A stride is a cycle of movements that begins when one foot strikes the ground and ends when that foot contacts the ground again. Each of the four legs complete a single step during a stride.
Each gait is made up of a series of repeating strides to create a pattern of locomotion. The types of gait recognized in quadrupeds include: walk (and amble), trot, pace, canter, and gallop.
The walk is a symmetrical, four-beat gait, meaning that each foot strikes the ground separately. The pattern of footfalls is: left rear, left front, right rear, right front.
The amble is also a symmetrical, four-beat gait. It is an unusual gait for dogs. Dogs tend to amble only briefly as a transition between a walk and a trot.
The footfalls are the same as the walk, but the difference is that the left legs move as a pair, and the right legs move as a pair.
The pace is a symmetrical, two-beat gait, meaning that two feet strike the ground at the same time. Like the amble, the two lateral limbs move in unison; the left front limb and left hind limb move at the same time, and the right front limb and right hind limb move at the same time.
The pace is somewhat unusual in dogs. Dogs may pace due to weakness, back pain, or fatigue. Also, dogs with short backs and long limbs will sometimes pace rather than trot in order to avoid their front legs interfering with the back legs.
The trot is a symmetric, two-beat gait. The right front limb and left hind limb move in unison, as do the left front limb and right hind limb. The diagonal two feet are in contact with the ground at the same time. There is a brief moment of suspension (all four feet are off the ground) between the steps of the gait.
The trot is the most efficient gait for covering long distances.
The canter is an asymmetrical, three-beat gait. This is the gait that dogs tend to take when they are running and playing. The power in the canter comes from the hind limbs. The front limbs are responsible for stabilizing and steering.
It’s asymmetrical in that the pattern of the gait is different on the right side and left side.
There is a right lead, with the following footfalls: left hind, right hind with left front, right front
And a left lead, with the following footfalls: right hind, left hind with right front, left front.
It is common for dogs to change leads mid-stride.
The gallop is the fastest gait but is the most fatiguing. This is the gait that is most associated with greyhounds.
The gallop is a four-beat gait. There are two types of gallop: the transverse gallop (single suspension) and the rotary gallop (double suspension) – more on that in another post.
Dogs use their hind limbs and their shoulders to propel themselves forward at the gallop.