I wrote back in January about taking my new rescue, a bordie collie/chow mix to the dog park. I was inspired to update my post after going to the dog park this afternoon and talking to a woman there who had put her 10 year chow mix to sleep not long ago because she had gotten too aggressive at the dog park (i.e., attacking other dogs). I think it is such a shame that people put their troubled dogs to sleep without exhausting all options first. Well, I too had to stop taking my rescue to the dog park because he too started attacking other dogs - I guess it's the chow in him? In case you were wondering, spraying him with a water bottle stopped working -- he just ran away from me whenever he saw it coming and continued to pounce on other dogs coming through the gate. I tried to put a muzzle on him but he started hyperventilating after about 5 minutes from not being able to hang his mouth open and pant. So I exhausted all my options for dog park, short of electric collar shock, which I refuse to do.
I decided to get him on the treadmill, after watching it on the Dog Whisperer time and time again. For those of you who are thinking about exercising your dogs this way, it's a great idea! I got a used treadmill on Craig's list for $125. Be careful that you do your research about name brands before you buy a used one... a guy on Craig's list tried to sell me a cheapo treadmill for $450 (bought new for the same price) but backed off when I asked him to send me the exact model #.
Anyway, this is how I trained my dog on the treadmill:
I first got him up on the treadmill and rewarded him with a super yummy cookie. I let him do this a few times before actually turning on the machine, that way he associates the treadmill with delicious food. Then I stood above him, with a short leash hooked into his collar and put the machine on the lowest setting. He slid backwards after first, but I pulled him forward by grabbing behind his front legs. I basically guarded him carefully but I didn't want to pull on his neck too much -- I think that's a bad idea overall (to yank on his neck, that is). Slowly I notched up the speed. I gave him a little piece of jerk turkey treat every 2-3 minutes. He got up to a fast trot within the first 3 sessions.
After 3 weeks of me standing over him, guarding him so that he wouldn't slip backwards, I decided that off leash was the way to go. So then I stood in front of the machine with my hand on the dial in case he started going off the back end. He jumped off at first, but got back on at my urging. It took approx 10 minutes to get him trained to trot off leash, much to my amazement. I now do about 10-20 minutes with him every day or two, but I have to watch because if he's on it too long, one of his pads gets raw. If that happens, I give him a day of rest and cut back on the time the next session. I still give him pieces of cookie every few minutes. That's a must!
It's been remarkable because even though he goes on walks every day (2-3 miles), it still wasn't enough exercise. Now he is soooooo much calmer. Had I decided not to keep him and sent him to city shelter, I do think they would have put him to sleep, considering him to be too much of a high maintenance dog for most people. He has turned into the most amazing dog and I am very blessed to have him.
As a final note of warning. I do NOT think it is a good idea to tie your dog up by his neck on the treadmill and leave the room. I also think the strain on their necks from the collar/leash when they get tired and start lagging on the treadmill is a very bad thing. I wish the Dog Whisperer show would really drive this home. We should monitor our dogs on the treadmill every second that they are on it.
My two cents. Hope it's helpful!