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Techniques Conditioning > Remotivation

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Remotivation involves going back to change the basic motivation of a subject.

When a subject is acting in a way that is not desirable, carefully seek their actual motivation. Beware of jumping to 'obvious' conclusions. In particular avoid assumptions that the subject is acting in the way they are because they are bad, vengeful or otherwise negatively motivated.

Then find ways to motivate them differently such that the unwanted action stops.


A dog barks when it is bored, so its owners makes sure they dog has something interesting to occupy it. The owners also makes sure the dog is well exercises before they go out so the dog is tired and will sleep.

A child being taken around a supermarket keeps asking for chocolate. The parent promises them chocolate when they get home, but only if they do not ask for chocolate in the supermarket. The child's motivation is now not to ask for chocolate.


When people and animals act in ways that others do not like, it is easy to assume they are 'being naughty' and that their motivation is to annoy you. In practice, unwanted actions are often driven by emotions such as fear, boredom or hunger. When you can find what these more basic drivers are, you can make sure they do not appear or replace them with other motivations.

As with other training activities, the 'proof of the pudding is in the eating'. In other words, you will find out what works and what does not. In this, you may be correct in your understanding of motivation, but your actions to remotivate may not always work. The best approach is to try something for a while, then if it does not work, try something else. In this, try to watch yourself objectively and spot whether you are doing something that is contributing to your actions not working, for example where your frustration is coming out in aggressive body language.

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