With the popularity of Caesar Milan’s TV show, The Dog Whisperer, occasionally a client will ask me to teach their dogs to walk on a treadmill.
Caesar promotes treadmill workouts as a good way to exercise dogs, and they are!
You can buy a non motorized, or motorized treadmill, made for dogs. Or you could use your human motorized treadmill.
Many of us already have a motorized treadmill, but our treadmills don’t have sides to act as guides to keep the dog facing forward.
How do you get a dog to walk on a motorized, human treadmill that does not have solid sides?
If you are reading this, I’m guessing you’ve already tried to “get” the dog walk on the treadmill via a harness, leash, food treats, cetera.
If your dog is new to the treadmill, like Duchess (pictured in this post), you may need a bit more instructions than, “place your dog on the treadmill and turn it on”.
My client already introduced Duchess to the idle treadmill by tossing a few treats on it. He reported that Duchess was comfortable walking onto the treadmill to eat the food. And she was.
The flaw I noticed was; she would step on the treadmill belt with one, two, three, or all four feet, but she wasn’t necessarily “lined up” and facing the front of the treadmill, as she would if it were powered up and moving. And Duchess was cautious to step up onto the treadmill.
So, I formed a plan.
With the treadmill turned off, I decided I would teach Duchess:
- to walk along side of the handler, on leash
- approach the equipment from the end, as a person would do
- to step onto the belt, and continue to walk very slowly (about the speed of the treadmill will be on slow),
- walk to the front end of the belt and exit from the end
So it began. I attached a short leash and walked around the room with Duchess at my side. She did well. I praised her for turning with me and we did several laps around the room. Duchess was perfect, until my path made it so that she would have to step onto the treadmill to continue walking at my side. She balked, and the treadmill was not even turned on! Yikes!
So I switched gears and decided to shape the behaviors. Shaping is when you reinforce actions that are closer and closer to the final goal. You teach the dog in small steps, each step is closer to your final goal.
My first step was to get her to place one foot onto the treadmill (from the entrance end), then two feet, three, four feet, until she was comfortable stepping onto the treadmill. I spent a few minutes shaping Duchess to step on the treadmill, until she would step up on the treadmill, with all four feet. At the end of the session, Duchess would step on the treadmill, without hesitation. I asked the client to repeat the exercise, in preparation for our next session.
There you have it. You are up to date!
Any good animal training plan is flexible, and constantly adjusted for the animal’s success. I’m not quite sure how I will proceed, or if I adjust my plan. For our next session, I expect that Duchess will very happy to step onto the powered off, treadmill.
Here’s my plan. The treadmill will still be in the off position. I’ll ask her to keep walking, until she reaches the end, where she can step off the treadmill.
Once Duchess is happy with that, I’ll teach her about the motor and the moving belt. Then I’ll ask her to step on it and walk towards the end.
Curious about the outcome. So am I.
I’ll post details about the next session, as soon as I have them.
Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN
Reactive Dog Seminars