Is training your dog a habit?

Change of habits, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

In business circles, a common topic of discussion is whether or not leaders are born to lead. And so too, I ask are people born with dog training skills or do they develop them?

It may seem obvious, that people develop the skills because most people see the value in getting their dog professionally trained. However, there are those who have a passion and love for dog training as a profession, sport or hobby, have an easier time relating to dogs than others, are easily able to recognize stress, fear and aggressive behavior signs in dogs, and are more coordinated. So which is it, born with greater skills or trained?

Greek Philosopher Aristotle, Michigan Dog Training


Aristotle said it best, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” So too is dog training. Even the most uncoordinated and first time dog owner can learn to bond, relate and train their dog with help from an experienced dog trainer as long as they consider the training of their dog to be a habit and not an one time act.

If you don’t have the time and patience to train your dog then its’ best to have a professional train your dog via a board and train or day training program. However, if you do have the time and patience as well as the motivation and commitment; then group classes or private training lessons are a good choice.

As you progress through the weekly lessons be sure to put practice time on your schedule. Just like going to the gym, it’s more likely to happen if you reserve time on your calendar and commit to it. Otherwise, life gets in the way and your attendance at the gym will suffer. Thus, you need to reserve time on the calendar for you and your dog. Otherwise, life will interrupt the best intentions of training your dog.

The good news is, you don’t have to reserve big blocks of time to train your dog at one time, such as a hour or even a half hour. Frequency of practice sessions utilizing Deep Practice or Deliberate Practice (defined by Daniel Coyle in his book, The Little Book of Talent, 52 Tips for Improving Skills as “The form of learning marked by 1) the willingness to operate on the edge of your ability, aiming for targets that are just out of reach, and 2) the embrace of attentive repetition.”) are more important than the length of the sessions. Therefore, for a pet dog to be transformed into a well mannered family member, I recommend the following minimum training sessions:

  •  Pups 10-19 weeks of age:  10-15 minute sessions, 3-4 sessions per day, 5 days per week
  •  Dogs 20 weeks and older:  20 minute sessions, 3 sessions per day, 5 days per week

Once your happy with your dog’s new obedience skills, you can switch from having scheduled training sessions with your dog to practicing good manners throughout your everyday life. As you remain consistent with the new standards you hold for your dog and for yourself, the training will cease to be an act and grow to be a habit with amazing potential and results.

My dog and children dressed in Halloween costumes; What do I do?

Michigan Dog Training, Michael Burkey, Halloween, Dog

The above picture is making the rounds on Facebook and the pic is just fine; the dog was painted with a non-toxic paint for dogs. I’m using the picture to add humor to a serious topic, “What should I do with my dog when trick or treaters visit my home on Halloween?.

Halloween is a fun time not only for the children dressing up in various costumes and visiting homes asking for candy but also for the home owners who delight in seeing the costumed children. But, its not so much fun for your dog as explained by Michael Burkey, Dog Behaviorist for Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan.

Children / kids and dogs

Many dogs have issues with children in the first place. This is because the faces of small children are at eye level for many dogs and children tend to move, scream and laugh unexpectedly. Compound that with, now the children are dressed up in various costumes in which they only see on Halloween and many of the costumes prevent the dog from seeing the childrens’ faces. Some of the costumes even scare me let alone the dog.  LOL

Let me share a couple of examples to highlight how dogs fail to recognize people due to changes in their appearance. I had a friend, Sheree, for whom I picked out a German Shepherd puppy, Bullet, for her and saw the dog on a weekly basis.  One day I parked my vehicle in the parking lot overlooking the training field where Sheree was practicing obedience skills with Bullet.  I don’t normally wear a baseball cap but that day I did.  As soon as Bullet saw me from 50 yards, he became reactive and barked non-stop until I removed my ball cap. As soon as I did, Bullet recognized me and happily greeted me. Later, Sheree went through a hard time in her life so her other dog, a French Beauceron came to live with me for about three months. When Sheree got her life back on track, he went back to live with her and a week or two later I went to visit the two of them.  That day, I happened to be wearing a business suit and as soon as I exited my vehicle in her driveway, he was instantly spooked, became reactive and would not come to me. I took my business jacket off and with some coaxing, he finally came to me. He was never reluctant to come to me other than that one time when he saw me dressed in a business suit. I share these examples of dogs who knew me well and trusted me to illustrate how dogs are so keen on noticing differences in their environment. A small change in my appearance made a big difference in the dogs’ comfort levels. So consider, how difficult it can be for many dogs to see children whom they don’t know wearing Halloween costumes on one day a year.

On Halloween, there are three potential triggers for the dog:

1. Doorbell

2. Hearing children at the front door

3. Seeing children dressed in Halloween costumes at the front door

You can desensitize your dog to counter-act these triggers. For most dogs, their dog food or special treats are powerful motivators. Prior to people visiting your home, hand feed them their treats at the sound of the doorbell.  You can have a family member ring the bell or purchase a wireless door chime from Home Depot or similar store.  During commercials of your favorite television program, activate the doorbell and give your dog his special treats.  When the sound of the doorbell stops, cease the food treats until the next doorbell sound. It is recommended that you do this exercise with your dog on leash so that he will stay with you to quickly receive the treats rather than running off to the front door. You can desensitize him to hearing and seeing children in the same way by pairing the sounds and sights of children with food treats.  If you don’t have children available to help with the training, tape record children laughing, talking loud, etc. and play it while your dog eats his meals.

Then when the trick or treaters come to the door for real, have a family member or friend that is trusted by your dog to handle your dog’s leash. They can treat the dog when the doorbell rings as well as when the children are heard or seen at the door or you can be the one handling your dog and your friend deliver the treats to the children. If the sight of the children is too much for your dog, then prevent your dog from being able to see the children and just work on the auditory distraction. If even this is too much for your dog on Halloween, then place your dog in a dog crate in an inner room, turn up the music to deaden the noise of the children and give your dog a frozen stuffed Kong so that it will last longer for him to lick out the yummy contents.

Home away from home (dog boarding)

Or, if you know that this Halloween will be too scary for your dog and thus stressful for you, then give Michigan Dog Training a call at 734-634-4152.  We will be happy to board your dog over the holiday so that he doesn’t experience scary costumed children.

Two loving dogs need new homes, can you help them?


Samson and Capone

Selene and Capone

Selene and Capone

A delightful and very caring young lady, Selene, is looking for a new home for her two dogs.  Her life circumstances have changed and she is no longer able to give them the care and attention that they need and she is use to giving them.

While Capone and Samson can get along with each other at times, it would be best for each of them to find separate homes. Selene says that both of them are awesome family dogs.  They love human interaction. If you are interested in providing a forever home for either one of them, please contact Selene (Shie) at 734-780-1000 or email her at

Capone “Poni”- is a three year old Pitt mix.  He loves attention and is good with people and children but not with other animals.  He is potty trained and knows how to sit, stay, roll over and shake with his left and right paws.

Samon is a three year old Laborador Retriever (Lab) mix who is good with children and other dogs but not with cats.  He is potty trained but does not like to go in a crate.  He knows how to sit, stay, roll over and loves to swim.






Testimonial – Very professional & successful techniques

On June 12, 2013, Michigan Dog Training LLC received a nice testimonial from one of our students, Kelly Bennett of Ypsilanti, Michigan.  She participated in a group class with her dog Lexi, a St. Bernard and Spaniel mix dog. She commented that what she liked best about our services or training was that it was “very professional and obvious successful techniques.”  She went on to say:

“While my dog did not “love” her classmates (Lexi was a little reactive toward other dogs), the training “we” received is invaluable and will prove to be useful everyday. Thank you!” ….Kelly Bennett.

German Shepherd needs forever home

German Shepherd, dog rescue, dog adoption, dogBear, a German Shepherd Dog needs a forever good home. Potential adopters should be experienced only and kids are probably not a good idea. Anyone interested, please call Jennie’s cell number (12/23/12 update – Good News Jennie found a great home for Bear).

Jennie is a wonderful dog mom and has trained Bear in basic obedience via group class and private in home training.  Bear is a beautiful dog, loyal to owner and has many good qualities.  However, he has some fear issues of strangers and other dogs that makes his present home not suitable for him. Jennie will be happy to share more details with you.

Freddy, Beagle Mix Learns to Recall Off Leash

Freddy and Kathleen

Freddy, a Beagle mix came to the Michigan Dog Trainer’s board and train program to learn to come when called off leash, to heel nicely, not to barge out the front door, not to jump on guests and to learn other basic obedience commands.  Previously, it was difficult to take him places because he constantly pulled on the leash and if he escaped out the door, he would not come when called.  Additionally, Freddy’s family wanted to be able to take him with them during trips to northern Michigan.

The training consisted of four weeks board and train.  During that time, Freddy learned basic obedience commands to include working off leash.  He enjoyed his time with Michael and his dogs as he was able to have frequent play sessions along with training time.  He also visited many interesting parks and other locations.

Toward the end of training, Freddy practiced his new skills at Parkridge Creek Mall in Clinton Township, Michigan on Black Friday no less.  Yes it was crowded but Freddy performed well and he was a joy to work with.  Be sure to watch the video to the end, to see Freddy at Parkridge Creek and later reuniting with his mom.


Testimonial – Dawn Widman says our dog has made great strides.


Mike’s expertise has helped us greatly with a challenging dog, who has made great strides.  Thank you Michael! ….Dawn Widman

Dalmatian Learns to Relax and Play with Dogs

Marc and Striker and Keeper


I just wanted you to know, that you getting him (Keeper) in the collar (remote training collar), and showing me how to work with him and the collar, has allowed Keeper to do something healthy, and fun for him, not to mention how happy I am to have him back at the dog park.

He is starting to relax and get back to the way he was when he was younger (Keeper was attacked by another dog at a dog park when he was younger).  With only a rare nick at low levels, he is doing great.  Today, he was very interactive with all kinds of dogs, he even played a bit.

I know my working with him has a part in it, but you have yet again, improved the lives of a pet and his owner.  Thank you again.  I look forward to a possible advanced class for Striker, and or more private lessons soon.

Your student, and fan.

Marc Lisnov
Westland, Michigan

New Dog Classes in Ann Arbor, Eastside – 6/23/11

Humane Society of Huron Valley

With summer comes changes such as new family dog additions as well as time constraints.  Therefore, Professional Dog Trainer Michael Burkey has restructured the dog training classes at the Humane Society of Huron Valley to deal with these challenges.

The next set of classes will be intensive and commence on June 23, 2011 running for four weeks.  Dogs are brought the first night of class compared to the previous first night being an orientation without dogs.  Michael has replaced the orientation with electronic handouts you will receive after registration and before the first night of class.  This quick starts your dog’s training program.  And, the price has also been reduced too.

The dog training classes offered will be:

  • 6:15pm, Advanced Manners (CGC)
  • 7:15pm, Basic Manners
  • 8:15pm, Feisty Fido
To register call 734-634-4152.

Susan and Honey Enjoying Walks Together

Recently, I had a very pleasant opportunity to drop in on a former Ann Arbor dog training client whom I had worked with approximately 8 months prior. I was driving to a new client’s house and happened to drive pass Susan and her dog Honey, a yellow Labrador Retriever.  They were enjoying a pleasant spring walk together and Honey was happily walking right beside Susan with no pulling on the leash.  So I turned around and pulled up alongside them to tell Susan what a “wonderfully trained dog she had.”   : )

Eight months ago, Honey use to be dog to dog reactive and pull very hard on a leash. Through in home dog training sessions together, Susan learned how to desensitize Honey to other dogs, to train Honey to pay attention to her and how to walk nicely on a leash. In fact, Honey improved so much that she was able to walk along side my dogs Draco and Simone.

Now approximately 8 months later, she reports her dog continues to do well and it showed.  Susan has been successful with Honey because of her commitment to working with her dog during and after training sessions.  And, seeing the two of them being able to enjoy a walk together put a big smile on my face. It was a good day – running into them again.