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The flying trot in dogs is visually appealing and much cherished, yet it is also one of the most misunderstood topics when it comes to canine gaits. 

Many people associate the flying trot with German shepherds, but the truth is, it can be observed in many dog breeds. 

Discover more about what the flying trot is, what dog breeds exhibit it, and why it's so cherished among judges in the show ring. 

What is the Flying Trot in Dogs?

The "flying trot", also know as suspension trot, is a term used to simply depict a trot characterized by a brief moment of suspension. 

Basically, all four feet are off the ground, hence why it's referred to as "flying."

According to the American Kennel Club's glossary, it's a fast gait where all of the dog's feet are off the ground for a brief second during each half stride. 

Since there is an extended gait with a "long reach," the back feet overstep the footprint left by the front feet. 

What's the Difference Between the Flying Trot and Normal Trot?

Both the regular trot and the flying trot share the fact that they are a two-time gait consisting of the sequence of one diagonal after the other.

Basically, the left front and right rear legs move together diagonally, as the right front and left rear.

The main difference among the two is that, in the flying trot, there is a brief moment of suspension following each diagonal, while in the regular trot there are always two legs supporting the body. 

Did you know? Among horses, the Standardbred horse uses the flying trot with its typical period of suspension between each diagonal. 

Is the Flying Trot a Characteristic of the German Shepherd?

The flying trot is one of the characteristics of the German Shepherd Dog. 

You'll notice this characteristic of the trotting gait in specimens with excess body length compared to their height. This allows enough room to prevent the front and back legs hitting and to prevent compensatory crabbing.

In order to effectively carry out this gait, the German shepherd must have a long body, a rather acute angulation of the hind legs with well-bent stifles and a low center of gravity.

Some American bloodline specimens, purposely bred for the show ring, were specifically inbred to produce acute, extreme angulations so to emphasize the flying gait.

Did you know? The German Shepherd is the only dog breed that has been specifically bred for carrying out the flying trot.

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A long body is necessary to accommodate the rear feet  reaching beyond the front footprints without hitting. Such long bodies are also seen in wild relatives of the dog such as wolves and foxes. 

Why is Trotting So Important For German Shepherds?

Well-bred, working German Shepherds should make excellent trotting dogs. 

In order to cover ground at a trot, it's important for a German shepherd's hindquarters to be as strong and healthy as possible.

A strong hindquarter is important because it's the main source of propulsion. A weak hindquarter will compromise a German Shepherd's gait and slow him down.

The German shepherd's trot comes handy when working around sheep as "live fences." It takes a long stride and efficient running gear to control a herd. 

German shepherds were therefore built to have powerful propulsion so to maximizes ground coverage.

 The trot is expected to be smooth, with the back remaining level without any indication of sway, roll, whip or roach. The smoothness is such that the backline should be almost "capable of carrying a glass of water."

What Dog Breeds Exhibit a Flying Trot?

While the German shepherd is the poster child for the flying trot, in reality it is observed in several other dog breeds. 

Courtesy of slow-motion photography, it has been discovered that several dog breeds show to some extent, varying degrees of suspension at the trot. 

You can therefore see a flying trot anytime a well-built dog will break from a normal trot into the flying trot when moved fast enough, however, unlike the ideal German shepherd, they may be prone to crabbing.

It can be therefore said that, when it comes to the flying trot, no other dog breed can match a well-bred German shepherds'.

What's So Special About the Flying Trot?

The flying trot is a flashy characteristic that people attending dog shows and judges may look for in the show ring.

It's appealing because it lengthens a dog’s stride and allows time for the legs to be carried fully forward, giving the impression of gliding.

References:

  • The Dog in Action, McDowell Lyon, 2002
  • An Eye for a Dog, Professor Robert Cole, 2004
  • The German Shepherd Big Book: All about the German Shepherd Breed What Every Shepherd Owner Needs to Know about His Or Her Pet By Amy Morford · 2013
  • K-9 Structure & Terminology, Edward M Gilbert Jr., ‎ Thelma R Brown · 2017
  • The Dog Its Behavior, Nutrition, and Health, By Linda P. Case · 2013
  • Leaving the Wild The Unnatural History of Dogs, Cats, Cows, and Horses By Gavin Ehringer · 2017

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