Dog Gaits

The University of Doglando’s enrichment program is set up to minimize stress, and develop the mental, physical and emotional well-being of each dog. Our wide open play areas ensure running dogs have the opportunity to run fully extended, change paces and direction during play without disruption or risk of injury or fight, and provide an enriching experience to our dogs during play.

Definition of gait:

(used esp of horses and dogs) the pattern of footsteps at various speeds, as the walk, trot, canter, etc, each pattern being distinguished by particular rhythm and footfall

When we sought to open an enrichment center, we had to first understand how dogs move.  When dogs are in play, they run.  In order to run they need space.  Hence, our campus sits on a wide open 3.5 acres of land.  Understanding gait patterns helps us offer environments that will create opportunities for running animals to experience full body extension, motion and movement, enabling an ultimate enriching experience.

The quality of motion of running dogs is not the only benefit to having a large field.  Our open space allows dogs not engaging in a full on run to move around undisturbed by the others in play.

While in play, the running dogs are able to move around cutting corners and changing speeds without injuries to themselves or each other.  One dog is always faster, fitter and more agile than its counter; and being able to evade one another and/or end play peacefully through the use of space is the most natural way to minimize frustration and fights that often result in dog parks and dog daycares that offer limited space.

In addition, the opportunity to exit from play without pressure or force from the opponent is imperative in good play.  Without ample space, dogs would be motionless, debilitating their mental, physical and emotional health.


Source: University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine

Angulation = refers to the angles formed by bones of the limbs with respect to themselves and with respect to the ground.

Amble = a four-beat gait which is essentially an accelerated walk (preferred by elephants and some horses; only a transition gait in the dog).

Beats = the number of ground impacts during a stride (number of “hoof-beats” one might hear during a stride), e.g., if two legs simultaneously impact the ground & then the other two impact simultaeously, the gait is two-beat (trot or pace).

Canter = a three-beat gait, often used for non-strenuous, playful locomotion; involves rear limb, diagonal, and front limb supports.

Image Source
Image Source

Clipping = the back feet striking the front feet during a gait.

Contralateral = the opposite (left/right) side. Contralateral fore and hind limbs constitute a diagonal, as seen in the trot and other gaits.

Coupling = the body length between thoracic limbs and the pelvic limbs.

Crab-running = animal moving side-wise (crab-like) with its body at an angle to the line of progress. (Employed to avoid interference because it allows a hind paw to step past a fore paw without clipping it.)

Cursorial = adapted for running. All of the common domestic mammals are cursorial quadrupeds (four limbs used for locomotion).

Cycle (stride cycle) = sequence of movements that limbs undergo during one stride; movements a limb undergoes in returning to its original position. [To the left, phases of the step cycle that a paw undergoes are illustrated.]

Diagonal = combined use of a fore limb and contralateral hind limb to support body weight (the fore limb determines which diagonal is being employed, right or left).

Equilibrium = condition in which forces are balanced; condition of stability.

Extension = a joint motion that moves the connected parts further apart (increases the angle formed by articulating bones).

Fetlock = the joint between the cannon bone and the long pastern bone (metacarpal-phalangeal joint); the region of the fetlock joint.

Flexion = the motion of a joint that brings the connected parts closer together (decreases the angle formed by articulating bones).

Flying trot = a two-beat gait involving alternate diagonals, identical to the normal trot except for a suspension phase between each diagonal support.

Gait = a particular sequence of limb movements repeated to produce locomotion, e.g., walk, trot, pace, canter, gallop, etc.

Gallop = a four-beat gait that features suspension phase(s); also, the fastest gait. Two types of gallop exist (see: Transverse gallop and Rotatory gallop).

dog running - imgur
Image source

Inertia = the property of a body to maintain a state of rest or uniform linear motion unless acted upon by external force.

Interference = when a rear paw strikes the ipsilateral fore paw because the fore paw is not removed from the path of the rear paw, as it should be.

Ipsilateral = the same side, as opposed to contralateral.

Lead (leading limb) = the fore limb that is not part of the diagonal (canter); the fore limb that’s in contact with the ground just before suspension (gallop).

Long striding walk = a type of walk in which the hind limbs impact ahead of the site of forelimb impact.

Momentum = the product of mass times velocity; generated by limb thrust (work) during locomotion.

Pace = a two-beat gait that features sagittal support (combined use of ipsilateral fore and hind limbs); employed instead of the trot by some animals.

Power walk = the type of walk used by animals pulling a load; steps are shorter and slower than in a normal walk, and sagittal support is minimized.

Rack = pace (see: Pace).

Rotatory gallop = a four-beat gait of carnivores, swine, rodents, and small ungulates that features trunk flexion/extension and two suspension phases; a suspension phase occurs after the second-landing hind limb is lifted, as well as after the second-landing (leading) fore limb is lifted.

Sagittal = a plane or direction parallel to the long axis (median plane) of the body; sagittal support involves ipsilateral as opposed to diagonal limbs.

Sequence = the series of (four) steps comprising a single stride (of any gait).

Side-stepping = a synonym for crab-running (see: Crab-running).

Side support = sagittal support; combined support by ipsilateral fore and hind limbs.

Sight-hound = a breed that runs (courses) game by sight rather than scent.

Step = one limb undertaking one cycle in a stride (cycle = lift, swing, support, thrust).

Stride = a unit of locomotion during which all limbs each complete one step (at the completion of a stride, limbs have the same relative positions as when they started); also, Stride = stride length = the linear distance between two successive ground impacts of the same foot.

Suspension = phase of locomotion during which no limb is touching the ground (supporting the trunk).

Sustained gallop = the canter (see Canter).

Transverse gallop = a four-beat gait with support phases like the canter, except that the diagonal is split (hind paw lands before the fore paw) and a suspension phase occurs after the leading fore limb leaves the ground.

Trot = a two-beat gait that uses only diagonals for support, used for traveling long distances at a fair rate of speed.

Walk = a four-beat gait in which all legs step sequentially, used for leisurely travel.