Train your dog and earn an AKC Title

Canine Good Citizen, American Kennel Club, Michigan Dog Training

Michael Burkey, CGC Evaluator

Michigan Dog Training (MDT) in Plymouth, Michigan has developed a new banner promoting the American Kennel Club’s Puppy S.T.A.R., Canine Good Citizen (CGC), Community Canine Good Citizen (CGCA), and the Urban Canine Good Citizen (UCGC) titles. These titles are open to mix and purebred dogs and are a great way to motivate dog owners to train their dogs to the next level of obedience training and to instill responsible dog ownership.

MDT has structured its dog training group classes around the testing requirements for each of the below described titles.  Upon successfully completing the requirements for each, owners can showcase their dog’s accomplishment by having their photo taken in front of the banner which will be published on MDT’s Facebook page and submit their paperwork and accompanying nominal fee to the AKC for an impressive looking title.  Additionally, owners can then use the appropriate abbreviations behind their dog’s name to reflect the title they have earned. The AKC requirements for each title are listed below.

Puppy Manners Group Class / Puppy S.T.A.R.

After your pup has participated in six weeks of training (thus MDT evaluates dogs at the completion of the Puppy 2 class) he or she is eligible to test for the AKC S.T.A.R. (Socialization, Training, Activity, Responsibility) Puppy program.


The owner must:

1. maintain the puppy’s health and provide documentation

2. receive the CGC Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge

3. describe their dog’s adequate daily play and exercise plan

4. attend at least six puppy classes (by an approved CGC Evaluator-which we have at MDT)

5. bring bags to classes for cleaning up after their puppy

6. obtained some form of ID for the puppy such as a collar tag, microchip or tattoo.

The puppy’s behaviors must be:

7. Free of aggression toward people during the puppy classes

8. Free of aggression toward other puppies in the class

9. Tolerate collar or body harness of owner’s choice (no electronic collars)

10. Willing to have their owner hug or hold them (depending on size)

11. Allow their owner to take away a treat or toy.

Additionally, the puppy must show pre-Caine Good Citizen behaviors such as:

12. Allow petting by a person other than their owner

13. Allow owner to handle and exam their ears and feet

14. Walk on a leash in a straight line for 15 steps

15. Walk by other people who are approximately 5 feet away

16. Sit on command (owner may use a food lure)

17. Down on command (owner may use a food lure)

18. Come to owner from five feet away when their name is called

19. Show a good response to distractions that are presented fifteen feet away from the puppy

20. Stay on leash with another person while the other walks ten steps away and returns.

Intermediate Manners / Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

The Intermediate Manners dog class prepares you and your dog for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluation at the conclusion of the class. The evaluation is open to mix and purebred dogs. To earn a title, your dog must be registered with the American Kennel Club so that your dog’s titles can be recorded in the AKC official records. If you purchased your dog from an AKC listed breeder, you should’ve been given paperwork to register your dog with the AKC. If you don’t know your dog’s pedigree, you can request a Purebred Alternative Listing. And, if your dog is a mix breed, you can register him/her as an AKC Canine Partner.

The evaluation has ten components:

1. Accept a friendly stranger who approaches and shakes hands with the handle but does not touch the dog

2. Sitting politely for petting

3. Appearance and acceptance to grooming such as brushing and having his/her ears and front feet touched

4. Out for a walk which includes right, left and about turns along with a stop

5. Walking through a crowd close to several people (the dog may show casual interest but may not jump up on people)

6. Sit and down on command and handler chooses to leave their dog in either a sitting position or laying down position and goes to the end of a 20 foot line and returns to their dog immediately

7. Coming when called out of the position from number six for a distance of ten feet

8. Reaction to another dog; two handlers and dogs approach each other, the handlers shake hands, exchange pleasantries and move on. The dogs can show casual interest but not leave their handler to greet the other dog

9. Reactions to distractions such as a loud closing door or a runner running past the team in which the dog may not panic or show aggression

10. Supervised separation whereas handler goes out of sight for three minutes. The dog is held on a six foot leash by an evaluator.

Advanced Manners / Canine Good Citizen Advanced (CGCA)

The Advanced manners dog class prepares a dog for the Canine Good Citizen Advanced (CGCA).

To pass the CGCA:

1. The dog must stand, sit or lie down and wait under control while the owner sits at the registration table and fills out paperwork or wait while the owner sits and has a snack or visits with another person

2. Dog walks on a loose leash in a natural situation and does not pull while making a left turn, right turn, stop, and walk at a fast and slow pace

3. Dog walks on a loose leash through a crowd

4. Dog walks past distractions and does not pull such as other dogs who are 2 feet apart or past other dogs in a hallway

5. Sit stay in small circle group (three other people with dogs) with dogs on leash on their handler’s left side and three feet apart from other dogs

6. Dog allows person who is carrying something such as a backpack or computer bag to approach and pet it

7. “Leave it” whereas the dog walks by food and follow handlers instruction to leave it

8. Down or sit-stay at a distance whereby the handler leaves the dog, walks out 20 feet, picks up an item and returns to their dog

9. Recall with distractions present

10. Dog will sit or stay stay (handler’s choice) while handler enters/exits a doorway or narrow passageway.  Handler calls dog through door when ready.  Handler may choose to send the dog through first and have the dog wait for the handler, or, the handler may choose to have the dog go through the doorway at the handler’s side.  Whichever method is used, the dog must not pull the owner and must be under good control. Think of the handler having the leash in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

Advanced Manners/ Urban Canine Good Citizen (CGCU)

A student may retake the Advanced Manners class to prepare their dog for the Urban CGC (CGCU) evaluation.

It also has ten components:

1. Exit/enter doorways with no pulling in dog friendly buildings,

2. Walk through a crowd on a busy urban sidewalk where people are walking fast and coming toward the dog (1 foot away) and be able to tolerate distractions such as people wearing hats, coats, men, women, etc.

3. Appropriate reaction to city distractions including movement, noises and walking on a variety of surfaces such as horns, sirens, construction noise, person yelling, skateboards, bikes, carts, person running, on various surfaces (concrete, grate, grass, plastic tarp, wet sidewalk, etc.

4. Crossing street; stopping at corner, stand or sit to wait and cross with no pulling, and crosses street under control

5. Ignores food on sidewalk

6. Person walks up and pets dog while carrying something (item is not set down such as in the CGCA)

7. Public Building, dog walks under control on slick surfaces or carpeted floor, does a down stay in lobby or outdoor area or waits while handler has a meal or snack

8. Goes up and down stairs, steps or elevator under control

9. House trained for apartment, condo, city living

10. Transportation savvy such as being able to enter/exit and ride in a car, subway or dog friendly cab under control.

The evaluations are held on the last night of each class.  There is no fee for students to take the evaluation.  Non-students may also take the fee for a nominal charge of $20.00. Don’t delay, sign up now for a puppy or dog group training class.


Belgian Malinois has a new home with Michigan Dog Trainer

Belgian Malinois rescue

Burkey and Sonic

Well I wasn’t looking for another dog as I got my puppy just a few months ago.  However, thanks to Malinois Rescue, I heard about a Belgian Malinois in need at the Lenawee County Humane Society a couple of weeks ago.

So I went to visit Boudewijn (call name now Sonic) to temperament test him as he had shown some threat behavior toward the staff.  I determined that due to his threat behavior when having his collar held and explosive energy, that he was not proper to adopt out to the public.  However, he was very affectionate and deserved a second chance with behavior modification and obedience training.

Therefore, in talking with the humane staff (who are awesome by the way), it was decided I would adopt him and he would come home with me.  I’m a big believer that trainers should adopt problematic dogs (that would benefit a second chance if they received the proper training) as a way to give back to the community, shelter agencies and the dogs themselves.  And, I figured it was my time again to adopt another dog that might be rehabilitated with the proper training and management. So welcome home Boudewijn’s “Sonic”.

Kaboom arrives at 8 weeks of age


Kaboom, my new Belgian Malinois puppy arrived at the Detroit Airport from California aboard a Continental Airline flight. Most of the airlines have travel restrictions during cold and hot temperature climates but Continental does not.  This is because Continental assigns an employee as a pet ambassador that ensures the animals are not on the tarmac for any length of time before departure or upon arrival. The risk to animals’ health is not in the cargo hold as they are now days climate controlled. The risk occurs during the time they spend on a hot or cold tarmac. So if you need to ship a dog, choose Continental Air Cargo.

He arrived in a puppy approved airline crate with a towel to lay on (it provides comfort and helps if the puppy soils the crate during the flight) and with a knuckle-bone to chew. I was surprised he didn’t look a little frightened as it can be scary for a puppy to make a first flight and see new strangers through his crate door.  Instead, he had this look on his face that said, “Hello there, nice to meet you. My name is Kaboom.  What’s yours?”

He then immediately snuggled into my chest for comfort and was a little more reserved exposed in the new environment outside of his crate.  He remained that way for about a half hour and then his question went from “What’s your name?” to “Do you want to play?” And, it’s been non stop play since then.

According to research studies, the best time to get a puppy is eight weeks of age.  Puppies younger than that may have a harder time playing appropriately with other dogs later in life and not develop good bite inhibition and puppies older than that may have a harder time being confident with people unless the breeder continued the socialization process with people.

I have plans to compete with Kaboom in Mondio-Ring which is a protection and obedience sport well suited to Belgian Malinois.  Otherwise if I had not planned to compete in Mondio-Ring, I would have sought out a puppy or dog to adopt from the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Michael Burkey learns to target Pi to take a shoulder bite

When seeking a pure bred puppy, it is crucial to research the breeder. In my case, the breeder was Michael Ellis a very well-known professional dog trainer, competitor and Malinois breeder of high energy dogs whom have excelled in many dog sports. His breeding kennel name is Loups du Soleil. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet him and his male dog “Pi”, Mondio-Ring 3 during four weeks of seminars at his school for dog trainers. I was very impressed with Pi’s drive for the work, full confident bite and focused energy. And, Michael told me that his female dog “Basa” was ready for her Mondio-Ring 1 title and had a full confident bite. From one of Michael’s videos, I watched Basa working in obedience when she was just four months old and was also impressed with her focused energy and drive. Also, I observed Kaboom’s uncle Shrek (brother to Pi) do obedience and protection demonstrations which showcased his extreme drive and energy. Additionally, during the Decoy class I had the opportunity to take bites from both Pi and Shrek. They strike with so much power and show ultimate control and precision work in their protection and obedience routines.

Michael Ellis also provided me with a link to a video cam showing how the puppies were being cared for by Basa and that the pups were being socialized with adults and children. Lastly, he was always responsive to my questions and very knowledgeable about his dogs’ genetic lines. He even knew about the genetic lines of other breeder’s dogs. These are the characteristics you want to find in a professional breeder.

Before the puppy’s arrival, inquire about what the puppy has eaten and have it available for your pup.  If you wish to change the food, do so gradually to avoid upsetting the puppy’s stomach. Feed your puppy a high quality food such as Life Abundance (which is developed by a holistic vet and shipped right to your door ensuring freshness of six weeks or less because many store-bought kibble food is 12-24 months old), if store-bought then choose something such as Taste of the Wild, Wellness or Primal frozen raw food. They contain quality ingredients with no meat by-products.

Your puppy was probably de-wormed by the breeder two or three times and given the first of a series of vaccinations.  Right away, take a stool sample into your vet to test for worms and schedule your puppy’s first wellness check and the second series of vaccinations. You should wait to introduce your puppy to strange dogs or enter a puppy socialization / obedience dog training class until one week has passed the second series of vaccinations (there is no need to isolate your puppy from your other dog provided your other dog is healthy and not exposed to high risk situations).

While not offering full protection, most veterinarians recognize that this protocol provides most puppies enough protection to start socialization classes.  Studies have shown that more puppies are put down due to later behavioral problems than illness when socialization was delayed until after the third series of vaccinations.

So Kaboom has arrived safe and sound at the age of 8 weeks from an excellent breeder. I had his scheduled food available for him along with Nylabone puppy chew bones.  I placed his crate in our bedroom so I would be awakened during the night to take him outside. The following day I took his stool sample to the vet which tested negative and scheduled his wellness check and second vaccination for October 3, 2012.

I’ll keep you updated on his ongoing training and adventures. Hopefully, his journal will give you ideas and tips for welcoming your new puppy or adult dog into your home.

Auto train your dog

Dog owners typically ask professional dog trainers this question, “how long and how often should I train my dog?” Whether the intent of the question is to make sure they put in enough training time to be successful as they tend to be an overachiever or whether it’s because they only want to put in “just enough” time because they have other things they would rather be doing, makes no difference.

The answer to the question is that training occurs all the time for a life-time. However, for the person that absolutely needs a concrete answer as to time and frequency, a variation of the below is usually given:

  • 10-15 minutes per session,
  • 2-3 times per day,
  • five days per week.

It’s also followed by advice such as:  “keep it short and fun, end the session before the dog loses interest and frequency is more important than length of time.”  This is all good advice as one needs a concrete plan especially in the beginning stages of training a dog.  If one does not have a plan in place, “life happens.”

When life happens, unplanned activities get placed to the side.  Before you know it, you’re well-intentioned plan to train your dog will not happen.  This is like when people want to start an exercise program.  If they don’t make appointments in their schedule to go to the gym, it’s likely that life will interfere.  However, if one schedules and keeps those appointments, one will be much more successful in obtaining their fitness goals. Later, as fitness becomes a way of life instead of a goal, the need for scheduled appointments will become less necessary.  Thus, it is the same with the training of a dog.

Once a dog learns basic obedience commands and you’re happy with the results, there becomes less of a need for set training appointments with your dog.  Expecting, reinforcing and maintaining good manners becomes a life style and thus training occurs all the time. A dog learns what works best for them to achieve their goals whether that to be to get food, praise, or a fun game of fetch or tug.  This is when the auto training of your dog can begin.

They already know basic commands and can do them reliably upon being given a hand and/or voice command.  They perform the desired cue because doing so brings pleasure and/or the avoidance or release from an unwanted stimulus. Additionally, repeating a learned habit can be reinforcing in of itself as well.

This is when the auto training of your dog can effectively begin.  While walking your dog, come to a stop and wait for your dog to sit without telling him to sit.  When he does, tell him “yes” and reinforce his choice to sit with a food treat and/or praise.  He will soon learn to automatically sit upon you halting to a stop.  Prior to letting your dog go outside to potty, wait for him to sit. When he does, open the door and give him a release command such as “ok” so he can go through the door.  Once he offers the sit automatically upon you approaching the door, make it more challenging by expecting him to maintain the sit until the release command is given.  If he stands prior to the release command being given, close the door.  When he sits again,  open the door. Within a few trial and errors, he will probably maintain the sit until he hears the release command. When you lay down on the couch, wait for your dog to offer the behavior of laying down and then reward as before. You didn’t tell your dog to lay down, he offered it as a behavior in hoping it would result in a reward as it has done so in the past.

Auto training a dog is very fun and rewarding.  You end up with a dog that is much more pleasant to live with and it seems as if your dog can read your mind.

Thailand dog patiently waiting for food hand-out by laying down

Feral dogs in Thailand have in a sense auto trained themselves.  It probably took more trial and error (as it does in dog training that uses auto-shaping) as they did not have the benefit of someone teaching them basic obedience commands before the auto training occurred. However, they have learned the most effective way to get food hand-outs from humans is to lay down and wait.  By being patient instead of pushy, humans will offer them parts of their meals or will eventually leave part of their meals behind in the form of trash. Jt Clough, a professional dog trainer and life/fitness coach in Kona, Hawaii has noticed the same about the dogs who “live outdoors” on Kona. She has observed them to be well socialized and well-behaved which was a form of auto training.

So you too can learn to auto train your dog.  First teach your dog basic obedience commands with the help of a professional dog trainer.  The training can be done for you via a board and train program or you can learn how to train your dog via in-home private lessons or by attending a group dog training class.  Once your dog knows the basics, the auto training can begin.  Look for opportunities to auto train your dog and enjoy a wonderful companionship to last a life time!

Michigan Dog Trainer’s New CGC Stars, 10/30/11

On October 30, 2011 two students of Michigan Dog Trainer took and passed the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test at Lil Nell’s Pet Salon in Walled Lake, Michigan.  The CGC test is composed of ten test items to show the dog’s good manners, obedience to handler and the handler’s commitment to the health and well-being of their dog.  Prior to attending private and group dog training classes, Lilly and Lancelot were known as being a little wild.  Both made tremendous progress enabling them to pass the evaluation with flying colors.  Congratulations to all!

Deb Kastner and Lancelot CGC

Deb Kastner and Lancelot CGC, a Doberman of Farmington Hills, Michigan.








John Seaman, Amy and Emily with Lilly CGC

Amy and her boyfriend John Seaman with her daughter Emily and Lilly CGC, all American mix of southeast Michigan.

Make Dog Training Fun!

Dog training doesn’t have to be boring.  In fact, it should be fun and exciting, an awesome adventure.  When it’s fun, it’s not work.  A case in point, this weekend I was in eastern Ohio with two clients’ dogs; Joey, a Brittany Spaniel and Holly, a Golden Retriever.  As I drove through a little quaint town called Olmstead Hills, I saw a beautiful river with large stone slabs that framed it’s banks.  So I turned my truck around and decided to explore it with Joey and Holly.

They are in their early stages of obedience training but can now walk with each other on loose leashes.  So this was a perfect opportunity to explore a beautiful natural setting and practice their new obedience skills.  So what did the training session look like?  For starters, they have quickly learned that if they’re patient and wait for their leashes to be put on instead of trying to barge out of the crates; they will be verbally released to start their exploration.

Then there was the hike along the river, greeting friendly visitors along the way, exposing the dogs to numerous distractions (bicyclists, rollerbladers and playful children), exploring the river’s banks and venturing out to large stone slabs that framed the river. Of course, when they were in picturesque spots, the camera came out of my pocket so that the excursion could be later shared with their owners.  This of course provided a perfect opportunity to practice sit, down and stay as well as a place command.

At the conclusion of the fun hike (dog training session), the dogs practiced their sit stay once again while the lift gate of the truck was opened.  They calmly maintained their sit stay while the crates were opened and as they waited to be individually cued to jump into their crates. They then peacefully fell asleep and I’m sure they were dreaming about their awesome dog adventure which in truth was really a fun dog training session.

Bernese Mountain Dog Calms Down and Learns to Walk on a Loose Leash

Piro, is a highly excitable Bernese Mountain Dog.  His owner Kelly Wier hopes to be able to show him in the conformation ring one day but knows that is impossible unless Piro learns to calm down and walk nicely on a leash. Piro’s everyday behavior is to run around with over the top excitement, bounce up and down and  jump on people.

Until this day, Kelly has not been able to walk Piro on a leash.   Kelly had tried using food treats to motivate Piro into being a good dog.  However, he is so obsessed with food that it made his excitement level go through the roof. So instead of food treats, Piro was trained with calm praise and the remote collar dog training system.  This day is a new day for Piro and perhaps the start of his show career.  New adventures are now possible!


In the above video, Kelly states:  “My name is Kelly Wier and this is Piro, he’s a 10 month old Bernese Mountain Dog.  We were having a major issue with his excitable behavior.  He would not walk on a leash.  He jumps, he barks, he bounces.  So we felt we needed to contact Michael (Burkey) and we were recommended an electronic collar and with proper use it has been a wonderful tool to use with him.  In 20 minutes, he walks well on a leash, he sits, he’s not bouncing and barking, he’s not jumping around anymore.  He’s doing very well within the first 20 minutes of his session.”

17 Week Old Puppy Begins Life on the Right Paw


“Michael is great. We highly recommend him. Rocky has come so far since the 2 week board and train along with the ongoing home training sessions.”….Kevin Rambsy, Detroit, MI