Fixing the Outrun: Initial Shaping

By February 17, 2015August 31st, 2017No Comments


Question and Answer Forum from Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine

by H.J. Cannon Jr. and Kent Kuykendall

In most training articles the pup always gets on the back side of the sheep and they proceed from that point. I have a young dog that runs straight to the sheep and chases them. She will cut one out and try to run it down. I have had a hip replaced twice and I’m not speedy enough to run to cut her off. I now use a small ring with four or five sheep. If I try to push her out, when she gets to me she will drop. Then, when I ‘shhhssss’ her, she dives straight into the sheep and flushes them. From that point I can gradually get her to circle the sheep both ways and stop her on the back side then get her to walk up and fetch them to me. But I just don’t see how to get her past running straight in and start her on short outruns.

H. J. Cannon, Jr. Texas. Mr. Cannon has been training and working in sheep dog trials anywhere from twenty-five to thirty years. He’s always trained and worked his own dogs in trials, and has been doing custom training for the last four or five years. He keeps four to five dogs in training at all times plus two or three young dogs of his own and says he “never seems to get caught up”. He also does exhibitions and demonstrations at rodeos, and fairs as well -as hosts clinics, trials, and fun days at his farm.

I always try to use gentle dog broke sheep, some breed of white sheep: Rambouillet, Delaine, or whatever kind of sheep is easiest to get hold of in my area. I never use Suffolk or black faced sheep with a young dog.

When I start a young dog, there are three important commands I must have established: A good stop; a good stay; and also a come to me. I always try to stay between the dog and sheep and stay close to my sheep. I usually use a half inch PVC pipe or fishing pole to keep the dogs from running in and bursting the flock. I bump the pole on the ground in front of the dog, maybe bump him on the toes to keep him out wide if he insists on coming in too close.-But I never hit the dog with the pole. On the first few days out I don’t try to command them, just get them circling and keeping the sheep balanced to me. If that doesn’t work and the dog continues to burst the flock, I have used a feed sack instead of using a pole to keep them off the sheep. I shake the feed sack at them to keep them off the sheep and break their power of concentration of running in and bursting the flock.

When I have the right and left commands down, or have my dog circling and balancing the sheep to me, then I start working on short outruns. I have an eight or ten foot short rope on the dog. When I down my dog, I step to one side. If I step to the left, I give my dog the “come by” command and give a little jerk on the rope and that makes the dog go around me. After I do this two or three days, I gradually increase my distance and when I give a command, I give the dog a light tug on the rope and he will take his command and go out around me and the sheep.

After I have a good down and stay command, I can then get out thirty or forty
feet from the dog and give the dog a right or left command. I use a small area to work in and after doing this a few days, I can gradually increase my distance, and I finally get to where I can send my dog out from my side.

I get my square flanking commands on the dog by using the rope and stepping out to one side and make the dog go outside around me. I always start on short outruns close to the sheep and as my dog improves, I gradually increase my outruns. I always work in the same area with my dog until I have my dog doing good in that area before I got to another pasture or change flocks of sheep.

It usually takes twenty-five to thirty days to get an average dog to where it will make short outruns, with a good stop on the back and fetch.

Kent Kuykendall, Franklinville, NC. Kent trained his first Border Collie 18 years ago. He now raises and trains Border Collies full time. He attends a few trials when he can get away from the farm, and also does clinics and demonstrations.

First, I don’t think this dogs is ready for outruns. Start with the dog lying down, well off the sheep. You walk to the other side of the sheep. As you back up, ask her to get up and let her bring the sheep to you. (Cut yourself some one-and-a-half foot lengths of garden hose and keep them ready.) If she looks like she is coming in, or starts coming to you, “down” her. If she refuses to down, throw a hose in front of her to enforce the down, without having to run at her. Try not to let the sheep pass you because your dog will want to come around to head the sheep. As you walk back while she is holding the sheep to you, walk around the sheep and ask her to flank. If she cuts in, throw a piece of hose between her and the sheep and say “back” to get her off the sheep. Or if she runs to you, throw a hose and say “back” to make her go back.

Only flank your dog when there is plenty of distance between her and the sheep, by lying her down and letting the sheep drift away from her. Remember that it is easier to keep a dog off the sheep than it is to get one to move farther off the sheep. After a flank the dog should be allowed to work the sheep to you and hold balance to you. Walk back and let the dog work on its own after each flank. Only after I have proper flanks and good control do I start outruns.

To start short outruns, I would let the dog bring the sheep up to me and lie her down. I also stop and let the sheep drift past me only a few yards. As I ask her to flank, I will step away from the direction of the flank, but ready to step towards the dog or throw a hose if she cuts in or runs towards me. I never force a dog to flank wide around me because after they run around me I am out of position to push them off the sheep. Make her stay off the sheep all the way around to the heads of the sheep, then down her and walk to the spot where she started from. Ask her to get up and let her bring the sheep to you. Repeat this, gradually increasing the distance that you are sending her. Don’t ask her to go too far too soon. Take your time and keep yourself in position to prevent a problem instead of waiting for it to happen.

Using the pieces of hose will give you an edge on her without having to move fast to get to her.

this article was first published in the February/March 1992 issue of Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine