Covering or Over Flanking
By Claudia Frank

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When looking at a flock of sheep or other livestock spread out over a large pasture you develop an imaginary line that your dog will need to cover to get from where you are to where the lift point on the livestock will be accomplish turning them straight toward you. If this is a pasture you frequently gather and the livestock are the same often handled the imaginary path you visualize is more than likely based on previous experiences actually watching the draws, changes in ground cover, etc. as you have experienced before.

If the current situation is new to you and your dog you may not read the draws correctly.
A question that may come to mind especially if you are a new trainer or have a young less experienced dog … just where should the lift point be located ?

Looking at Figure 1 you can see the dog has hit the point that stops the sheep from moving toward the draw. What determines whether the dog has “over flanked” or “covered” will be the next move the sheep make.

If as the dog walks forward, (see Figure 2), the livestock turn away from the dog and go in the opposite direction the dog has taken control of the sheep BUT is not doing the primary purpose of the pasture gather and that is bringing them to you. The next move the dog makes should be to flank back in the other direction to again stop the sheep’s draw to the now left and head them in your direction. If the dog is brash and forward in its actions it could again over flank heading the stock back in the other direction again. This action wastes a lot of energy on the dog’s part and probably is very upsetting to the livestock as well.

To be correct in his lift the dog must position himself so as he steps forward he affects the livestock to turn toward you, (See Figure 3.) Once the initial movement starts correctly the dog may need to reposition himself more behind the group to continue the whole movement toward you.

Often a dog will make a habit of over flanking because the new trainer thinks that because the dog has stopped the livestock from heading toward the draw if is covering the stock. When a dog is trained to understand that it is their job to find the exact place they need to stop and move forward to bring the stock directly it becomes the dog’s responsibility. This ability to find that exact place is ever so important on new pastures and challenging trial fields.

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Figure 1   Figure 2   Figure 3

Page Updated 12/20/2010

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