The Outrun (Parts 1-3)


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

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

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.

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).

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.

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 go out much wider.


  1. Hi Andy
    I have whached the videos about outruns and I think I understand what it´s all about. But my dog reacts a bit strange. When I stand close to the sheep and she is about 50 meter away she goes out very nicely espacially to the right.
    But when she is by my side and I send her away she just sneeks very slowly up to the sheep.
    I have tryed to make a video to show you what I meen. I hope you can whatch it an comment,
    It´s on youtube, look for: Per Dog Freja Hedstrom.
    Per hedström

    1. Sometimes, when I get questions like yours, I wonder whether I’m explaining things correctly…
      The outrun tutorials are there to show you how to stand in the correct position to encourage the dog to go out wide. They show that when you stand close to the sheep the dog will go out wide around you, and when you are further away from the sheep, the dog will either go straight towards the sheep – or in other cases, go out a little, and then cross over.
      Where did I go wrong? Please watch the videos again – especially the part where I explain that you need to find the correct distance between yourself, the dog, and the sheep, to get the dog to go out correctly. What you describe is precisely what I’m talking about in the videos.
      When I searched for “Per Dog Freja Hedstrom” on YouTube there was a great number of videos there which have nothing to do with sheepdog training. If you’d like me to watch a video, please provide a link to it.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I don´t think yoy need to see my video. My dog reacts exacly like you say. So we will keep up our traning as you show in your videos. And they are very pedagogocal and easy to understand.

  2. Hi Andy
    Thanks for your turturials, that I find usefull. I have a dog, that is 14 months old. I have trained him after your videos – as well as posible. Nighter me or the sheep are very experienced.
    I have the problem, that the sheep try to escape, when the distance to me and the dog is too long – mabye 3 – 4 meters. The dog then chase the sheep, split them up and bite. I know, that the sheep escape because the dog bites – and the dog bites because the sheep try to escape. I have told the dog no! every time, but… Now I got the idea to punish the dog for chasing and biting by stopping the training, and take the dog away from the sheep. Can the dog unterstand that? What do you think about that idea?

    1. Do you mean 30-40 metres, Malene? I hope so! If the dog is splitting the sheep up and biting them at 3-4 metres, it hasn’t learned very much!
      Assuming you mean 30-40 metres, if the dog is splitting the sheep and attacking them, it’s because the dog’s not confident working at that distance, so it reverts to it’s basic hunting instinct.
      Reduce the distance of the outrun to one at which the dog will work well, and then very GRADUALLY increase the distance – to build the dog’s confidence.
      Watch all three Outrun Tutorials – and if you really did mean 3-4 metres, watch Starting a Strong Dog for help with that.

  3. Hello Andy, I think I am very lucky to have a 7 months old pup, who naturally keeps her distance to the sheep. She never rushes into the sheep and circles around the sheep very nicely. Would you still encourage her with the stick to stay out? Thanks, Britta

    1. I only use the stick when I need to, Britta. If the dog doesn’t need it, of course, I don’t use it, because the dog must eventually learn to work without any artificial guidance from the handler, but the stick does so much more than keep the dog out away from the sheep. For example, it’s very useful for showing the dog (by blocking) which way you want it to go – and for stopping the dog.

    2. I only use the stick when I need to, Britta. If the dog doesn’t need it, of course, I don’t use it, because the dog must eventually learn to work without any artificial guidance from the handler, but the stick does so much more than keep the dog out away from the sheep. For example, it’s very useful for showing the dog (by blocking) which way you want it to go – and for stopping the dog.

    3. Dear Andy,
      I have a question to the dogs Position:
      When I send Ben clockwise, he starts to hesitate at 11 o clock, If I send him anticlockwise, He overflanks Till 11 again. He brings the sheep to me, but Most of the time He has to juggle them from Side to Side…

      I can make Ben circle the sheep, but I have to continue the Command a lot to encourage him. How can I Support him to find the real Point of balance and Stick to that? Do you have any ideas?
      Thank you so much foryour Tutorials, I Took a lot from Them for my Training.

      Thanks, steffi

      1. I think you may be trying to progress to fast, too soon. The dog should flank equally well both ways during training but it’s natural for the dog to favour one direction or the other in the early stages of training (rather like us being left or right-handed). Work the dog on its weakest flank whenever possible (but of course, send it the other way occasionally to break the monotony).

        My general rule is: if the task is easy (sheep well away from a fence and not far away) send the dog its worst way. If the task is difficult (sheep on a fence or in a corner etc) send the dog it’s best way. Keep doing this until the flanks are equally good both ways.

        Once the dog’s flanks are balanced up, it might still “over” or “under” flank though, depending on the nature of the sheep and the ground.
        Watch “Balance – What’s the Point?” for more on this.

        Well done for teaching the dog to circle the sheep on command – it’s not easy, but it’s very useful!

  4. I have a problem that I haven’t been able to find the answers for in your videos.
    My dog Finn, when sent on an outrun where the sheep are out of sight, will slow down or stop in the crouch position when she sees them, waiting for me to catch up to her position. I then send her out from there, and if it’s a short outrun she’ll do it, but if it’s farther, will repeat the behavior. She does most other work fine, including driving but this is difficult. If, as in your outrun video, I get between her and the sheep and then ask, she does a nice outrun, but when there’s a big distance between she and the sheep, she always stops…

    Usually this is an indication of lack of interest or motivation, but it seems to to me to be perhaps a lack of confidence.

    Any ideas? Relevant videos? Maybe a new video?

    1. It’s a lack of confidence, Ian. If the dog stops on its outrun, you’re sending it too far, too soon.

      Reduce the distance to build the dog’s confidence that way, and only increase the distance very slowly. Watch the “Sometimes nice is not enough” tutorial to build Finn’s confidence still more. You’ll see in the tutorial, how to give the dog a command to speed it up. You should use this command just before the point where he’s likely to slow down or stop on his outrun (or at any other time when he’s likely to get worried).

      Until the dog’s reliable on its outrun when it can see the sheep, avoid sending it to sheep it can’t see. Then, if possible, try to gently re-introduce the situation where they are out of sight – but maybe only just out of sight. Perhaps you can see them (quite close) but the dog can’t (for just a few yards).

      It’s all about introducing things like this slowly. To some dogs it’s no problem if the sheep are out of sight, but to others, it’s a major issue.
      Take your time, and Finn will be OK with it before long but the more you allow it to happen, the more Finn will accept it as a safe way to work, and the harder it will be to get him out of it.

  5. Hi Andy, My first sheep herding video that I purchased was your “First Steps in Border Collie Sheepdog Training “. It stood me really well as a first time handler and using your pen system I was able to start my pup quite nicely. I’ve now used the system with many dogs and am successful with most of them. One Kelpie was a problem! We’ve run into some difficulty with outruns with some of the dogs which have learned to slice because our sheep are so dogged. All the fields we use are fenced and none are as large as yours in the videos. Typically our sheep either run to a fence or to the handler. This causes the dogs to come up short on their outruns.

    Recently I took six of our “hurdles” and made a holding pen for the sheep to work on our outruns. I have one friend that is willing to experiment with me and we take turns opening the pen once the dog is correct in the shape of their outrun. It has worked amazingly well so far. I’ve even tried it with ducks on my own and when the dog is correct I pull a rope to release the ducks. We are seeing rapid and amazing improvement in our other work. The dogs are staying wider and they are quickly getting a better understanding of what out means.

    Can you think of any reason not to try this?

    Nancy Creel
    Bozeman, Montana

    1. Hello Nancy. Strictly speaking, what you suggest is not necessary (I think you may be trying to extend the outrun more quickly than the dog is ready for) but your idea of a pen to hold the sheep or ducks is great! You could even pen the sheep but “jam” the front hurdle in place (with rope attached) so that the hurdle holds the sheep until you pull on the rope and then it falls down and releases the sheep! This would probably allow you to work on your own (but I’d still prefer to advance the dog’s training in line with it’s confidence and competence).

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