The outrun (1 of 3)

The ability to outrun and gather sheep is essential if a sheepdog is to work efficiently.


Teaching a sheepdog to do outruns, and gather sheep

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One of the most common outrun faults is the dog crossing over.
Teaching a dog to do outruns and gather livestock.
We can learn from Jed’s bad outrun.
Jed’s tail indicates his state of mind…
It’s good to get the dog working in the open field as soon as it can control the sheep there.
Walking back with the sheep, to create enough space for an outrun and then walk through the sheep towards the dog.
Walking out towards the dog to ‘push’ it out wider on its outrun.
Testing the dog’s flanks.
Leaning left is enough to tell the dog which way it should go.
Flicking the training stick to send the dog out wider.
Walking back with the sheep again, to create space for another outrun.
Walking towards the dog, intending to call it further away from the sheep.
Jed runs straight at the sheep.
Attempting to send the dog after the missing sheep.
Returning the sheep to the training area.
Walking backwards with the dog bringing the sheep along steadily.
The dog notices the sheep moving away.
Testing the dog’s flanks.
Half a pace is enough to tell the dog which way it should go.
Trying to call the dog away from the sheep.

Stop the dog, and the sheep should gather together again

Stopping or even slowing the dog can often allow the sheep to gather back together.
Using stick, voice and body position to help call it away from sheep.
If the sheep move away, quickly send the dog to gather them.
The dog cuts-in, and splits the sheep.
Give the impression you’re in control, even when you aren’t.
Try to keep calm. An excited voice will excite the dog.
Attempting to call the dog away for another outrun.
The dog’s coming away, but the sheep are running away. Jed excels!

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Teach your dog to outrun and gather sheep

To do an outrun, the dog will leave the handler’s side and run out wide enough to gather the sheep, without disturbing or upsetting them. The dog then calmly approaches the sheep to bring them to the shepherd. This is known as the ‘lift‘ and ‘fetch‘ stages of the gather.

Fortunately, it’s not difficult to train a dog to do an outrun, that’s because they enjoy them so much! Dogs love to get close to sheep, so they see outruns and gathering as great fun!

The outrun training process itself improves other aspects of the dog’s work, such as flanking and the stop, so we use short outruns very early in training to improve the dog’s all-round performance. Outruns are also extremely useful when teaching the dog more difficult tasks such as driving or shedding, because they provide welcome relief when the dog is feeling under pressure.

PART 1 of this video features Jed, a large, headstrong male collie with far more enthusiasm than skill. We filmed an actual training session, warts and all, so that you can learn how to start teaching a herding dog to do outruns and gather sheep or other livestock.

As with any form of sheepdog training though, lessons don’t always go well, so we tell you the sort of errors to expect, and how to correct mistakes when things go wrong (as they inevitably, will).

The Outrun 2 | (top ⇧)


36 responses to “The outrun (1 of 3)”

  1. Deborah Hoggar avatar
    Deborah Hoggar

    a year ago I started watching your videos as a complete beginner. We’re smallholders 18 breeding ewes, the last of their lambs going off soon, a ram and a couple wethers for his company.
    A year on moving / loading, managing our tiny flock – jobs that used to take us an hour with much arm flapping and bad language, now takes minutes with Nell doing most of the work calmly and obediently – not bad !
    Just one thing I’d change ! Our biggest paddock is 7 acres (I did say small scale !!) so it’s a short outrun but Nell will not set off at a run and arc round. She stalks the length of the field to fetch them, never ‘at’ them, never scares them, then at the end of her long ‘walk’ she flanks them. She brings them to me beautifully but I cannot instill a sense of urgency or speed in the dog. If they run, she matches their pace and gets things back in control. You could call it calm but sometimes, just sometimes you’d call it infuriatingly slow !
    I can’t ever imagine trialling but we’d be timed out before the end of the ‘out walk’
    Any ideas gratefully received !

    1. I know the feeling only too well, Deborah! We had a dog many years ago, called Quinn. He would bring the sheep reliably every time – at a very steady walking pace! Eventually. we sold him to a retired farmer in Norfolk, who wasn’t bothered how long it took the dog to bring the sheep, he was happy to sit in the truck and watch him!
      We don’t have that problem now though.
      You need to make the job more fun for your dog. Have a look at the “Calm but Firm” and “How Can I Slow the Dog Down” tutorials, and make a note of all the things I recommend for calming or slowing the dog down – then do the opposite!
      Lots of clapping, shouting, whistling, rapidly repeated commands – anything that will excite your dog.
      Also, watch “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough“. That will also show you how to give your dog more “GRRR!”
      Let me know if anything is not clear – and it would be great to hear how you get on.

  2. Peter David LLewellyn avatar
    Peter David LLewellyn

    Hi Andy how do I get my dog to have a wider out run finding it hard to stop her running straight at the sheep thank you Dave

    1. My first suggestion is to watch all three of these Outrun Tutorials, AND “Sending the dog the wrong way” AND “Give the sheep some space!” All of them will help you to encourage the dog to go out wider.
      I suspect you’re trying to send the dog too far, too soon. Start with very short outruns, and GRADUALLY increase the distance.
      If your dog happens to be doing something which isn’t covered in those tutorials, please get back to me, and describe what’s happening.

  3. Deborah Hoggar avatar
    Deborah Hoggar

    Hi Andy
    On an outrun my 22month old Nell goes out wide, doesn’t run at the sheep, doesn’t cut in too tight but she’s so cautious not to chase the sheep or scatter them she approaches so slowly and walks forward so slowly it’s like stalking them rather than moving them. The sheep tend to move forward when they’re ready rather than when she asks them !
    Please point me to the right tutorial, I have no doubt there is one !!
    Thank you

    1. Nell sounds like a nice dog to train!
      In a nutshell, you’re sending her too far, too soon.
      The closer you are to the dog, the more control you have, and the more confidence the dog will have.
      In your case being too far away reduces your authority over the dog, and reduces her confidnence.
      Work Nell at a distance where she’s more authoritative, and increase the distance VERY slowly!

      Also – I suggest you watch “Sometimes nice is not enough” to give Nell a bit more “GRRR”!
      (You can always get her to tone it down if she takes it too literally).

      I’m sure this will help – perhaps you’ll let me know??

      1. Deborah Hoggar avatar
        Deborah Hoggar

        I will do, thank you for the advice

      2. Deborah Hoggar avatar
        Deborah Hoggar

        I have 18 ewes in with the ram at the moment on a smallish paddock, so decided it would be the perfect place to take your advice and try the outrun small scale this morning!
        Nell was pitch perfect. The sheep were more inclined to move away from her in that space and that ‘jeed’ her up a bit more ! Also I left her lying down and went near to the sheep copying your technique which worked well.
        I’ll build the distance slowly.
        – Happy customer !

        1. Good to hear it’s working, Deborah!
          Be sure to watch “Sometimes nice is not enough” – and give the dog lots of encouragement to be more assertive!

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