A GLOSSARY OF HERDING TERMS AND COMMANDS
balance point The correct positions of the dog, stock and handler relative to each other, and the dog’s sense of where this is. Also refers to the point at which the stock will move away from the dog quietly. Varies extremely with species and tameness. Finding the balance point is essential to correct rating. Also refers to the point where the stock will STOP moving, ie where they feel pinned (as against a fence) but not so pressured that they will try to escape. This is often in reference to the draw as well as stock tameness. The balance point is also the point at which the stock are balanced between the handler and the dog (ie, if the handler is at twelve o’clock, the dog is classically at six o’clock, with the stock in the middle), in a fetch. When the handler moves laterally (clockwise or counterclockwise), the dog will instinctively move away, around the edge of the circle to keep the balance point the same.
biddability The biddable dog is one who will take commands easily and is willing to please.
clap (verb) instinctive dropping to the ground when at the balance point, associated with the stalking behavior of strong-eyed herding breeds.
contact “out of contact” is used to describe a dog which is either too far away or too unfocused, so that he is not reading and reacting to the stock, nor them to him. “In contact” describes a dog which is putting the correct amount of pressure and attention on his stock. The point of contact for loose-eyed dogs is typically closer than for strong eyed dogs.
cover (verb) to keep the stock all together, to push the group together by wearing. instinctive.
cross drive (noun) the part of driving in a trial where the dog is moving the stock across the end of the arena or field, lateral to the handler.
dog-broke (noun) stock that is accustomed to being worked with dogs.
draw (noun) whatever the stock is drawn towards—exhaust pens, home pasture, other stock, feed, uphill, etc.
drive (verb) to move the stock away from the handler in a given direction, or simply to move the stock somewhere.
drop and drift driving technique in which, once the stock are moving in the right direction, the dog is told to lie down until the stock have run out of gas. Then the dog is sent on again. A fault in ASCA trials (may result in loss of ‘control’ points).
eye instinctive staring at stock, or, the whole complex of stalking behavior highly developed in Border Collies and some Kelpies. Dogs with a lot of eye have a tendency to stay just OUTSIDE the balance point and manipulate stock from a distance. They also have a tendency to want to stop the motion of the stock. Dogs with less of this quality tend to come inside the balance point, and tend to want to keep the stock in motion. See strong-eyed.
fetch (verb) to bring the stock to the handler, preferably in a straight line. Also a particular part of trials, “the fetch”. A “fetching” breed is one which has a natural tendency to do this (most stockdog breeds).
flank go around the stock in a given direction. Used as both verb (to flank, flanking) and noun (take a flank, short flank).
flipping out or flipping away when changing direction, to turn away from the stock instead toward it. a bad habit, hard to cure.
gather (verb) to bunch the stock, also to move it toward the handler.
get to head to continue on an arc outside the flock to the point that the lead animal on that side turns toward the handler, or turns in the wanted direction. Until that happens, the dog has not gotten to head. A natural driving dog has little inclination to get to head; a natural fetching dog has a strong instinct to get to head. Once they have done so, they will instinctively turn and go to the opposite side to turn the lead animal on that side (the continual action called wearing).
head (verb) to turn the stock, or to stop them going in a direction. also, to grip on the head.
heavy (adj) tame, slow-moving stock. could also challenge a dog.
heel (verb) to grip on the heel.
grip biting to move stubborn stock. A dog must be willing to grip to move cattle and goats, and some sheep. Where the dog grips is inherited, whether the nose or the poll (heading) or high or low on the leg (heeling). Many dogs will head but not heel or vice versa. Gripping routinely in an inappropriate place such as the ear, neck, or flank is an inherited flaw.
inside flank (noun) go around the stock between them and the handler.
lift (noun and verb) the initial push the dog exerts from behind the stock to move them toward the handler. The lift is the end of the outrun.
light (adj) shy stock that move easily from a dog, sometimes panicky. Requires a dog to work from farther away.
loose-eyed (adj) a dog that works upright, without crouching or overt staring. The opposing term is strong-eyed. Loose-eyed dogs tend to work closer to their stock, tend to desire to keep the stock moving, and tend to be more naturally comfortable in close quarters such as stockyards, chutes, and pens, than dogs with strong eye.
outrun (noun, verb) the initial movement of the dog around the stock to gather and fetch them. should be wide enough both to not scare them in the wrong direction, and enough to see all the stock to be gathered. The ideal outrun for sheep is a semi-circle which is wider at the top (‘pear shaped’), to avoid spooking the herd in the wrong direction.
penning moving stock into a pen or holding area.
power (noun) the confidence the dog emanates, which the stock immediately judges. A very powerful dog may have to work farther off the stock than a weak dog. Power is essential for moving cattle and some sheep. Not the same as intensity, which is simply the amount of energy and focus the dog has; stock may be unimpressed by intensity if it is not backed up by power.
pressure (noun) can be exerted by the handler on the dog, or by the dog on the stock, or by the handler on the stock: whatever causes movement away. The trained and biddable dog is responsive to the handler’s pressure on him. The instinctive dog continuously exerts the correct amount of pressure on the stock to keep them controlled.
pull (verb) to back up with the stock between you and the dog while the dog keeps fetching the stock toward you.
pushy (adj) a typical fault of green dogs. A “pushy” dog will tend to work too close and move the stock too fast.
rate (verb) to adapt to the stock’s natural pace so as to move the group calmly and without panic, splitting the group, etc. Some dogs have this naturally, some must be taught.
sense of group (noun) instinctive trait of a good stockdog to want to keep a whole herd or flock together.
send (verb) to direct the dog to make an outrun. Also (noun), in trialing, the first part of the course, ‘the send’.
shed (verb) to separate one individual from the flock. Also (noun) in sheepdog trials, part of the advanced course, ‘the shed’.
short (adj) to habitually not get to head before changing direction. often on one side only.
side (noun) synonymous with ‘flank command’, as in “my dog knows his sides”.
soft (noun) over-sensitive, needs a light touch or may quit working. Mostly refers to dog’s relationship to its handler.
split (verb) running into the middle of a flock and causing them to scatter. Or, a deliberate use of the dog by the shepherd to divide the flock.
square flank (noun) when changing direction, to do so on the same arc, not cutting in toward the stock.
sticky (adj) sheep that cluster around the handler and are hard for the dog to drive. also called pantleg sheep or kneeknockers. Can also refer to a dog that eyes stock so excessively it becomes hypnotized and frozen. Strong-eyed dogs may do this.
strong-eyed (adj) working style in which the dog influences the stock by an intense gaze and stalking behavior. Converse term is loose-eyed. See eye.
wear (verb) the automatic action of the dog moving side to side in an arc behind the stock to keep the group gathered and moving.
Every trainer, or at least every school of training, has a slightly different set of commands. Some command words mean different things to different trainers; as long as you are consistent your dog won’t be confused. The below are some of the most common usages:
to send the dog on an outrun: a directional command (i.e.“Go Bye” or “Way t’me”), or “sshhhh”, or“get around”, or“get behind”
go clockwise (from the handler’s left and around the stock): “go bye” (also spelled “go by”), or “come by” (or “come bye”)
go counter-clockwise (from the handler’s right and around the stock): “way to me” or “way t’me” or “way to”
come in toward the handler: “here” or “come in”
come in directly toward the stock: “walk up” or “walk in” or “go in”
stop wearing, turn in toward the stock, and move them in the direction they are pointing: “there”
stand still: “stay” or “stand” or “there”
hold the stock right there: “stay” or “stand” or “watch ‘em” or “there”
hurry up: “sshhh”
slow down, walk: “steady” or “take time” or “easy”
come through the stock at the point I’m indicating, or, come through any tight spot such as between the stock and a fence: “through” or “here, through”
lie down: “lie down” or “down”
start working the stock again (release from a stay or lie down): (directional command) or “okay” or “walk up”
knock off the misbehavior: “get out of that”
pay attention, listen again: (dog’s name),“no”
kick out away from the stock: “out” or “get out” or “get back”
get back to your side of the stock: “get back” , “get around”
turn away from your stock and look for missing ones: “look back”
go in and grip: “hit ‘em”, “ssskit-em”, “git ’em“, or “take hold”
work’s over, time to quit: “that’ll do” (also used to mean, ‘come to me’)