Why doesn’t he do what I tell him? – Part 3

Why doesn’t he do what I tell him? – Part 3

In part 1 and part 2 of the series “Why doesn’t he do what I tell him?” We dealt with what comes BEFORE the behavior (the signal) and what comes AFTER the behavior (the consequence).


A signal has to be introduced at the right time, associated with the corresponding behavior and it has to be generalized and discriminated against. The immediate consequence of a behavior influences whether a behavior reappears in the future or is avoided.
In the third part, we now deal with the question of motivation and bring all the topics discussed so far into an overall context.

In psychology, “motivation” is defined as follows:

“All of the motives, influences that a decision, action or similar. influence, encourage action ”
In short: the motivation is the willingness or the drive to carry out a behavior. Without this drive – the motivation – behavior is not carried out.

One can differentiate the form of motivation into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When it comes to intrinsic motivation, there is no external consequence on behavior. The behavior in itself is self-rewarding. Example: The dog barks because he enjoys it -> The bark causes the release of e.g. Dopamine and endorphin in the bloodstream and can put the dog in a euphoric mood without having to add anything from “outside”.

The situation is different with extrinsic motivation. The dog shows the behavior not because the behavior in itself is rewarding for him, but because the behavior is rewarded from “outside”. Example: The dog barks, because in the past it was showered with attention by the owner (attention from the owner = consequence from the outside).

So if the motivation is significantly involved in whether the dog performs a behavior or not, we first have to determine what is motivating for the individual dog. This varies depending on the dog and especially depending on the situation. Furthermore, the motivation decides whether a reward is actually an amplifier or not.

A full dog is not motivated to behave in a way that gives it food. A hungry dog, on the other hand, is rather not motivated to behave in order to then accept a strenuous game of zergel with a master. A dog who is motivated to chase a deer (attention: self-rewarding!) May not want to be rewarded with a petting.

Further examples:
Bello loves all dogs. As soon as he sees another dog, there is only one goal left for him: to get to his companion as quickly as possible and without detours. Today is a good day and Bello stays relatively cool looking at another dog. Herrchen is very surprised, happy and wants to reward Bello with a piece of dog biscuit. Bello takes the food, at the same time the owner turns and pulls Bello in the other direction, away from the sight of his fellow man. Master reacted well. He recognized that Bello showed a desired behavior (-> calm behavior when looking at a conspecific), but he chose an inappropriate reward. In this case, the reward (feed) did not act as an amplifier, i.e. it did not reinforce the desired behavior and thus did not increase the likelihood that it would be shown again in the future. Why? Because Bello had a completely different motivation than hunger. In that case, a real reward might have been a step towards the same species.

Motivation can also be based on avoiding something. Example: If I teach my dog ​​to sit by saying “sit”, forcefully push his butt towards the floor and only let go as soon as the bottom is and remains, then after a few repetitions he will be on his word in the future Sit down to avoid the owner putting pressure on his buttocks again. Here, the dog behaves according to a signal in order to avoid something = avoid motivation. (No, this is not a training method in my “tool box”!)

Motivation is often in competition with other motivations = competing motivations. I think every dog ​​owner can sing a song about that? Fiffi and Bello frolic in the park. Bello’s Mistress may now like to go home, shouts “Belloooooo, hieeeer her!” …. Bello doesn’t take a look at Mistress. Why? The motivation to continue playing with Fiffi is greater than the motivation to come to miss. Perhaps because in the past, women always went home after a recall (negative penalty! The recall was subconsciously punished by the owner and thus the likelihood that the behavior would occur again in the future was reduced!) Or simply , because the reward that followed a recall in the past (consequence of the behavior) was not as high-quality as playing with a conspecific, so Bello has no motivation to listen to the recall in the situation.

We can change the effectiveness of a reward as an enhancer and thus influence the dog’s motivation. For example, we can starve the dog all day long (not recommended!) And thus we increase the effectiveness of food as an enhancer. If we have a dog that constantly steals food from the kitchen counter while he is alone, we can feed the dog well before we leave the house. This allows us to take away the motivation for the behavior so that the behavior does not even occur. Accordingly, we can increase motivations (e.g. by deprivation (deprivation) of the reward), but also decrease it (e.g. by saturating the reward).

So we could simply answer our initial question “Why doesn’t he do what I tell him?”:
Because he has no motivation to perform the desired behavior!

If we now summarize all three parts, namely the signal (the stimulus) before the behavior, the consequence (punishment or reinforcement) after the behavior and the motivation, then we see that everything is connected.

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