Revisiting the Outhouse by Joel Levinson

Last year, I wrote a column about training the outrun. When I recently judged the Beardie National Specialty Herding Trial, it became clear to me that I needed to talk more about outruns, especially about their importance in a trial run. In a herding trial, the single biggest deduction that exists are deductions taken on the outrun. The two biggest deductions are crossing over during the outrun, and running straight up the middle. Both are listed in the AKC rulebook as up to -10. From my perspective, when either of those occurs, it sets up a wreck.

The outrun is one of the most important maneuvers in herding. Why? Because it is the outrun that sets up your dog’s introduction to the stock for the run. If that introduction is nice and calm, you’re set up for a nice, calm run. If your dog charges at the stock, that feeling the stock get will continue throughout the entire run.

During the BCCA Specialty Trial, I saw more crossovers than in any other trial I’ve ever judged. Lets define what a crossover is. It occurs when your dog starts on one side and ends the outrun by approaching the stock from the other side. For example, you send your dog from your left, and the dog approaches the stock from the right. In the AKC started course, the way the course was set up in Washington, the dog should have been set up on the right – otherwise, the dog is forced to run tightly along the fenceline to the stock. Now, the stock is trying to get back with their buddies in the pen, so they run to the fenceline as well – to lift the sheep, the dog is forced to cross over in order to lift them off the fenceline. When the dog does this, by the nature of the maneuver, they are more excited than if they ran straight along one line to the stock. Yet, at the trial, I saw several started handlers set their dog up on the left, forcing a crossover at the beginning of the run.

This is something to think about as you approach the handler’s post – which way should I send my dog? The answer is the way that will allow the best outrun. In some arenas, you’ll want to send against the pressure, so that the sheep can’t run to the repen. However, in the started class, you’ll want to send your dog toward the centerline, away from the fenceline, so that you won’t be forced into a crossover. Intermediate and advanced, its a different story.

So, remember – when you approach your handler’s post, think about the way to best send your dog to set your outrun up for your best run.

If you want to reread my original article on outruns, check out my website at dogs.html. All previous “Highland Herding” columns are in the “Dog Article” Librarary there.

Good Luck, and happy herding!

© 1999, by Joel Levinson

This article originally appeared in “Bagpipes”. Reprinted with permission of the author.