Sully a Rottweiler earns CGCA Title


CGCA, Rottweiler, Rottweiler puppy, puppy training, private dog training lessons

Sully, CGCA

On November 25, 2017, Sully a five month old Rottweiler puppy earned the American Kennel Club Advanced Canine Good Citizen title at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan.

Sully’s handler is Spencer Schiftar of Plymouth, Michigan. They prepared for this accomplishment by completing 8 private dog training lessons with Michael Burkey.

This is a huge accomplishment especially for a five month old puppy!  Congratulations Spencer and Sully.

Simple explanations for dog behavior

Michigan Dog Training, Belgian Malinois, Kaboom, Happy Halloween


Is Michigan Dog Training haunted? This was a question I amusingly asked myself the other day when I saw a Halloween Pumpkin Ornament disappear and reappear. Ohhh.

Michael Burkey, Michigan Dog Training, dog behavior, simple answers to dog behaviorFor the holiday, my staff hung a Halloween Pumpkin ornament light in between two Ghost ornaments on our kitchen windows (pictured above). The next day while providing private dog training lessons, I glanced over and saw the Pumpkin had disappeared. I assumed that one my staff members took it down to put up somewhere else in the building. However, the next day I noticed it had reappeared in-between the two ghosts. So I amusingly thought that Michigan Dog Training must be haunted because the Halloween Pumpkin disappeared and reappeared like magic.

Obviously, the simple explanation was that the sticker which hung the Pumpkin on the window had come loose causing it to fall to the floor. On the following day, someone spotted it laying on the floor and reattached it to the window. This whimsical analogy made me think of the times that dog parents often times put human emotions on their dogs and come up with complex explanations for their dogs’ behavior. When in actuality, there are really a lot more simple explanations as to why dogs do what they do.

One time, I had a client tell me convincingly that their dog was upset with him because he was watching the Super Bowl game rather than paying attention to his dog. So naturally, his dog ripped out the cable cord that was attached to the house. The client seriously thought his dog had done this to avenge him. I explained that a simpler solution was that his dog found a wonderful tug toy attached to the side of the house and since he was unsupervised, he was determined to remove it because that’s what some dogs do.

Another client told me that their dog tore up the couch pillow and when they entered the room, they could see their dog knew it was wrong to do. I asked them what that looked like to them that their dog looked guilty. I already knew the answer to my question because it’s a common one. They said their dog slinked downward toward the floor as he made an attempt to get around them and escape out of the room. I asked if it was possible that the dog knew they were upset with him. They responded, “yes of course because we were very upset, we yelled at him and he exited the room quickly. He knew he was guilty” I suggested that the dog really only knew that the owners weren’t safe to be around at that moment.

They believed the dog knew he was wrong and therefore acted guilty upon the owners walking into the room. A simpler explanation is that as the owners walked into the room and saw the cushions ripped apart, the dog sensed that the owners were upset without understanding the “why”. Thus, a human emotion of guilt was placed on the dog.  The dog was simply being a dog tearing apart a stuffed toy (in the dog’s mind).

Another owner believed their dog urinated on their bed to spite them. A much simpler explanation is that the dog had been corrected previously for laying on the bed. Thus, the dog was fearful as the owner approached and Jessica Bawol, Michigan Dog Training, Halloweentherefore the dog was unable to control his bladder at that moment.

There are many more examples of dogs performing undesirable behaviors and the stories we attach to dog behavior. There are made up stories of how we perceive things and then there are “just the facts”, as famously said by Detective Joe Friday of the TV Series “Dragnet”. So rather than assuming that Michigan Dog Training is haunted, I quickly entertained other possible explanations for the disappearance and reappearance of the Halloween Pumpkin such as the ornament simply fell to the ground.

I encourage you to look beyond your dogs presenting behavior and entertain plausible explanations as to why a dog did what it did rather than going with your first perceived complex explanation. I wish you and your family a happy and safe Halloween. Oh, and to be clear, Michigan Dog Training isn’t Haunted.      : )

Rottweiler earns Urban Canine Good Citizen

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

Bernie White & Cyrus CGCU


On May 3, 2017, Bernie White and his dog Cyrus, a Rottweiler of Lincoln Park, Michigan earned the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen Urban (CGCU) title. The testing was done by Michael Burkey, CGC Evaluator in down town Plymouth, Michigan amongst city traffic, pedestrians (adults and young children), the dog friendly Sun and Snow Sports store and on an open back metal stairway leading to a parking deck.

Congratulations to Bernie and Cyrus! They prepared themselves well by participating in Michigan Dog Training’s group dog training classes. Cyrus has an excellent temperament and was bred by Stephanie Lubbers and Brian K. Beard of Quarterwoods Rottweilers.

To learn the testing requirements for the CGCU, visit: What is the Urban Canine Good Citizen Title?

For more information, contact Michigan Dog Training or call us at 734-634-4152. We have a variety of group dog training classes and other training programs to help dog owners prepare for the CGCU.


Michigan Dog Training, Rottweiler, Plymouth, Michigan, CGCU, Canine Good Citizen Urban

Walking at Kellogg Park, Plymouth, MI

Michigan Dog Training, Rottweiler, Plymouth, Michigan, CGCU, Canine Good Citizen Urban

Cyrus heels easily past children and adults

Rottweiler, Canine Good Citizen Urban, CGCU, Michigan Dog Training

Transversing open back metal stairs like a pro.

Why are some dogs aggressive?

Why are some dogs aggressive?, dog aggression, aggressive dogs, Michael Burkey, Dog Behaviorist, Michigan Dog Training, Belgian Malinois

Michael Burkey and Radar

I’m often asked the question, “Why are some dogs aggressive?” People make up all kinds of reasons and will give it so many different labels such as leash aggression, stranger aggression, territorial aggression, barrier aggression, etc. However, it generally boils down to either fearful aggression or dominant aggression. In the labels listed above the reason for the aggression is fear of the inability to avoid and escape in the case of leash aggression, fear of the unknown such as with strangers, fear of people entering their territory (think of the yard as being a large crate in which they cannot escape from a stranger entering), etc. Dominant behavior is the willingness to display aggressive behavior to obtain or retain a resource such as food, toys, petting from a owner to ensure another dog doesn’t receive same. Dominant behavior is not walking ahead of you, stepping on your feet, jumping up on you, going out the doorway first, etc.  That’s simply the dog being a dog and wanting to be an opportunist. (Note, some aggression cases are due to physical pain or medical conditions which need to be evaluated by your veterinarian and/or have a discussion to determine if anti-anxiety medication would be beneficial to aid behavioral training).

Most aggression cases I work with are due to the dog being fearful. When we understand that, then it’s possible to come up with a management and treatment plan to desensitize the dog to fearful items, build their confidence and increase their reliability to obedience commands. If we simply, label a dog as being bad, then it’s a label and a character judgment without the willingness to see what is really troubling the dog and how to improve their situation.

So to answer the above question of “why”, one can look to whether the dog received proper socialization at a young age (generally before 16 weeks of age), are poor genetics part of the problem and/or was the dog exposed to bad experiences that taught him/her to be afraid of people, other dogs, etc. Even more important than – Why?, is the question of what do we do about it now? It would be nice if the dog could tell us why so we can understand why the dog feels the need to use aggression to keep itself safe or to obtain/retain resources. It would certainly make us feel better so we can understand and be empathic to the dog for our own personal needs. However, that question really isn’t too helpful to the dog nor does it answer the much more important question of how are we going to help the dog and everyone else remain safe?

Case in point is Radar, a Belgian Malinois who I am training and his owner via private lessons. He was adopted so the owner doesn’t know if Radar wasn’t socialized properly, has bad genetics and/or was exposed to frightening experiences when he was younger. He trusts her and her father but not strangers. In the first lesson, he continuously barked at me or avoided me. It was clear to see from his body posture and behavior that he was scared of being close to me. In the second lesson, he took treats from my hand hesitantly but discontinued the barking saying “stay away from me.” A caution note here, while I use food treats to desensitize Radar to me one has to be careful to watch for any change of body language. Sometimes people become over confident because they see the dog is willing to cease the aggressive display of behavior to obtain the food treats. So they think everything will be fine. However, if the person moves suddenly, leans toward or over the dog or even if the food runs out, the dog may remember that they were truly scared and react with aggressive behavior. So was the food desensitizing the dog to the person (the intended objective) or was it only acting as a temporary distraction?

In the third lesson, Radar continued to bark at me despite responding to my commands to sit or lay down. Since he was responding to my commands despite lots barking, I felt I would be able to walk with Radar and his owner. So we walked together for a bit with me gradually coming Why are some dogs aggressive, dog aggression, aggressive dogs, Michael Burkey, Dog Behaviorist, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigancloser and closer to them as we walked in line with each other.  He kept his eye on me but ceased his barking. Often times I would start with a muzzle first but I believed Radar would walk with me and wouldn’t bite but may return to his barking repertoire. As his owner handed me the leash and gradually faded out of our proximity, Radar started to walk with me and didn’t bark. He showed some avoidance behavior at first but quickly responded to my commands to heel and come that were well-taught by his mom. This obedience knowledge aided in his ability to come closer to me. After walking on a loose leash for awhile, I sat down at a pause table (agility table) holding Radar’s leash in my hand. I was pleasantly surprised and honored that Radar immediately came to me eliciting petting from me. As I petted him, he leaned into me for comfort and support.  I had just made a new friend.

Another question I’m often asked is, “Why do you do what you do (train dogs)?” The answer is “to enhance the lives of dogs and humans so they can live in harmony together”, as is with my new friend Radar.  : )


To learn how Michael Burkey and the MDT Staff can help you and your dog, call us at 734-634-4152 or check out our website at:  Michigan Dog Training.


Dash a SDIT earns Urban CGC

Michigan Dog Training, Urban CGC, Urban Canine Good Citizen, Service Dog in Training, Service Dog, Diabetic Alert Dog

On the cold wintery day of January 25, 2017, Dash a Golden Doodle earned the American Kennel Club Urban Canine Good Citizen title. The testing was done by Michael Burkey of Michigan Dog Training in downtown Plymouth. Dash passed with flying colors heeling amongst distractions of people seeking warmth in the Panera Bread restaurant, disregarding walkers and joggers on city streets, sitting beforehand and calmly crossing city streets, loading and unloading from a vehicle under control, disregarding trash left on the sidewalk, transversing open back metal grated stairs and more.

Michigan Dog Training, Urban Canine Good Citizen, CGC, Urban CGC, Service Dog in Training, Service Dog, Diabetic Alert Dog, Michigan Dog Training

Down stay at a restaurant

Dash and her owner Shannon Inglis of Lake Orion, Michigan are participating in MDT’s Train Your Own Service Dog (TYOSD) Diabetic Alert Dog program which consists of 24 private and group lessons to gain public access obedience skills and to be able to alert when Shannon’s blood sugar goes low. They are doing an outstanding job and Dash has already alerted to Shannon’s lows in real world settings.

Congratulations Dash and Shannon!


How do I teach my dog to go to “place”?

dog training, Michigan Dog Training, teach your dog to go to place, behavior shaping, clicker trainingMax and Lucky are attending private dog training lessons at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan with dog behaviorist Michael Burkey. In the video below, they demonstrate how to teach your dog to go to “place” via clicker training and behavior shaping.

Clicker training is using a sound such as the click of a clicker to mark the moment your dog did a desired behavior and to signal that a food reward is forthcoming. Behavior shaping is capturing and rewarding behavior as it occurs such as the dog touching the target stick with his nose versus luring the dog into the desired behavior. Luring tends to be a faster method of dog training but behavior shaping requires the dog to think instead of just follow a hand and thus cements the exercise into his mind more soundly. A dog taught via shaping is also more engaged in the learning exercise and willing to try new behaviors.

Teaching your dog to go to “place” (a pre-designated location) can be helpful when welcoming your guests into your home, having your dog go away from the kitchen table to prevent begging, jump into your vehicle, go to a spot and relax, etc.

Place can be taught via hand luring or in this example by teaching the dog to touch a target stick such as an Alley Pop freestanding target. The target stick is used to get the dog to move away from the handler. Later, the target stick is placed on the mat where you want your dog to go to and the final step is to remove the target stick and simply have the dog go to the mat on the cue of “place”.

The five steps for teaching your dog go to “place” using behavior shaping include:
1. Teach your dog to touch a target stick held in your hand,
2. Teach your dog to touch a free standing target stick,
3. Send your dog to the target stick from a distance,
4. Place the target stick on a mat to start teaching “place”,
5. Remove the target stick from the “place” mat and cue – Place

Service Dog earns Canine Good Citizen

Service Dog, Diabetic Alert Dog, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan


On January 31, 2017, Piper Dashwood Kane and his owners Sheldon and Cheryl Kane of W. Bloomfield, Michigan earned their Canine Good Citizen title.

Piper also successfully completed the Train Your Own Service Dog training program to become a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan. The training was provided by Dog Behaviorist Michael Burkey and Assistant Dog Trainer Matthew Bryant.

Congratulations to Piper, Sheldon and Cheryl!

Michigan Dog Training, Diabetic Alert Dog, Service Dog, Canine Good Citizen


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.


Dog training transformations

Michigan Dog Training, Mountains, Draper, UtahI recently flew into Salt Lake City, Utah exhausted from travel and drove to my hotel in the darkness of the night. I was focused on transversing the unknown highways instead of taking in the sights. The next morning as I ventured from the hotel; I saw a picturesque view of snow-capped mountains in the distance. They were beautiful but so far away. I had forgotten Utah had mountains, so it was a nice surprise but not an earth moving moment.

The mountains seemed so far away and unattainable. My heart was saddened as I knew I would not have time to explore them as I had done during a trip to Colorado a few years ago. I am happy and content when I am one with nature.

So I got in the car and drove parallel to the mountains toward my destination, K9 LifeLine in Draper, Utah (where it’s founder Heather Beck gave an awesome Dog DayCare Seminar). As I made a right hand turn away from the distant mountains, I was literally stunned; my eyes opened wide, I stopped breathing, my jaw dropped and I uttered, “Oh my Gosh!!! Right in front of me had to be one of the most beautiful mountains I had seen. It wasn’t distant – I was at the base of the mountain experiencing all of its grandeur!

Michigan Dog Training, Transform, Train your dogObviously, this close mountain had been there all the time. I could’ve seen it right from my hotel. The only thing that had changed was my orientation. If I had simply turned around upon exiting the hotel to take in a 360-degree view, it would’ve been there for me to see.

This breath taking realization flooded my mind with several thought-provoking ideas. A moment prior, I felt saddened seeing the distant mountains as I told myself a “lacking story” of not having time to explore but now I was overjoyed realizing I was at the base of a splendor mountain.

Stories get us into trouble. Landmark Education teaches there is “what is” (the facts) and then there is the “story”. If we focus on the story, we feel sorrow and pain painting ourselves as a victim who isn’t in control of their outcome and opportunities. Instead, if I had focused on the “what is”, I would’ve felt satisfaction in seeing beautiful mountains in the distance as an outline to the wonderful opportunity to attend the K9 Lifeline seminar.

To view the close mountain, the only things that changed were light, being open and my orientation. The night prior it was dark and I wasn’t open to seeing the environment as I was exhausted and focused on traveling the unknown highways. The next morning I still didn’t see the mountain until I turned toward it while driving and was faced with what was right in front of me. Many times we don’t see or understand things that are right in front of us let alone around us without being open to new thoughts, ideas and experiences.

With inspiring fulfillment, I took in “My Mountain” for it was my mountain, not out of ownership as one does not own nature but out of oneness and connectedness. And, I could hear Lisa Mininni, Best-Selling Author and President of Excellerate Associates speaking to me as I gazed upon my mountain: “What you focus on you find; what you focus on grows and increases; what you focus on seems real; what you focus on you ultimately become.” I had found my mountain by changing my orientation and focusing on what was in front of me.

As commonly happens, my thoughts turned toward dogs and dog training and how that related to my mountain transformation. Many times we don’t understand what the dog is telling us because we obviously don’t speak their language. As one learns a foreign language by immersion, deep practice and hiring a teacher who is fluent in the desired language; we too should learn what their body mannerisms and vocalizations really mean. They are communicating with us all the time. We just need to be present in the moment with our dogs. If we are focused elsewhere, we will not be open to understanding them.

It is important to be clear on what your end goal is for your dog; whether that is to become a calm and happy pet dog or a dog who excels in sports such as obedience, agility, or nose work so that “what you focus on, you find”. Even more importantly, is relishing in the experience of the journey. Otherwise, we will miss out on wonderful opportunities to be in communion with our dogs.

To experience a transformation with your dog:Michigan Dog Training, Transform, Train your dog

  • See your dog’s behavior for what it is and not the stories you tell yourself
  • Feel the pain your dog’s behavior causes you (your dog pulls hard on the leash, your dog destroys your home furnishings, your dog jumps on your house guests causing them to limit their visits, your dog shows fearful and/or aggressive behavior, etc.) and use it as an activator to train your dog
  • Be open to what your dog presents around you as well as right in front of you
  • Learn what your dog’s body language and vocalizations mean
  • Focus on what you want your dog’s end goal to be and
  • Relish in the new awesome journeys you’ll experience together.

Start your dog’s transformation today by contacting Michigan Dog Training at 734-634-4152.

Juliana Arnold passes exams to be a Dog Trainer

Michael Burkey, Michigan Dog Training, Dog TrainerOn June 9, 2016, Juliana Arnold (having already passed practical exams) also passed a through written exam with flying colors, recognizing her as a “Dog Trainer with a Specialization in E-Collar Training” at Michigan Dog Training (MDT) in Plymouth, Michigan. She received training at MDT while working there as an Assistant Dog Trainer since August 30,2015. On June 9, 2015 she was promoted to the position of “Dog Trainer.”

Since the age of 13, she had been a passionate dog owner and volunteer at the Dearborn Animal Shelter. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice. Juliana also lived for three years in her mother’s home country of Venezuela where she became fluent in Spanish. Juliana says, “I joined MDT in 2015 with a desire to get a first class education in dog training from Michael Burkey.” She is a person who accomplishes her goals.

Her other goal is to become a Michigan State Police Trooper. She was recently accepted into their July 2016 Trooper School.  She expects to graduate in November 2016 and one day handle a Michigan State Police K9. As demonstrated by her hard work ethic and concern for others (people and dogs) at MDT, we know she will be successful in what ever goals she sets for her self. MDT wishes her good fortune and our full support.