What Is a Flank?
I’d imagine that the regular readers are primarily stock dog people. As such I fully expect this post to bomb. But I write what’s on my mind and I’ve been thinking about flanks. To be clear, I’m talking about all flanks that exist outside of the outrun. Most people know that flanks are defined by the two commands; come-by or away-to-me. Or some variation on those commands for blasphemers. As a general rule we are looking for square flanks. We are looking for flanks where the dogs first step is sideways and not forward. That part of our training is almost second nature. But why is that important? Well I look at this way, a flank is the removal of pressure and a reapply somewhere else. It is probably the single most vital part of a stock dog. It’s one of the main things that separates stock dogs from the rest of the proverbial pack. If the dog crowds the stock on a flank they will always be chasing stock out of position every time you direct your dog. That’s anywhere, loading a trailer, trailing a set somewhere, emptying a pen. Stock hate being crowded. Just like we do. So they need to open up when they take a flank. There are some slight contradictions to this one to however. A square flank is kind of different from dog to dog and from stock to stock. Take a dog that has plenty of power, well it can't afford any slice at all. A dog that is weak almost needs to slice otherwise it won't hold onto its stock. Inversely, stock that is super flighty needs a dog to back off where as heavy moving stock probably need the constant pressure. That's where people have to be a super teacher. Don't train behaviours for the sake of the behaviour, teach stockmanship so your dog can read its situations and adapt to them. But never ever have patience for your dog chasing stock out of position or just as bad, not holding stock where it needs to be.