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Copyright (c) 2005-2009 Gilberts' K-9 Seminars
THOUGHTS ON PACING
By Ed and Pat Gilbert

Thank you for your inquiry on pacing. A reader asked: “I would very much appreciate your thoughts on pacing. …. I am most anxious to expand my knowledge.”

Pacing - A symmetrical gait in which the time interval between footfalls onone side is zero; two right feet on the ground and two left feet in the air
followed by two left feet on the ground and two right feet in the air. Dogs are not judged at a pace, they are judged at a trot.

A pace produces a bowing body, the withers and pelvis move straight ahead and the body in between the withers and pelvis bows to the right and then to the left. The pace can be noted on the down and back by the bowing in the back. The center portion of the body bows from side to side, there is no roll to the front or the rear.

At AKC shows three breeds can by their Standards pace in the show ring. The Old English Sheepdog may amble or pace at slower speeds in the show ring. Polish Lowland Sheepdog is often an ambler. Pacing in the show ring is not to be penalized in the Neapolitan Mastiff. The amble is the pace to the human eye. In the amble the front foot lags the lift off of the rear foot by .06 seconds.

The reason we do not consider the pace bad is that it uses the same amount of energy as the trot - no more, no less. It is energy efficient. A dog out in the field that is galloping most of the time will pace when they slow down as it is a relaxing gait.

All breeds can and usually will pace at some time during their time in the
field. It is a relaxation gait or a change of pace gait. It is also a slow gait that many dogs will use in the show ring as they get up to the show ring trot. Generally this is not noticed as it generally consists on only one or two of the initial strides.

The reader further states: “I have asked a number of breeders and judges for their opinion, in Australia, America and Europe. They all say it is undesirable. They cannot say why. They do not know what causes it. I asked could it be construction/conformation, and if so, which particular parts, and most people just shrug and can't answer.”

Yes, many judges for reasons known only to them, will penalize the pace in the show ring. This is a word of mouth tradition that is deep seated in the world wide judging community. As you have found out no one knows why they penalize pacing, they just do. Also fault judging is so easy, it takes no brain power. The dog fancy is loaded with myths and old wives tales, as you have found out. The pace should only be penalized in those breeds whose Standard calls the pace a fault. (Our opinion is that the
majority of those Standards are incorrect - but the Standard is the guide we must judge by.) If the Standard is silent, then a pace should be acceptable in the show ring. But all dog breeds must trot most of the time when in the show ring - including the three breeds listed as pacers.

The reader further asked: “I have seen breeds pace in the ring, and had done some research on it. What little written information I could find indicated that it was undesirable in the show ring, that younger dogs are more prone to it (possibly because different parts of their bodies are growing at different rates?), and all dogs could be trained out of it. I am not certain if this last is true.”

The younger dogs are just developing and go through various stages
and need to be trained for what type of movement you want from them in the show ring.

We believe that all dogs can be trained not to use the pace in the show ring.

We have found that out of condition dogs will tend to pace. The pace is a relaxation gait.

In order for a dog to go into a trot at slow speed it can go through the
pace, pace-like walk, walk, trot-like walk and then the trot. These are all
symmetrical gaits. Except for the pace the rhythm is not exact as they are
for the horse. Horse movement is entirely different than dog movement - even though many terms are the same. The terms may be the same but their definitions are different. Those judges with horse background generally carry the horse terminology and definitions with them and therefore make misstatements about dog movement.

The reader further stated: “At a recent judging assignment, I was
bothered by the number of dogs who paced, particularly at slow speeds. I had no difficulty in spotting this. Generally, in terms of my judging, I am interested in movement, but only so far as looking for sound movers. This breed needs to be economical and enduring movers over differing terrain in its native land, for the full day. Stamina and endurance are more important that showy movement, and that is what I look for. In fact I usually penalize a dog or moving in an extravagant, wasteful fashion.”

If they do not get out of the pace and go into a trot, we would also penalize them. As a judge we must judge and evaluate what we see, we are not Vets. We do not know what their problem is - but would suspect it is neurological damage. We would have the dog examined by a Chiropractic Vet. Remember dogs will compensate for any damage and will move in a manner that causes the least pain (this is true for any animal, including humans).

You are correct to penalize the extravagant, wasteful fashion of movement. This is generally referred to as Tremendous Reach and Drive (TRAD). TRAD expands a lot of energy and is very inefficient. It is not used by any breed as a working gait, while there are breeds that the trot is their working gait.

The reader further states: “From my own observation, I have never seen this breed in its native country pace, not at any speed, and not at any stage of their development. Some dogs never give one pacing step in their life - so is it to do with construction? I rather think, yes it is.”

We find this hard to accept. To always automatically in less than a stride
get into the trot is quite difficult to do all the time. We can accept that one has never seen a particular dog give one stride of pacing - but cannot accept that the dog in fact has never once in its life had a single stride of pacing. All gaits have a lot to do with muscle structure and condition and the nervous reflex system. This rather than construction would be a determining factor in any gait.

The reader further states: “One leading USA breeder and judge told
me that the pace was very comfortable action for a dog to use. If this is truly
the case, why should we penalize it? I am very analytical by nature, and
always wonder why. I ask lots of questions!”

We would agree with the "leading USA breeder judge". See discussion above on "why should we penalize it." Tradition! And it makes it easy to fault judge.

Again the reader stated: “So I started surfing on the net. Not much available to further my line of questioning, but I did find one obscure reference to the fact that pacing
was undesirable as it caused "loading on the spine" which to me indicates
it must be physically wearing over a long distance. For any breed, this obviously is not desirable.”

Loading on the spine is a new term for us. The person could be referring to the bowing we discussed above - but that only causes a minor expenditure of energy.

Hope our comments give some food for thought. We believe in the marketplace of ideas. We believe that people should study, question, think and be challenged.
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