Leave it to us humans to introduce dogs to the joys of working hard and getting nowhere.
The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that about 3 million dogs across the country were using treadmills in 2010.
Given widespread obesity in the species (I think we taught them that, too), it’s not an entirely bad thing for dogs to be getting workouts on treadmills.
But there is a monotony to it that strikes me as running counter to what dogs are all about. Show me the dog that prefers a treadmill to running outdoors — in nature, free to veer this way and that, to stop and sniff when the spirit moves him — and I’ll show you a dog that, quite possibly, has become too human.
On the other hand, if the treadmill is the only exercise a dog is going to get, I guess we’ll just have to accept that the times are changing.
According to the Associated Press, the latest APPA survey of pet owners marked the first time the treadmill question was included, based on reports that doggie treadmills were selling briskly. The survey found 3 million dogs made use of them, which is about one of every 25 dogs in the country.
The reasons for resorting to a treadmill are many, and often valid – when it’s too hot out, too cold out; when a pet’s human has become temporarily, or permanently, immobile; when an injured dog needs a controlled form of exercise.
While the AP article explored only the upside of dog treadmills, it strikes me that — like most technology — they carry a high probability of being misused.
Putting your dog on the treadmill could become the equivalent of putting your child in front of the TV set — a way to keep them occupied and quiet. All us folks who seem to think we’re too busy for a walk in the park could come to over rely on them.
The argument could be made, and maybe will: If you don’t have the time and energy to walk a dog, don’t get one — at least not one that requires a lot of exercise.
The AP article mentions one woman in Las Vegas whose rescued dog had dropped from 115 pounds to 80 using a treadmill. That impressed her so much that she bought her own dog treadmill, which is now used by all four of her dogs — too many, she said, to walk at one time.
“I want to make sure the rest of their lives are the healthiest we can make them. If the treadmill promotes a longer life, then it’s easy to do it each day … Whatever we can do now to help them lead a healthier, better life is worth it,” she said.
All that’s true, as long as its not the only activity the dog is getting. Frolicking in the grass and socializing with other dogs also makes for a healthier dog. So while I don’t want a doggie treadmill in my home, or, worse yet, a human one, it’s clear they do have their place.
Dog trainer April Suhr of Las Vegas believes shelters across the country could make good use of them. Getting out of their kennels and onto a treadmill a few times a week could keep shelter dogs from going “cage crazy” and make them healthier, happier and more adoptable, she says.
Suhr has a treadmill at home for her three pets and her foster dogs. Giving them the same amount of exercise by walking and running with them would take several hour and many miles, she noted.
Doggie treadmills, which are built smaller than human ones, come in a range of sizes and prices, starting at nearly $500.
DogPacer, maker of one of the newest and least expensive on the market at $499, has plans to start producing a less costly treadmill for toy dogs in September. Pennsylvania-based GoPet sells canine treadmills and a treadwheel, ranging from $475 to $1,225.
Interestingly, dogs being forced to run on treadmills was one of the first causes taken up when America’s animal welfare movement was finding its footing.
Until the late 1800s — and here’s where we get to the ugly part – dogs were bred and put to work at many a restaurant and inn as turnspit dogs. They were placed in wooden wheels, similar to that you’d see in a hamster’s cage, and encouraged to walk. The wheel powered a chain drive that rotated a spit above a fireplace, ensuring that the meat on the spit cooked evenly.
The short-legged dogs, bred small enough to fit in the wheel, would often be leashed in a way that made them choke if they stopped. Often, a hot coal would be tossed into the wheel to speed a dog up.
When Henry Bergh established the ASPCA in the 1860s, one of his first campaigns was to end the practice.
That a device similar to one once used to enslave and abuse dogs is now being sold — for $1,000 and more — to pamper them and keep them healthy is ironic to say the least. Though it’s with kinder, gentler intentions, we seem in a way to be, after 150 years of stepping forward, back in the same place.
I think that says something; I’m just not sure what.
(Photo: A Belgian Malinois works out on a treadmill at LA Dog Works in Los Angeles; by Grant Hindsley / Associated Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american pet products association, animal welfare, animals, appa, benefits, concerns, dog, dog treadmills, dogs, equiipment, exercise, health, humans, increasing, pet products, pets, products, running, sales, survey, treadmills, turnspit dogs, use, walking