FIXING THE OUTRUN: CROSSING OVER

Question and Answer Forum from Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine

QUESTION: I have a dog that I sent to the trainer. He stayed 3 months and is fairly finished. While at the trainers he was going out really well on his outruns. Now that I have him home he is trying to cross-over about half-way up the field. This happens almost all of the time when I go to a new place and some of the time at home. How do I fix this problem?

ANSWER:

outrun_fig1After talking to various trainers about the why’s and how’s of this question, the decision of this office was to combine parts of all of the comments. To begin with a person has to be able to stop his dog anywhere. It is very difficult to get a dog to stop on his outrun. Since his early days of training, when he was sent around the stock, he was allowed to go completely on his own until he “got behind”. A good stop on a dog is important for these training steps to work for you. Work on your dog’s stop. Send him and after he travels out a few strides try to stop him. If you cannot stop him there, you can’t stop him when he is half way on his outrun. Once you have brushed him up on his stop and have him listening then you are ready to try to fix his cross-over problem. (Please note that the boundaries of the diagrams are not meant to be the fence. They are the boxes for the diagrams. Please ignore them.)
outrun_fig1AYou must keep in mind how you set the dog up before you send him. A dog that is standing straight away will more than likely run straight away. The dog needs to be at the correct angle to start off in the correct direction. It is necessary for the dog to see his livestock before you send him out. If you are always working on the same field, the dog will assume that he knows where the stock is positioned. Hence, he will think the same when you move him to new surroundings. If his outrun at home is 80 yards, he will be likely to assume that 80 yards is the distance in which he has to travel to find his stock. Ask him to “look” and make sure that he sees them before you send him. Do not wait until you go to work with the dog before you start teaching him to spot his stock up the field.
outrun_fig2Okay here goes. You have your dog stopping good, he is properly set-up and looking up the field at his stock. Send him. A good thing to tell him is to `Get Back”. As he is going out you watch him, and watch him close. After he starts out he needs to begin to open up. When he lets himself begin to get tight, as he is running out he will likely get tighter the closer he approaches the stock. A lot of handlers cannot recognize when their dog starts to cut in on his arch. Do not wait too long. (Figure 1) If you wait, the dog will be pointing the wrong direction. It will be much harder to open him up if this happens. The second the dog starts to cut in, you stop him and I mean shut down.
outrun_fig3Start walking at an angle up the field (Figure 1A) keeping him on the ground right where you had him stopped. Do not walk directly towards your dog. When you are almost parallel to the dog, flank him back around you with a “Come by! Get back” (Figure 2). The dog should begin to widen back out on that flank command. When he gets to the position where X marks the spot in Figure 2, stop him again. (This is where your stop is so important. You need to be able to recognize the proper place to stop the dog. If he will not stop immediately, he will not be in the proper position for you to be able to correct this problem.).

Hopefully with the “Away – Get back” command your dog will open up and widen out to travel at a good distance in relation to his stock to complete his outrun. (Figure 3).

With time the dog will catch on. The key things to remember are:

1.) not to let the dog start to cut in to the stock. Make a conscious effort to be able to recognize this when it first begins. (Cutting in is a very common problem. This technique also works well with a dog that cuts in on his flanks.)

2.) be able to stop your dog anywhere.

3.) Teach your dog to look for his stock

4.) Set your dog up properly.

this article was first published in Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine June/July 1996