Know Your Motivations – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Honey the Golden Retriever carries a stick.

I’m coming. I’m coming. I hope you’ll throw it again.

If you offered to pay me $100 every time I vacuumed, the floor would be covered in dog hair and my bank account would be empty.


Because I’m not motivated by money.

I might actually be demotivated by money. After all, why would I want to be known as a vacuum whore?

What Motivates You?

The new calendar year inspires big plans. You’ve heard them. This year I’ll

  • organize my house
  • run a half marathon
  • learn Spanish
  • teach my dog to skateboard

But the end of the year (or month, for some of us) comes and we’ve lost all sight of our plans. We weren’t motivated to follow through.

If we tied our goals to what motivates us, I wonder how much we could do?

Do you know what motivates you? Here’s a short online test about motivation to get you thinking.

My results were no surprise.

What Motivates Pam?

The test told me what I already knew. I’m not motivated by conventional rewards. I’m not motivated by a sense of fun. I’m not internally driven.

But I hate to let other people down.

If I want to get something done, I have to tell everyone I’m going to do it and convince myself the world will end if I disappoint them.

If I’m cagey about my goals and plans it means I’m not sure I want to (or are able to) meet them. Hmmm, a clue.

What Motivates Dogs?

How do you get a dog to come to you? By tapping into his motivations.

But do you know what motivates your dog? What is your dog’s strongest drive?

Wendy Volhard developed The Canine Personality Profile to help you figure out what drives your dog.

Volhard identified four basic drives in dogs:

  • prey
  • pack
  • fight
  • flight

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Honey’s strongest drive is to be with her pack. She scored 75 out of a possible 100. Her prey drive is moderate with a score of 40 out of 100 while her fight and flight drives are nearly nonexistent at 10 each.

Interesting. But does it mean anything in real life?

Motivating Honey to Come Back

Yes, Honey is an easy dog. But her recall got much better when I started thinking about what motivated her.

Honey the Golden Retriever with a Collie the Dog Park

I’d certainly come running to meet you, Mr. Collie.

I used to just carry a pocket full of treats everywhere I went. I’d let her off leash on a walk and call her to me to get a treat. But I found she’d come for her treat and go running off again as if I only existed as a food dispenser.

Besides liver, Honey is also motivated by being near other people and dogs and by chasing things for fun.

To tap into the first motivation, I started hiding from Honey. (Do not try this with a sniffy dog; you’ll never see her again.) When she turned around, she wondered where I was and retraced her steps to find me in my hiding place.

I used her prey/play motivation by picking up a stick or pine cone and running away from her while making high squeaky sounds and holding out the tempting toy. When she got to me, we’d play a quick game of chase, tug, or fetch.

When I stopped relying only on treats and more on her other motivations, her recall got much better.

Can I apply what I’ve learned about motivating Honey to motivating myself?

Working With My Motivations

I’d love to be driven from within. It would certainly be healthier. But I’m not there. So if I need to be motivated by fear of letting people down, so be it.

Work with what you’ve got, right?

So if inviting people to the house motivates me to clean, I’ve gotta host more parties.

And if stating my goals publicly makes me accountable, than I have to do that too.

After all, if it’s good for the dog, it’s good for me.

Short note: If you take the motivational quiz for yourself or your dog I linked to in the post, take it with a grain of salt. Quizzes are meant to get you thinking, not choose your life path. I learned that the hard way (damn you, Cosmo!).

Best Gifts Ever – Pet Blogger Gift Exchange

I’m counting the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange as a huge success. You can see all the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange posts in the linky list.

Despite the busy season, dozens of bloggers were amazingly generous with their praise and link love for fellow bloggers.

Some really stepped out of their comfort zone with technology, learning how to post badges and join a blog hop. Others made time in the middle of family emergencies to write a post. And many wrote heart-felt posts about how a blog affected their lives.

I’m humbled by this community.

The Pet Blogger Gift Exchange is on my calendar for next year. I hope you’ll put it on yours.

What motivates you? What motivates your dog? Do you ask these questions when you’re trying to meet goals for yourself or your dog?

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  1. Ah, I love these online tests. It nailed me to a ‘t’. :-) I will take Wendy’s test later.

    Because I’d really like to learn different ways to motivate the dogs, besides the treat. Sometimes I think that is all I am there for is to run back to and get a treat. Although I have to say, usually when I call Delilah to me, she will wait. Sampson however needs the smack down.

    I love all the neat things you find online. :–)

    • You got me curious about what motivates you now.

      And I’m dying to know what you figure out about Sampson.

      • I will share with you. :-) I’m very much driven by praise and reward. What can I say, I want desperately for people to like me. It’s the little girl in me. :-( But that’s a therapy session right there! LOL

  2. Ooh! I’m going to click on over and take that quiz! I learned a lot about motivation when I started really focused work on Lucas’ leash aggression issues a few years ago. Emmett has always been motivated by praise… he’s desperate to get affection and win approval, which makes training pretty easy. The trainer I worked with Lucas told me on day one, “He’s not motivated by you. In fact, he doesn’t seem to care what you think!” Ouch, but true. I was treating him like Emmett, not like himself. Just like in people, it’s all about the individual. Turns out, though, cheese did the trick for Lucas. :)

    • You’ve hit on the biggest challenge of having more than one dog at a time. I never stopped confusing Agatha with Christie in all the years they lived with me.

      Lucas is lucky you’re a faster learner.

  3. Good Morning Pamela! Now that Ducky is happily playing with her doggie friends at daycare and I’m back inside a nice, cozy-warm house with Callie & Shadow, I can sit down with my mug of coffee and relax.
    I love this post! I need some motivation in the morning just to get out from under the covers! And a room that’s cold enough for the dogs is just not what I call “motivating”. :-)
    I think I’ll take that little quiz later, just for the fun of it. I’ve been fairly skeptical of such quizzes since I was in my mid teens; but I enjoy taking them anyway so I can laugh at the answers.
    Have a wonderful day! Callie & Shadow send liver treats to Miss Honey.

    • Best motivator in the world–a programmable thermostat. Nothing like a snuggy house when you’re due to get up.

      Hope the daycare regimen is helping settle Ducky.

      • Sue at The Golden Life says:

        Ah yes, a programmable thermostat and we use it BUT the back bedroom always feels much colder than any other room in the house, which only feels good in the summer.
        Doggie daycare has been a godsend lifesaver for all of us!

  4. My motivation would have to be, if someone else is expecting something from me, I’m all over it. If not, I can put things off pretty good.

  5. Great post! Really thought provoking

  6. No surprises in the quiz for Silas–flight and prey pretty high, pack somewhat substantially below that. Which pretty adequately summarizes our training problems and solutions. I just wrote out a blog post about it for later in the week.

    • When I was thinking about being motivated by fear, I wondered how that would be used in training. I wonder if BAT is the answer. The reward they use for a dog remaining calm in the presence of something scary is to allow the dog to get distance from what they fear.

      Have you seen this video?

      Look forward to reading your upcoming post.

  7. That is a really good idea to think beyond treats as motivation, and very relevant for Fozzie. If I could somehow convince him that I have at his disposal a feisty, real-live kitty-cat, he would have perfect recall!

    • Doesn’t your local pet supply provide a jug of kitty cats? Just put one or two in your pocket and you should be all set. :)

  8. Mike Webster says:

    Any word on what motivates other higher mammals, such as, you know, husbands?

  9. I’ve done the quiz for my motivations and it’s pretty accurate…And like you, public declaration do motivate me, hence my participation in challenges…they keep me going on track…Haven’t totaled Gizmo’s individual scores yet but plan to…I would like to learn more about what training strategies might work best…
    I enjoyed the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange very much and it’s already on my calendar for next year as well…Thank you for organizing it

    • Sounds like if you can find enough challenges the sky is the limit. 😉

      Glad you enjoyed the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange. You certainly rose to the occasion and I’m very thankful for your generosity in posting twice.

  10. I gained a lot from your Pet Blogger Gift Exchange and met new bloggers. Thank you.

    • So glad you enjoyed the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange. Hope you’ll be back next year for it. I already have it on my schedule.

      And thank you for stopping by my Squidoo lens and leaving a nice comment.

  11. What a fantastic post and food for thought. I will certainly be spending more time trying to figure out my motivation. I do it for my dog but failed to do it for myself. Now I’ll give it a good try.

  12. I LOVE this post. Can you find a way to get this to every dog lover on the planet, Pamela? Brilliant!

    So, the human part (I get dogs, it’s people who confuse me :) … Like you, I am unmotivated by money. Ideas. Challenges. Dogs. They are my motivators. In that vein, today I meet with my local Pen Pals administrators to see if we can partner (no money will change hands) to identify dogs being trained by inmates in local prisons – dogs who I can pull for clients who need service dogs. How cool is that? Not a new idea, I know. But new to me. Oh, the possibilities.

  13. Your post really hit home for me. I snorted my coffee when I read: “So if inviting people to the house motivates me to clean, I’ve gotta host more parties.” Though I’d rather you host those parties. I’ll live with the dog hair! lol

    I’d like to have taken the quiz before this past year. No doubt the results would have been very different. My sense of self is that I’m very much like you. However, talking it today was enlightening in terms of how recent life events have changed me. Here’s the essence of my results: “Your major motivation is to avoid things that you don’t like. This can mean organising your life to avoid or to escape punishment or pain.” Amazingly true at the moment. Will take the other quiz for the dogs later… thanks for the insight.

  14. Ouch, my results don’t surprise me but they are not exactly complimentary. I am not motivated internally either and I usually require some sort of reward – such as good grades in school or public recognition – in order to work hard. If someone was going to pay me $100 to vacuum, my house would be spotless. I do worry about letting others down but since I am also motivated by avoidance of things I don’t like, according to the test, I tend to not get into situations in which letting people down is a possibility. 😛

    Now if only I could figure out a way to get rewarded for going to the dentist…

    Great post, for sure. I think about Shiva’s motivations all the time. We’ve tried so many different things, especially with recall training, but food really does seem to be the be all for her. If there is something to shove in her mouth, she doesn’t care if she is the only dog in the world. In fact, she prefers it. This is why I still haven’t been able to successfully call her away from food lying on the ground, even if I have better food in my pocket. She loves to chase… Maybe I need to bring the cat along on our walks? I’ll figure it out one day!

  15. Excellent post, Pamela! I think it’s easier to figure out what motivates the dogs than what motivates me. Ty is definitely focused on food and Buster is play/pack driven. I’ll have to spend a little more time thinking about myself.

  16. Ha ha! Kristine and I are obviously very similar! My quiz told me many of the same things – I avoid things that I don’t like and I am very responsive to positive motivation (that MUST be why I loved being a dog walker!!). Cali is so similar to Honey and she loves hide and seek!!

  17. You send that person with the $100 bills and the vaccuum to my house!

    Motivation is an interesting thing…..I think it’s easier to figure out Elka’s motivations than my own!

  18. Excellent post, and a timely one for me as I am trying to figure out what I it is I want out of this life, who I want to be….plus you’ve given me an idea for a blog post, so thanks for that! I’ll definitely put a link back.

    P.S. I’m glad to hear your blogger exchange went so well. I wasn’t online much in December and did not catch wind of it until it was too late, but if you plan to do it again next year I will definitely stay on the lookout for it. :-)


  1. […] Pamela’s post (which you can check out HERE) she mentioned that she’s not motivated by money, and that if she was offered money to do […]

  2. […] Avoidance of things I dislike is one of my biggest motivators – à la Something Wagging This Way Comes. Really I should have figured this out long […]