Are Treadmills For Dogs Really A Good Idea?

a dog on a treadmillEveryone knows dogs need to get a decent amount of exercise. For most people, this means playing in the yard, going for walks, or including their pup in a variety of outdoor activities. But what if you don’t have a fenced yard, or can’t find a suitable outdoor environment to take your dog to?

In the age of technology, it seems there’s a fix for everything, this problem included: doggie treadmills. Except these treadmills might not be as good as many well-meaning owners think.

Outdoor Exercise is Always Best

A major component of being outside for dogs is the mental stimulation they get from the outdoors. Dogs get to experience new sights and smells, pick up on a number of sounds, socialize with people and other pets, and much, much more that can’t be rivaled by walking on a treadmill. Anyone who has used any type of cardio machine can attest to just how little mental stimulation they provide.

This might seem secondary to the fact that they’re getting much needed exercise, but for dogs, many obedience problems manifest out of simple boredom. While treadmills may solve the exercise dilemma and possibly even wear a dog out, the lack of stimuli will more than likely have harsh effects on the dog’s mental health.

A Scenario For Everything

Despite the downfalls, there are limited uses where a treadmill might be recommended. Lori Lutskas, physical rehabilitationist at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says that one of the benefits of a treadmill involves the distribution of weight on the dog’s joints. Essentially what this means is walking on a treadmill allows a dog to employ a more even gait than running over irregular terrain would, decreasing stress on some joints. Dr. Jennifer Coates, practicing veterinarian, recommends using a treadmill if regular outdoor exercise isn’t enough, as is the case for many working dog breeds.

While not a fan of dog treadmills in general, she also concedes that they can be useful for helping dogs lose weight, citing research that has found most owners struggle to get their dog enough exercise to burn excess pounds. Treadmills could also make it easier to get a consistent workout, as dogs won’t be tempted to stop and sniff, distracted by other animals, or otherwise pulled away from the task of exercising.

What’s the Verdict?

At the end of the day, doggie treadmills will never beat getting outside with your pup. The benefits a good old romp outdoors provide just can’t be replaced by walking on a treadmill. If you find your dog has excess energy even after outdoor exercise, is overweight and struggling to shed pounds, or is limited to little outdoor time by your schedule, a treadmill might be a good choice; another option that could be both cheaper and better for your dog, however, is finding a reliable dog walker. If you have concerns about your dog’s health, consult a veterinarian to discuss all your options.