dogs pacing

Referring to classic column: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a4_090.html

Cecil, sweetheart, when are you going to start running these animal questions by me before you go posting them in public? The word you’re looking for here is “ambling,” which I think is a more accurate term to describe animals walking using both legs on one side at a time. This is how camels walk, which is one reason it feels strange to ride them. The majority of dogs in Jamaica walk like this too, for some reason. The term “pacing” usually refers to a kind of stride or speed of walking, though I admit that your definition is the sixth choice in the dictionary. Also, while trotting does involve alternate feet/legs, I don’t think that’s the primary definition of it.

Jill, “ambling” may well be right, but so is “pacing”. It’s applied to horses running with that particular gait, and is required in a form of horse racing. A search for “pacing horse” returns, for example, http://gaitedhorse.com/pacing1.htm .


Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

Okay, so the feet do that when a horse paces, but “pacing” refers to a certain kind of running. “Ambling” describes the specific act of moving one side of legs at a time.

I’m with you, Jill. . .and when my constitution is up to it, I do a preamble first.

Ray (We, the animals. . .)

OK, Jill, I’ll certainly believe you know more about than I do, especially since I just recall seeing the word and the explanation in passing somewhere.

And a little factoid about trotting : Allegedly, the question of whether or not a trotting horse ever had all four feet off the ground simultaneously was a source of great controversy until it was settled by Eadweard Muybridge in 1873. It’s an interesting story for horse-lovers and photographers; see http://cpl.lib.uic.edu/003cpl/animalsmotion.html . (I’m a great fan of his.)

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

If you’ve ever been a bettor of horses, you would know that the trotters and pacers never seem to go fast enough when you have a bet down. Or they break stride.

Jill, not to pick on your answer, but in Dog Breeding circles, it is called pacing and trotting. My mother raised and showed Shelties for years, and one of the main no-no’s for a Sheltie is pacing - they are supposed to trot in a ‘single-track’, meaning that the feet of the dog tend move at proper speed under the centerline of the dog so that the placement of the feet is on a straight line with as little deviation to the side as possible.

Indeed, the official standard of the breed (see http://www.assa.org/ states that a gait fault of the Sheltie is ‘pacing gait’

As usual, Jill, when looking up an answer that is specific to something other than the simple, general usage of a word, it rarely is of value to consult a general dictionary :wink: Soccer nuts could tell you that (look of the meaning of the word ‘pitch’).

Okay… I’ve seen discussion on what the gaits are actually called, and Cecil’s answer addressed the effects of the gaits, but the original question remains:

Why do some dogs walk one way, while others walk the other way?

Is it genetic? Related to bread? Sex? Size? Time of day? Purpose of taking the walk? What part of the country they live in?

Is the choice a concious or unconcious choice? Do some dogs only use one or the other, or do all dogs use both?

I’d rather hear the WHY than listen to a debate about which term is technically correct. (At least for this question, that is!)

Warre

Jill

It’s the ganja.

wholzem beat me to it. It doesn’t seem like the question was really answered.

Why do some dogs amble/pace while others trot?

I’ll add some additional questions:
*How do wolves walk?
*Did domestication cause some doggies to change?
*Do cats show differences in walking style? Why or why not?

I’ve never noticed which dogs walk which way, but then again I’m a cat person.

rjk: [[OK, Jill, I’ll certainly believe you know more about than I do, especially since I just recall seeing the word and the explanation in passing somewhere.]]

More what than you do? (Hah, yeah, I can be small.)

DSYoungEsq: [[As usual, Jill, when looking up an answer that is specific to something other than the simple, general usage of a word, it rarely is of value to consult a general dictionary.]] I learned the ambling thing when I worked as a docent at the zoo, and talked about camels.

Jill, “it”, i.e. pacing and/or ambling. Sometimes I talk like too. :wink:


Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

As a follow-up on ‘pacing’ v. ‘ambling’ I thought I would turn to some authority. In this case, I will quote from “The Dog In Action” by McDowell Lyon, one of the first studies of the anatomy of a dog and how it affects their movement.

“In some fields, the pace is referred to as the amble.” (page 50). Thus, yes, the two are the same thing. However, note that Mr. Lyon discusses this gait as the pace throughout the book. He also correctly notes in more than one spot that dog breeders at shows will call the gait the pace, usually with derrogatory remarks. Thus, for dogs regarding conformation, the gait is usually termed a pace, not an amble. This also appears to be true for horses, where pacers are set aside from trotters in races (pacers go faster).

As for why dogs pace, we turn to page 51, where Mr. Lyon notes: “For one thing, evidence marks this [pacing] out as a fatigue gait, or a product of physical weakness. Foals and puppies often pace before they learn to trot, taking to the latter only after their muscles develop and become firm.” Later on the same page he notes: “Interference is perhaps another agent that makes a pacer out of a dog. Over angulated behind for conformation, and balance with the forehand, he finds it easier to exchange the diagonals of the trot with their constant clipping for the greater foot freedom of the laterals instead of continuing to run crab-wise.” So, in other words, dogs with poor conformation can end up hitting the forefoot with the hind foot of the same side when trotting, and have as the option crabbing (turning slightly to the side) or pacing, where the legs on the same side move forward at the same time.

“Beneath tall this there is perhaps one underlying factor which brings out this gait at such times; it is the animal’s reluctance to fight lateral displacement, an ever present force in all gaits which is recognized by many horsemen but by few dog breeders.” As he explains in a chapter on lateral displacement later in the book, this is the movement of the center of gravity on an arc that runs from one diagonal of support to the other diagonal of support as the dog shifts weight from the one diagonal to the other. So a dog, instead of fighting lateral displacement utilizes a gait that converts the displacement into a help, such as by pacing, where the shifting of the weight side to side can be used to help increase the movement.

To my knowledge, there is no breed of dog that in its standard prefers pacing to trotting. But if you see a dog pacing, it is doing so either out of fatigue, or out of poor conformation.