Advanced Topics in Motivation

By Jeff | Apr. 04, 2014

In a positive, reward-based training program, finding ways to motivate your dog is very important. In Advanced Concepts in Motivation by Michael Ellis, Michael discusses various ways of rewarding your dog not just by giving a treat or presenting a toy, but creating a whole event that helps your dog get really excited about working with you.

Content (3 hr. 17 min.)

Advanced Motivation is a long DVD, but it’s packed with information. In this review, I’ll go over the basic information presented in the DVD, as well as point out some of the key differences between Michael’s program, and how I train.

Moving with a Dog

The first big section of the DVD goes over how to move and present reward items effectively without a dog. By practicing without a dog, it takes off a lot of stress in trying to teach your dog something and instead you can focus on just getting movement correct. As Michael says in the DVD, an “invisible” dog always does what you expect and never messes up. Here you’ll go over backing drills, lateral drills, line drills, weight shift drills, tug presentation, food presentation, and using “misses” effectively. A lot of the drills seem fairly simple, but the basics are still good to go over and he presents the material in an easy-to-understand way with examples of various people doing the drills along with common mistakes.

Reward as an Interactive Event

The key takeaway from this DVD is that we should be using events, not items to keep engagement and attention up. Along with this, the main method to creating an event is by using movement, stimulating a dog’s natural prey drive.

The second key takeaway is to increase contrast between natural behavior and a reward event. The more normal behavior and rewarding behavior look alike, the less motivating the event is going to be.

Techniques to Increase Motivation

One of the unique things about this DVD is that Michael maps some of his skills learned from Schutzhund (protection sports) training to help increase motivation in other areas. A lot of these have to do with using restraint and frustration in various ways to help motivate the dog.

Michael also talks about knowing the genetic proclivities of your dog and using them to your advantage. For example, if you have a retrieving dog, they will be more receptive to motion, but other dogs may enjoy more opposition or restraint in their event.

Key Differences

The biggest difference between Michael’s techniques in this DVD, and my own is that he relies much more luring, whereas I’ve shifted almost entirely away from using luring. Instead, I let Nova make decisions and reward the correct ones. Practically, there is not much that is different, even though the underlying concept is very different.

The main change I made when using these technique is adding additional proofing so Nova knows not to chase the toy until I give the release cue. The other minor difference is that in the DVD, Michael is using his marker, “yes,” as a release as well whereas I use a marker strictly as a secondary reinforcer and have a separate release cue.


Advanced Topics in Motivation by Michael Ellis is a generally good DVD that has lots of good information. Don’t let the “advanced” in the title scare off beginning trainers though, as many of the topics covered I would consider foundation level. The issues found with the training techniques were minor and require little practical modification. A majority of the information can be obtained from 1-2 watches, so if you can borrow it, you can save some money. Leerburg has it available for a $45 rental and it’s also available via BowWowFlix.