Hi pups (and others!),
Today’s blog will look puppy play physicality and dog gaits - the basics of how to move as a pup. Because so much of puppy play is based on moving like a dog, thinking about physicality can really help you get into headspace, especially if verisimilitude is your thing.
As ever, everyone’s interpretation of puppy play is different. Nobody should ever feel pressured to play as a pup in a certain way (unless that’s your kink). Likewise, everyone’s bodies are different, with different capacities for movement. You’re the expert in what you can and cannot do, and it’s important to listen to your body if it tells you it really can’t do something.
But first… do a warm-up! Most people don’t think to warm up before puppy play, but they can greatly improve your experience. A good warm-up with stretches will increase blood flow to your muscles, loosen up your joints, and allow you a greater amount of motion and flexibility. Your range of movement as a pup will be broadened, and you can play for longer, with less risk of injury.
You don’t have to do anything dramatic: a few star jumps and leg stretches are better than nothing. Especially concentrate on your thighs, gluteus muscles (back of the upper legs / butt muscles) as these will be doing a lot of work. Also your spine, shoulders, and neck muscles as these areas injure easily.
So with all that in mind…
Let’s talk about gait
Because of how differently canine bodies are organised compared to humans, it can be a challenge to imitate dog gaits. If we were to directly imitate dog bodies, we’d need to move with just our fingers and the balls of our feet touching the ground. This is quite strenuous, so the common approximation is the ‘standard crawl’ - moving on one’s hands and knees.
This movement is sustainable over a long period of time, but has a couple of problems. First, crawling risks damage to your hands and knees, so make sure you wear some decent gloves and knee pads. Second, crawling slows you down. ‘Shortening’ the hind legs reduces their ability to act like a spring, which makes it harder to imitate a dog’s faster gaits.
n alternative is the ‘bear crawl,’ in which you move using your hands and the balls of your feet. This gets you closer to true dog physicality, but it’s much harder to do.
Like humans, dogs have different gaits for different speeds. In order of speed, these are: walk, amble, pace, trot, canter and gallop.
This is the slowest canine gait, for which the standard crawl is a good approximation. In the walk, each leg is lifted in turn, and three feet are almost always touching the ground.
The walk starts with the left hind leg, then front left, then right back, then right front. The dog’s head moves up and down slightly as a result of the movement of the front legs. It’s a relaxed gait.
This is slightly faster than the walk. Dogs use this gait when changing speed from the walk to the trot, and often only for a few steps.
In the amble, the legs move in pairs. First, the left hind leg and the front left move. Then the right hind leg and the right front move. The head barely moves, as in walk.
This is the same as the amble, but slightly faster again. It’s the dog’s equivalent of a slow jog. For verisimilitude: puppies often learn this before they learn the trot, and in adulthood tends to be used only by the largest dogs. In fact, so few adult dogs use this gait that you may be marked down for using it at a dog show!
However, you’re in luck if you’re a Polish lowland sheepdog, a Neapolitan mastiff, or an Old English sheepdog. The pace is considered appropriate for these breeds, but no others.
The dog’s version of a jog. This is an efficient way for dogs to get about, and it’s typical for handlers to be asked to present the trot gait at dog shows. However, the trot is where humans on all fours start to find things difficult. If you’re going to try the trot, canter, or gallop, take it slowly until you get the legs right, then build up speed to where you’re comfortable.
In the trot, the legs move in diagonal pairs. First the left hind leg and the right front leg together. Then the right hind leg and the left front leg together. The head is still held aloft. There’s often a tiny moment between leg pair transitions where all legs are off the ground, so perhaps incorporate this to help your movement to flow.
It’s not just for horses (although it’s much the same). For dogs this is a flowing, light movement, with low impact on the body, but for humans on all fours it can be the opposite. Practice with caution over short distances, and don’t worry if it’s not for you.
In canter, the hind legs and one of the front legs move at once, then the hind legs and the other front leg, with a moment of suspension between. The hind legs push the dog forward, and the front legs reach out to guide the dog’s direction. The head is now an active part of the movement, pushing forward at the same time as the front legs.
The pattern is left hind, right hind, left front; suspension; left hind, right hind, right front; suspension.
The dog equivalent of the sprint. It’s pretty intense, and tiring. It’s possible for humans to do this, but requires a high level of fitness and gymnastic ability.
In gallop, both hind legs kick off, then the dog is suspended mid-air, then the front legs hit the ground together and the hind legs kick off again. The body is stretched to its fullest. The neck is straight and the head is actively leading the movement, as for canter.
And that’s it. Personally, I can’t move much faster than a trot as a pup, but I’d be interested to hear from anyone who can. Likewise if you’ve found any ways to move as a pup that don’t feature here. I’ll be posting more on this subject in the next few weeks, so it’d be good to hear from you in the meantime.
As ever, play well, and stay safe,