Question: . . . . I’ve tried to make the dog work as simple as possible by never asking the dog to do anything but bring cattle to me. If I do what I think is pushing him, it is only to send him back around or toward another group, animal, etc. which he then brings to me.
The more I experiment with pushing, the more I’m not certain I understand the concept, or maybe the actual workings. I think I get it for a while, and then I hit a snag and have to reconsider. For me, the easiest dogs are ones that don’t really want to be caught or quit working.
Answer: As I said dog questions are interesting, the words we use are also interesting. Most of the time what people say will tell me much of what the problem is. When people write they have time to think and will use less words, then it is much harder to know what the problem really is. The question was “I’ve got a dog that suddenly won’t push away very easily”. I assumed, wrongly, that you meant the dog would not push the cattle away from you. That’s what most people want, a dog that helps drive and they will let the dog work in front of them, then they can see what the dog is doing.
Why you are having trouble with pushing this dog in this situation and probably others is that you are trying to use it as a command to send the dog or to get the dog to do something besides just moving away. Take this as teaching not criticizing the way you or other people do. The first time a pup starts to work the pushing away is to start letting the dog learn commands without stopping the dog from working. When a young dog is working just move to that spot slow or fast, don’t say anything, just take that spot away from him. When you are moving at the dog it can move to another spot, any spot not just the one you pick, and can still keep working. That means even if the dog is working where we don’t want, it can be moved to where we want it and not have to stop working. When a young dog is made to stop working that’s like punishing him for working. That’s why the easiest dog for you to work is the one that really doesn’t want to be caught or stop working. After a few times of doing this, when you start toward the dog you can say some word that you will use later to move the dog. The dog has learned to move away when you move toward it, now it hears the word or command. After a time or two you can just say the word and the dog will move to another spot to work. That’s what “pushing” the dog is and how to use it. After the dog learns the command then use that command only when the dog is working and you want it to move to another spot to work. Don’t use “pushing” to send the dog as this will only confuse him. With a little thought it is possible to teach many things to a dog that has learned to be pushed, without really – pushing the dog. When training an animal most of the things used to train the animal should not be used after the animal is trained. Now people use a round pen when training a horse, at some time they will quit using the round pen, probably the sooner the better.
Pushing the young dog has only one purpose, that is to let the dog learn commands without making it stop working. As soon as the dog learns the commands quit thinking about pushing until the next young dog. A dog that is started this way is easy to teach many things because they get a chance to learn and still keep working. When the young dog is doing something wrong and he is made to stop working, that’s when problems start. Teach them to mind and not run wild, but also learn how to teach without stopping them from working. Let animals learn how to do what we want them to do, instead of trying to make them do what we want them to do, then it will be easy to make them do things without them thinking you are “making” them.