Dynamic gearing is a mechanism that has been suggested to enhance the performance of skeletal muscles by maintaining them at the shortening velocities that maximize their power or efficiency. We investigated this hypothesis in three domestic dogs during trotting and galloping. We used ground force recordings and kinematic analysis to calculate the changes in gear ratio that occur during the production of the external work of locomotion. We also monitored length changes of the vastus lateralis muscle, an extensor muscle of the knee, using sonomicrometry in four additional dogs to determine the nature and rate of active shortening of this muscle. During both trotting and galloping, the gear ratios of the extensor muscles of the elbow, wrist and ankle joints were relatively constant early in limb support, but decreased rapidly during the second half of support. The gear ratio at the hip exerted an extensor moment initially, but decreased throughout limb support and became negative midway through support. This pattern of decreasing gear ratio during the second half of support indicates that dynamic gearing does not maximize muscle power or efficiency at the elbow, wrist, hip and ankle joints. In contrast,the extensor muscles of the shoulder and knee joints exhibited an increase in gear ratio during limb support. In two dogs, the vastus lateralis muscle shortened at a relatively constant rate of 3.7-4 lengths s-1 during intermediate-speed galloping. This pattern of increasing gear ratio and constant velocity of muscle shortening at the knee joint is consistent with the hypothesis of dynamic gearing. Given the amount of work done at the knee and shoulder joints of running dogs, dynamic gearing may contribute to the economy of constant-speed running and may be important to integrated limb function.

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