The "Eye" issue

Some Australian Shepherds can, and do, show "eye" in varying degrees.  Some Aussies use eye quite often; some never use it.  Most typically, one will see an increase in the amount of eye used by Aussies during situations of challenge or intensity.  The Australian Shepherd is not known as an "eye breed", like the Border Collie or Kelpie.  Please see a more thorough explanation of "Types of Eye," at

However, when Aussies show "strong eye," it can never be confused with the "strong eye" of breeds such as the Kelpie or Border Collie.  Typically, the "eye" of these breeds is never turned off (as it is in the Aussies) whether the stock is moving is not.

*The comparative photographs and illustrations on this website were chosen to present a visual of working style. Because the photographs are taken at 1/125th of a second, they are not intended to depict the overall natural style of the particular dog shown.

"Aussie eye can be completely loose (no stare), or with a high degree of concentration.  The one main thing about Aussie eye, they use it when needed then turn it off and work relaxed yet still not losing concentration.  Aussie eye is deliberate and straight forward and they will back it up with bite.  There is NO lateral front end movement with Aussie eye." --Sherry Baker, Twin Oaks kennel, Ranch Dog Trainer magazine article excerpt.  (read more)

"That I isolate the BC and Kelpie as the only two "eye" breeds probably brings some of you out of your chairs wanting to get physical.  Don't despair.  Let me go further into this truthful statement.  My many decades of experience going to the dogs would tell me that most likely every other breed of dog has "eye" and exhibits "eye" under certain but limited situations, but the two breeds I mention, the BC and the Kelpie are the only two herding breeds that use "eye" continuously when they are herding."  --Red Oliver, Ranch Dog Trainer magazine article excerpt.  (read more)

"A certain amount of eye (apparent when a dog drops his head ever so slightly and stares at the cattle), is beneficial because it is a form of concentration and helps to develop steadiness in the dog.  Too much eye causes a dog to be sticky, with so much hesitance in the dog's approach to cattle that it lacks power." --excerpt from The Australian Shepherd as a Working Cowdog, by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle From Aussie Times article, Jan/Feb 1994, pp. 59 -65

Mouse over the drawing at right to see an example of how an Aussie might look when using "Aussie Eye."

The three photographs below show Pepper, Mini Acre Peppermint Patti, whelped 1974.

The photograph above unfortunately does not show what Pepper is "eyeing..." a steer who is thinking seriously about challenging the dog's authority.

(Above) The unseen steer in the top photo, getting an answer to his challenge.

(Above) Same dog, different challenge, loose-eyed.

Above, Aussie using eye on the approach.  Notice that the sheep are looking at him. 

Slash V Spirit of Aggieland DOB 10/17/81, shown using standing eye with head higher than shoulders.  Again, notice that he is being challenged by the ram of the group. 

(Above) Windsong's City Rhythm, "Rip," whelped 1979, using eye during a challenge.  See aftereffects below.

(Above) The answer to the challenge.

(Above, photo by Steve Winn) The Aussie uses eye and remains upright as he steps forward and the bull steps backward away from the pressure.

(Above) Upright Aussie eye on sheep prior to the approach.


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