I remember when I first started doing this so many years ago, when someone said “gait” my thought was how does a dog show their “gate?” Remember when I said when I first got into this I was as green to showing and breeding dogs than anyone else I’ve ever met? Well, that was the truth. Since I stared quite literally from the bottom I have a different perspective than a lot of people. I also understand people like its second nature and know where the disconnect is between the breed standard and understanding of the standard. In this article I’m going to discuss the importance of gaiting and the reasons why its written in the standard on how these dogs should move. I also believe that this is the least discussed trait, kind of accepted as something every dog already “has.” That couldn’t be furthest from the truth. After you read this article your going to have a new-found respect for that aspect of our breed!
So, if you’ve glanced at the pictures up top I’ve made a diagram of a dog that is gaiting. Do you see the triangle? That is to show you the balance in which the dog is driving off their hind legs and the distance in which its forelegs (front legs) are reaching. Also, the diagram shows how both hind and forelegs meet in the middle denoting structural balance. If the forelegs reach further than the hind legs drive back or vise versa that means the dog is imbalanced. Now, when you see this imbalance you should be looking for what it may be that’s causing the imbalance. What could it be? Could it be a bad shoulder set? Are the hips tight, not allowing the dog to open and drive? Are the muscle or ligaments in the shoulders to tight? Now look in the middle where the two meet. The forelegs and hind legs should come close as possible but not cross over. If they cross or if they touch its imbalance. Often if there are imbalances in the rear drive and the reach of the animal there will be imbalances when they come together because the distances in which the legs are traveling are different.
This trait is often over looked or at least not talked about but just maybe one of the most important indicators that a dog would be good or bad for a program. I see it daily, that most of the community set up breeding’s because of “popularity” or the physical attributes a male or female possess. They pay little mind of how the dog moves. Seeing a dog move shows you things like how the shoulders are set, how the hips move, does the dogs flop or cross, does it sidewind or roll. If you see some of these things they are a good indicator that the dog doesn’t posses the proper anatomy and structure to move properly and nor will its offspring. Even it being 50/50 between the sire and dam giving the offspring their DNA still means at least half will have it. If your breeding to show your dog in conformation, then you shouldn’t be breeding to a dog with improper movement. Because shows, classes, and age groups can be won and lost on movement. I’ll make my stand now on this topic, if you’re not producing or trying to produce dogs for the show ring then you shouldn’t be breeding.
The last reason I like seeing the gait and why it should considered when deciding if the dog is breeding quality is that it shows the true top line. Make no mistake about it guys some of these dogs are trained to the T. Their trained to stack to hide quality’s or to give an appearance that they have them. All that training goes out the window once the dog starts moving. We’ve all seen it before I’m sure but even if you see it daily there’s a difference between seeing and recognizing it. Once you’ve trained your “breeders eye” to recognize these subtle changes you’ll be an all around better breeder, exhibitor, and a better dog man (or dog woman).
Next time you’re at a show, really watch the exhibitors (people showing their dogs to judges) pay attention to have the dog is moving. Are they hitting all their points while moving? Does their top line stay level? Are they shifting their weight while they move? All these things are things that judges look for. I hope now that I’ve explain them in detail you’ll be able to recognize some of these faults in your own dogs first, then you can recognize them in others as well. For this breed to move forward were all going to have to get better at it. That means changing some minds of people and breeders that have been doing this for years and finding the newbies that are easily influenced and moldable and set them down the right path from the get go. Id like to see breeding and showing in the whole American Bully community become more consistent, healthier, and stand for quality not quantity. Thank you for taking time to read this if you have any questions comments or issues with my views you know where to find me.