Michelle Cogle promoted to Training Instructor

Michelle Cogle, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, dog, training instructor


On September 19, 2017 Michelle Cogle was promoted from Dog Trainer to Training Instructor (TI) at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan.  She will still train dogs at MDT but has accepted additional responsibilities. The promotion is well deserved and is in recognition of her excellent dog training skills, demonstrated staff training skills, awesome customer service and perfect time and attendance.

Michigan Dog Training hired Michelle as an Assistant Dog Trainer on April 25, 2017.  She relocated from West Virginia where she had trained service dogs. On July 11, 2017 she was promoted to the position of Dog Trainer after successfully passing MDT’s comprehensive written and practical exams. On September 12, 2017 she was awarded the MDT August 2017 Employee of the Month Award.

Her new position as a Training Instructor is a mid-management position and includes but not limited to training MDT Staff, being a shift leader, and teaching group classes and private lessons.  Congratulations Michelle!

Michelle Cogle – Dog Trainer

Michelle Cogle, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, Dog Trainer


On June 11, 2017 Michelle Cogle was promoted from Assistant Dog Trainer to Dog Trainer at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan. She successfully completed MDT’s Dog Trainer program and passed comprehensive written and practical exams with high scores.

Michelle joined the MDT team in 2017. Previously, she trained mobility service dogs at West Virginia University.  We are very proud of her hard work, dedication and accomplishment.  Congratulations Michelle.

Brittany Promoted to Dog Trainer

Brittany Walter, Dog Trainer, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

On June 7, 2017 Brittany Walter was promoted from Assistant Dog Trainer to Dog Trainer with a specialization in E-Collar Training after having participated in Michigan Dog Training’s dog trainer program and passed comprehensive written and practical exams. She passed with high distinctions earning MDT’s first 100% score on the tests.

Brittany joined the MDT Team on April 10, 2017. In addition to training dogs in the Board and Train and Day Training programs, she also stepped up to commence teaching group classes. Her prior work experience included being a small animal (including dogs) trainer at Sea World in Texas and an Elephant Care Taker for another organization. We are proud to have her be a vital part of the MDT Team.  Congratulations Brittany!

What is the Urban Canine Good Citizen title?

Bernie White, Rottie, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, CGCU, Canine Good Citizen Urban

Bernie White & Cyrus CGCU


I was recently asked, What is the Urban Canine Good Citizen (CGCU) title? The answer is:  The American Kennel Club (AKC) has varying levels of a Title program for mix and purebred dogs that test their Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, CGCU, Canine Good Citizen Urbansocialization to people and other dogs, ensures the dog owner is providing responsible dog care and that the dog has been trained in obedience skills in varying environments. The CGC program has four levels:

  • Puppy S.T.A.R. (Socialization, Training, Activity, Responsible dog owner)
  • Canine Good Citizen
  • Canine Good Citizen Advanced
  • Canine Good Citizen Urban

The Urban CGC title is the toughest level in the CGC program. To test for it, the dog must be registered or listed with the AKC (AKC number, PAL, or AKC Canine Partners number) and already have a CGC title or award on record. It is open to purebred dogs as well as mixed breed dogs. To pass the CGCU, a dog team must be able to:

  1. Exit/enter doorways with no pulling in dog friendly buildings.
  2. Walk through a crowd on a busy urban sidewalk.
  3. Show appropriate reaction to city distractions. This includes movement, noises and walking on a variety of surfaces.
  4. Cross an urban street by stopping at a corner, waiting to cross with no pulling and be under control while crossing the street.
  5. Ignore food on sidewalk.
  6. Accept a person walking up to them and receive petting.
  7. Walk under control in dog friendly buildings and do a 3 minute down stay in a lobby or outdoor area, or wait while owner has a meal or snack.
  8. Walk under control up and down stairs or ride an elevator.
  9. Be house-trained.
  10. Be under control while being transported (car, subway or cab).

Michael Burkey, CEO of Michigan Dog Training is a Certified AKC Evaluator. Additionally, MDT offers group dog training classes to help prepare dogs for the Canine Good Citizen certificates and titles. For more information, call 734-634-4152 or visit our website at: www.MichiganDogTraining.com.

Emily promoted to Dog Trainer

Emily Justusson, Dog Trainer, Michigan Dog Trainer


On April 20, 2017 Emily Justusson was promoted from Assistant Dog Trainer to Dog Trainer with a specialization in E-Collar training.  She has completed Michigan Dog Training’s Dog Trainer program and successfully passed written and practical exams.

Emily joined the MDT team in October 2016 and is near completing studies at Animal Behavior College.  She has a very upbeat attitude when meeting clients and working with their dogs.  Congratulations Emily!!

Best dog trainers in Michigan

Michigan Dog Training, School for Dog Trainers, Dog Training Academy

Michael and Starbuck

Its hard to know who you can trust when searching for a qualified dog training company and ultimately the best dog trainers in Michigan. There are numerous different training styles and beliefs to choose from. Some trainers lean toward pure positive reinforcement (which there is no such thing in the real world) and sadly others are still locked in the old days of “training” by punishment. There are also trainers who outwardly lie.  I personally know one “trainer” who was fired from a dog training company and falsely tells his clients he had received two promotions.

You want to select a trainer that is highly experienced and demonstrates the ultimate integrity and professionalism. The trainer should use positive training methods to teach new skills but will also use fair corrections to decrease undesired behavior once the dog understands what is the expected behavior. Its like training children. You show them the value in doing the right thing (behavior). Thus, they learn there are rewards for doing the right thing and in the end it becomes self rewarding to do the right thing. Once they know what is expected behavior they also learn there are logical and fair consequences for choosing not to do the right thing.

While I (Michael Burkey of Michigan Dog Training) would love to work with you and your dog; I want to share with you who else I believe are the best dog trainers in Michigan. That way whether based on geographical location, their specialty or it just feels like the right fit; you can rest assured you’re working with a trusted professional. They are listed in alphabetical order.


Randy Adams, of Adam’s K9 in Hudsonville, Michigan, 616,209-5501. Randy is a former Police K9 Officer and Trainer. Winner of many Police Dog Trials, he has a master’s degree and is a state of Michigan expert witness.

Ted Aranda, CPDT-KA of Aranda Dog Training, Adrian, Michigan, 517-265-3266. Ted’s career training dogs started in 1975 as an obedience competitor. Winner of many titles he also became known for providing lectures on dog behavior and consulting with animal rescues and shelters.

Gustavo Sanchez of Capital Area Schutzhund Club, Charlotte, Michigan, 517-388-6141. Gustavo has won many awards in Schutzhund and is the decoy and coach of Capital Area Schutzhund Club. In addition to club activities, he provides private lessons in obedience and tracking.

Janet A. Smith of Good Dog! Training, 1575 Haslett Road, Haslett, Michigan, 517-349-0502. She serves the Lansing area providing pet training and sport classes. Her career has included serving as Director of Behavior Programs for the Capital Area Humane Society. She has lectured nationally and is a published author on canine behavior and training. She is also an active dog competitor in many different dog sports.


Emily Justusson promoted to Assistant Dog Trainer

Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, Dog Training TechnicianIn October 2016, Emily Justusson joined the Michigan Dog Training (MDT) team as a Kennel Technician. She joined our team because she recognized MDT had an excellent reputation in the dog training field and her goal was to become a dog trainer.

Due to her hard work, she has realized her goal and has been promoted to Assistant Dog Trainer. Congratulations Emily! MDT is lucky to have you onboard.


How Dogs Learn Best

English Pointer, Michigan Dog Training, Bed Bug Detection Dog, Plymouth, Michigan

Behaviorally speaking, there are four ways to operantly teach desired behaviors: 1. Positive Reinforcement, 2. Negative Punishment, 3. Negative Reinforcement and 4. Positive Punishment. All four quadrants of learning theory make up what is called “Operant Conditioning.” These terms were developed by scientists to explain how something added or taken away can impact an animal’s learning. For example, the term “positive” means anything that is added to and “negative” means that something is removed, e.g. food is given or taken away. This is considered positive or negative under those aspects and not something that is good or bad. Reinforcement means that a behavior is increased, whereas Punishment means the behavior decreased.

Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan primarily uses Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment to teach desired behaviors followed by Negative Reinforcement. Positive Punishment is used much less, for example after a behavior has been taught and reinforced but still the dog decides not to comply. And, prior to using Positive Punishment one should ask themselves if the behavior was taught sufficiently that the dog clearly understood what was expected. To teach behavior, reinforce desired behavior with a reward your dog finds pleasing (food treat, toy, petting, verbal praise, or other life reward). This is called using Positive Reinforcement. For example, when the dog’s rear end hits the floor after being asked to sit, he receives a reward. One can also use Negative Punishment which is the removal of a reward. Using the prior example, if the dog began to stand after being asked to sit in order to obtain the food reward, one would remove the reward until the dog sat back down. Then it turns back into Positive Reinforcement by giving the reward for sitting.

Negative Reinforcement can also be used to teach behavior. For example, for a dog that barks excessively while on a walk due to over excitement, one might use a head collar. When the dog begins to bark, the owner would gently and gradually pull up on the leash which would close the dog’s mouth and tell the dog to sit. The slight pressure would be applied until the dog sat and appeared calm (not barking). A second example would be a dog that gets up from a sit position without being released with a verbal cue such as “yes”, the handler would pull up on the neck collar using a leash toward the dog’s ears causing the dog to pull away and  sit back down. This is called “oppositional reflex.” As soon as the dog sits again, the pressure would be released. A third example would be low level non-painful stimulation from an E-Collar (Electronic Collar). The stimulation would start when the dog is looking away from you and you give the command to “come”. The stimulation would stop as soon as your dog turned toward you and began to take a step toward you.

In most cases, Positive Punishment shouldn’t be used to teach a behavior but can be used to effectively stop undesired behavior. It should be followed by rewarding a desired behavior. An example of Positive Punishment would be stepping on the dog’s leash so that when the dog jumps up, he is stopped by the leash. The dog received a correction for jumping followed by the handler cuing and rewarding the dog for sitting. Another example would be the dog feeling a vibration from an E-Collar that simply shakes the collar when they bark or jump up on a counter.

Animal Behaviorists Daniel Q. Estep, Phd, CAAB and Suzanne Hetts, Phd, CAAB of Animal Behavior Associates Inc. state that “in order for punishment to be effectively and humanely applied it must meet the following criteria: 1. it must be immediate within seconds of the undesired behavior for the dog to associate the punishment with the undesired behavior, 2. it must be consistently applied so that the punishment is predictable, 3. it must be delivered at the appropriate intensity so that it is sufficient enough to stop the behavior but not be too excessive that it creates other problem behaviors and 4. it should be applied infrequently, otherwise, the desired behavior probably was not taught sufficiently.”  The goal of punishment should be to stop undesired behavior at the lowest needed intensity and not used to scold or abuse a dog as a way for a person to vent their anger at the dog.

A dog learns bests when all four quadrants of learning theory are used. As Dr. Ian Dunbar, a well known Veterinarian Behaviorist stated at his Chicago, Illinois Trainer’s Academy, “Behavior is fluid and there are four quadrants, not two.”  Unfortunately, there are some trainers who naively try to train or say they train using only Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment. But one can understand how this just doesn’t make sense when you consider raising human children. You teach your kids using positive methods but when they understand how they are expected to behave and choose not to behave appropriately; then fair and logical consequences are warranted, followed by reinforcement upon coming back on track.

How dogs learn best is a fluid use of all four quadrants of learning theory:

  1. Positive Reinforcement: Reinforce desired behavior by giving something rewarding to the dog when the desired behavior is performed
  2. Negative Punishment: Take away the reward when the dog does not do the desired behavior to punish the undesired behavior
  3. Negative Reinforcement: Something the dog finds unpleasant is removed when the desired behavior is performed which reinforces the desired behavior to occur
  4. Positive Punishment: Apply a correction to punish the undesired behavior

To dive further into how a dog learns, check out the book, “How Dogs Learn” by Mary R. Burch Phd and Jon S. Bailey, Phd. It’s an easy read that matches science well with every day dog training examples.How dogs learn, Michigan Dog Training, Michael Burkey

What it takes to be a MDT Certified Dog Trainer

Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan has a structured and documented training program for it’s trainers as they develop their knowledge of dog training and handling skills. Most MDT trainers start out as an Assistant Dog Trainer, progress to Dog Trainer and then become a MDT Certified Dog Trainer to ensure they have the skills necessary to provide the ultimate training experience for clients and their dogs. The purpose of this blog post is to discuss what it takes to become a MDT Certified Dog Trainer.

A Certified Dog Trainer assists the Supervisor and CEO in the planning and execution of dog training programs, trains other dog trainers and conducts private training sessions with clients and/or teaches group classes in addition to the responsibilities they performed as a Dog Trainer. To become certified, they must have at least two years of prior experience as a dog trainer, receive training/mentoring with Michael Burkey, CEO of Michigan Dog Training,  pass written and practical exams and pass a formal interview. Through this process the successful candidate will demonstrate that they posses the following skills:

  • Knowledgeable of learning theory
  • Ability to teach a dog advanced obedience commands via hand and voice signals such as place, focused heeling, contact heeling, sit and down out of motion, return to heel position, agility obstacles and capping the drive exercises.
  • Knowledgeable and able to work with dog to dog and dog to human aggression cases.
  • Demonstrated ability to handle all dogs housed and trained at Michigan Dog Training facility
  • Ability to teach clients Novice and Intermediate levels tricks via the Kyra Sundance program
  • Knowledgeable and able to demonstrate Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Advanced CGC testing requirements
  • Knowledgeable and able to demonstrate Novice Obedience and Novice Rally exercises
  • Knowledgeable of verbal markers
  • Service orientation
  • Time management
  • Judgment and decision making
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Attention to detail and be proactive

MDT employs experienced trainers and is committed to their on-going skill development which ultimately enhances the training experience for its clients and their dogs. You can trust MDT’s experience, professionalism, and integrity.

Matthew Lamarand Promoted at MDT

Michigan Dog Training, Certified Dog Trainer, Matthew Lamarand, Plymouth, Michigan

Matthew Lamarand, CDT

On March 14, 2015, Matthew Lamarand of Westland, Michigan a Dog Trainer at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan was promoted to the position of Certified Dog Trainer. He joined the MDT team on December 4, 2014 after serving 7 years in the United States Air Force as a Military Police Officer. His tour of duty included being a military dog handler in Iraq.

To become certified, Matthew was trained and mentored by Michael Burkey, CEO at Michigan Dog Training.  Matthew also did a lot of personal study about learning theory and how dogs learn best in relation to pet dog training. He successfully completed written and practical exams as well as a formal interview. The skills he had to demonstrate are outlined in the post, “What it Takes to be a MDT Certified Dog Trainer.”

Congratulations Matthew! MDT looks forward to you excelling in your new expanded role of assisting with the planning and execution of dog training programs, training other dog trainers, and training clients via private instruction and/or group classes.