Controlled Motivation, dog trainer.

The Squash player, the Surfer and the Scooba Diver – Motivation

The Squash player, the Surfer and the Scooba Diver – Motivation

This might seem like a strange heading for a Blog Article on Dog Training and Behaviour but it certainly has a purpose and there is a very important lesson to be learned from it, so sit down with a coffee and enjoy as I tell you the tail of these three gentlemen and your new business.

You decide to go into business for yourself making (insert whatever product or service you like). You design a business plan and in that plan you know that you need to hire a staff member.

So you place an add where you do to find employees and you get three applicants. On your screening profile questionnaire you ask each individual what they like to do in their downtime, you want to find out if they have motivation.

Applicant 1. Squash Player

Applicant 2. Surfer

Applicant 3. Scooba Diver

All applicants meet the criteria and as you scour their resumes looking to see if you can find out who would be most reliable, all their references glow, so who do you choose?

Which applicant would be most likely not to show up for work the most?

Ok so if you are an analyst you might have deduced that two out of the three applicants partake in ocean related hobbies and the third is the odd one out? But the Squash player isn’t the one, they all start with the letter “S” and that isn’t a clue either.

First lets look at why these guys are dedicated to these activities.

Obviously each of them find the activities rewarding or they would not keep doing them, so how would this affect them coming into work? Ok so I help you decide to test these applicants in their current job to see if I could get them to pull a sick day. I happen to know all three guys.

The Squash Player


Hi Dave its Steve, I am going down to the squash courts right now, want to come for a few games?

Dave: No thanks I have to go to work.

Steve: But I have a court reserved and everything?

Dave: Steve I can get a court any time, day or night in 15 locations, I will be happy to play with you outside of work hours. I don’t have my racquet anyway.

The Scooba Diver


Hey Daniel, its Steve want to head out and have a dive? I have a few hours to kill and I thought we could dive the reef near Bondi Beach?

Daniel: Sorry mate I have to go to work.

Steve: But wouldn’t it be cool to go now, looks like a nice day?

Daniel: I can go day or night, any day of the week, it’s all the same to me and I don’t have my tanks or gear anyway.

The Surfer


Hey Simon, want to catch some waves with me today, surf looks awesome?

Simon: Ohhh man don’t temp me.

Steve: The waves are epic!

Simon: Ok mate I be there in 15, I will call in sick, I carry my board with me everywhere I go.

So why did the others not uptake my offer and Simon did?

The others have control of the rewarding factors, they can complete their favourite activities at a time that suits them but the Surfer cannot afford to miss that big wave.

So much so that he carries his board on the car just in case “the big wave” hits, he will have everything in place to take advantage. He is motivated!

Now before I reveal the secret message here, I want to ask you to think about something.

Have you ever been driving along and have a CD or your iPod playing perhaps and your favourite song comes on? Do you ask everyone to be quiet so you can listen? Do you pay attention to the words etc? My bet is no, because you can pause it, rewind it or play it any time right?

The facts are that you will probably find it almost impossible to commit to the song, but if that same song comes on the radio, you will listen now. Why? Because you have no control of when it comes on, so you are motivated and will commit to listening to it.

I said motivated right?

When I train dogs for performance work, I develop, build, test and strengthen a dogs motivation. My Training in Drive System hones these skills and I have literally hundreds of ways to bring drive out and channel drive in most dogs.

So it goes without saying that I need to look at the smallest effecting factors and utilise those in my system, this is why I have stories like this to try and help people understand what makes their dog go boom when they need it to.

When you play with a tug toy, you have to make it unpredictable in its behaviour, this lack of control or predictability increases a dogs motivation (drive).


Dogs when in drive are often acting through instinct and not through rational behaviour patterns, so this means when the trigger (tug/ball/rabbit) move, the dog reacts through instinct and this “modal design” has self rewarding properties such as Endorphin rush etc.

To use this in training here is a very simple prospect, in my Puppy Programs we have something I call “The Million Dollar Recall”. This is a series of training steps that I have designed to give you a super “Million Dollar Recall”. It is covered in my Recall Master Class as well.

Without detailing the whole program here, one of the attributes is taking reward control away from the dog and letting the dog get that back with effort/speed/commitment.

So let’s say I have my helper holding back my puppy, I move away from him and make all sorts of crazy and interesting noises, his drive elevates and when I see that drive is high, I call out my recall cue which is also a signal for my helper to let him go.

As soon as he is released and he starts to run to me, I start running away, he must not only now cover the recall distance but the distance I escaped too. He has no control over the reward and this increases his motivation.

When he does get to me he has access to his biggest reward, the tug (for my dog).

As time goes on and his speed and commitment increase, after being released I don’t start running away for a good second or two. It looks to him like he is responding faster and he is almost half way to me before I run away!

Again his drive, speed and commitment increase and he finds himself right at me before I even get a chance to run away! πŸ˜‰

He believes that he is responding so fast that gets to me before I can even run.

The maintenance of this program is to put in a little run on a recall every now and again to make him think he is slipping and needs to once again revisit how fast and hard he can recall.

My dog Venom is over three years old now, but he still has an awesome recall and I rarely have to reward it at all. I remembered that we put up a YouTube Video of his and Wisdom’s training and I have included it here as you can see the steps of the recall I am talking about in this blog is what I did when he was a baby.

I see a lot of people giving out advice on how to train your dog but they use totally different methods on their own dog. There is no reason for me not to use what I am describing here, as it works and works very well.

At the time I was writing this Blog article, I went out and ran a recall on him to show you what this system produces. This is him exploring in a off leash park, maybe 100m from me.

Things to remember!

When you are building drive in your dog, make sure that your dog has to commit before he can expect the reward.

Make the reward unpredictable, keep the dog excited to see what it will be today and how it will respond!

Play for less time or repetitions than the dog will consider enough, always leave them wanting more!

Here are some more articles you may enjoy: –

Competitive Obedience, Coaching by Steve Courtney

Training in DRIVE!

Creating the Reward Experience

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  1. Great blog Steve looking forward to the session with you & Kupa on 21st Kupa has an awesome recall. I am looking forward to learning more how to utilise my boy’s energy.

  2. marilin joy neden

    Steve,Brilliant analogy, looks like I stand to learn a lot on the Queanbeyan Training days.

  3. Last count it was 47 days till I get you to meet Gunner and me and hubby and show us DRIVE and obedience and EVERYTHING!! I am totally counting down the days like it’s the second Coming because for me its THAT important and exciting. The thought of the possibilities have me in total DRIVE!! come on days go faster!!!!

  4. Another great blog Steve. Love how you paralleled real life situations with the way to train a dog.

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