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How to Train Your Show Dog Part 4

"These articles first appeared in the AKC Gazette and appear, in slightly different form, in "Click to Win: Clicker Training for the Show Ring,"


Karen Pryor,
Sunshine Books, Inc., 2002. For more information visit

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Shaping For The Show Ring - Part IV

by Karen Pryor

The Extended Trot

The Extended Trot

The most beautiful way for a four-legged animal to travel is in what horse trainers call an "extended" trot. Instead of just jogging along, the animal reaches, taking longer-than-normal strides with each step. An extended trot is not a faster trot: the cadence may not increase in the slightest. What does increase is the distance covered by every step, and the extra strength used in achieving that distance.

A dog in an extend trot seems to move powerfully, purposefully, and gracefully, almost floating over the ground. These are the dogs that catch the public eye as soon as they enter the ring. You can hear the comments: "How proud he is!" "What a gorgeous dog!" "Look, you can tell she knows she's beautiful."

We get the impression of confidence, even pride, because of the function of the movement. In nature, the extended trot is what biologists call a "display" behavior. Display behaviors signal the message, "Look at me!" You can see an extended trot when a stallion patrols the fence dividing him from other horses. You can see it when a mature male dog notices and heads for another dog in the distance. You can see it sometimes when dogs compete in play: perhaps when one captures the ball from another and gleefully trots off, head high, tail waving, with the prize.

In the ring, people hope for that look. Some people spend many hours "gaiting" the dog, trotting it up and down, luring it with food, encouraging it with the voice, trying to tease the dog into "showing" itself. Many handlers simply haul the dog's head in the air with the leash and then pull it forcibly along at the speed they think most likely to produce a decent-looking trot. Some breeders tend to select and show rather dominant individuals, the "Alpha animals", as biologists put it, because they go into the ring innately eager to be, literally, the top dog. These individuals, male or female, may give you a flashy, extended trot spontaneously. Of course they can also give you very dominant offspring, way beyond the management skills of average dog owners.

Clicker Training The Extended Trot

There is an easy way to get beautiful show ring gaiting from any well-built dog, without relying on an overabundance of dominance. You teach it to give you an extended trot