Dog Gaits: Trot vs. Pace

Take a few steps and swing your arms as you would naturally.  This is what your dog does when trotting.

Now change your arm swing so that your left arm comes forward when your left leg comes forward, and your right arm comes forward when your right leg comes forward.  This is what a dog does when pacing.

Feel the difference in the muscles supporting your spine.

Trot

Trot - notice that this dog is bearing weight on the left front and right rear limbs.

Trot – notice that this dog is bearing weight on the left front and right rear limbs.

The trot is a symmetrical, two beat gate.  The diagonal limbs move in unison. For example, the dog’s left front and right rear limbs move forward and then strike the ground.  Then the right front and left rear limbs move forward and then strike the ground.

The trot is the most efficient gait.

Because both sides of the body are worked equally, the trot is the ideal gait for endurance training and core strengthening.

 

 

Pace

Pace - note that this dog is bearing her weight on the right front and right rear legs.

Pace – note that this dog is bearing her weight on the right front and right rear legs.

The pace is also a symmetrical, two beat gait.  The limbs on either side of the body move in unison.  The left front limb and the left hind limb move forward and bear the dog’s weight, and then the right front limb and the right rear limb move forward and bear the dog’s weight.  As a result, the dog’s trunk swings from side to side.

 

 

 

 

Why do some dogs pace?

  • Pacing may be indicative of orthopedic pain.  There is less rotational movement in the spine when dogs pace than when they trot, so some dogs will pace to avoid pain.
  • Dogs with a short body and long stride (like the dog in these pictures) will sometimes pace in order to avoid clipping the front feet with the hind feet.
  • Some dogs will pace as they become fatigued.  This may be because they change the way they use the core muscles, so they are able to give those muscles some rest without sacrificing speed.  This is most often seen in dogs that are used for endurance sports, such as sledding, or in dogs that are out of condition.

Trotting is normal gait.  Pacing, however, can be a sign that something else is going on that needs to be evaluated.

6 Comments

  1. I’m going to be paying a lot more attention when I’m out with Laika now, I hope I’d be able to catch it if she were to go to a pace gait. I had no idea it was a sign of orthopedic pain or fatigue.

  2. That’s really interesting and good to know. Thanks for joining the hop!

  3. Interesting. I guess we never thought much about it as Bailie and I trott along always and Katie doesn’t even manage pace most of the time, but she has serious arthritis issues. Thanks for joining the FitDog Friday blog hop.

  4. Great post, Ill have a look next time Im out with Kilo.

  5. Very cool info here – ty!

  6. Thanks for this – as my two seniors age, I want to be on the lookout for any joint issues – this should help.
    Thanks for joining the Hop.

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