The Outrun (Parts 1-3)

A good outrun is essential if a sheepdog is to work efficiently


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Fortunately, it’s not difficult to train a dog to do an outrun, and the 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.

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: The Outrun part one

Part 1 features Jed, a large, headstrong male collie with far more enthusiasm than skill. We filmed an actual training session, warts and all, to show how to start teaching the outrun, and how to make the best of it when things go wrong (as things, inevitably, will).

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: The Outrun part two

Part 2. Andy demonstrates how positioning yourself, your dog and the sheep, in relation to each other, is the key to success when you’re working on lengthening or widening your dog’s outrun. To prove the method works we see Carew at an early stage in her career – when she’d “cross over” at the prospect of even quite a short outrun – and, just a few months later, tackling a 500 metre outrun for the first time.

Thumbnail image for the sheep and cattle dog training tutorial: The Outrun part three

Part 3 shows how we use a simple technique we call “The Slingshot”, to make the dog go out much wider on its outrun or when flanking the sheep. “The Slingshot” is one of the most important and highly effective techniques we know of for quickly improving the dog’s outrun.
If you can get your dog’s cooperation, it will absolutely love doing “Slingshot” outruns – and it’ll go out much wider, too!

27 responses to “The Outrun (Parts 1-3)”

  1. DAVID SANDISON avatar

    Hi Andy
    I have a 2.5 year old bitch. She was a gripper,but is much better. She used to run off to the sheep if I wasn’t paying attention. I have started her on outruns and used your technique getting her moving before sending her off, to make her wider, but she is still quite narrow round the back of the sheep. Also when we get more than 15/20m away she won’t GO, she goes into stalking mode. Any help appreciated.

    1. Andy avatar

      Your description very strongly suggests you’re trying to progress too quickly, David.
      Remember. The closer you are to the trainee dog, the more control you have over it.
      You need to increase the distance the dog works at very slowly. If she won’t go, it’s because she doesn’t feel confident. Get closer to the sheep and build her confidence slowly.
      Watch the three Outrun Tutorials again – it’s all in there – including what to do if the dog is too tight at the top of the outrun.
      Your dog will be fine!

  2. Arye Ehrenberg avatar

    Hello Andy. I’v watched this tutorials multiple times. I’v noticed now that in peart 2 before you sent Carew on one of her outruns you gave the command “Look” (01:45). can you please explain a little about that? thanks

    1. Andy avatar

      The “Look Back” command is very useful, especially when training a dog.It’s used to send the dog back for sheep it has left behind, or which appear after the dog has gathered the main flock.
      You can find out about any commands you don’t understand, on our Sheepdog Terminology page.
      The “Look Back” can be seen on this link.
      Many trainers treat it as an advanced exercise but I teach the dog to look back almost from the very beginning of its training. It teaches the dog to keep its sheep together!

  3. Arye Ehrenberg avatar

    Hello Andy. I wonder, in the early stages, like in part 2, is it possible to work with two handlers, one near the dog and the other closer to the sheep?

    1. Andy avatar

      It can work very well! The one closest to the dog sends it off to the sheep, and the other person ‘pushes’ it out wider!
      Also, if there are two handlers and two dogs, they can be positioned at a suitable distance apart, and the first handler sends their dog off to gather the sheep while the other handler keeps their dog with them, then when the sheep have been brought to the first handler, the second handler sends their dog to gather them – and so on. It’s especially good if the sheep are dogged, and don’t drift away once the gather is finished.

      1. Arye Ehrenberg avatar

        Thanks. what a great idea! I never seen it done any where.

  4. Kath Hudson avatar

    Hi Andy,
    How do you build confidence in a dog that is reluctant to work away from you? Natsu has been to the sheep 7 or 8 times now and is working really well while I’m in close proximity to the sheep. However, we’ve started to introduce short outruns but he’s reluctant to go unless I go with him. Once I get close enough to the sheep he will take himself off round to the point of balance. I managed to get him to do a couple of really short (less than 10m from the sheep) outruns on the ‘away’ this morning but he was having non of it on the ‘come by’ and I had to walk up to the sheep before he’d go. There are no sheep in the local area where we walk so he has never been taught to stay away from them.

    1. Andy avatar

      You need to build on what you have, and very gradually extend the distances so the dog doesn’t really notice the increase, Kath.
      The “Walking Backwards” exercise is excellent for teaching the dog to work further away from you – and once you’ve built up a little distance, you can (occasionally) come through the sheep towards the dog, and send it off on a short outrun. While the dog is actually going out to the sheep, try moving further away as it goes, to increase the distance (from you) a little more.
      If the dog comes back to you, reduce the distance – and so on.
      Walking Backwards” is also great for teaching the dog to flank both ways. Once the dog will follow and wants to hold the sheep to you, you need to change direction so that the dog has to flank round the sheep to bring them. Once again, do this very gradually at first, then build on it. If you think about it, to hold the sheep to you as you move around, the dog will have to flank both ways a little, so this provides an excellent start for balancing the dog up.
      Another trick is to work the dog close to a fence or hedge, and as the dog flanks between the sheep and the fence, quickly move forward to block it, and send it back the other way. The trainee dog won’t want to stop in the tight spot between sheep and fence, so it will naturally want to go in the other direction!
      Watch “Starting a Reluctant Dog” and pay particular attention at 05:35 where I block the dog between the sheep and the hurdles, to send her back the other way!

      1. Kath Hudson avatar

        Hi Andy, I’m not having any problems with point of balance. I started off walking backwards but can now walk forwards with him bringing the sheep up from the rear. I do lots of direction changes and he’ll happily flank both ways to maintain the point of balance. He will reliably stop and I either go around the sheep or through them and send him whichever way which he’ll do no problem. He’s just reluctant to leave my side and flank to the POB unless I’m stood close to the sheep. He’s not worried by the sheep. He’s really calm and keeps them calm while just moving around but he won’t take any nonsense from them. If one bolts he’ll go get it and bring it back. Just got to convince him to leave me and go get the sheep.

        1. Andy avatar

          One of the main purposes of the Walking Backwards excercise is to put more distance between the dog and the sheep. If you walk back with the dog bringing the sheep to you – and then STOP the dog, the sheep should keep coming – thus increasing the distance between dog and sheep. As the dog gets used to this, you can begin to work it further and further away – and as I mentioned in my earlier reply, you can walk through the sheep, towards the dog, and when you’re about halfway between them (dog and sheep) send the dog off to gather the sheep.
          Once this works, you can gradually increase the distance of the ‘outrun’ – GRADUALLY!
          Keep in mind that if the sheep DON’T continue to come towards you when you stop the dog, it strongly suggests you need fresher sheep for the dog to work with.
          You say that the dog will do a very short outrun. My point is, basically, each time you send the dog off on an outrun, you should try to increase the distance – even by a tiny amount, if necessary.
          Keep at it – it works!

  5. saira renny avatar

    Hi Andy
    I have been training my 5 year old dog for 6 months almost everyday ,mainly on 80 hogs in a 30acre hill park . She is very eager to please , she is good in most areas but has a problem when i give a command for an outrun , she knows her sides well once she has the sheep together and can also drive them in any direction but for an outrun she seem unsure of which way to go and ,she circles my legs looking at me ,she seems very frustrated . If i keep calmly repeating the command she will eventually do the outrun , and when she does ,she does it well mostly . I keep trying on sheep close to her and gradually moving further away ,ive been doing what you suggest in your videos and standing between her and the sheep , but she still does randomly find the command to outrun confusing . Ive tried the slingshot tecnique also , but i feel that it completely freaked her out . It seems like a lack of confidence and/or that im confusing her in some way . I wonder if you could give me any advice on how i could help her understand what she needs to do .

    1. Andy avatar

      A frustrating problem, isn’t it! We take our dogs out into the field that our sheep live in every day, and they learn that they’re not to chase the sheep when they go out together like this, but sometimes when we train them to work the sheep, it leads to the sort of confusion you describe. They usually get out of it very quickly though – because they’re young. Older dogs take longer to learn, and I suspect your dog has learned to stay by your side, and only recently have you begun to send it out to gather sheep. The dog will learn to do an outrun when you command it, but it’s going to take a while for it to get into the habit, simply because just like people, dogs learn more slowly as they get older.
      It sounds as though you’re doing the right things – but I would try to make working the sheep more exciting for the dog. Give her lots of encouragement – clapping hands, whistling, shushing, lots of praise etc – particularly when she’s actually doing an outrun. Start very gently at first, in case you ‘put her off’. Watch “Sometimes Nice is Not Enough” to see how I encourage the dog by increasing its excitement. If your dog is excited when she’s around sheep, she’ll be more eager to go to them.

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