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.
- Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers in Santa Rosa, California
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA)
- 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."
'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."
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."
TTK9's Journey with a Boxer
In 2014 Barbara was ready to welcome a new member of the family. Like many trainers, her breed of choice had a lot to do with wanting to advance her skills as a trainer. She had previously owned herding and hunting breeds, which tend to be more biddable (easier to train). This time, however, she felt that getting a Boxer would fulfill her desires for a strong breed that would challenge her and thereby help her reach more training goals.
Boxers are intelligent and great problem "solvers" (problem "creators?" HA!), which is a lethal combination. They are often coined as being very "stubborn," "headstrong," and difficult to motivate. AKC depicts them as "intolerant of repetitious commands that they consider boring - they definitely have minds of their own."
Barbara was up for the challenge that a boxer would bring her and has enjoyed every step of the journey with him. The challenge has been extremely rewarding, both in teaching her a deeper level of patience and understanding, as well as striving for new training strategies that work on the most strong willed and independent of dogs.
Herein you will find videos of Barbara's journey with Batman. You can clearly see the hard work and incredible bond that training as helped create between the 2.
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.
Did you know that ALL profits TTK9 makes goes back into TTK9’s equipment, trainer education to help serve clients and their dogs more, and the remaining portions are donated? TTK9’s owner/trainer, Barbara, does not profit monetarily. The Thinking K9 feels that helping the community is incredibly important, therefore makes it a priority to donate a lot of time and effort to giving back.
“Helping people and their dogs fills my soul more than any salary could.” ~Barbara
The Thinking K9 visits schools to educate them about proper etiquette around dogs (inc. safety), choosing dog training as a career, and educating children and teachers about Service Dogs.