There is a young woman at the barn where Remington lives who has been recently challenged with her young dog Lucy (who accompanies her every day to the barn). Lucy has become more aggressive towards people, barking and charging at them. The young woman asked for my help, to get a read on why Lucy has become so hard to handle.
It was instantly clear that Lucy is getting mixed messages from her person as well as a lack of consistency with training. Lucy knows she’s not supposed to bark at people, yet doesn’t understand why sometimes it’s okay and sometimes it’s not. (Her person is busy riding horses much of the time while Lucy is inside the dog-pen area…..which means she isn’t there to correct Lucy’s barking). It was also clear that more than anything, Lucy wants to please her person. She’s now fearful that she will not only get in trouble, but that she’ll be misunderstood for her need to protect and guard (which is her main motivation for barking.)
I explained that one of the most important things to animals is consistency, especially when training a young dog, cat, horse. When we become lax in our efforts to provide consistent, loving support (whether it be in the form of training, creating reliable daily schedules or being clear with what we expect from our animal partners), we set them up for failure.
Much as we rely on our animal friends to provide us consistent joy, affection and a deep emotional connection, they need us to give them consistent direction and leadership. When we give them this commitment, not only are we rewarded with their devotion and trust, but they are given a life filled with purpose and confidence.