One of the common comments we get when we are live on social media sites like Instagram or TikTok is “why don’t they just walk the dog?” The reasoning behind a comment like this is because they are seeing the dog exercising on a treadmill, and are ultimately being critical of the process in order to hide their own insecurity about the care of their dog, or their ignorance of the process. If they are hiding the fact that they actually feel guilty because their dog is not getting enough exercise, then the solution is simply to take your dog out more. If they are actually unaware of the reasons that people choose to run their dogs on treadmills, then this comment is a good thing because it opens up a dialog so that people can learn.
Many police, military and agility dogs are trained using treadmills or slatmills. Dogs that need to have endurance and be in good shape are trained using treadmills or slatmills. This is because the treadmill gives the handler the ability to provide exercise for the dog in a supervised and safe environment. The overwhelming majority of the exercise that a dog will get is through running, and doing so in an unsupervised manner at a dog park or in an off-leash situation can lead to terrible events happening, if not medical episodes. Although these situations are “more natural” than a treadmill, the ability to get hurt is removed or lessened when in a controlled environment. Basically, there is no chance of the dog getting attacked, hurting itself or another dog, or getting hit by a car. The exercise is also able to be far more controlled, ultimately producing better results. It is comparable to a human being going to a gym vs running in the desert. Yes, it is more natural to run in the desert, but in the gym you can’t get bitten by a snake or break your leg miles from medical attention.
Running forces the dog to push off their back legs. Many people do not understand that simple walking on a leash by your side forces the dog to put 80% of their weight on their front legs and almost nothing on the back. Their rear legs are being used to steer, but not much else. A lifetime of walking at your side causes the rear leg muscles to atrophy, and a host of rear-end issues to happen later in life as a result. Dogs need to run in order to exercise, and walking by your side at a human pace is not cutting it. Simply put, walking is not really exercising your dog. They are getting a nice bonding experience with you, and are able to interact with the world in a social manner, but they are not getting exercise any more than you walking from your couch to the refrigerator and calling it exercise. In order to have a strong heart and lungs so as to live a long and healthy life, your dog needs to run for extended periods of time every few days. Most owners do not do this, either because they are unwilling or unable to provide it.
Walking your dog is not enough exercise for them. Criticizing people who do provide enough exercise for their dog is only making you feel better about your own inadequacies.
Love your dog? Run your dog.