Pictured is Barbara and her Service Dog Batman.

They took First Place in this 5k race.

About The Thinking K9

"I literally owe my life to dogs." ~Barbara

How it Began

My life has been forever changed by the extraordinary role that dogs have played in it.


Beginning when I was just an infant, our family's Doberman, Princess, proved to be a true hero by saving me from the dangers of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In the middle of the night, she persistently led my mother to my crib, where she found me not breathing and turning purple. Thanks to Princess's unwavering determination, my mother was able to revive me.


Princess was the first of many dogs who have profoundly impacted my life, and I am extraordinarily grateful for them. For me, working with TTK9 is a passion and a calling, an opportunity to give back to the incredible animals who have given me so much.


Go beyond "obedience" with Behavior Modification!

"Obedience" is teaching sits & downs, which your dog probably already knows.


"Behavior Modification" utilizes the latest techniques rooted in psychology, neurobiology, and ethology to teach you how to get behaviors regardless of the environment or distractions!


Training Philosophy

Barbara is a student of science based dog training and behaviorism. Her practical methods have a strong foundation in reward based training and canine motivation techniques. She believes that dogs are happier, more eager to learn, and more motivated through the use of positive training methods, because it fosters a dog with a true desire to learn and work. A dog that truly wants to work is more reliable than a dog that is forced to work. With that said, she also feels that the best training method for an individual and their dog is the one that the owner(s) can effectively implement into their daily lives and, at the same time, one that is also the fairest to the dog. Barbara will use most techniques available, dependent on a case-by-case basis, after careful review of the dog, handler, and situation at hand.


Barbara is the owner and head trainer at The Thinking K9. She comes from a family of hobby dog trainers and developed her love for dogs & dog training at a very young age. She started showing dogs in obedience at the young age of 9. It was then that she showed her sheltie, “Peanut,” to his championship. Barbara continued to study dog training, and in 2014 she finally decided to leap, making dog training her career. Since then, she has shown and titled dogs in Obedience, Rally Obedience, Barn Hunt, and Trick Dog. She feels that achievement titles are nice, but the real joy is the bond that develops between her dogs and herself while doing these activities in partnership.

Helping Dogs and their Humans

Barbara promotes responsible dog ownership and actively volunteers in the community by making educational presentations to adults & children, volunteering at a local club to instruct dog classes, participating in events that help area animal shelters and K9 units, and more. Barbara’s ultimate goal is to help humans and dogs establish a deeper bond by teaching humans how to better understand and communicate with their dogs. She also makes it a priority to continue her dog training education at every opportunity, including traveling across the country in search of the most current dog training techniques. She feels that the more knowledge and wider variety of skills she has, the better she can assist humans with their dogs.


Click here to learn more about what the qualifications below mean.

  • Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers in Santa Rosa, California
  • *Accredited* Certification through CCPDT.
  • Stunt Dog Judge
  • Certificate in Aggression Cases- Applied Behavior Modification, Safety, & Defensive Handling.
  • Approved Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
  • Professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers
  • Certified Trick Dog Instructor
  • Licensed Canine Conditioning Coach (CCC)
  • Certificate in Advanced Socialization
  • Certificate in Pet CPR and First Aid
  • Certificate in Foundation Nosework


Barbara has also studied directly under great trainers and innovators in the field:

  • Dr. Ian Dunbar- World renowned veterinary behaviorist and author.
  • Patricia McConnell PH. D- Zoologist, certified applied animal behaviorist, professor in the zoology department of UW Madison, & author.
  • Dave Kroyer- World champion dog sport competitor, Nosework judge, Mondio Ring judge, and active in Search and Rescue, Police K9, & many others.

Rock County dog adopted after being badly burned.

"Lueck and her family took Sunny in when she was healing. Surgery after surgery, they helped her get to where she is at today. Thanks to The Thinking K9, she is set up for free training for life, too.

"A lot of confidence building because these scars, they go much much deeper than just the skin and what we can see on the outside," said Barbara Smith with The Thinking K9.

Sunny will always require special care."

Read on NBCRead on HSSW

'It makes no sense': Janesville community angry after Humane Society break-in.

"It's something I think we'll never understand,” said Janesville resident Barbara Smith, who also owns The Thinking K9, a dog-training business.

Smith stopped by to drop off cash donations. She collects them regularly at her business, but she wanted to bring something positive after the burglary.

“I’m sure we won't be the last ones in here or the first ones bringing things in to uplift them, so we can be in a better place than we were before this,” she said."

Read more on News 3

Update on Sunny!

"[Barb] has helped to heal her soul and give her back the confidence that was destroyed by her abuse," says Sunny's foster mom, Jennefer, "Sunny is doing amazing and all 3 of us really enjoyed being in this class with her. To have a dog achieve this so soon after her tragic burning is amazing." 


Pets on Prozac: Drugs for humans help furry friends

"Humans need to set an example for behaviors they want to see in their pets, Smith said."

"Many of Smith’s clients need to make changes at home to help their pets’ anxieties, she said."

"Smith treats anxiety with positive reinforcement, she said. Punishing bad behavior can make the pet more anxious."

Read more on Janesville Gazette


The boxer that changed everything.


While many people, including trainers, often gravitate towards specific breed(s) they like to keep, Barbara has never had the same breed twice. There are too many options, all of which are uniquely appealing! It's like going to a candy store and only being able to choose one kind! All dogs have something to teach if you listen.


Even though Barbara has been training since the 1980s, Batman was exceedingly inspiring and took Barbara on a life-changing journey. She didn't think it was possible, yet her love of dog training grew as her and Batman grew as a team. She sought more knowledge at every opportunity, which ultimately lead her to enrolling in a dog training school. There are many options, but her first pick was a school all the way out in California. Having never done anything half way, she enrolled in the obedience courses. However, she couldn't pull herself away after completing the courses, and ended up staying for many more! The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers was one of the most life-changing experiences, and it set Barbara on a whole new journey. In fact, she went back every year for four years (until covid stopped the world) to take additional courses as the school grew and offered even more.


Along the way, her bond with Batman grew exponentially; He became her heart dog. Together they entered many trials across multiple sports ranging from obedience to Barn Hunt. Together they earned numerous PERFECT scores, with 70% being first-place wins! Batman even showed potential to become Barbara's service dog and eventually did, including becoming the second dog to save her life.

Inspired by Batman, The Thinking K9 was born and fittingly named after their journey together. The biggest thing she's learned is the depth that we can communicate with dogs, spanning far beyond obedience commands. Dogs can become incredible problem solvers and make intelligent decisions without requiring instruction (ie. obedience commands). Essentially, dogs can become "Thinking K9s."

Thanks to Batman's inspiration and loyalty, she has been able to touch many lives, including saving several along the way. Batman is a hero to all and a savior of one (Barbara).


Rally Obedience (no treats in the ring)

Mannequin Challenge

Barn Hunt

Additional Trainers


Rebecca has a passion for working with animals and sharing her knowledge with other people.  Since 2012 Rebecca has been an active board member of a Madison based non-profit dedicated to education and conservation of reptiles and amphibians.  She has given presentations to groups both large and small and especially enjoys events geared towards educating children.  Through training her own dog, Phoenix, at The Thinking K9 she realized she had a passion for dog training.  Having taken every class offered, and many more than once, she is always eager to learn more about the subject.  Rebecca was excited to start shadowing Barbara in 2019 by assisting in puppy classes and anywhere she could be needed.  In addition to shadowing she also tries to expand her skill set by attending seminars, reading books and watching training DVDs.  Rebecca and Phoenix recently earned their Trick Dog Grand Champion Title and are actively working on obtaining nosework titles.



Kaitie’s background is rooted in business strategy and a love for all animals. By day Kaitie is the Development Director at the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin where her focus is on helping to secure the funding needed to care for the over 5,000 animals the organization sees each year. She has learned quite a bit about dog training from bringing her own dog, Togo, to The Thinking K9 and jumping at any chance she gets to learn. She and Togo have taken every class offered at TTK9 together over the last two years. Not only has Kaitie taken every class offered at TTK9, but she has taught every class too! She began shadowing Barbara in January of 2019 and is now leading both the Sunday and Monday Core Manners classes and assisting in or leading other classes whenever needed.



Chris & Sweetness
I have had 30 years of Viszlas and lots of training so I knew what to expect. However Barbara’s classes were more detailed, more informative, and very professional...She sent pictures often and kept in touch while I was away. Sweetness looked so happy! I was afraid she wouldn’t want to come home with me! And, Barbara has the most well trained boxer, Batman, that I have ever seen! She is amazing with dogs!! Highly recommend training or boarding with Barbara!!
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Colleen & Teddy
My family was pretty desperate for relief from too much barking, chewed up wood furniture, accidents on the carpet and basically a household taken over by an adorable, out of control puppy! Barbara took Teddy into her home and lovingly taught him some manners...Barbara has continued to train as needed, which included training us how to communicate effectively with Teddy to acheive the desired behavior.
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Deb & Agness
...Every time Agness stays in Barbara’s home even for a day, we get several pictures & videos, she goes on walks, she plays with Barbara’s dogs, family & visitors — all of which we appreciate. The only doubt that ever entered my mind was ‘Is Agness going to want to come home after all the fun she’s having at Barbara’s?’ Anyone who has had to leave their pet knows that definitely puts your mind at ease...
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Roxanne & Gus
...Barbara taught me techniques I can use with my dog to avoid the leash aggression I was concerned about. ...She provided handouts and lots of positive reinforcement. She made me feel good about what I have done with my dog regarding his training so far, and that I am not a failure.
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Cynthia & Henna
Our Redbone Coonhound, Henna, Loved her class! The Instructors are high energy, Positve and great fun to work with. We learned so much from them! The CGC class taught Henna and I how to work together and has helped create a stronger bond between us. Incredible experience! We can't wait for more training experiences!
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Chad & Olive
Barb, Erin and Joe are excellent instructors. The knowledge that they have and pass along is phenomenal. Their positive and upbeat demeanor is so helpful during the classes. My dog adores all of them. Kudos to them.
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Rhoda & Eliza
I can't say enough good things about Barbara and how she has steered us (both Eliza and me) on a path toward success.
Even before we brought our puppy home in October of 2016, my daughter had signed us up for puppy class. I didn't want to make the same mistakes I had with the dog we had before, so I happily took her to class. We have taken several classes since then.
In all honesty, I gained more than Eliza did! Learning how to work together, having fun ways to interact with each other, have enriched our relationship.
I highly recommend Barbara and her business, The Thinkng K9, for you and your canine family members.
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Mandy & Abby Lane
Barbara and Erin are great, loving teachers. They love your dogs and are very nice to help you learn how to handle your dogs. I would highly reccomend them and the classes they teach.
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Amy & Jordy
Jordy loved puppy class! I highly recommend the class!
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