his mouth, but do not allow them to drink. This will slow them down and they
might even vomit.
04. If the dog becomes tired, stiff or disinterested in the work, then there is
something wrong which might be associated with overworking. The dog should be
given complete rest for three or four days then slowly begin training again.
When a dog is overworked he is described as being "stale". This is best
prevented by watching the dog carefully whilst they're working, keeping a
careful note of how much work they do and by how much its workout increases.
This will give you an indication, should they go "stale", just how much work
your dog can take, helping you to prevent problems in the future.
Finally, as has already been mentioned, whilst working your dog on a mill ensure
that they enjoy it and only have positive experiences. If they don't enjoy it or
get hurt whilst using it, it can be very hard, if not impossible, to get them to
run it again. Buy the best and easiest running mill you can afford and it will
allow you to keep your dogs in top condition for years to come.