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Your Dog's Pacing Gait

 by jaime on 16 Jul 2014 |
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The movement and locomotion of a four-legged animal like a dog is very different to human locomotion. As a human being, you walk by moving one foot in front of the other. When you are walking, your lead foot hits the ground before the following foot leaves the ground. When you run, there is a space in your gait where both feet are briefly off the ground. This is as complicated as it gets for the human body.
 
Dogs, on the other hand, will move by walking, trotting, and pacing (sometimes called galloping). A dog's walking gait is similar to a human, with each foot touching the ground before another foot comes off the ground. However, the trotting and pacing gait in a dog is slightly more complex. A dog's trotting gait is most commonly used when it is running. The pacing gait in your dog is one form of movement which you, as the owner, should be paying close attention.
 
A dog's pacing gait is a unique movement compared to its walking or trotting gait. Pacing means that a dog is moving in what is called a two-time gait. This means that the legs on one side of dog's body are pushing off and landing at the same time. A pacing gait has nothing to do with speed of the movement, but rather the motion your dog uses during the movement. Your dog may use its pacing gait while walking or while trotting. Pacing is an efficient gait for dogs because it requires less effort and puts less stress on its body. When your dog trots there is a significant amount of rotational movement in its back. Pacing removes that rotational movement from the gait, requiring less effort from the body.
 
There are certain dog breeds that naturally prefer the pacing gait. Labradors and retrievers are known to prefer the pacing gait regardless of the circumstances (injury or fatigue). Additionally, dogs with long legs and short bodies will pace because it prevents their back feet from stepping on or otherwise interfering with their front feet. This occurs most frequently when these dogs are trotting though.
 
Aside from genetic reasons, dogs may use their pacing gait as a result of fatigue. As mentioned earlier, trotting requires a lot of rotational movement in a dog's back. This stresses the muscles in the back and around the hip joints. Switching from a trotting to a pacing gait relieves the stress on your dog's back and allows tired muscles to relax as it paces along instead.
 
If you notice that your dog is utilizing the pacing gait frequently during its walk or trot, you should pay close attention to this change. This could be a sign that your dog is experiencing pain and discomfort in its back. When your dog is not tired and is using its pacing gait with great frequency it could be a sign of arthritis in its spine or a problem with vertebrae in its back. When you notice excessive use of the pacing gait, it is recommended that you bring your dog into the vet for a checkup. It could just be aging and arthritis, but it could also be a more serious problem that requires medical attention.

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