This has been a thread on the working dog list. I have read it with much interest. My Kilt is a pushy, tense bitch. She was more than I could handle early on and still is for that fact. But, how much do I love her, let me count the ways. :0) Anyway, back to being pushy, the consensus is to stop them, let the sheep drift when pushing too hard and every time they go to pick up pace, to make sure they slow back down to a walk. This was the advice of Kilt's breeder quite some time ago, but I didn't have my own sheep and it required more skills than I had.
The other possible reason for pushing that was discussed was because of a "lack" of confidence. Even though the tougher the sheep are, the more Kilt will push and the less likely she is to listen to me, it is possibly due to a lack of confidence. This has crossed my mind as I get wiser about working these wonderful dogs. One would think if you can lift range sheep, you have a ton of confidence. I don't think that is necessarily so.
I think Kilt's tenseness comes from trying to be one up on her sheep all of the time. I'm not really sure. I know you can't take the push out of her. I try to run her miles before I trial her. You can beat her over the head with a correction and she will show little remorse, because she is so wired into her sheep. She has been very difficult for me to trial. At home, she works like a top. She is my right arm for ranch work.
Finally, we are starting to work together. Starting.....key word. I have been having her keep back as much as 50 feet plus off her sheep. She'd like to snow shovel them along. There is NO worry about taking the PUSH out of this bitch. I don't think it can be done. The one great asset about this bitch is her "stamina." She is like the energizer bunny...keeps on going and going...
Today, I walked her on her drive for two 15 minute sessions. Every time she got too close, I laid her down, every time she started to jog, I gave her a "time" and got her to walk again. Every time she was walking at a decent pace I would give her a "there" in my nicest voice. Kilt kept looking at me like I had lost my mind and I kept reassuring her that I hadn't. Once I saw her try to walk like she had springs on her feet, another time I saw her walk as fast as I have ever seen her walk. And, one fabulous time I saw her start to get too close to the sheep and she laid herself down!!!
Now I'm sure "eye" plays a part in this,too. I have never understood eye in it's entirety. I do know that dogs with lots of eye seem to be able to pace themselves. Jet and Yoko are petty loose eyed, but both are fairly relaxed type of dogs working stock, so they keep a fair distance. Both are more of followers than pushers like Kilt. Kilt has more eye than both, but still pushes sheep up their arses. She has little concept of maintaining a respectable distance. Possibly, her bloodline? Don't know.
This means I'm going to be doing alot of walking. It is very time consuming, but I'm hoping it will pay off. I am also doing miles of walking to try to get Yoko, Kilt's daughter, to "feel" her sheep. I ask for slow and fast walking and just walking saying absolutely nothing unless she drifts to the head. Occasionally, I shed a couple of sheep away from a group and let her feel the pressure of pushing two sheep that want back to the group. This most definitely creates feel. Without it, she will lose them to the group.
I think that's why I like to work/train my own dogs. It's a huge puzzle trying to work on all of the angles, trying to figure out what makes each dog tick. Too bad I have to work for a living. It would be so fun to be able to take the dogs out daily to train.
But, we sure are having fun working on it. :0)