Many of us in the United States love food and do not exercise as much as we should, which means a number of us end up overweight. Unfortunately, that same trend applies to more than half of our pet dogs as well.
If bad weather, a too-tight work schedule or other difficulties prevent you from walking your dog regularly, there is an easy solution to keep your pet healthy and happy: you can invest in a dog treadmill.
That's right. Dogs can benefit as much as humans from workouts on a treadmill with no interruptions from rain, snow, outside construction or any other glitches.
These devices offer your beloved pooch an excellent cardiovascular workout and plenty of strengthening activity that can produce a healthier heart, lungs and overall body as well as keep your dog's weight at a proper level. You also can use a treadmill to address dog misbehavior issues such as aggression or timidity through training techniques and simply being present and offering encouragement when the dog is using the treadmill.
One popular product, the trademarked DogTread Treadmill, comes in three sizes to accommodate small, medium-sized and large dogs, and you can adjust it for such things as your dog's weight and gait so it suits your dog's stride and makes exercising comfortable.
With this motorized product, you get a DVD that helps you train your dog to get onto the device, start treading away and stay there until the workout is over. You also get a 30-Day K9 Fitness Guide and training guidelines.
Krista Wickens, the co-owner and founder of PetZen Products that makes the DogTread Treadmill, said she and her business partner, Don Standing, studied human treadmills that had been used to exercise dogs and found they were not a good choice.
"A canine treadmill is designed for a dog," Wickens said.
Not everyone who sells "canine treadmills" is really promoting devices that are appropriate for dogs, so owners must do their homework before buying, Wickens said. If a dog is tied to a human treadmill with huge sides like a cattle chute, there is a very real safety risk should the dog slip and fall.
For safety's sake, Wickens' canine treadmills let owners hold a leash attached to the dog, but the animal is never tied to the machine and the sides permit a quick escape.
"Our side rails are training boundaries, not walls. If a dog trips, they can jump over the side and jump off – they won't be dragged or hung. If a dog is trapped behind it, if there is resistance from the back, it shuts off."
In addition, Wickens' treadmills feature a "safety key" tether device the owner can yank to stop the treadmill immediately if anything goes wrong.
You might think it would be a chore to get a dog onto a treadmill and keep it there, trotting away, but that isn't the case, she says. "Dogs love it. They feel good and you are there with them. They are social animals, so it helps the bond between you and the dog."
Canine treadmills are an excellent choice for people living in small places such as apartments, for seniors who dread walking dogs on icy sidewalks and many others. "Our treadmills are all space-saving and portable, so they are a good fit for homes, apartments, condos, hotels, daycare centers," Wickens said.
She recommends a regular 20- to 30-minute workout for dogs. Once your dog becomes fitter, you can adjust the speed and incline so the workout becomes more challenging and your pet gets increasingly greater benefits from it.
Fifty-three percent of dogs are overweight, according to DogTread Treadmill website. It also states that exercise can prolong a dog's life by more than two years.
Spending money on a dog treadmill might seem extravagant to non-pet lovers, but most dogs live for many years and keeping them healthy avoids costly vet bills. In addition, that doesn't begin to address the emotional heartache of losing a cherished pet before its time.
Related pets stories on MNN: