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Gaiting and Balance

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

We talked to, I would estimate, 20+ judges in Orlando. Many of them had the same questions. What are the proportions, how deep should the chest be, what about planes of the head. But the idea that I just kept coming back to was the idea of balance.

Many already know this, but totally dogs should have the same front and rear angulation (the angle of their shoulder to upper arm should match the angle of their hip to upper thigh).  While most breeds expect angulation of approximately 90 degrees, azawakh have extremely open angulation in comparison, even when compared to most sighthounds. Azawakh should have angulation of approximately 130 degrees in both the front and rear.

What does this have to do with balance? If you have angulation that doesn't match you completely alter gait. You get paddling or crossing or hackney motion or TRAD (tremendous reach and drive) in this breed that shouldn't have it. If you move an azawakh too quickly (either to hide faults or create the illusion of angulation) then you will get more of a flying trot, but the dog will over stride and will have the appearance of descending topline (when ascending or level is desirable).

Angulation forms gait. Gait allows a dog to fulfill their purpose. Form and function. A dog that paddles or crosses in the front cannot trot all day effortlessly. A dog with weak hocks will be more prone to injury and won't survive in country of origin. A dog that has long extension because of flashy rear angulation will wear itself out. 

At a gallop, this angulation leads to a leaping gait with limited extension. Due to flyball, my dogs routinely do long distance recalls to loosen their muscles. For this reason I find they have more extension than many other azawakh and they still have less extension than a saluki or other sighthound.

An azawakh that is balanced can move all day. It can float over difficult terrain in an easy trot, the tip of their foot never extending being their nose, never wasting previous energy for flashy side gait. A dog that is balanced can turn on a time, run down prey.

Unbalanced dogs are unsound dogs. Unsound dogs aren't found in country of origin because they wouldn't survive. Balance is key. Balance in angulation, balance in movement, balance in temperament.

That, I suppose, is my biggest takeaway. That we want to see judges reward balanced dogs in the ring. I suppose i balance benefits their owners to because how cool is it that many of us can show against each other and then turn around and go out for ice cream and laugh together.

Pictures of my own dogs, because I refuse to use other people's dogs to illustrate my points. All I can say is if you're interested in a correctly conforming azawakh, look for both front and rear angulation to match.

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