What is a dog treadmill? Why would a dog need a treadmill?

Dog treadmills are versatile tools that can be used in a variety of settings. They are used to prepare sport or show dogs for events, vets use them for gait analysis, and they can also be used for rehabilitation after an injury (with the supervision of a physical therapist/vet).

Depending on where you live, there might be times when it’s too hot or too cold outside to exercise the dogs safely. Ice on the ground can also make it impossible for the dogs to safely get off-leash run time.

Treadmills can help high-energy dogs burn off excess energy, build endurance and muscle strength, and maintain overall physical health in a low-impact and controlled environment. This can help prevent injuries, build specific muscles, and remove stress from exercising dogs who are anxious, reactive, or undergoing other behavior modifications.

There are two main types of dog treadmills: motorized and manual. Motorized treadmills offer more control for the owner, while manual treadmills allow dogs to regulate their own pace.

Manual vs. Motorized Dog Treadmills | Dog Gear Review

Manual/mechanical Dog Treadmills

Non-motorized dog treadmills, also known as carpetmills or slatmills, operate by the dog’s own power as they push against the running surface. Some designs allow you to set the incline and have timer/distance tracking systems, but they generally have a simple design with minimal extra functionality.

They require the dog to be attached by a leash, so these always have a leash attachment point over the running surface. These treadmills are sensitive to changes in the dog’s speed and should not cause the dog to be thrown off if they slow down or stop.

Manual vs. Motorized Dog Treadmills | Dog Gear Review

Electric/Motorized Dog Treadmills

Motorized dog treadmills, similar to those used by humans, come equipped with a control panel that allows you to adjust the speed, track distance and calories burned, and sometimes select pre-set programs. We adressed their differenced from human treadmills in a separate article.

Manual vs. Motorized Dog Treadmills | Dog Gear Review

These treadmills may also have a powered incline and an emergency stop feature for added safety.

The emergency stop feature consists of a red magnet on the control panel and a rope attached to a plastic clip on the dog’s collar. If the dog slows down or stops while on the treadmill, the magnet will detach from the panel and trigger the treadmill to stop, preventing any potential injuries or scares. This feature is essential for ensuring the safety and well-being of your dog while using a motorized treadmill, however it doesn’t mean the dog can be left alone while using it.

Manual vs. Motorized Dog Treadmills | Dog Gear Review

Manual vs. Motorized Dog Treadmills

While the mechanical treadmills allow the dog to choose the speed and when to stop, they usually choose to run at full speed. With motorized treadmills, you can select the type of exercise you want (sprints, interval training, longer endurance sessions to build stamina, etc.) instead of letting the dog run at full speed.

Most dogs actually run faster and burn more energy on manual treadmills than on a controlled electric version because they mainly canter or gallop on the non-motorized one. It’s also hard to teach them to do a warmup/cooldown walk on these treadmills before and after intense sessions.

Pros of mechanical treadmills include the easy repair and that they tend to be more durable since there are no electric parts that could fail. If they are manufactured locally, you can usually choose the design and size, and they can create one that best works for your dog, while the electric ones come in set sizes.

Manual vs. Motorized Dog Treadmills | Dog Gear Review

Summary - Which type of dog treadmill is the best?

When choosing between a manual and motorized treadmill for your dog, it’s important to consider the specific needs and abilities of your pet as well as your own goals and preferences. Both types of treadmills offer unique benefits and drawbacks providing a very different workout and building different muscles.

Many think that manual treadmills are safer for the dog since they can choose the speed, but they are actually “safer” because they are generally easier for owners to use, as they don’t require as much knowledge or oversight.

To effectively and safely use an electric treadmill, the owner needs to determine the comfortable speed, stride, and position of the dog and is responsible for managing the pace. At the same time, dogs can run on a manual treadmill without much involvement from the owner once they are trained on how to use it.

This, however, does not mean one is better than the other, just that it requires a different level of knowledge from the owner to utalize them. While dogs tend to run fast (canter or gallop)on non-motorized treadmills, electric treadmills offer more control for the owner which can make them more effective for improving specific aspects of your dog’s fitness and health.

Another important factor to consider is that the two types of treadmills facilitate a very different mindset for the dog.

Since manual treadmills allow dogs to run like crazy from the start, most get over-aroused and overexcited before getting on - barking, trembling, drooling. When they are done with the exercise, they are usually still in this overstimulated state even though they are physically tired.

When doing a session on the motorized treadmill, humans maintain control, and most dogs get into a “flow” state of quiet focus which creates a focused and relaxed state of mind. These are, of course, generalizations and can vary from dog to dog significantly.

State of mind during an exercise might not be an important factor for many, but if you have an anxious/overstimulated dog, a motorized treadmill might help more in calming their mind even if they don’t burn as much energy as they would on a manual treadmill over the same period.

Overall, the best choice between a manual and motorized treadmill will depend on the individual needs and preferences of your dog and yourself. It’s important to consider all of the above factors and consult with a veterinarian or professional trainer to determine the best option for your pet.

Manual vs. Motorized Dog Treadmills | Dog Gear Review

Dog Treadmill Reviews - Coming Soon

We are also working on the reviews of the two treadmills featured in this article, which will be posted on our review page.

The manual treadmill we used is the DawgPowered Sprinter, sold by a small company that went out of business in September 2022. The electric treadmill is Dog Runner Treadmill from Maximum Canine.

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