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The Working Australian Shepherd:  The Aussie Outrun and Style

by Terry Martin, from the Ranch Dog Trainer, Feb/Mar 1997, pp. 38-42

"Most people in the dog world think of an outrun as the beautiful wide sweep the Border Collie trial dog makes to go out and around his sheep.  He hits the balance point directly behind the sheep, often lays down on the ground and then comes in to fetch the sheep in a straight line to the handler.  When the dog leaves the handler he is in a dead run, not toward the sheep but out in the direction he is sent and remains wide so as not to disturb the stock until he approaches them to begin the lift.

Think of it this way: the wide working, strong eye breeds sense an invisible circle drawn around the stock; they are working this circle and their instinct puts them outside that circle unless they have to move within it to move the stock.  When you send a dog to the left, his instinct will usually keep him outside that imaginary circle or well off the stock.  The typical Aussie does not see that circle because his instinct does not work that way.  He is working the stock themselves and is drawn to them. 

If you want your Aussie to do a beautiful wide outrun, remember that this is not his natural working style.  If you want him to cast out
and bring in cattle that are two miles away this also is not his natural working style. 

We have all seen dogs sent on an outrun that looks mechanical with the dog having to be constantly reminded by commands to stay out
wide.  This is because you have taught him an action, but that action does not come naturally to him. 

Because the Aussie is not a strong eyed breed of dog, they need closer contact with the stock to remain in the game.  If you watch
the dog closely during his training you can determine where you lose your dog and where his work starts to become mechanical.  When he is simply obeying your direction instead of using his instinct, you are losing your dog.  Training should enhance instinct, not cover it up.

I had one rancher who works both Border Collies and Aussies tell me their BC's will look farther away for stock than their Aussie.  This
is partially because Aussies are a loose-eyed breed to begin with and also, because they have a strong desire to be with their masters.

Once you train your Aussie to go to stock a long distance away, it is very unlikely he will stay out wide on a long outrun.  This breed
is effective on range cattle because of their readiness to handle confrontation and their ability and desire to use force and work in
close.  As I have said before, good dogs learn with experience even more than from formal training about when they should use force and
when they should not.  The very fact that the Aussie is drawn to confrontation and works close makes him less than the ideal dog to
do a picture perfect outrun.  It is not impossible, but it is not what he was developed for.  The same instincts also make him better
at bringing home stubborn cattle you just wore your horse out trying to control.

Those who have trained different breeds to work cattle and are really successful with more than one breed, have learned to understand the differences and most of all, to respect these differences.


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