Pacing or Trotting

A person asked a question on one of the groups about dogs that pace or trot. This was a subject I was interested in as I have a dog who naturally paces.

In case you are wondering what the difference is between the two gaits, a trot uses alternating opposite legs in succession – right front, left rear, left front, right rear. The pace looks like a shuffle as dogs use the same legs on the same side and alternate – right front and right rear, left front and left rear.

Gary says this:

Pacing can be because the dog has a short body and a long stride – they will learn to pace or crab to avoid clipping the front legs. It can also be a sign that the dog is tired or not very fit – pacing is easier than trotting. Many dogs will pace as a transition gait if you try to move them gradually into a trot, but will switch to a trot as speed increases or if you “lift” them quickly from walk to trot. I’ve also seen a dog that paced due to a back strain. Apparently pacing put less stress on that particular part of the back. If a dog who normally trots begins to pace a lot, I’d check for injury.

Sandra posted this:

this is an excerpt from Robert Gillette, DVM, MSE an expert on canine locomotion (

“Some breeds use a pace gait instead of the trot. The pace is similar to the trot except that the right side legs are in support followed by the left side legs.”

The is an excerpt from the University of Pennsylvania’s website:

The pace is a symmetric gait in which support is maintained by the animal with lateral pairs of legs (Fig. 91-6). The animal moves by swinging the forelimb and hindlimb on one side while bearing weight on the other side. It is a gait commonly used in long-legged dogs with close-coupled bodies and allows the animal to move in a straight, forward direction without the interference between front and hind legs that may occur at a trot. (33) The lateral oscillations of the body produced by the pace seem to be handled best by long-legged dogs.(42)

There is very little available data that describe the force parameters of the pace. The pace is also seen in dogs that are tired, out of condition, or have a diagnosable orthopaedic problem. This gait may allow the animal to change ground-reaction forces and maintain the same efficiency of motion but with a different type of effort, resulting in a more comfortable position for the dog.”

Some dogs are more apt to pace due to structure.
Some dogs pace to keep time with their handlers (when doing on-leash walking)
Some dogs pace when they are injured or out of shape.
Some dogs pace because it’s a natural gait for them.
Pacing can be a sign of injury in a dog that doesn’t normally pace.

Amy tells us:

Any dog with a square body type (height and length close to equal) or short upper arms (from point of shoulder to point of elbow) can be prone to pacing. Sometimes this is to avoid clipping their front legs with their back legs.

Diane says:

I recently attended a seminar with a rehab vet who addressed the issue of pacing and one thing I remember her mentioning was that when she worked with sled dogs that did long distance treks, the handlers said that the dogs that normally paced would switch to trotting when exhausted and the dogs that trotted would start to pace. They would watch for this when training to see how fit the dogs were. I’m sure pacing and trotting use different muscles and the dogs may be trying to rest the tired/sore ones like we do when we stand for a long period of time and shift weight from one foot to another. It would then be a good thing to know if your dog’s natural gait is a pace or trot and when doing any agility training to observe if the dog switches to the other gait. Could be a sign you are doing too much and the dog is getting sore. At this seminar there were 10 dogs and I remember 7 trotting and 3 pacing as their normal gait.

As for myself, my dog Sassy had two gaits as a puppy…bounce or pace. She was a fast as a bullet pacing as a puppy.   She didn’t learn to properly “trot” until she was about 18 months old.   And it took her a while.  She had this really prissy type of gait for a while…looked kinda like an extended trot that you see in dressage horses.   She nows uses every gait in the book.   🙂 BUT will often come back to just pacing. I think it’s just part of who she is.


4 thoughts on “Pacing or Trotting

  1. I acquired a large dog from the humane society, they said he was eight years old, a Blue Heeler / German Shepherd cross. He has never trotted on our walks, he always paces. At first he was not very fit and a mile walk would tire him but now, after a few months he can keep going as long as I do. I am not a spring chicken myself so don’t do much running except when caught in a sudden storm with lightening crashing all round. (I actually didn’t think I could run that fast or that far any. Adrenaline, I suppose.) That was before I got my pacer – from the rear I’d describe his walk as sashaying.

    He does break into a canter when chasing a ball so I know he can but the pace is his usual mode, fast or slow. Is there any particular breed that has a preference for pacing?


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