Gaiting your dog, an overview.

Gaiting, like stacking, is more involved than first meets the eye. The dog must move around the ring or up and back on the diagonal mat. The dog’s attention must be on where it’s going, yet it must be aware at all times of where the handler is and how fast the handler is going. The dog must move with its back feet following its front feet. At the end of the diagonal mat, the dog must look again either at the handler or at the judge. He must trot and must be able to alter his trot from fast to slow. He must respond to small changes in pressure, on the lead. He must be able to trot in a straight line without weaving back and forth. He must understand that the ring is a circle with flat sides, not a rectangle. Ouch! Most handlers don't know that much!

Before we start training the dog, let's begin with a brief discussion of gait. All show dogs are judged at a trot.

"Pace" is a specific gait in which the left front leg and the left rear leg stay the same distance apart all the time, moving forward and backward together.

"Trot" is a specific gait in which the left front leg and the left rear leg come together and separate as the dog moves forward.

The Pace is frequently adopted by tired dogs, by dogs that aren't built properly in various ways, and by dogs that have handlers who are constantly interfering with their gait with the leash. You don't want the judge to see your dog pacing. Therefore put some effort into clicking and reward your dog for trotting when you're going for walks. "Walk" is a specific gait, which in many breeds, looks a great deal like a Pace. It is certainly acceptable for your dog to walk a few steps in the ring, to get from one place to a nearby place, but unless the judge specifically asks for a walk, any distance in the ring will be covered with the dog in a Trot.

When you have enough experience, you'll be able to tell whether your dog is Walking, Pacing or Trotting by the feel of the loose leash, or by the sound of the dog's paws on the floor. For now, I recommend that you spend a fair amount of time simply sitting and watching dogs until you can tell a Trot from a Pace without having to stop and think about what each leg is doing. Watch particularly for the lowering of the front end and the ribcage swinging from side to side in the Pace.