First, note if the motor is located externally or internally. Motors positioned within the dog treadmill housing are similar to human treadmills and are subject to the same issues of malfunctions due to hair, dirt and other bodily fluids that may enter the motor housing. If they are located internally note how the manufacture is able to keep this area clean.
There are four components that are important to a quality dog treadmill motor:
- Horse Power
- Motor Electronics
A dog treadmill needs a motor strong enough to support the weight of your dog and not wear out. We recommend looking for a continuous-duty rating to identify the motor’s true horsepower. Terms like “Peak” or “Peak Horsepower” are misleading as they only demonstrate a motor’s maximum potential at various moments in time, but cannot be maintained for long periods of time. Continuous-duty is the horsepower rating for steady, continual, 24-hour motor usage. Since the distribution of weight in dogs is much different than humans you will not need the same specifications as a human treadmill. We recommend for small dogs a continuous-duty motor that is not less than .5 HP and that anything higher than this size is most likely over-kill for small dogs and simply costs you more money. For mid size and large dogs up to 150 lbs. a 1 HP Continuous-duty motor is perfectly adequate to handle the demands of dogs in this range. For dogs over 150 lbs an industrial strength continuous horsepower motor will provide better performance. Dogs in this category create heavier impacts that cause the motor to work harder to maintain a steady speed.
Horsepower is not the only component that makes your dog treadmill run smooth. A good motor also needs good electronics. Quality dog treadmills sense the resistance and employ a feedback loop that sends electronic pulses to maintain a steady smooth operation and keep the belt turning at a constant speed.
Torque is the force that is applied to rotate the motor shaft under pressure of your dog’s weight. Less torque is required at higher speeds. More torque is required at start-up and walking speeds. To you, this means that there will be no hesitation or motor resistance that causes the belt to appear to jerk under your dog’s feet. The result is a longer lasting and cooler running motor.
The dog treadmill motor is controlled by an electrical power board, which regulates the positive and negative electrical currents to the motor. There are two types that are generally used: either a PWM board (Pulse Width Modulated) or an SCR board (Solid State Control Rectifier).
The PWM board smoothes out the alternating current into a pure direct current. To avoid getting too technical, SCR chops a 60-cycle alternating current 60 times per second, while a PWM will chop it about 16,000 times.
PWM boards are much quieter and produce less electrical hum. They produce a stronger current and about half the amp draw which saves energy and makes them cheaper to run. Less heat also helps to extend the life of the motor. PWM boards are the industry standard for both human and dog treadmill quality motor controllers.
Dog Treadmill Belt
Quality belts should not require frequent maintenance, whereas low quality belts need to be regularly lubricated. Make sure there is an easy way for you to adjust for tracking if necessary. Check for fractures in the belt that could be caught on a dogs paw.
Human treadmill belts often have a noticeable built-in gap between the side-rails and the edge of the belt. This can be a great hazard for dogs. Small paws, or claws can easily get caught under the belt. A good dog-specific design will ensure the belt is close to the side-rails or edge to prevent this type of situation from happening. If you choose to use a human treadmill for your dog be vigilant to prevent this accident from happening.
Another feature worth understanding in your belt is the quality of the belt. A two-ply belt offers a tough running surface on one side and a fabric layer that provides less resistance and friction on the treadmill deck, which makes the belt last longer and runs smoother. This helps the motor controller having to adjust for friction.
Dog Treadmill Deck
The quality of your treadmill deck is often overlooked and is one of the most important components of a quality dog treadmill. Treadmills often fail due to heat, and better decks operate at lower temperatures. Quality dog treadmills have pre-treated decks requiring very little maintenance other than wiping off dust once in a while. Quality dog treadmill decks should need no substantial maintenance. Avoid decks comprised simply of plastic over wood or particleboard painted black.
A good deck will be made from layers of different specialty material for durability and longevity, often referred to as a pressed composite. The pressed wood fiber that is very hard surface that is not affected by minor changes in humidity. This material is adverse to swelling and cracking which can cause the deck to warp. Plywood, means layered wood, these layers run in different directions with various weaves. In between each layer is an adhesive, which is pressed. Plywood is subject to delaminating and warping with humidity changes. This will not happen all it once, generally it happens slowly over time.
Dog Treadmill Running Area
Make sure that the treadmill belt has enough room for your dog’s longest stride. It is very important to purchase a dog treadmill with a belt long enough to accommodate your dogs natural gait. A belt that is too short can cause issues with gait and contribute to muscle soreness and injury. Please check with our size guidelines to get the proper fit. Remember you are looking for the overall running area or belt size, not the total assembled size when sizing your dog to the right treadmill.
To get the right size treadmill for your dog, there are three measurement guidelines to note:
- Exercise Gait
- Load Performance
As a general guide your dog’s weight can be used to determine the best dog treadmill size to buy. Generally, dogs within the weight parameters outlined by the manufacturer will fit on the recommended treadmill, but not always. Some dogs may have longer legs and weigh less, or some dogs may be heavier with shorter legs than the recommended guidelines. (See Chart Below)
It is important to understand that weight guidelines alone do not always make for a full proof fit. For this reason we encourage owners to take a second measurement. It is called a Gait Measurement and is most accurate in determining the best treadmill for your dog.
- Measure Your Dog Fully Extended. To do this, get your dog in a down position on its side and extend the legs, both front and back so they both appear to be reaching. The legs don’t need to be straight out – just comfortably extended.
- Provide Wiggle Room. Add another 5-10 inches to your dog’s extended measurement. Consider that your dog may drift forward or back and allow for more room to ensure your dog will stride and change gaits at a comfortable speed.
- Review the Product Specifications. Each DogTread™ product description provides running area dimensions. Compare your measurements with the individual model specs to determine the best fit.
- Multi-pet Family. If you own dogs of many sizes, measure the biggest dog and buy for this size. The smaller dogs can also learn to run on the larger track.
Finally, look for a Performance Load Guideline to tell you the maximum load tested on the dog treadmill. If your dog has a shorter gait, but is heavier than the “recommended weight guidelines” (i.e. the Guideline says for Dogs Up to 30lbs, and your dog weighs 45lbs) then the Performance Load Guideline will tell you if the treadmill selected is adequate for your dog. Please refer to Comparison Chart for Load Performance rating.
Dog Treadmill Control Panel
Your Treadmill should have a computerized control panel, no matter how simple it is, and often the simpler the better. The most common is a LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) as they are good quality and they keep the prices down. Most good dog treadmills will be fully programmable for speed, distance and time. The control panel, more than anything, should be simple to use and easy to read with buttons that provide simple commands and readouts that are large and easy to access.
Some dog treadmills offer switch dials for control, but these controls can be difficult to read and adjust quickly if your dog is uncomfortable or shows signs of fatigue. Human treadmills display panels can be difficult to reach quickly as many dogs prefer you stand in front of them during the training process. You should also choose a console, which provides error messages when problems or malfunctions occur to help diagnose the symptoms of failing or damaged internal parts.
Many dog treadmills offer a remote to control the speed, distance and time from a standing position. This offers many beneficial opportunities during the training process and also provides the owner with the ability to stop the treadmill at a moments notice.
Dog treadmill speeds vary, usually depending on the intended size or breed of the dog. The right dog treadmill will allow you to set a comfortable pace for your dog. The majority of dogs using treadmills for regular workouts will operate between 3-5 mph. We caution against speeds that are excessive for the average dog owner. The intent is to get your dog a good healthy workout, not an injury. Unless you are a trainer or breeder that is skilled in trying to achieve speed results, and you know what you are doing – we do not recommend use of excessive speeds.
The starting speed is a very important feature. The right dog treadmill will start at a safe speed of .5 mph or less. It’s not that your dog will be walking that slow, but starting speeds of a mile per hour or more are often too fast and will startle your dog as the belt will tend to jerk when they start and may deter in the training process.
Before purchasing your dog treadmill, measure the area you intend to place the treadmill. Compare with the overall assembled size listed in marketing materials, i.e. their websites. This is the measurement from the furthest front point to the furthest back point. Make sure you add distance for your dog to dismount off the back. If the area you intend to put the dog treadmill does not meet this requirement, look for a new location or reconsider your purchase. Careful measurements before hand will eliminate surprises when your dog treadmill arrives.
Several incline mechanisms are offered in different dog treadmills, such as electric motors, gas shocks, or manual cranks/bars. Quality incline should be quiet and easy to change and shouldn’t cause the treadmill to wobble at high elevations.
Electric incline is ideal, but because it uses a separate motor the price is often affected significantly. If you do prefer electric incline then make sure the motor doesn’t strain while your dog is on the treadmill, which would indicate a weak motor.
You will generally find that manual cranks/bars help to keep costs down and the possibility that the incline will need repair is much less and most likely not at all, compared to an electric incline.
Incline should be added to the exercise program only after your dog has become proficient at exercise in the neutral or flat position. The incline function helps to tone and build. Show dog owners often use this feature more to help build optimum musculature and it often aids in developing stamina.
Frames constructed of high alloy steel are generally more stable and durable than aluminum, although aluminum frames are considerably lighter. A dog treadmill should also have wheels at the heaviest end to make it easier to relocate or reposition. Frame construction often determines dog weight limits, though a heavier frame doesn’t necessarily mean heavier user weight. Welded frames are preferable to bolted.
It is not unusual for a dog to slide off the back during the first days of training or for them to look for escape portals. Look for side panels that do not have open areas (like grid or open railing designs) or end cap pieces that may stick up and catch on your dog’s paws as they try to recover and pull themselves back on the treadmill.
If you are going to be traveling with your dog treadmill (dog shows, RV, or house boat) or have limited space for storing the dog treadmill, you may consider a dog treadmill that offers space-saving features that allow it to be moved easily and stored out of the way without the assistance of a second person.
Look for other features that make the dog treadmill user and owner friendly. Some features may appear safety concious, but may have unintended consequences. They include leash holders and emergency stop cords.
Leash Holders/Chain Holders in some cases provide unintended permission for owners to walk away and leave their dogs unattended. The time your dog spends on the treadmill should be with you so you can watch the progress, for signs of fatigue or discomfort. Just like humans, dogs can have off days and they are skilled at faking or covering up illness and injury. Therefore we recommend that you be always at the other end of the leash and in control of your dog’s workout.
Emergency stop cords/clips, are helpful, but can provide a false sense of security. If your dog knows that they can drift until the emergency stop cord disengages and it stops the treadmill this can hinder the training process. The same thing can happen if they sit on the treadmill and wait to slide off the back. They know the action will stop when they do these things. Once this is discovered you may have to start over in the training process. For this reason, as the owner it is very important to be with your dog and monitoring his/her behavior at all times. You may choose to the be the one attached to the emergency cord, not your dog.
Because motorized dog treadmills are moving machines, certain standard safety features should be included. At the bare minimum, look for treadmills with:
-The ability to quickly locate a shut-off button that is easily accessible
-The ability to limit incline and speed
-Gradual start and stop functionality
-Training fence panels without escape zones, or openings that may encourage dogs to use as exits or holds. These openings can have unintended consequences and cause injury to paws or other body parts.
Educational Training Programs – Each DogTread provides a Treading for Dogs: How-To DVD and 30-day K9 Fitness Guidebook to help provide you with the best tools to get Treading quick and safe. We also provide customized programs on an individual basis through our DogTread Pro.
Quality dog treadmills should have a lifetime warranty on the frame, but look for one that also guarantees 1 or more years on parts and craftsmanship, especially the belt and rollers, and 1 or more years on the motor and electronic components as well. Make sure the model you are interested in won’t become obsolete in the near future and its parts discontinued.
Labor is usually not offered, meaning that if a part needs to be replaced you will need to replace the part on your own or pay for someone to do it for you. Some suppliers may offer lifetime warranty plans on parts and craftsmanship, but avoid manufacturer warranty plans that require you to pay extra to extend a short warranty period
This period is generally offered to provide the owner with a security that they have time to try to get their dog trained on the treadmill, as many dog owners will ask – what if I can’t get my dog to use the treadmill. Experts agree that generally speaking, there is not a dog that can’t learn to walk on the treadmill and if a dog does not use the treadmill it is because the owner was not consistent and diligent in the training process. Even dogs that have faced abuse have been taught to use the treadmill and love it!
Look for good quality dog treadmills to have a UL or ETL Certification or CE Certification for European markets. This means the treadmill has been tested by a third party certification organization that tests electronics to make sure they are performing at the highest standards. The manufacturer should make this information public in disclosure of its product features and should be able to provide you with the UL Certification number if requested. Other third-party testing certifications and approvals also show that the manufacture is dedicated to self-regulation and attempting to make continual improvements in their products.
Before you buy, understand what you are buying. Do your homework. The features of the dog treadmill you are trying to buy should be easy to find, not buried in the website or marketing materials. You should be able to review the features easily without a phone call to the manufacturer. If you do have to make a phone call they should be able to answer your questions on the spot. It is important to find out as much information about the various models of dog treadmills available, what the various specifications and features mean and which ones that you think you require.