NEK9 Conditioning Blog

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My Changing Views on Exercising Dogs on Treadmills


I actually did it… Right now, at this very moment, I have a treadmill for my dog. If you were to tell me a few years ago that I would want a treadmill for my dog, I would have looked at you with disbelief.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve not been a huge fan of treadmills. I’m a runner who has put in hundreds of miles training for marathons. Every week I try to run as much as I can outdoors. I have, however, put in many miles on the treadmill when I was short on time or couldn’t train outside. My preferred way to exercise is always outdoors. I get so bored running on the treadmill (even with music going or a TV in front of me).

For my dogs, it’s the same. When it comes to exercising, my first choice is to head outside with my dogs. Even in bad weather, I can typically find some time during the week to get outside.

This past winter, however, things changed.

 I just experienced my first winter living on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Because I live on a Maine island surrounded by the ocean, we tend to get a lot of ice during the winter. People warned me when I moved here. I thought I knew what to expect. I got the studded winter tires, snowshoes, and I even bought a dog sled to enjoy the snow.

Then it happened… We got very little snow (not enough to get my sled out!), and we also got LOTS of ice.

My entire yard and driveway were like an ice rink. I had to hold Bacci, my 11-year-old Malinois, up with a stability harness just so he could pee without falling. I had to wear spikes on my shoes every time I stepped outside.

This wasn’t for just a couple days waiting for the ice to melt or for fresh snow to cover the ground… This lasted for WEEKS.

I began to research getting a treadmill for myself… even snowshoeing on top of layers of ice and snow wasn’t much fun. I began to get a bit envious of my friends who were posting videos of their dogs exercising on treadmills.

My view on treadmills suddenly began to change. I started to appreciate the advantages to exercising my dog indoors on a treadmill rather than outside.

Having a treadmill means…

  • My dogs don’t have to go week upon week without solid cardio exercise when we can’t train outside.
  • I have more control over our exercise schedule and can be more consistent, even when bad weather keeps us indoors for days or even weeks.
  • I can give my senior dog a nice, flat surface to walk upon when he struggles to maintain balance or mobility in snow, ice, mud and other challenging terrain.

 Of course, as soon as the ice melted, I was back outside with my dogs. When I have the time and ability to exercise outdoors, that will always be my first choice. I do, however, now view treadmill exercise quite differently now that I experienced my first winter here in Maine.

I had the opportunity to try out a Dog Runner treadmill, and I’m super impressed by its quality. If you’ve ever run on a cheap treadmill while staying in a hotel and compared it to a high- end treadmill, you totally know what I mean when I say quality matters! To me, the Dog Runner treadmill feels more like the professional grade treadmill you find at a private fitness club.

When I posted photos of my treadmill on social media, I received lots of questions regarding what kind of treadmill to purchase.

This brings me to the topic of how you decide what kind of treadmill to get. What are some considerations when purchasing a treadmill for your dog?

Below are some key points that were important to me when making a decision…

  • I chose a canine treadmill over a human treadmill because a human treadmill is too short for my dogs. A belt that is too short means your dogs will have a shortened stride, and this can lead to tight muscles and possibly even injury. Also, a human treadmill isn’t designed for canine use. There are wide gaps between the belt and the edge of the treadmill that could become potential hazards for a dog.
  • I chose a treadmill based on quality and not price because I value quality and durability over saving money. I want something that will last for years and will give my dogs the best quality in belt movement. There are also additional features that you get with some higher quality treadmills, but I’ll save that for another article as I get more familiar with my new treadmill.
  • Many people ask about electric treadmills vs. dog powered treadmills. I’m a human and canine fitness trainer. I’m all about designing structured and thoughtful exercise programs that allow me to strategically build up my dog’s cardio endurance over time. As a designer of fitness programs, I like the many features that I get with an electric treadmill to control, track and monitor data around speed, duration, incline and more. 

I haven’t had my treadmill for long, so my dog and I are still acclimating to it. Given that the weather is now much nicer, I’m spending more time outside. I admit I’m not using the treadmill as much as I was during winter, but I’m still glad that I have it!

In addition to changing my views on using treadmills for dogs, I’m also thinking very differently about treadmill ownership for the general public. This includes how we introduce treadmills to our dogs. That’s a whole other topic to explore, and I’ll tell you all about it in my next blog!! Stay tuned!