What is the best dog accessory? The best toy? The best training aid?
That is simple. I can roll those all into one item. One awesome item that most people don’t have: the treadmill for Dogs
No really. Doggie treadmills can make the difference between a dog going to the pound and a happy family companion. Many breeds have high energy requirements and when they aren’t met the dog often becomes destructive and/or a problem barker. These dogs become very frustrated and they aren’t happy-and neither are their people families who don’t know what to do about their terror-troublemaker. Often the answer is very simple: exercise. It really can be that easy.
Obedience training is excellent and classes are fun and a great way to bond with your dog and mentally stimulate him. But there are many dogs that are excellently trained and yet they continue to act naughty when not being directly supervised continually. The families of these dogs often believe their dog is intentionally “bad” because he “knows better”. It doesn’t help that dogs get that guilty look on their faces when you see their path of destruction or catch them in the act. Sometimes these dogs DO know better. Sometimes not. But would it be fair to put a cookie jar on a low table next to a three year old unsupervised and then be angry when you return to find a cookie-smeared little face? How fair would it be to put a cookie jar in front of a very, very HUNGRY three year old?
Well let’s take this cookie and child analogy a little further. What you want to do is 1) make sure the child is fed and full 2) put those cookies really high up so they aren’t as tempting or in his face and 3) make sure there are lots of healthy, acceptable snacks available at eye level for the child.
And of course never leave a small child unattended and unsupervised. As the child matures he or she can be left semi-unsupervised. A five year old can play in her room while Mom is cooking dinner, for example. An older teenager is likely to be perfectly safe if left home alone for short periods of time. And, of course, a young adult is perfectly fine all on her own (as long as she can call Mom and Dad for advice, right?)
So how does that fit with dogs? 1) Make sure your dog is well exercised, both mentally and physically and well fed and has satisfied any chewing needs his breed might have passed on to him 2) Make sure favorite temptations are put out of his reach (like shoes). Just as the parents of a three year old are likely to “baby proof” their house to make child supervision safer and easier-so should pet owners “pet proof” their house to make their doggies safe and to protect their valuable possessions. And 3) make sure your dog has lots of acceptable toys and mentally stimulating activities available to him.
And just as you would not leave an infant or toddler unsupervised, likewise never leave a puppy unattended. That is just asking for trouble. While a baby is mostly safe in her crib, so your puppy is mostly safe in her crate. If you cannot watch your puppy directly for a little while then crating her is your safest choice. Remember that the crate isn’t just to protect your stuff and to preserve training (and not undo all your hard work) but most importantly that crate is to protect your baby dog!
Now all that is good and well, but what if you have a dog breed that requires literally hours of physical exercise a day?
There are dog breeds like that?
Oh yes. They are called Shepherds. A Border collie, for example, is born to be able to run, walk and trot for miles a day. For hours and hours all day long a Border collie can keep pace with a herd of sheep, dodging and running around the outsides of them, keeping them together in a safe group. The Border collie’s mind is always switched on. He has to be actively watching the animals and thinking two steps ahead of them, anticipating their actions ahead of time. The Border collie also has to keep his eyes open for predators such as loose dogs and wolves that might prey on his flock. The Border collie must keep another watchful eye on his master so that he might respond to his commands swiftly and accurately.
It is no wonder that the Border collie is one of the smartest dog breeds in the world.
They also have an extremely high exercise requirement. If you do not mentally and physically challenge your Border collie every single day you will likely have a frustrated, unhappy animal. This can lead to obesity or outwardly destructive behavior.
Enter the treadmill. If you don’t have a marathon you are currently training for then you should probably use a treadmill for your Shepherd dog. Your dog will appreciate it, trust me. Dogs do not view exercise equipment with the same distaste that humans do! My dogs get just as excited to hear the words “treadmill time” as they do when they see the leash for a walk.
My specialty is the American Cockapoo. This breed does not tend to have high energy requirements but they still require exercise and they most certainly require mental stimulation every day. A treadmill won’t provide mental exercise, but that is accomplished with regular training sessions and excellent toys (particularly puzzle type toys). They do very well when given “jobs”. Cockapoos like having tasks to do. It gives them something to focus on. A walk on leash every day is more than enough exercise for the average American Cockapoo. Some dogs are more active than others. You will know your individual dog. All puppies have more exercise requirements than do their adult counterparts. A Cockapoo has that puppy energy until they are about 1.5 years old.
Sometimes we do not have the chance to take our dogs for a walk. Where I live it can snow and it rains frequently (as I live about a mile from the ocean). Cockapoos do not have dense undercoats and are not well suited for extended time out in the snow. I do grow their coats out longer for the often below-freezing temperatures of winter and I even have little sweaters for them for particularly long outings (and they do like to play in the snow). Furthermore I have small children to mind, and they are certainly not well suited to spend extended time out in freezing rain or subzero wind chill. And quite frankly I just don’t like to be cold. I’m a southern California transplant and I wilt like a desert flower in the cold (isn’t that a more romantic way of saying that I’m a weenie?)
There are myriad other reasons why someone might be unable to walk their dog that day apart from weather (an illness, a disability, an old back injury, a colicky baby…) having a doggie treadmill around can really become an invaluable tool.
TRAINING YOUR DOG TO USE A TREADMILL
This is remarkably easy to do. Click HERE and read all about it. (sorry, not posted yet) If you have an intelligent breed that doesn’t frighten easily (like a Cockapoo) then you will have them up and trotting on their treadmill in one session. More skittish breeds (and less intelligent ones) will take about a week. (If the link is not clicky it is because I haven’t written the article yet. The word “here” will be red if the article is up and most likely this sentence will no longer be here)
WHERE TO GET YOUR TREADMILL
So have I convinced you yet that you might want to give this a try? You might change your mind when I tell you that doggie-specific treadmills are in the range of $450-1000. Yep. I said that right. Nope. They are not gold-plated. There really isn’t anything that special about them, actually. So why are they so expensive? You got me. I’m going to throw it out there that people like money and since this is a “specialty” product companies can get away with charging much more than they are really worth.
Are there any benefits to having a dog-specific treadmill? There can be. It does depend on the model and company. I have a “Dog Pacer” treadmill in the small size. This treadmill is larger than small sizes from other companies and it is the cheapest doggie treadmill that was available when I purchased mine. It also had features that I liked. It has a pacing bar-this is a metal bar that makes a squared loop up and over the treadmill track so that one may tie their dog’s leash to the bar. It also has easily removable side rails that keep your clever pooch from exiting to the side or standing on the side rails to be lazy. It was also supposed to fold flat which it does not do (to my annoyance) and it has wheels on it to make rolling it around easy (I’ll get to that engineering screw-up in a minute). It also has a washable belt which is important since doggies tend to drool a bit while jogging along and you never know… accidents could happen. That and I have a toddler. Everything in this house had better be washable with that little destructo on the loose.
The major advantage for me with the doggie treadmill is the size. I do not have a large house and with four children and four dogs I simply do not have any spare rooms or areas to put a full sized people-treadmill. Since I have four dogs and use the treadmill regularly I wanted it to be set up and accessible on a daily basis, so a machine that sat in the garage or was stored away in a closet was not an option for me. Perhaps for you it would be more of an option.
If I had the space for a dedicated doggie room (and Oh don’t I wish I did!) I’d have a couple people treadmills in there for certain. This is the most cost effective way to supply a treadmill for your dog and I can’t help but think that a treadmill for a person is going to be higher quality construction than one for a dog. But that might not be true at all, especially with the cheapy treadmills slapped together in foreign countries.
One can easily get a treadmill for under $100! Check out Craigslist or hit up garage sales. People are forever purchasing treadmills to get into shape only to realize that running sucks and treadmills make running even suckier (is that a word?) as it becomes intensely boring on top of sucking. Gently used treadmills abound on the garage sale market. There are all kinds of ways to adapt a people treadmill for use with a dog. All you have to do is be creative and have access to some PVC pipe, plastic garden fencing and zip ties and you can make side rails for the treadmill and a pacing bar.
Do I recommend the Dog Pacer? So far yes, I would recommend it. I definitely think it is way overpriced and there are a few things that can be improved. The control panel is on the front of the machine facing away from the mill-which is a good location-but I wish it could swivel to the left or to the right. I currently have the treadmill facing a wall as that is the only place it fits and so it makes using kind of a pain.
My biggest complaint is that it does not fold up as promised. What a bummer. The second biggest complaint involves the wheels. Someone should explain to their engineering team that the wheels should go on the extremely heavy end of the machine. Then one may lift the lighter end of the machine and roll the thing about. But nooooo. The engineers at Dog Pacer seem to think that slapping the wheels on the end of the machine that weighs about 2 pounds is the better option… so I have to lift the ridiculously heavy end of the machine (and this treadmill is not in any way “light”) to move the thing. It makes no sense and frankly it is annoying as hell. Basic physics, guys… the wheels go on the heavy end. Ugh.
So there you have it. The doggie treadmill. Not a bad idea at all, and really they are the trainer’s best friend! It is a wonderful way to keep your best friend in great physical shape. And anyone with a toddler knows that the best thing you can do is run ’em around until they are plumb tuckered out. Well-there we go-noting the similarities between man’s best friend and human children