Learning and Motivation

What is Learning?

It has been said that ‘Teaching is the art of suggestion’. Put more rigorously; it could be accurately stated that “Learning occurs when the outcome and the expectation differ.” The implication of having learnt something is that a change of behaviour is the direct result of something connected to an experience.

My dictionary defines learning as:

1. To acquire knowledge or skill through study, instruction, or experience: to learn French; to learn to ski.
2. To become informed of or to become acquainted with;
3. To gain (a habit, mannerism, etc.) by experience, exposure to example, or the like; acquire, e.g., She learned patience from her father.
If we take the above description literally then we all know that ‘Learning’ is stressful.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is recognised as a critical factor which influences a given behaviour will be performed, and the frequency of intensity of its performance.
Therefore, motivation plays an integral part in the ‘Know How’ of training our dogs.

We must understand the following:

• We must be well versed in the science of motivation as well as the science of learning.
• A motivating force can be either positive (e.g., a food treat or reward); or negative (e.g., a reprimand.)
• Motivation is like fuel in your vehicle – without it, the engine that drives all learning will not run.
• Motivation is used to describe the forces which operate within an animal to attain the desired result (target behaviour- staring at the odour).
• The main point of understanding in all of this is that of the relationship between learning and motivation. These two principles are so deeply entwined and interdependent that it is fruitless to attempt to conceive one concept existing without the other. For the most part, learning does not occur without motivation. Even though the behaviour is learned, however, it may not be performed if the animal is not motivated to respond.
In any training situation, we must consider the motivational state of the animal we are training, as well as all competing motivators. For example, having a rabbit run across your dog’s path during a recall exercise, or an influx of people flowing into a stadium. 
This is to illustrate that motivation is critical in animal learning and where appropriate training aids are essential in obtaining the desired response.

How About This For Motivation?

Dear Homeowner,
This is your bank manager, and I write to inform you that should you miss another mortgage payment the bank will have no choice but to repossess your property!

• Is that enough motivation to maintain your mortgage payments?
• Has the bank manager damaged your whole view on life and stopped you from operating positively and constructively?

Nothing would make me happier than to see humanity living in complete harmony, respecting each other and acting responsibly, utopia would be ideal, sadly this is far from the truth hence why nature has rules that have consequences, and we are part of that equation, and yet many fail to accept that they need to adhere to societies rules, regardless of their motivation or motives…

What if the learning quadrant was explained in a way that was understood so that you could actually use it in real time to improve spirited learning? 

Detector Dogs Australia has the solution is creating spirited, driven and precise behaviours on cue. 

Kris Kotsopoulos