I get so tired of writing an individual defense of these amazing tools, that i decided to just write it once in a blog and I can just link it three times a week. So.... Here goes:
Slat Mills are not dog fighting machines.
Yes..... They were used by pit dog folk to get their dogs into great shape.
But.... Calculators are used by drug dealers to add up their earning. Doesn't mean every time you see a kid doing math they're selling crack.
The old pit dog people used a LOT of things that were great for the dogs. Elite nutrition. Health supplements. Amazing exercise routines. Massages. All That shit is AWESOME. And we should be incorporating ALL of that into our modern dogmanship culture.
But SOOOOO many people throw the baby out with the bathwater. And it's a damn shame.
It's one of the reasons I started GRC to take back this amazing tool. And bring it to the mainstream. So..... Here is the basic primer on the mill and..... how we can incorporate it into a wonderful program.
No Motor: Nowadays, when people hear "treadmill" they think about good ole Cesar Milan tying dogs on motorized treadmills and making them run. This is something the dog learns how to "accept" that is happening. It is acquiescence..... Not expression. It is about enduring the exercise. Not achieving a goal. Slat Mills (and their cousin the carpet mill) are FREE TURNING, NON MOTORIZED mills. If the dog doesn't go..... They don't move. When you see dogs tied to a motorized mill it's to make sure they can't escape the work. They MUST run. When you see a dog attached to a Slat Mill.... It's to allow them to turn the belt. They pull into the harness to get the belt to move. But.... They can CHOOSE NOT TO. They may not be able to leave the mill. But... they can leave the work whenever they choose. It's not torture they endure. But, an opportunity to let it all out! Not only does the lack of motor make it more fair. But.... It makes it more fun. They can full out sprint. Most dogs will never experience that safely. The lucky ones get off leash in the woods. But... The city dwellers... The at risk population with behavioral challenges... They will never feel the freedom of a flat out sprint. This is a dream come true.
Confidence & Control: Because they are in control... they learn about confidence. Real confidence. The confidence that comes from self efficacy. Not accepting the suck. There's a magical moment on a mill where a dog experiencing it for the first time discovers their power. First.... the belt moves and they get super scared. they think it's happening TO them (welcome to the objection to motorized mills). If they're brave, it lasts a second. If their normal... they'll run a little low and nervous for a few skittering minutes and then they'll get there. On a really scared dog.... You have to stop the mill or they'll have a horrible experience. But.... You can give them these punctuated moments of letting them see THEY are in charge of the mill. They are IN CONTROL. And when they find that moment.... Dear god it's a sight. The confidence beams out of them. They prance on that mill. You can feel them saying.... "Did you see?!?!! I'm Doing it!!!" It make me cry almost every time. This is one of the BEST confidence builders. And... afterwards.... They have not just more confidence.. But an awesome new training tool and sport!!!
Emotional Control & Obedience Training: Now... If you just use it for drive fulfillment, that's awesome. But.... You're missing the boat on having a wonderful way to work on drive CONTROL! In GRC we teach them to run all out in Level 1. But.... In level 2 We teach them to stay on the mill WITHOUT running!! That's hard. That's like... "Balance the hot dog on your nose" level of control. Then... After their run.... They must DECELERATE to a trot on a verbal command. No contact. And then must do a stay out of motion to stop the mill. THAT.... That takes control of drive. So... Just like Tug, and Spring Pole, it becomes a source of drive expression AND control. Level 3..... Most people won't even get to. Level 3 they have to Tactical Heel into the ring. Down the dog at the mill. The dog must load up and be hooked up, and wait for the release without physical control. Must decelerate in the MIDDLE of the run, and return to a sprint. And must end the same way as Level 2. And if you can do all that.... You and your dog are highly trained team! That kind of obedience and emotional fluency...... That's something to aspire to!
Behavior Modification & Medical Use: Now.... We get into special uses.... And this is where magic happens. I can use the mill in rehab work and for medical/handling issues. BMOD- To do desensitization work the dog must be geographically controlled. There's only two ways to do that. Obedience (which may not be reliable under trigger pressure in the beginning), or restraint (which can cause serious problems in the really bad off dogs). The slat mill can alleviate that. It allows them to experience proximity to something with zero feeling of restraint. And no need to "cooperate". No "conflict". They can throw a fit into the run if they want. And... Like a child throwing a tantrum.... They eventually get it out and are left with the "nothing". It is one of the best tools for extinction training ever invented, and NO ONE uses them for that. Medical- If you look at the picture above closely.... You'll see a stethoscope and a needle in their hand. This dog had a history of very violent resistance at the vet. Muzzles, several vet techs struggling to hold him down to sedate. It was a shit show. My vet has been exposed to the mill! She uses it with my behavior clients and LOVES it. He gets on the mill.... Runs, stops on cue. Holds a position. She does what she needs to do. And.... He sprints his head off to release the stress. No, it won't work for everything. But it works for a lot and is a miracle when it does. It is like a medical chute for farm animals but the floor allows them to move and not feel as restrained. Or... at least vent that feeling safely. I'd love to see mills in every vets office. And when they get applicable cases.... Call a trainer in to condition the dog to it and have a low impact way to handle most of their needs.
OK.... I guess that's about it. These mills are wonderful, life altering tools. I hope you can see them for the awesome things they have the potential to be.
If you are interested in making them a meaningful and deep activity that can really be used for high level training..... Find a GRC club near you. Or Join the GRC orginozation and get on the member only forums and ask for help there.
Now.... Go run your dog!