Fitting In Fitness: Benefits of Treadmill Running for Dogs
10 Plus 1 Reasons a dog treadmill can be good for dogs
by Krista Wickens
Let’s face it running outside gives us and our dogs an element of freedom and stimulation that exercising inside just doesn’t accomplish. The smells, the sights, the fresh air have documented benefits to our body and mind. However, there are times and situations when it just isn’t possible to get outside. Then what?
First, let’s dispel the myth that dogs have the same phobia to treadmills that many people inherit. Like their humans, some dogs will enjoy it more than others. Largely enjoyment (or lack thereof) depends on the training and the experiences that are provided around the treadmill. For instance, if you are pushing your dog to get in his/her 20 minutes a day with your stop watch and whistle in hand, it probably won’t be fun.
On the other hand, if it as a new fun trick that gets rewarded with excitement (and an occasional healthy treat), the outcome is much different. Exercise works when it is fun – anything else is just work – and it starts with you.
Truthfully, and quite often, what we are doing outside with our dogs just isn’t enough to keep them healthy and fit. The evening stroll or sniff is great for the senses, not so much for the body. That is when a dog treadmill and other indoor exercise equipment can be a dog’s other best friend. Not a replacement for outside adventures, merely a supplement to fill in the voids.
Rain or snow can dampen any good running intention. Not necessarily your dog’s intention, but yours. Running inside on a dog treadmill means that you don’t have to have to cancel a workout because of bad weather. It also includes weather that is too hot. Since dogs don’t cool efficiently the tendency to overheat is much more common than for humans. A dog treadmill means that you can provide a temperature-controlled environment which translates to more regularity and fewer excuses.
EASIER ON THE BODY
Some treadmills designed specifically for dogs are equipped with shock absorption platforms that result in less stress on the joints, as compared with running on asphalt or concrete. This is especially helpful for dogs approaching their golden years. If sized correctly, a dog treadmill will also provide an adequate running platform that enables your dog to stride out in comfort vs. a human treadmill which may be too short. Choppy strides developed from avoiding the rear roller are not an enhancement to your dog’s biomechanics; make the investment in a running platform that fits your dog’s body.
Running outside means that your dog is tempted to stop and sniff often. While this is also important to your dog’s overall well-being, it doesn’t help to keep the heart rate elevated to promote overall conditioning and health. Dog’s that exercise with intensity burn more calories and produce more feel-good endorphins which packs a double fitness punch for weight management and behavior.
FULL BODY WORKOUT
One of the best conditioning exercises you can provide for your dog is the Extended Trot Gait for approximately 20 minutes. This weight-bearing exercise works both sides of the body evenly. It is very difficult to maintain this gait consistently outside because of terrain and distractions. Plus it helps you keep track of mileage and time.
GET THE ZOOMIES OUT
By changing speed and incline you can mimic outdoor conditions to keep the mind stimulated and the body adjusting to new parameters to improve strength and conditioning levels. Many cities enforce tight control on leash laws, which limits the areas your dog can run effectively. If you don’t have space to stride out, a dog treadmill can be a great alternative to stretch the muscles and work on endurance.
Dog movement involves every organ system in the body; up to 99% of the skeletal muscles and their bony structures. Just how well the organ and muscle systems are working together (or lack thereof) is often seen in your dog’s gait. A dog treadmill platform will give you an unobstructed view to watch your dog’s gait for any abnormalities.
SAFE RUNNING ENVIRONMENT
Most dogs run by instinctive reaction. As they age and eyesight and hearing decrease, it is more important to use a running surface or track that is designed to limit impact. It also means that you don’t have to deal with potential running hazards like cars and busy street traffic.
ANY TIME FITNESS
According the APPA National Pet Owners Survey 50% of dogs are left home alone during work hours. For most, this means their dog can be left alone for 6-10 hours at a time. This puts workout time in the wee morning hours or late at night…or maybe not at all. Running on a treadmill offers convenience and often a safer alternative for many dog owners. Plus it gives you the flexibility to work out before you leave in the morning and upon your return.
From a behavioral perspective, the same antidepressant-like effects associated with “runner’s high” found in humans is associated with a drop in stress hormones. But this is only achieved with a workout or run that is performed with intensity. For dogs that tend to be leash aggressive using a dog treadmill to work on leash behavior manners is ideal to prevent unplanned or embarrassing conflicts on the trail.
PROMOTES WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
According to Pet Obesity Prevention Association nearly 52.5% of dogs are overweight. Exercise is proven to increase the metabolism which translates to more calories burned. For dogs that are obese, a dog treadmill that is flat will help get your dog moving slowly without distractions and undue stress on the joints. The monitored environment also helps you to stop the workout if your dog is too fatigued.
ENRICHES YOUR BOND
One of the least discussed attributes of fitness on canines is its indisputable impact on the pet-human bond. As pack animals dogs need the social connection with their leader. The type of activities you do and the manner in which they are performed helps increase the bond. Leaving exercise to someone else only enhances their bond with your dog, not yours. Seek activities that you can do together regularly and routinely. Exercising beside your dog on the treadmill is easy to do. Pick up some weights, do some lunges and praise your dog and you both for a job well done.
About the Author: Krista Wickens is an athlete, lifestyle fitness advocate, author, speaker, inventor, and co-founder of PetZen Products, a manufacturing and design company dedicated to designing canine fitness products and programs. She is also the co-author and producer of the first Treading for Dogs DVD and 30-day Dog Treadmill Training Program. As a former fitness product manager, Krista created best-selling products and programs used by some of the biggest names in Human Fitness, including iconic brands like Reebok, Gold’s Gym and NordicTrack. Krista’s love and understanding of animals, particularly dogs, started on a Montana Cattle Ranch where she was raised. She trained her first dog, Bear, at the age of 7. Her unique understanding of the mechanics of fitness and canine experiences have led her on a mission dedicated to helping develop healthy and beneficial relationships for dogs and their humans.