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Treadmill for Dogs: Good or Bad Idea?

Lack of sufficient aerobic exercise is a major contributor to the rising pet obesity trend and the serious debilitating diseases that go along with it. It also sets the stage for behavioural problems brought on by physical boredom and lack of mental stimulation.

We don’t always have the time and energy every day to make sure our dog gets sufficient exercise and that’s when owners start thinking of a treadmill for their best furry pal. Treadmills became popular when Ceasar Millan began featuring them in this series. But is the treadmill really a good solution for your dog?

Treadmills could be a good fit for puppies who need to burn a lot of energy, for overweight dogs, and for highly active dogs. It could be good during a really cold winter day or a hot summer day or for people who live downtown. You should avoid it if your dog isn’t in good physical condition; has a history of joint or hip problems or is a mature dog.

However, mature dogs and cats, like human adults, can lose touch with their instinctive drive to exercise. If your pet isn’t provided opportunities to express their body’s need for physical activity, their loss of muscle tone and body condition can set them up for soft tissue and joint injuries. That’s where the owner of a mature pet may consider treadmill training.

If your dog has a history of poor health or if he is mature, consult your veterinarian to make sure it could be a good fit for him.

The treadmill shouldn’t replace a routine walk outside.

When a dog goes for a walk or run, chases a ball in the park, etc., the activity engages his mind and all of his senses. He sees and hears new things around every corner, smells an entire universe that we cannot even begin to comprehend, might get a chance to “chat” with a canine friend, and so forth. The mental stimulation that comes from getting away from the familiarity of home and into a new environment is at least as important as the exercise.  This is why a minimum of 2 outdoor activities, a week, is necessary for your dog.

Training

Training takes time and needs to be introduced slowly. You have to start introducing the machine to your dog first and make it really positive. Then start making small little sessions 30 seconds to 1 minute. When you put your dog on the treadmill it shouldn’t exceed 30mins of a walk. But you can also do 2 sessions per day. Professional trainers could also help you introducing this activity to your dog.

I would not encourage to make your dog run on a treadmill, but a nice long walk would be good for them.

Never hesitate to contact your Veterinarian with any questions or concerns.

Written by Lise Benoit, Clinic Manager

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