E135: Michael Badial - "Handling Aggression"

Michael Badial joins me to talk about how he came to work with aggressive dogs and the strategies he employs to stay safe.


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high-quality instruction for competitive dog sports using only the most current and progressive training methods.

Today we'll be talking to Michael Badial.

Originally from California, Michael learned a lot about dog behavior while working as a meter reader, which he applied to his work managing a 200+ dog kennel in Pennsylvania. While working there, Michael founded and operated a rescue focused on the training and safe rehoming of dogs with aggression, as well as started his career training dog owners.

In 2012, Michael and his wife, Jamie, created Best Paw Forward to combine their individual efforts of bringing quality behavior training to pet dog owners in their area.

He and Jamie run the Facebook group Marketing and Business for R+ Dog Pros, which focuses on teaching other dog trainers how to price, package, and sell their services to turn their love of dog training into a full-time sustainable career. Together they also teach several classes for the new FDSA Pet Professionals Program.

Welcome to the podcast, Michael!

Michael Badial: Thank you. I appreciate you having me on.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. To start us out, can you just share a little bit about your current dogs and what you're working on with them?

Michael Badial: We have four dogs, four of own dogs, and we always have a couple of training client dogs in the house. As far as my own dogs, we have two German Shepherds, a Pomeranian-Husky mix, and a pit bull/bully breed type dog.

I don't specifically work on any particular thing with them. With Daisy I do a lot of obedience-type work, just because she likes it. But for the most part I'm always integrating them into the client dogs' training and having them perform very basic things like sit-stays, down-stays, come when called, and it really helps me to teach the client dogs what I need them to do.

Melissa Breau: How did you originally get "into dogs"?

Michael Badial: Growing up, we always had dogs. We never trained them; we sort of just existed with them. When I was younger, I was always the one who ran the dogs or walked the dogs, and because I never knew how to teach them not to pull on-leash, I just ran with them all the time. It helped I was into sports, so running with my dogs always helped me and them.

As I grew up and got a job and entered real life, I worked for Pacific Gas & Electric Company, and I loved that job as a meter reader. It was probably one of the best jobs that any human being can have. You get to see a lot of the California countryside and see spots that you would never see normally. But, because of that job, I would enter into people's properties a lot and not always invited by the dog that lived on that property. So it's a regular occurrence to be charged and attacked by dogs, because you're coming into their property and they don't want you there. And in the good California weather, everyone leaves their dog out, so your chances of being bit as a meter reader are pretty high.

That presented a really cool challenge, because I was young and full of pride and ego. I wanted to be the meter reader who got the read on the property that had the bad dog, or that had the dog that wouldn't let any other meter reader in. Because of that challenge, I basically had one cookie a month that I could use to make that dog my friend, and a lot of times I was able to do that. That's pretty much what started my career with dogs was just that experience.

Once I moved to Pennsylvania, I really got into it because I had an aggressive dog kind of handed to me. I was with my ex at the time, a guy drove up and said, "Hey, here's this dog. You've got to take it." I didn't know who the guy was or what was going on. He just said it belonged to my ex, and I said OK. He handed me the leash, the dog starts going after me, and I'm trying to figure out how to get this dog who wants to bite me into the house.

That started about a two- or three-year training process. It took me about six months just to get to a place with that dog where he didn't want to bite me anymore. He was a big dog. He was a Bull Mastiff mix. So that's really what got me started.

Melissa Breau: I don't know if "amused" is the right word, but you said it was a cool challenge that the dogs were trying to bite you as you were trying to do your job. I'm just going to say that's a pretty unique perspective.

Michael Badial: I thought about this a lot, and it's probably one of the reasons that I've worked so much on aggression and reactivity is that my childhood growing up was very aggressive. The area I grew up in was not a safe area all the time. To get to school, you had to pass through apartments where there was gang members and it wasn't safe. So growing up, we took a lot of pride in just our ability to hang out in visual sight, like in sight of people, because that wasn't something that was always safe.

I think the number of fights I got into as a kid, that kind of lent to that mentality. I wasn't a bully myself. I just was somebody who wasn't willing to back down from problems. I think that has helped for me to maintain a perspective that helps me in this work.

Melissa Breau: Have you always been a positive trainer?

Michael Badial: No.

Melissa Breau: OK. What got you started there?

Michael Badial: With that dog I mentioned, in the beginning, with the first mentor, I used the prong collars and I used the choke collars and I used the e-collar. He was very obedient, and that was about two years that I used those tools with him, and then helping out in the classes and that kind of stuff. I had a dog who listened to everything I said, He looked super-amazing. I considered competing with him in agility, he did so well on the agility course. And I could be in a room with other people and other dogs, but they couldn't touch him, they still couldn't get near him, and it didn't solve my problem.

I remember there was a day where I'm walking him and I'm watching him as he's on the e-collar, and I take his leash off and I let him run because he's on an e-collar, he's not going anywhere. He just wasn't happy. I remember seeing him and thinking, He is not a happy dog. His emotional place isn't a good one. And then I started tuning into myself and thinking, Am I happy? Am I happy about what's happening here? And I wasn't. It was always sort of there, but I brought some noticing to it.

I decided that I needed somebody else to try to help me and show me a different way. I went to a different trainer, and that trainer showed me that there was a different way to train dogs, and that's really what opened up the possibility of not having to use physical pain or fear to train. It helped him, and he overcame the issue. He went from walking down the street, biting people out of nowhere because it effectively punished out his warning behaviors, to him being able to walk down the street and voluntarily pay attention to me instead of threat-assess. He became a very, very good dog. He was always a good dog. He became a dog that was less of a threat to society, I guess.

Melissa Breau: I know, from other conversations, you've talked about you did a fair amount of experimentation and thinking through things yourself to figure out methods that worked for you. Do you want to share any of that?

Michael Badial: I started the rescue organization when I worked at the kennel. They gave me six runs. They said, "You can have six runs to work with dogs. You don't have to pay for the runs. They're yours to use. The only thing we ask is if you don't have a dog in that run and we can make money off of it, that we do." I said, "Yeah, absolutely," so I made sure those runs were full all the time. Six dogs.

I got really involved in the local community, and so anytime there was a bite case that came up, some of the local municipalities would reach out to me and say, "Can you take this dog? Can you work with this dog? Can you come pick up this dog? We can't get this dog off of this property," and that kind of became my life.

At the time, I didn't have anyone showing me … I had that one person, the one mentor who helped me with that one dog, but outside of that I didn't have anybody actually showing me how to address aggression without the use of punishment. So I said, "Screw it. I'll figure it out myself."

I went through this phase where I analyzed every single aspect of handling a dog. I thought to myself, If I could just successfully handle this dog without getting bit, without him or her making attempts to bite me, then I'm successfully reproducing what I need the dog to do with anybody else.

So every little step along the way, from breaking it down to how do I successfully get this dog out of this kennel, to how do I get them out the door and then past other dogs, and then down the street, I analyzed. How do I hold the leash so I don't get bit? How do I hold the leash so the dog feels comfortable? Because that's a thing that's possible without any other tool other than just the leash. How do I pay attention to the environment such to the effect that I can have my eyes on the dog but still know what's going on around me?

I would go into these deep states of learning, and the environment helped too, because it was a very rural area. I had this spot near a creek where I could just sit quietly with a dog and watch them and listen with my ears and pay attention to the fact that it's actually tracking a bird that's up in the tree. I would go into a lot of states like that, and that is actually what taught me the most about dogs and their reactivity issues and their sensitivities to the environment.

Through play, once I started saying, "Cool, now I can handle this dog effectively," because with every dog it was a little bit different of a process. But you quickly learned how not to agitate the dog through the leash, or how to get them to move, or even sometimes how to agitate them, because if they wouldn't move, you needed movement. And so I went through that learning process, and you quickly figure out, especially with dogs who are quick to bite, how much of an impact agitation has and how agitation flows down the leash, and if you're frustrated, that's what ends up happening.

Then I started integrating play into it, because I needed control over the bite, and I figured if I can get them to bite something, then I can start getting control over the bite. I would wear protective equipment, whether it was gloves or scratch pants or a jacket, and I would go through it. I knew that my movements are either going to trigger or avoid a bite. If I closed in on the dog too quickly, or if I made too much of a dominant posture toward the dog, how they're going to respond and react.

I would go through processes of feeling it out, and all the while trying to keep the dog's emotional state at top priority. I knew that I didn't want the dog afraid, I knew that I didn't want the dog to feel scared or lack of confidence. I didn't want them necessarily to be confident, because I was worried at the time that if they were too confident, then they were going to revert back to the strategies they knew worked, which was the bite. It was always just teetering through that emotional scale while working and playing with them.

What would happen is trust would kick in: "Oh, Michael is going to read me, he's going to take off pressure when I display certain behaviors." Once that trust kicked in, it was easier to get everything to happen. Then I would just try to replicate that ritual over and over again, and then show potential adopters the ritual.

If they couldn't perform the ritual, then this wasn't a good dog for them, because I never approached it from the aspect that this dog is now cured of aggression, and I still don't. I don't think that's a truth that anyone can state. This dog has displayed a willingness to use this level of bite to solve conflicts, and I don't think just because now he's willing to display less, rely on more dominant behavior versus aggressive behavior, that he is never going to bite again. I don't think that's true, and I don't think anybody can say that.

So I would always present it to the people who wanted to adopt these dogs that "Here's the risks, here's the past, what he's done in the past, here's where we've gotten. Can you replicate this? Can you successfully handle this dog?" I was surprised at how many people could and wanted to and took that risk on.

I know I'm getting a little off track from the original question, but going through that process, and even just trying to teach those people how I did what I did, was a lot of observation: "I need you to come to the field and I need you to watch me work this dog." They would watch before they would ever interact with the dog, and then I would slowly start integrating them into the play. Once they were involved in the play, and the dog was accepting of their presence in the play, it made it more and more easy, and I was overly cautious because I obviously didn't want anybody getting ripped apart.

Kind of what I ended up doing was if I could never get to a point with the dog where I was able to handle them, then I would seek out another trainer, if possible — but that was very few and far between; people aren't just volunteering to take the dogs who are causing damage to people — and if that didn't happen, I would have to euthanize them, and I would sit there with the dog and go through that. Ultimately what made me stop doing the rescue is that I couldn't take that anymore.

Melissa Breau: If that's how you got into things, where are you today? When you look at your approach, or your philosophy, or how you handle cases and things like that, how would you describe the approach you bring to training today?

Michael Badial: Today, with aggression cases specifically, I'm way more about teaching the owner how to be successful. Like I said earlier, I don't teach them that you're going to eliminate your aggression problem. You're not going to cure your dog of aggression. I want to teach you how to be a successful handler of the dog you have in front of you, and as that process grows and as the trust grows, then you're going to see more and more success.

For me, a big part of that is communication before we ever work with or touch the dog. I mentioned those processes that I went through as I was learning and growing with the dogs. I've gotten to a point where I have a condensed teaching of that. As you practice something over and over again, you become more efficient, obviously, and you know more about it, and you become confident in that fact that, OK, this works. So now, before we even start working with clients, I'm teaching them the things I need them to know to keep me safe.

I used to be like, "Screw it. Bite suit. Here we go," and I would start working with people and I would get bit. After a while it's like, I can't do this anymore, because these people are not strong handlers, which is what's leading to the bites. It's not that I was forcing the dogs to do anything they shouldn't do. It's that most of the time the handler errors was where the dog would lunge and they would lose the leash, and then the dog's on me.

So I put a lot of emphasis in I need to teach the client what to do before I even get there to that point with the dog. I also used to focus a lot on I'm going to become this dog's friend. That was helpful to a point, because it would prove to the client that it's possible for your dog to accept new people. Now we're talking extreme levels of aggression cases here, not your normal "Oh, my dog barks," and then after five minutes …

Melissa Breau: We're not talking reactivity.

Michael Badial: We're talking about he wants to eliminate the person in the house. So I would get to these points with these dogs where they're like my friend and they're great, they accept me now. But that doesn't necessarily help them with the next person. And they would be like, "Why doesn't he accept that person?" I would have to repeat to them, "Do you remember the ritual that we went through and how long it took?"

The surprising part is most cases, three one-hour sessions, so if you really think about that, yeah, it's spread over three weeks, but it's three hours. I'm with them for three hours, and then after three hours, the dog's cool. A lot times that's what it was. So it's really trying to get them to understand, "There's a ritual to this that your dog needs, and we have to figure it out." But now I don't even want the dog to get comfortable with me. I don't want them to get to the point where I'm their friend, because it's really hard to generate strangers who want to take on this work with the client, and so I need the client to know how to train and handle the dog in the company of strangers.

The interesting part to this is even though I'm not petting the dogs, I'm not interacting with the dogs, I'm not playing with them, I'm not delivering any of the food or reinforcement, I'm simply acting as a stranger in the environment, they still get to a point of, "Oh, I know this guy. Cool. I've never physically sniffed him. I've taken in his scent from afar. I've watched him enough to know he's not a threat."

And that's ideal. To me, with clients who have a dog who will bite, it's ideal for them to get to the point where they can trust that there's a process they can implement where their dog will not aggress toward people in the home. So a lot of it for me is instruction up front, and then really focusing on getting the handler to a point where they're going to keep everyone safe, the dog included.

Melissa Breau: As a professional trainer, is this really the kind of training you focus on? Are you mostly doing aggression cases these days?

Michael Badial: We get a lot. We get a lot of it because we are … there's a couple of other trainers in our area who promote that they can do this force-free or with R+ training, but a lot of the times they're sending us these clients. And there's a lot of trainers in our area who address this kind of stuff through the use of e-collars and prong collars, and I end up getting those clients a lot of times because they end up making the situation worse.

So we don't shy away from these cases by any means, but I am reaching a point now where it's like, is this always what I want to be doing, because I never stop thinking about these clients. I work with them, and at night I'm thinking about them, and a month later or two months later, I'm thinking about them. I'm wondering how they're doing. I'm wondering is their dog safe, is their dog still alive. It's very emotional work.

But to answer that question, yeah, we do a lot of this, and we do promote that we take on these types of cases. I used to take it in in a board-and-train setting, but now that I have children, I don't do that anymore. I do it strictly in private lesson format.

Melissa Breau: What do you do for your board-and-train? I know you guys do a fair amount of those. What is that type of work?

Michael Badial: We do a lot of reactivity in our board-and-train. We will at times take on cases where dogs haven't necessarily gotten along with other dogs. But a lot of it is puppy stuff, a lot of it is not listening, not coming when called, and they're just busy people and they don't have the time to put foundations in place.

My approach to life with dogs here is that they're living with us. They're going through as much of our day-to-day routine as they possibly can, and I'm going to be working them out in public a lot. I want them to get to the point where they're just good dogs. They're being dogs, they're displaying natural dog behavior, but they're responsive to their handler and they're able to enjoy life, as well as their handler be able to enjoy life. That's my goal in our board-and-train.

It's not to have a robot dog, it's not to have a dog who listens 100 percent of the time. That doesn't exist. I'm going to say that right now; I don't care. So many people, that's the selling point to a board-and-train: Your dog's going to go to this board-and-train, and he's going to come back listening 100 percent of the time. That's craziness. No being does that. No being. No human being does that.

So that's not my goal. The goal of our board-and-train is that they learn how to be responsive to their handlers and do listen better, of course, and understand the words that we're using, also the rules and boundaries of the house, and just have overall better manners when they leave here. And it's fun work. It's really rewarding, actually.

Melissa Breau: To talk a little more about the reactive/aggressive dogs stuff, I know you said you often start off by talking to the handler and coaching the handler on how to be safe, even during the training sessions. Can you go into a little more detail on that? Is there a very first step there, where you usually begin the work?

Michael Badial: I don't do any in-person consults. I don't meet the dogs before I start working with them. That's more of a state of my confidence in my ability than it is anything else.

I know there's a lot of trainers that want to see the dog first, and I think that's probably the riskiest thing, because I did that. We used to do free consults. I would go to a home for free and evaluate their dog, and that's when you're most likely to get bit is in that initial consult. I realize I've seen enough of this to know what's going on and know how to handle it. I don't need to see the dog. There's no new behaviors going to be thrown at me.

So I do the consult over the phone now. Once I realize on the consult that they're going to sign up, I'm already instructing them on what I want them to do. That information is then repeated in an e-mail, and in our e-mail for onboarding process, they are given very specific instructions on what they are to do with the dog before I even get there. And then I'm calling them before I get there, especially if I'm concerned about the case, and I'm making sure they've implemented the things I've asked. I'm doing as much education around what I want them to do as possible.

In the beginning of the appointment, the dog's not out. The dog doesn't have access to me. I'm trying to eliminate as many possibilities for this dog to get to me and bite me as possible, because what they paid me is not going to cover the medical bills.

So once it's just me and the client, I'm instructing them again. I'm showing them what I want them to do, I'm giving them examples, I'm taking a look at their equipment that they're going to have the dog on, and I'm trying to find any failing points, that way the clip doesn't come off the harness, or the harness doesn't have tears in it.

Being in the military for so long, one of the things we do before we use any piece of equipment is we inspect it. If you're handed a rifle, you inspect your rifle right there in front of the person who's going to sign this rifle over to you, for a couple of reasons. One, you want it to be serviceable, but you also want to be able to say, "This sight post is broken. I didn't break it. You did." That type of stuff. Especially in vehicles, I operate vehicles in the military that have high explosive rounds, and if there's a misfunctioning piece to that vehicle, that could mean the death of the entire crew. So it's serious business to inspect your equipment before you use it. I don't know how many dog trainers actually take that aspect seriously, but it can prevent a life-threatening situation. I think the Army just hammered that home to me.

And then the understanding that "Crawl, walk, run" — that's what we do in the Army, and that's what you should do with aggression cases too. Let's crawl through the information first. I'll show you some handling stuff before you even put it on the dog. Let's walk through it. Now we're moving a little bit faster. And then let's run through it. The dog is now involved. That process alone, I think, has dramatically increased my life expectancy. So that's the process in a nutshell of what I do with those clients.

Melissa Breau: You mentioned that there are things you do or are showing them to create safeguards to prevent things from going wrong. Can you give me an example of what you're talking about there?

Michael Badial: One of the key pieces is a leash, let's say. It'll go just like this: "Let me see your leash." They bring the leash out and I go, "OK, great. Six-foot flat nylon. Awesome. Like it. Oh, wait, it's got this bungee extension to it. No, not going to be able to use it. Do you have a different leash?" "No, I don't have a different leash." "OK, then we can't work today." Or "I've got one because I knew you might not." It's literally going through, "The leash is now good. It looks serviceable. Can this snap come off?" and "Let me see your harness." A lot of leashes can quickly come off the harness, if the leash snap is positioned correctly for it, or incorrectly, I guess would be the case.

So I'm testing that kind of stuff, and then I'm saying, "Now that we've checked your equipment, now I need you to hold the leash. Show me how you hold the leash." They show me how they do it, and once they show me how they hold the leash, I say, "Hold on to that leash, and now I'm going to start trying to take it from you." Because this is the other part: How strong are they? Are they actually strong enough to handle the dog that's going to come out? And what does their handling technique look like?

Once I've tested that, "OK, great. That looks good. Now we can move to the next step." Or "No, this needs improvement. I'm going to give you some ideas, some ways to help yourself out here."

I'm trying to eliminate all the points of failure as possible. A lot of times what happens with … that's very valuable information. I think people feel like, I'm not working with the dog yet, so I'm not doing any good. But that's not true at all. You're teaching these people how to handle the dog who's displaying aggression in front of them.

You don't hand somebody a rifle and say, "Hey, good luck." You go through a class. I look at dogs the same way. They've got a bunch of little knives in their mouth, and they're fast, and they're strong, and they can do a lot of damage, and if we're not going to handle them appropriately, then we're in trouble. So I run through all those things with them before the dog comes out. This way, my chances of staying safe are going up. I go over distance, how to utilize distance.

So many clients want you to see what the dog's doing, because they feel like if you see it, you know better and you can help them to address it. Logically, that makes complete sense: "I'm working on this problem in the code of my website. Can you look at the code?" "Let me look at the code. Oh yeah, I see what part of the code is broken." So in the human problem-solving process, that's a very logical step.

When it comes to animal behavior, it's not the way we want to approach that. The whole goal, obviously, is to have the dog not display the behavior. And so I don't need to see what they're dealing with. I trust in them, and I make sure I'm conveying that in this beginning phase, too, like, "I trust you that it's real."

Because oftentimes what happens is, because I've refined this process over the years, I'll never see the problem. A lot of times, I never actually see the dog aggress. They'll be like, "I swear to you he is aggressive. He's bitten …" "Trust me, I get it. I trust you. I don't understand what it is that makes you think I don't. It's just that I've set this up so that your dog won't do it, and I need you to memorize this ritual, because this is what's going to lead you to success with your dog."

Especially if we're not going to be using suppressives, or aversives, people call them. The whole idea behind aversive use in training is to suppress the behavior we don't like. "He's acting aggressive, let's zap-zap-zap," and then we go, "OK, cool, he's not acting aggressive anymore." That's not true. He's still sitting there, stewing. He just doesn't feel like it's safe to have an outward expression of that anymore. That's where people get wrapped up, clients get wrapped up. "But he's not displaying it." Yes, that's the whole point.

Melissa Breau: I don't need to see the rifle shoot a person to know it can shoot a person.

Michael Badial: Right, exactly. I trust that it works.

Melissa Breau: Right, right. I love that you talked through how much detail you go into about the leash, and let's test how you hold the leash, and stuff like that. I'd imagine that having gone through that process makes the clients take the little details a lot more seriously. They get that this is suddenly a really serious … I'm sure that most people are like, "I have a dog that bites people. That's pretty serious." But to actually sit there and go, "This is how you hold a leash," and "This is how your equipment is supposed to work," I'd imagine that those details start to drive that point home in a slightly different way for a lot of people. But even with that, I'm sure that you still have … I'm sure you deal with some dogs and some people where you just need to have some really hard conversations at some point, just to ensure that they get the danger levels that you're potentially talking about here. How do you approach that kind of thing?

Michael Badial: I use everything that's been given to me. For example, I've had two fingers on my right hand torn apart by a dog. My middle fingernail is mangled and I've got this big scar on my pointer finger. So in the beginning of the relationship with them, I design the relationship with them. I say, "I need you to take a look at these fingers. I can't use this hand the same way anymore that I used to be able to. This will never grow back, and I have a constant piece of scar tissue that hurts frequently. That's from a dog bite, from a handler that didn't handle their dog correctly, and I can't get this back."

I let that sit with them, so I understand that their brain is in the place of, "Wow, this is serious," and then I tell them, "Before any difficult conversations come up, I'm going to tell you things that you are not going to like to hear, and I need to know that that's OK. Are you going to be able to hear those things?" And I let that sit. They always say yes. Right away they go, "Of course. That's why I hired you." And I go, "Great. I just really want to make sure you understand that I'm going to deliver some hard news sometimes."

That, right away, takes out all the difficult elements down the way, because then I can reference that. I go, "Remember when I told you I was going to tell you some difficult things?" And they go, "Yeah." I go, "This is one of those difficult times." And they're already prepared for it. It's not a shock. Because I also want them to know that I'm going to be honest. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything. I'm not going to tell them their dog is good to go visit kids when it's not.

That's just the way I proactively handle it. I don't want it to become a sticking point. I think that anything about me that people will learn right away is that I am going to be honest with them, I'm going to listen to them very well, and I am going to call them out at times, especially if they're saying things that don't line up or don't make sense.

Melissa Breau: I know that your PPP class on some of this stuff, Keeping Safe - How to Handle Aggression Cases, is active, it's running this week. I want to make sure we do talk about that for a minute. Can you share a little bit about it? What do you cover and who should consider taking it?

Michael Badial: Anybody working aggression cases, I think it's going to be very, very helpful for. I did have a couple of questions people ask, like, "Is this good for shelter workers?" It's not specifically like, "Here's how you get the dog out of the kennel." It's not like that. It's really about how to handle aggression cases. There will be elements of it that are helpful for people in that kind of situation, but what I did was how can I feed as much information as possible into this timeframe.

So it's like, "Here's the beginning process," and I try to organize it in such a way that says, Here's how you onboard the client, here's what you go through, process down the way. I explain some tools and protective equipment, the benefits and downsides of those things. What I'm hoping happens is that people take this, and in the feedback they want to know more, and then it can draw out more detail into the feedback video.

It's so much to cover that it can honestly be built into a really large course, and some people have done that. So I just basically opened up a fire hose and said, "Here you go. Let's drink some water." But it's really good, though. It's very good. I organized it in such a way that, Here's the beginning of the case, here's the things you need to think of through the process, and by the end, this is what you should be looking at.

It's not going over how to address aggression. It's how to keep yourself safe. It's how not to get bit. It's all the things you should be doing and thinking about, both dog-behavior-wise and tool-wise, and approach- and communication-wise, to prevent medical bills and losing time. Because so many dog trainers work for themselves and by themselves, and if you sustain a nasty bite, that's it for you. You might be done for months, and then what? How are you making money? How are you feeding your kids? It's a very, very serious topic that I think people should invest in.

I even put in a First Aid part in there because I think that's important. If you don't know how to treat yourself for injuries or wounds, you need to. That's covered a bit in there.

So hopefully its very, very valuable to people.

Melissa Breau: So it builds on some of what we talked about here about how you approach clients and dogs, and how you handle all that. It walks them through some of that?

Michael Badial: Yeah, absolutely. What red flags to look for, and how to assess the property before you even go in. There's a lot of cool stuff put in there.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. I have three questions here that I want to round things out with. They're the three questions I always ask folks when they're on the podcast for the first time. I'm going to run through them with you. The first one is what's the dog-related accomplishment that you're proudest of?

Michael Badial: I think that I'm most proud of is to be able to do this full-time, and rely on nothing but the income generated by myself and my wife in this business. I think that's the most … is that dog-related? It's my business, but it's a dog business, so I feel like that's dog-related.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. The next one: What's the best piece of training advice that you've ever heard?

Michael Badial: Work the dog in front of you. One size doesn't fit all. Every dog is not the same, and even though you might be doing the same b-mod case, or the same type of b-mod case, or the same type of sport, the dog in front of you is different from the other dog you worked. So understand the dog in front of you as best you can before you start creating approaches.

Melissa Breau: Who is somebody else in the dog world that you look up to?

Michael Badial: Oh, man, there's a lot. There's definitely a lot. I think right now who I've been listening to the most and learning from the most has been Roger Abrantes, a lot of his information. Denise is amazing and I love learning from her, too. But I think right now I'm big on Roger Abrantes's stuff.

Melissa Breau: I haven't heard him before. Do you know how he spells that last name?

Michael Badial: A-b-r-a-n-t-e-s.

Melissa Breau: Awesome.

Michael Badial: He's an ethologist. He does very good work.

Melissa Breau: I'll have to look him up. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast Michael! This has been great.

Michael Badial: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.

Melissa Breau: Absolutely. And thank you to our listeners for tuning in! We'll be back next week, this time with Cat Warren, author of What the Dog Knows, to talk to her about her upcoming young readers edition.

If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. 


Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training!

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