Karen B. London
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Getting a Leg Up
Three-legged dogs inform robot design
Three-legged Clover graced The Bark's cover in July 2006.

Many three-legged dogs walk and run quite well, and people who build robots want to know how. They want to model robots on dogs who are missing limbs so that in the event of damage, these robots will still be capable of moving. It makes sense to be prepared for the unexpected, and studying the way dogs move may make it possible.

By comparing the gaits of dogs with three legs to those of the typical four-legged dogs, these researchers are analyzing the adjustments of dogs who are missing a limb. Interestingly, dogs who are missing a hind leg show very little change in the way they move each foreleg. In contrast, those individuals who lost a front leg showed quite a big change in how the remaining limbs moved. It seems that losing a forelimb requires much more compensation by the other legs to coordinate movement with each other.
I remember a client from many years ago who had several happy, active three-legged Rottweilers and only one with the normal number of legs. As he liked to say, “I’ve got four dogs, 13 legs, and a whole mess of trouble.” Have you known a three-legged dog that could still walk, run and play?
Check out this story on three-legged dogs that originally appeared in The Bark Issue 37, July/August 2006.



Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Frances | July 8 2010 |

On one of our regular walks we meet a three legged dogs who walks, runs, jumps, hunts through the hedges - in fact seems completely unphased by having a limb missing. When I first saw him he was chasing another dog in long grass and jumping a fence - it took me a while to realise what was unusual about him. He is missing a hind leg, so perhaps that is why he can still balance so well.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 8 2010 |

My staffie mix regularly plays with a fellow bully breed dog who is missing a front leg. She's all of 40 lbs and he's easily twice her size -- big bodied, like an American Bulldog -- but remarkably graceful and excellent at adjusting to play at a smaller dog's level. He wrestles, runs, and jumps so well it's easy to forget he's missing a limb.

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