EL CENTRO – For training dogs, the Imperial Valley has often looked to local trainer Mike Burk, a graduate from the Balu Academy for Dog Trainers, who began his career by going to dog owners’ homes with the goal of creating a safe and protected environment not only for dogs, but their owners’ homes as well.
Since those early days, the local trainer has expanded his horizons into law enforcement K-9s training them to detect narcotics not only for the U.S. Border Patrol, but also local police dogs.
“I officially started training dogs in 1981 after I left the Air Force and began training a German Shepherd for competition,” said Burk. “After that, people started asking if I could help with their dogs, allowing me to grow to the organization I have today.”
The connection Burk has with dogs goes all the way back to the sixth grade where he trained his own German Shepherd with retrieval techniques, through hours of training and persistence. Burk jokingly remembered his mom did not have to look for him out playing with friends, because she would always find him out back with his dogs.
Other aspects of Burk’s career involved his work using a technique he developed with cadaver-searching dogs that helps law enforcement gain more success while looking for remains and identifying bodies while investigating crimes.
“The technique we use with these animals, it creates a motivated environment, helping them search through disaster areas where earthquakes have struck”, explained Burk.
One of Burk’s other growing opportunities is his work in the El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC), where he takes therapy dogs to visit patients for recovery purposes. These dogs provide comfort and affection to those in the hospital recovering from injuries, illnesses or surgeries.
Currently, Burk has an ongoing class for dog owners that began January 15 at Imperial’s Woof Town dog park. This six-week course teaches owners training exercises on how to work with their animals to make them obedient companions. One of the major focuses for this course in socialization skills that teach dogs positive behaviors towards new people as well as avoiding barking and overprotective behaviors.
Class participants will also learn to work on their own with handling skills for their pets. These deal with vocal commands with their dogs and learning to not yell and show anger in their commands, but use a friendly and unhesitating voice.
With this class and other activities, Burk shares his passion for training canines with others, teaching owners how to care and properly communicate with their pets, and ensure the dogs get proper homes and environment to thrive.