In herding terms, “wear” is when a dog will move from side to side to group stock, let’s say sheep, and push it forward in a specific direction. The action can be as subtle as the dog turning her head to put pressure on a particular ram or ewe to make it get back with the group, but it might also mean the dog moving all the way across the back of a large flock and up the sides to keep the group together, but moving forward. One of the “best in the business” at this is the Australian Shepherd who typically show a lot of “wear.” These dogs are upright workers who stay close to the stock and typically work silently, but will bark at stock to assert authority, or heel low and grip on the nose or face, if necessary.
We once read about a helpful “visual aid,” and that was to imagine a herding dog working an invisible circle around the stock. If the dog can put pressure on the sides of the circle to have the stock respond accordingly, she’ll stay outside the circle. Depending upon the “eye” of the dog, some circles might be ten, fifteen or twenty feet outside the perimeter of the herd. An Australian Shepherd, however, sees this invisible circle as drawn right against the animals, so she’s working the animals themselves, not the circle, and therefore, her instinct is to get closer before she’s confident that she has control of the situation. A wide outrun is not the Aussie’s natural style.
We always defer to breed experts, and if you have experience herding with the Australian Shepherd, we’d love to hear from you.