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.
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.
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.