The Australian Shepherd is a working dog and was bred to herd animals. They need the endurance to follow their herd for many miles but also have the speed and maneuverability to catch any sheep that goes astray. The ability to maneuver quickly at full speed is referred to as agility.
So the Aussie has been bred to cover long distances without sacrificing agility. So Australian Shepherds typically employ many gaits on any given working day depending on the role demanded.
So, what is the perfect Australian Shepherd gait?
A dog’s gait is its manner of walking and running. Since Australian Shepherds typically employ many gaits on any given working day they need to be assessed for all of these.
They will use a long trotting gait when covering longer distances but adopt short, fast strides to catch and turn any strays from their herd.
The Australian Shepherd Breed Standard thus looks for the dogs that have the best compromise between these gaits. In more technical terms, Aussies with a moderately angulated, balanced frame will meet these needs the best and hence is the most desirable.
“The ideal Australian Shepherd is found not in the extremes, but his excellence is found in the balance between the extremes” – Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor
Walking and Trotting
The two most common gaits are the walk and the trot. Most dogs favor one or the other. Larger dogs tend to trot while smaller dogs usually walk, but all breeds can be taught to do either.
For Aussie show dogs, the gait most often chosen to assess correct gait is the trot.
The Trotting Gaits of an Australian Shepherd
The trot is a medium-speed gait in which the dog is supported by alternating diagonal pairs of limbs. So, when trotting, the legs on one side repeat the actions of the other side half a stride later.
On each side, as the front foot leaves the ground, the hindfoot takes or “fills” its place. The front foot is then extended forward as the hindfoot drives the dog forward. This is the propulsion phase.
The front foot then lands and takes the weight as the hindfoot is again brought forward until the front foot is pushed forward to allow the hindfoot to fill its place again. This is the support phase.
This cycle is called the stride. The length of stride is measured from the spot where the dog’s paw leaves the ground to the point where the same paw strikes the ground again
As the speed increases, so does the length of the dog’s stride.
From walking, an Australian Shepherd should look easy and effortless as they pick up the pace into a slow, gentle trot. This slow trotting gait is called a collected trot.
As they accelerate, they will extend their stride, and move from a collected trot into an “extended” trot.
Flying or Suspended Trot
When the stride length increases to the point that the dog has no feet on the ground on one side during the stride, the gait is referred to as a “flying” or “suspended” trot.
Judging the Gait of an Australian Shepherd
Balance and symmetry are the first and foremost requirements in a working breed.
When the Australian Shepherd is in motion, its head should be level with its back and it should not bob up and down
Any up-and-down movement wastes energy and indicates another structural inefficiency. This is not ideal for a dog expected to have good levels of endurance.
The most effective movement will not always stand out and attract attention. A good Aussie’s gait should look harmonious with an effortless quality in the stride, which is deliberate without wasting energy. All parts should synchronize and flow..
When an Aussie is trotting the withers should remain level in motion. There should be no bobbing. The dog’s topline should be strong and appear level between the shoulders and the loin.
When alert or focusing his attention on something, the Australian Shepherd may drop its head slightly.
Foot Placement and Timing
Good foot timing and placement is needed to achieve this effortless gait. This is down to timing and the structure of the dog.
The Australian Shepherd breed is slightly longer than they are tall. This means their body length determines foot placement.
When in motion they need the correct angulation to achieve an ideal gait
If a dog lacks the angulation of the driving hindquarters it cannot push the hindlegs far forward enough to “fill” its fore tracks
On the other hand, an Aussie with insufficiently angulated forequarters cannot get out of the way of the hindlegs, causing faults such as dwelling and crabbing.
Is swaggering gait normal for Australian shepherds?
One of the breed-specific quirks of the Australian Shepherd is the “wiggle butt.”
The universal sign of a happy dog is a wagging tail. However, Aussies take this to a whole new level!
When an Australian Shepherd is happy, they literally shake their whole rear end, and the happier your dog, the more they will wiggle!
This happy wiggling and wagging movement can be extreme enough to curl your Australian Shepherd into a U-shape
Australian shepherds are a working breed that has been bred to herd livestock. They excel in endurance and agility but come with certain gait requirements for show dogs.
To be considered correct, an Australian shepherd must have symmetrical movement across their back while being level-headed at any speed or position on the ground – even when they’re alert!
If you want your Australian shepherd to compete in shows, practice these tips so you can get them into shape for this new season of competition!
One Australian Shepherd quirk is the “wiggle butt”. This happy wiggling and wagging movement can range from being extreme enough to curl your Australian shepherd into a U-shape or just shaking at its own pace.
Hopefully, this article has given you insight into what an Australian shepherd should look like in motion. Let us know how we did!
- 1 So, what is the perfect Australian Shepherd gait?
- 2 Walking and Trotting
- 3 The Trotting Gaits of an Australian Shepherd
- 4 Judging the Gait of an Australian Shepherd
- 5 Foot Placement and Timing
- 6 Is swaggering gait normal for Australian shepherds?
- 7 Conclusion