Abnormal Gait

If you were to catch a glimpse of me walking our two Labradors in the morning you might notice they are moving at the same rate but in a different gait.  Dogs can have up to six different gaits.  Three are considered common while the others are uncommon.  Adi only moves in the common gaits of walk, trot, and gallop.  Summer, on the other hand, uses a fourth, uncommon gait called the pace.  So, while Adi is trotting, Summer is pacing. Unlike a trot where alternate legs strike the ground at the same time, the pace has the front and back legs on one side moving forward together while the front and back legs on the opposite side are moving backward.  Rub your two hands together and you’ll get an idea of how Summer is moving. 

Summer is a Labrador mix (mostly Lab with a noticeable dose of Weimaraner and a hint of German Shepherd).  Curious as to whether the pace gait was breed specific, I did some research.  I learned this gait is more frequently found in large breed dogs with long legs.  That’s Summer.  I also learned it inefficiently uses muscles and can be indicative of laziness, fatigue, or in some cases musculoskeletal issues.  With this newfound knowledge, I found myself having to make a decision.

Work myself into a worried mess over that last point.

Accept this abnormal gait as “normal.”

or, Train Summer to move at a trot more than a pace.

I chose the latter.  My thinking was that training Summer to trot more would help develop any underused muscles.  Our morning walks afforded ample training opportunities.  At first, I tried slowing Summer down to a walk then speeding up quickly in hopes she would transition into a trot not a pace.  Zero success. Next, I tried making a full stop then starting out with an upward tug of her head with the gentle leader.  Success!  Each time, she launches into a trot and maintains the gait.  Her body moves forward with much greater power and finesse as her hindleg and back muscles are fully engaged.

A chat with an Irish Wolfhound breeder reaffirmed my decision.  She said I was having to address Summer’s muscle memory.  The pace gait, which had been left unchecked as a puppy, had become her default, comfort mode.  She assured me that with time and consistency I would see her trot more and pace less.  However, she warned that as soon as I stopped encouraging the trot, Summer would in time revert back to the pace.      

I’ll be honest, when my research revealed even the remotest possibility of musculoskeletal issues my anxiety level began to climb quickly.  Over the last few years, I realized worry has increasingly become my default gait when faced with uncertainty. Just like the pace gait is not a normal gait in a dog, worry is an abnormal gait in a human.  And just like I had to make a choice with Summer’s gait, I’ve had to make a choice with my anxiety. 

Either accept this abnormal gait as “normal” and allow it to weaken me physically, emotionally, and spiritually or confess the worry to Jesus and work with Him to take every thought captive.

I’ve chosen the latter.  With Jesus’ help and the promises of the Bible, I’m strengthening the gait the Lord designed me to move in- peace of mind.  I’m much like Summer in that I can’t just slow down to recalibrate my thinking process.  Rather, I must make a full stop.  In that moment, I note the thread of anxious thinking that is tumbling around in my head and prayerfully hand it over to Jesus’ trustworthy hands.  Then I restart with a scripture at the forefront of my mind that reaffirms God is in control.  When I slip back to anxious thinking, I stop and restart again. Just like Summer is opting to pace less these days, I’m opting to give my anxious thoughts a much shorter shelf life.

Worry is not the only abnormal gait in which a human can move.  Fear, anger, bitterness and despondency name a few others.  Each of these abnormal gaits have one thing in common- our thoughts.  As this lesson draws to a close, I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to show you any abnormal gaits in which you are moving then seek Jesus’ help to recalibrate.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:5

“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.  And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].”

Philippians 4:6-7, Amplified

© 2019-2022, Lessons from a Lab, Beth Alisan.  All Rights Reserved.

45 thoughts on “Abnormal Gait

  1. What a wonderful post! I will remember this when I start to worry about something. It is so easy to fall into the ‘worry trap’. God certainly does not want that for His children. Thank you for this well-written post that so clearly shows that we must turn our anxious thoughts over to God.

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      1. It is never productive! On the contrary, it just makes us unhappy! It is far better to realign our thinking in positive ways as your post suggests. It really is so very important. 🙂

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  2. This is so good, Beth. What a perfect analogy! The promises of scripture offer the perfect gait to replace worry. I also like to sing–usually some of the old hymns that I memorized as a child. Just as Summer can’t pace if she’s trotting, we can’t worry if we’re worshiping!

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    1. What a well-written analogy., Beth. I agree, our thoughts can cause us a lot of trouble. Worry is such an easy trap to fall into and before we know it we are sledding down the slopes, losing sight of the source of our hope. Truly, an insightful post. I learned things Inhad no idea about.

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      1. Thank you Rainer! A trap to fall into is the perfect word picture for worry. It reminds me of a scene in the old Disney movie “Swiss Family Robinson” where in their battle against the pirates they dig a pit and camouflage it with a covering of palm branches. One pit even houses a tiger. Only they have to be careful not to forget where the pits are because they’ll fall in it themselves. Worry is a lot like that. It’s a trap camouflaged to seem “normal” or ok that we can fall into when we’re not guarding our mind. I hope you and Terry are both doing well. Have a happy Easter!

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    1. Thank you Betty! It is so good to receive a comment from you. You are among those whose health I lift up to the Lord each day, and I am so blessed when you write a post. Not only do they encourage and challenge me, they also show me that you are able to continue your work for His kingdom. I hope the warmth of spring blows your way soon so you can get out and enjoy some strolls through our Father’s creation.

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  3. I am once again so blessed and challenged by your words, Beth. I love dogs and I sure do love the lessons that you share from Adi and Summer. I find it so easy to slip into default mode when faced with a worry or concern, especially with my children. I jump from A to Z so quickly! Your blog makes me think of God leaning down as he gently pulls on my leash and then patiently says, “OK, Patty, let’s practice this again.” His walks with me sure do take tons of patience from Him, and I’m ever so thankful that he persists as you did with Summer. Blessings, Beth, and hugs for your precious Adi and Summer.

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    1. Thank you Patty! I’m so very glad that the lessons from Adi and Summer resonate with your Jesus loving and dog loving heart. I love the picture you paint of God leaning down and gently pulling on the leash and patiently saying “Ok, Let’s practice this again.” One of my favorite verses is in Exodus where God describes His character to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” (Exodus 24:6) I know I must try His patience and am ever so grateful that He handles me with patient and loving firmness. It’s also a comfort to to know that He’ll never give up on us.

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  4. You are the best dog mom!! This really speaks to me — both spiritually and dog-wise. We have a new puppy — Finnegan — and are working on heeling lest he knock me over with his “enthusiastic” gait! Pictures and post forthcoming!

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    1. Thank you Nora! I try my hardest. As a mom, you know how our kids and dogs have a way of throwing us for a loop (or in Finnegan’s case knock us over with enthusiasm) now and again to keep mom life interesting. A big welcome to Finnegan-the dog of your empty nest! I’m eager to see some pictures, hear his story, and learn some lessons he’s been teaching. On a completely different note, I’m ready to dialogue thoughts about a book and pitch letter. Two questions: First, is this a good time for you? There is no urgency on my part. Second, what is the best email in which to contact you? Is it the e-mail that comes listed with your comments?

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  5. Beth, you’ve extracted a great spiritual lesson from a detail observed in your dogs. Then what you shared in a reply about, “Patience, practice, and praise,” really tops off applying this principle to our own lives. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you Manette! Those three words, “Patience, practice, and praise” though written in the context by the horse trainer for retraining Standardbred horses, do have a rich spiritual application.

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      1. Manette, for this past past month my blog has been inundated with spam and as a result I’m finding regular readers comments being placed in “trash.” That is where your comment along with several others landed. I’m not sure how to remedy the problem other then checking the spam and trash folder on a regular basis. I hope you are having a lovely day and I look forward to the next post the Lord leads you to write.

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  6. Thank you, Beth. Your love and affection for Adi and Summer are very well displayed in how carefully you scrutinize their every detail. And you aptly transition that to the same care the Lord gives to us. We are so very cared for by Him. Your comparison is very effective. I have learned many things from the lessons you have learned and pass on to so many. As reminded by Hebrews 13:16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” In sharing what you have learned, you have shared a part of you. Thank you again. Blessings to you!

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    1. GW, words cannot express how much this comment means. I’ve flipped to that scripture in my Bible and highlighted it. My desire in my writing and my life is to “offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess His name.” (Hebrews 13:15) The Lord is so very good in providing brethren such as yourself to encourage me in my work for Him. Thank you!

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  7. I am amazed at how others notice details and the lessons that God teaches in them. You are so right. A full stop is just what we need (though I don’t much like it!). Then with God’s help starting over matching my steps with His.

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  8. Glen Buckwalter

    Your blog was very good. I found it most interesting and it sent me on my own research as it reminded me of the occasional Amish wagon that goes down the road drawn by a horse that is pacing. So I Googled – Why does a standardbred horse pace when being ridden? The article was very interesting, in particular the section on “pacing is a default setting.” “If pacing comes naturally, a horse will fall back into pacing when it becomes nervous, unbalanced, anxious or frightened. It is like a security blanket of familiarity and comfort.” Doesn’t that fit right into your lesson?

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    1. Yes, that fits perfectly into the lesson. In moments of stress, it’s just as easy for us humans to fall back into those abnormal gaits. I believe I found the article you were referring to. The video of the foal pacing looked so much like Summer. I found it interesting that they said it takes “3 months of consistent practice to allow neural pathways in the brain to develop so that the new skills become second nature.” I also liked their training motto “Patience, practice, and praise.”

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  9. Beth, this is priceless! Being a dog lover and raising two Jack Russell terroirs for 16 years, I was really “taken” with this post. I sent it to my husband’s computer. He will love it! You tied a wonderful message into Summer’s gait problem. Oh, that I would always walk in the “gait” God wants me to walk! Thanks so much for the pictures too. I always look forward to your posts. Hug your dogs for me…..a big hug and “thank you” to you too!

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    1. Thank you Mary for your kind and encouraging words! I hope your husband enjoyed this post as well. I like that phrase, “walking in the ‘gait’ God wants me to walk.” The pups send Labby waggles and licks your way.

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  10. Nancy

    I really enjoyed this post and the comparison you used here, Beth.

    “She assured me that with time and consistency I would see her trot more and pace less. However, she warned that as soon as I stopped encouraging the trot, Summer would in time revert back to the pace”…

    Oh how diligent I must be too in claiming God’s word and promises over ever circumstance that threatens to push me back into my default gait of worry.

    Stopping and taking every thought captive to make them obedient to Christ is a practice that moves me forward in gaining victory over worry. But it has to be applied over and over again with every step I take or new threatening situation that I encounter.

    The 2 verses you referred to here have spoken to me many times in my life.

    Thank you for this encouraging and inspirational post!

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    1. Thank you Nancy for sharing your reflections on this lesson! I love how you connected the breeder’s warning with the need to remain diligent in claiming God’s promises. I do think the very act of stopping and taking every thought captive and obedient to Christ is a spiritual discipline. I hope you and your husband have a lovely weekend.

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  11. This post is SO good – thank you!!

    Yes, we don’t like to take a pause in the busyness of our day do we. I guess the more resistant to pausing/stopping what we’re doing to go before the Lord to reconcile ourselves with His better way of moving, the more we need to do exactly that!

    Andy B

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    1. Thank you Andy! You are absolutely right taking a pause doesn’t come naturally. That “go, go, go” mentality seems to be ingrained so deeply. Stopping and being still before the Lord in the moment of of busyness is a real spiritual discipline.

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  12. What an absorbing study Beth, I never knew that about the many gaits of dogs. You apply this well as an accurate analogy of the believer’s walk . There is much to ponder and pray about in this. Thank you sister, Adi and Summer. God bless your family.

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    1. Thank you Alan! I enjoyed all I had to learn about dogs and their gaits. I guess the student in me is always ready to learn something new. I hope you and Susan have a weekend that is restful and healing to the body and soul.

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  13. I was enthralled as I read this Beth, firstly, I never knew dogs could “pace” like that! Next, you had my rapt attention as the lesson unfolded and I realised “oh my”, this is me too! Just like you described, it also takes me coming to a full stop in order to make the necessary adjustments to my thinking at times! My natural gait is worry and its something that the Holy Spirit has really had to work on over the years. This was an excellent post Beth which I’ve saved to read again. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Jo for your kind words! Until Summer, I thought the pace gait was exclusive to horses. This instance with Summer was a good reminder that I need to look at hiccups in the road as opportunities to learn and grow stronger in the Lord. Have a lovely weekend!

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  14. This is a great comparison, Beth! I find myself in default worry mode often and need to stop and start again. You’re right, worry and anxiety should not be the natural response for a Christian. The thought occurs that Summer doesn’t realize she’s wasting energy when she walks with a gait. It took her owner’s loving redirection to fix it. It’s the same with God.
    Have blessed day. Doggy hugs to Adi and Summer. 🐾🐾

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    1. Thank you David! I always enjoy your reflections on these lessons! You are absolutely right. Summer has no idea the impact the pace is having on her. Sometimes I’m clueless as to the negative impact my choices are having until the Holy Spirit points it out in the Word. Adi and Summer send some Labby love your way.

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