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