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!

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

January 2016 Dog Training Classes

Michigan Dog Training, Jack Russell Terrier, Happy New YearWith the upcoming new year, don’t just make a resolution to train your dog, as Nike says, “Just Do It.”  Your dog will love you for it.

January classes are already filling up at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan. This month in addition to our normal classes we are offering an E-Collar Excellence class.  If you’ve been wanting to take your dog’s obedience to the next level and obtain off leash reliability, then this class is for you. Learn how to use an e-collar as a communication tool to obtain quick, reliable and humane results.

Here’s a summary of the classes being offered in January.

  1. Nosework, Mondays 6:30pm
  2. Protection Sport Dog, Mondays 7:30pm
  3. Puppy 1 Manners, Tuesdays 7:00pm
  4. Puppy 2 Manners, Tuesdays 6:00pm
  5. Intermediate Manners/CGC, Tuesdays 8:05pm
  6. Basic Manners, Wednesdays, 7:00pm
  7. Feisty Fido, Wednesdays, 8:05pm
  8. Do More With Your Dog, Wednesdays, 6:00pm
  9. Excitable Perfect Practice, Thursdays 6:00pm
  10. Perfect Practice, Thursdays 6:55pm
  11. E-Collar Excellence, Thursdays, 7:45pm

Advanced Manners / E-Collar class

Michigan Dog Training, e-collar, off leash dog trainingMichigan Dog Training (MDT) in Plymouth, Michigan has added a new dog training class to its class offerings; Advanced Manners / E-Collar. It will be a four week class and will start on Wednesday December 9, 2015 at 6:00-6:55pm. For many years, MDT has provided expert instruction in e-collar training via the board and train, day school and private training sessions both at the facility and in-home. Now it will be available in a group class setting for those who want to learn how to get the off leash reliability they desire for their dog.

This specialty class is for dogs who are friendly with other dogs and people (green light) and will be held only on a quarterly basis. If your dog has fear aggression issues then one of the above formats (other than this specialty class) would be a better fit for your dog. The class is taught in MDT’s climate controlled building. At the conclusion of the class, you can have your dog tested for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Advanced (CGCA) title. The E-Collar is used for training but not for testing and your dog must have a CGC title in order to test for the CGCA.

The class comes with:

  • 4 weeks instruction
  • Dogtra E-Collar
  • Training handouts
  • Canine Good Citizen Advanced (CGCA) testing at the conclusion of the class
  • MDT Family Hikes

Sign up now for the Advanced Manners / E-Collar class and get the obedience reliability you desire with your dog.

Remote Dog Collar Specialists

remote dog training collar, Michigan dog training, ecollar, e-collar, shock collar, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

Remote Collar Certifications

On June 3, 2015 a Michigan Dog Training Academy student and four Michigan Dog Trainers (MDT) trained by Michael Burkey passed with flying colors a comprehensive Remote Training Collar written exam at MDT in Plymouth, Michigan. The exam covered learning theory, collar mechanics and the practical application of the training tool. Remote training collars allow dogs to learn dog training skills quickly through low level tactile stimulation and with great reliability.  Additionally, the MDT Trainers successfully passed a mentoring training program enabling them to become remote collar specialists.

Congratulations to all (L to R):

Bobby Mathieson, MDT Academy studentMichigan Dog Training, remote collar, shock collar, ecollar, dog training exam

Testimonial – Dog gets another chance to remain with family with specialized dog training at Michigan Dog Training LLC

Sweet but Excitable Daisy

Sweet but Excitable Daisy

Daisy, a hound mix attended our puppy socialization and basic manners group classes.  She received the socialization and training that she needed as she was on the shy side but her family realized they needed more specialized help. Therefore, they enrolled her in Michigan Dog Training’s Day Camp program. Day Camp is like board and train but without the boarding.  Dogs attended training three days per week for four weeks and receive training and supervised socialization play times throughout the day from several instructors. There is certainly time for play but the emphasis is on the training and socialization.

On September 11, 2013, Daisy successfully completed the Day Camp program with five stars and her mom reports her behavior at home has improved dramatically. We were very honored to receive this testimonial and puppy pictures of her during the past four weeks.

    “Thank you for helping us to train Daisy. Daisy first came to the puppy socialization class with Wendy. My puppy was afraid of the other puppies, and I can remember her hiding in one of the dog tunnels. She now looks forward to playing with other puppies and dogs, and does well in interacting with them.

    She then went on to the Basic Obedience Class with Wendy. She learned basic manners of sit, down, stay, wait, etc. while on a leash. She was able to do well with this class. However, at home when not on a leash and during her play time, it was a whole different story. It was like “No, Off, and Down” was in a foreign language. We needed some extra help and her teeth were razor-sharp. We were able to enroll her in their day camp with Michael, Wendy and staff.

    During a holiday weekend, there was a point that we thought we would have to

Daisy goes from shy to playful

Daisy goes from shy to playful

re-home her. They were right there to help us, and we were able to keep her. I am especially amazed with the remote collar training. This way, she can be in the yard, and we can reinforce what she has learned with consistency. Michigan Dog Training (MDT) is an amazing team – so dedicated. ….Daisy’s mom S.S.”

We are also excited that Daisy will continue her learning and socializing with us in the ongoing Dog Day Care program.

Michigan Dog Training LLC specializes in helping high energy dogs become ideal companions via their K9 Camp (board and train), Day Camp, Dog Day care, in-home lessons, private lessons, and group classes.

Shock collar keeps dog and owner safe and healthy

Sonic and Michael Bike/Run together

Unfortunately, there is still much misinformation in the public domain about the use of shock collars (or as more properly called remote training collars) in the training of pet dogs.  I find many clients have already bought a shock collar before our training appointment. However, it is usually a sub standard type of collar – meaning a collar with only a few levels like 7 versus 100+ that offers more versatility and smaller increases between the levels. With more levels, one can truly use the lowest level to get their dog’s attention without causing pain.

Clients who had bought the collars without instruction were desperate and didn’t know what else to do to train their dog by themselves.  Because the collars don’t come with adequate training instruction, many folks train their dog incorrectly using it at a too high of level, thus, as a punishment tool or give up and put it in their kitchen drawer not wanting to hurt their dog.

With proper instruction, a high quality remote training collar such as a Dogtra brand, is an excellent training tool for pet dogs. Used at a “just right level” (felt by the dog but not cause pain), it acts as a communication tool between you and your dog. When your dog has learned basic commands such as sit, down, come, stay and place using motivational rewards (such as praise, food and/or toys), your dog is ready for remote collar training. Adding this final dimension to your training program will improve reliability in performance.

Many owners want off leash control of their dog. Praise/food/toys may not be rewarding enough to your dog to persuade him/her to come away from other more stimulating rewards the environment has to offer such as chasing birds, squirrels and cars to name a few. With a tap of a button, an owner is able to virtually reach out and get their dog’s attention without causing pain or being the “bad guy”.

Sonic happily running along Michael’s bike

Case in point, recently, I was biking my adopted dog Sonic, a high drive Belgian Malinois for the first time.  He knows his basic commands and is remote collar literate as well. I initially didn’t place the remote collar on him. He heels very nicely and does not chase moving objects during walks. However, very soon, I learned he thought chasing moving cars was a new Olympic sport. He never did that during slower walks. With his strength and determination, he was able to drag me and the bike toward moving cars. What should had been a fun bike ride had quickly turned into a potentially life threatening situation for him and I.

So since I had already trained him on a remote collar system, I placed the Dogtra unit back on him.  With a couple of taps paired with the heel command, he immediately stopped trying to chase cars and happily ran along my side for a very enjoyable hour bike run. There was no pain for him, just a simple tap as a reminder to “heel” instead of chase. Now this “Sonic Boom” (hence his name Sonic) Malinois can safely go on long endurance runs which will help to exhaust his over-the-top energy level.


For more information about remote collar training visit: and The Truth About Shock Collars.

Georgia, Pit Bull goes from bait dog to playing off leash with another dog

Playing with dogs is fun now

Georgia, a Pit Bull was adopted and thus rescued by Nancy after having been used as a bait dog to teach other dogs to fight. Through Nancy, Georgia had a new beginning on life but she was fearful and therefore reactive toward other dogs.

Through private dog training sessions with Michael Burkey, a professional dog trainer and owner of Michigan Dog Trainer; Nancy learned how to train Georgia to be calmer around dogs using desensitization and habituation via food rewards and to respond to obedience commands via a remote collar training system.  The remote collar (some incorrectly refer to it as a shock collar) uses low level stimulation to interrupt a dog’s inappropriate behavior and to communicate to the dog what is the desired behavior.

Once Georgia learned to relax,  she started to show a willingness to play with other dogs. So she was introduced to Starbuck, a friendly German Shepherd.  At first she was a little nervous but quickly learned to relax and display behaviors meant to elicit play with another dog. Georgia and Starbuck had several successful online play sessions.

Then when Nancy went on a weekend trip, Georgia stayed with Michael and his dogs via the Home Away from Home program (HAH), a personalized home boarding program.

Georgia and Starbuck share a drink together

Over the weekend, she experienced several off leash play sessions with Starbuck as well as interaction with other dogs. In a message dated September 24, 2012, Nancy stated Georgia’s HAH weekend was the best weekend of her life as she developed her first friendship with another dog.

“That’s my GOOD GIRL!! She loves Starbuck, Kaboom and all the “kids” — best weekend of her life — thanks, Mike!”…….Nancy

Georgia’s progress is a result of owner commitment and love exhibited by Nancy.  We’re happy that we could be a part of her rehabilitation.  Great job Georgia and we welcome you back anytime!

Georgia does a run by of Starbuck eliciting a game of chase

Georgia elicits Starbuck to play with a “play bow”

Tap training testimonial

Sweet “Knucklehead”

Linda H. sent us this sincere thank you for providing her information about the remote collar training system or what she calls the “tap tap training, like a tap on the shoulder.” Michigan Dog Trainer is here to not only train dogs but also to educate owners as to the most effective and humane way of training dogs which often times includes the remote collar set at a low level that is just noticeable by the dog but not painful.  This creates an effective two way communication system or as Robin MacFarlane, a professional dog trainer in Dubuque, Iowa describes like having a GPS system for training your dog.

“Michael, these posts on your site were very helpful in educating me on the use of collars. I’m glad I took the time to read the information you provided and it gave me the knowledge to make my decision to have you train Knucklehead with the collar. When you allowed me the opportunity to test the collar on myself that was definitely my “ah ha” moment. In explaining the type of training Knucklehead is in I am referring to the training as tap training. “No it’s not a shock collar, it’s a tap tap collar – just like if someone tapped you on the shoulder”….Linda H of W. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Testimonial from professional dog trainer Bob Andres

“Today, I had the pleasure of attending Michael Burkey’s introductory dog training class for “Remote Manners.”  Michael’s skills as a canine instructor and communicator were evident in every aspect of his presentation.

Michael presented Remote Training as it was meant to be presented.  He spoke with great calm and a sense of knowledge only capable of being conveyed by a professional with a deep and solid understanding of their subject.  Michael dispelled any and all myths surrounding Remote Training while introducing his clients to the technology.  Michael provided all a first-hand opportunity to experience the exact signaling their dogs would experience by having them fit the technology to themselves and set the appropriate training levels.  The clients were happy.  The dogs were calm, relaxed and enjoying themselves.  It was a great educational afternoon.

For more information on “Remote Training”, you should visit Michael’s Facebook page, the Michigan Dog Trainer.”

Bob Andres, Owner/Dog Behavior Consultant/Trainer,