A lot of dog lovers find that while Australian Shepherds are not the easiest dog breed to raise and care for, they are among the most rewarding to have for companions. These herding dogs have a protective instinct and a reputation for making trouble, but as with any breed, strong leadership and proactive training can lead to well-adjusted, well-behaved best friends. In fact, people who own and care for Australian Shepherds are able to bond over their shared experiences with these dogs in the home. They are active, intelligent, and playful dogs with a few quirks that everyone will find endearing. Chief among these breed-specific quirks is the Australian Shepherd “wiggle butt.” Here’s what it means, and why your Australian Shepherd does it so much!
The Root of the Behavior
Different dog breeds seem to inherit breed-specific traits the same way that toddlers might take after the mannerisms and personalities of their parents. If you have ever decided to purchase a dog from a breeder, you might have been advised to take the time to get to know your puppy’s parents. Oftentimes, everything from a dog’s temperament to its aptitude for obedience training is passed on closely from generation to generation. Over a long enough time, this pattern of passing down traits can engrain specific traits in the breed as a whole. This is how the Australian Shepherd’s “wiggle butt” came about.
Australian Shepherds, despite the name, are a distinctly American dog breed. They were raised to be herding dogs and worked on farms with animal stock. From the time that the breed was first recognized by the Australian Shepherd Club of America, docking or cutting the tail short was a normal practice. Today, an estimated 28% of all Australian Shepherds are born with naturally bobbed tails, with the desired tail length being four inches or less. The tail is an incredibly important part of a dog’s body, and it is used to communicate a wide range of expressions. With such a wide variety of naturally occurring tails, the Australian Shepherd took on a new way to communicate.
The universal sign of a happy dog is a happily wagging tail. When your Australian Shepherd is happy, he shakes his whole rear end side to side. This incredibly endearing trait is nearly universal across all Australian Shepherds, regardless of their tail type. Furthermore, the happier your dog, the more he will wiggle his butt! This unique type of expression shows pleasure and happiness, and when your dog is especially happy the movement can be so intense as to curl your Australian Shepherd into a U-shape! Australian Shepherd lovers have made T-shirts and other apparel around the hallmark wiggle-butt, and the behavior is both amusing and endearing to everyone who witnesses it.
Encouraging the Behavior
If your Australian Shepherd is a happy dog, he should be wagging his rear end around like crazy. The behavior is a good sign that your dog is happy at home, happy with you, and happy with any other pets or friends that he might encounter throughout the day. As a general rule, Australian Shepherds need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation in order to feel happy. Their roots are in herding, meaning that they were trained to run all day long while making their own decisions about how best to guide animal stock back home. You will need to be an active part of your dog’s life throughout its puppyhood and throughout its life.
There are two traits to the Australian Shepherd breed that tend to come out more than in other breeds. These dogs are particularly active, and they can also be aggressive towards other animals compared to other breeds of herding dogs. Most Australian Shepherd owners agree that these two traits are among the most common reasons that they have a hard time with their dogs. That being said, they tend to be a highly trainable breed, and they also tend to be willing to please. Obedience school comes highly recommended with this breed, and this will help to ensure that your dog is the happiest that he can be both at home and throughout his life!
Other Solutions and Considerations
Although tail docking has historically been considered a normal and desirable procedure for Australian Shepherds to undergo, the act of cutting a dog’s tail short for aesthetic reasons is becoming less supported by veterinarians and dog lovers around the globe. It is now considered unnecessarily painful, and different veterinarian societies in the U.S. have published statements advising dog owners against docking and other painful procedures. Some countries have even gone so far as to ban docking legally. Docking is unregulated in the U.S., meaning that it is neither banned nor controlled. Although it is still standard practice for Australian Shepherds to have their tails docked, you should still consider whether or not looks are worth the considerable amount of pain to your dog.
Like any breed of dog, Australian Shepherds will make their happiness known through the wagging of their tails. Due to the question of tail size across generations, your Australian Shepherd will simply show it in a more dramatic way. No matter what size or shape your Australian Shepherd’s tail, you can bet that if he is happy, he will have the same wiggle butt that the breed has exhibited for generations.
By a Australian Shepherd lover Jonah Erickson
Published: 04/12/2018, edited: 01/30/2020