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Dog Powered Treadmill

Brad Kelley

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Our family used to be involved in 4-H and my sister participated in dog shows and obedience demonstrations. Our dogs have always gone everywhere with us, but there was never anything for them to do at the engine shows. Until one day we found a way to make the dog part of our demonstration. We bought a dog powered treadmill that was built in 1881 and used on the farm for churning butter. We also found a tumbling barrel butter churn that connects to the treadmill through a direct shaft connection. We have taken this exhibit to a number of shows around VA and MD and have always been asked to bring the exhibit back. People always forget our names, but they remember the dog!

Our last dog was getting too old to be part of the show, but we now have a new Australian Shepherd puppy and the other day we brought out the treadmill to get him acquainted with it. He didn't mind the noise it makes or the motion of the track, and he loves the praise and snacks he gets for walking on it.

Here is a Youtube video of his first time on it.

Here are some additional pictures:



This photo is actually from Wikipedia, but our family has this exact same setup, including the direct drive barrel churn. We have a catalog photo showing this brand treadmill and churn sold as a set.

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You know, seeing your dog tread mill brings back memories, we have a fellow here close to me that has one and used to bring it to every show, his dog had a ball on the thing and loved every minute of it, well needless to say someone with nothing better to do reported him to the human society up here and they told him he was to cease the treadmill show and stop abusing his dog that way. It's amazing how people can mess up a good thing when they just have to stick their noses where they don't belong.

Good luck on yours and it is good to see one in use again.


I can remember my mother telling us kids that when she used a dog powered treadmill to wash clothes that they had to tie the dog up the night before. When they would get the washer out and start to fill it with water the dog would run off , so they had to delay wash day until the next day because the dog would come back to eat and get caught.
We've run into one or two people who were so self-righteous that they couldn't see that the dog enjoys what he's doing, and they would accuse us of "abusing" our dog by putting him on the treadmill. But 99% of spectators enjoyed the demonstration and realized that it's nothing more than a walk for the dog. And he gets rewarded for just walking in place!

Tooldie, I guess dogs are like children... they know the difference between work and play! Our dogs have always readily hopped up on the treadmill, and you can see them glowing with pride from being the center of attention. We also thought about belting up an ice cream freezer to the treadmill, and the dog could make a tasty treat for himself... (and us). But, ice cream takes way too long to make and we only have the dog walking for a couple minutes at a time. We could never make butter with the exhibit either, for the same reason.
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Why is this any more abusive than a working sheep dog or sled dog. As long as he isn't tied and forced to walk on it, I don't see it as abusive. Trained police dogs used for drug and bomb detection are in more danger of being hurt than your dog is.
Tell the dogooders to go somewhere else to do good.
You can get really small ice cream freezers and with lots of salt on your ice you could be done very quickly. If you explain that the dog is making his own treat I think it would redirect the focus of the busybodys. You could also let small children have a turn too. Of course the dog still gets the Ice cream. You may want to back off on the sugar a little.
http://www.country-freezer.com/ Has one Qt. freezers and I've seen smaller on ebay. You also don't have to make a full batch which makes it turn easier and freeze faster.
Good luck, I'd love to see it run!:D
Keith Thomas
I'd like to see it in action sometime too, Brad. And it looks like "Sis" has been on that brass on the end of the shaft, with her brasso!:D
Please don't get me wrong I was only trying to relate a story mom told us years ago about how things where done. I guess they only had a big mutt dog of some sort and it figured out when it would have to work for its keep, so it would run-off. I believe in "People before Animals", as the good book says they where put on this earth for us to use. I love old stuff to a point I don't have much room left in my garage. Chuck