Canine Fitness Equipment: Water Treadmill

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Many years ago, when I was recovering from a strained Achilles tendon, my physical therapist had me use their water treadmill as part of my return to walking and running.  This was an interesting experience for me.  Although it didn’t quite feel like real running, I could tell that my muscles were being worked, albeit in a different way.


Lucky for me, I have not had to use the water treadmill again so far (knock wood).  However, four of my senior dogs have used it as part of a strengthening and therapeutic therapy program.  In fact, the water treadmill, although sometimes hard to find, is a fantastic piece of equipment for canine rehabilitation and fitness.

jack on water treadmill

The Canine Water Treadmill

The canine water treadmill is similar to the human version like the one I used.  The key difference between the human and canine water treadmill is the length of the platform.  As with non-water canine treadmills, because a dog has four limbs, they require a platform that is proportional to the stride length of the dog, meaning that smaller dogs can use a smaller platform and larger dogs require a longer platform.


Water treadmills are meant to provide three key benefits.  First, because the dog’s body is partially submerged in water, the resulting buoyancy will lessen the impact on the joints and muscles.  Depending on how high the tank is filled, the effective bodyweight can be reduced by ½, and the resulting impact and stress on the joints is therefore reduced as well.


The second benefit of the water treadmill is that the water itself provides resistance to the dog’s body as it walks or runs on the platform.  I noticed this immediately when I was in my rehab.  The water makes it harder to move the limbs through space, thus strengthening the hip flexors, glutes, core, and other muscles in a very low impact way.


The third benefit is that the water can provide a therapeutic effect.  When the dog moves along the platform, the water provides gentle compression on the body, which can help with healing and recovery, much like massage is meant to do.



As I mentioned earlier, my senior dogs have used the water treadmill in order to rehab from injury or to provide a low impact exercise option.  Yet, younger, healthy dogs can also benefit from the water treadmill.  For example, very active dogs, especially ones that could be over-training, could use the water treadmill as a low impact way to maintain cardio fitness or strength.  Agility dogs could also use the water treadmill as a way to improve hip flexor strength which can help with some of the obstacles they face on the course.


For those who don’t have convenient access to a canine water treadmill, all is not lost.  Having your dog walk or run in any body of water can provide similar benefit.  The key is to find water that will provide ample buoyancy and resistance.  A good rule of thumb is to look for water that will reach the dog’s belly or slightly higher.  If the water is too deep, the dog will want to swim (which is a great exercise, but provides a different type of benefit).


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  1. Interesting form of exercise. I can see the benefits for older dogs and for ones needing rehabilitation. The dog seems to being enjoying it too.

  2. We watched a dog go into and use a water treadmill once. It was pretty neat to see. Hope it helps Jack out.
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  3. What a terrific healing therapy for canines!

  4. Water treadmills are so great for after orthopedic surgeries. I used one to help Norman heal up from his TPLO surgery and it did wonders.
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  5. Thanks so much – I think I will start walking Harley in the water at the beach as opposed to walking “along side” he would do it because he loves the water. Great information.
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  6. Wooftastic post SlimDoggy!

    My huMom’s colleague is building a new facility for canines & horses & they have discussed the benefits of such equipment.
    Pawfect blog post!

    Nose nudges,
    CEO Olivia
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  7. My vet mentioned that a water treadmill would be the next step in my pomeranian puppy’s rehab (he fractured one of his front limbs when he decided to jump from the table) and I decided to look it up because the sound of it made me a little nervous. Thanks for sharing this, I’m glad to know it isn’t as drastic of a therapy as I thought it would be!

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