Nitro K-9 Founder
Steve Walter is the founder of Nitro K-9. His training philosophy, which is based on European dog training underpinned by the concept of yin and yang, is the result of many years of working with dogs and refining multiple techniques from many different training systems.
Steve started training dogs in his teens, using traditional military techniques. In the early 90s, when reward-based training started becoming popular, he worked with dogs using both edible rewards and clicker/marker training. However, he quickly noticed that the results were erratic, and that there was an increase in unreliable and sometimes aggressive behavior.
At the time, he was also getting involved with many of the European dog clubs, including French Ring, Schutzhund, Mondio Ring, and K.N.P.V. While food was used in training, he noticed that it was totally different in application and response. None of the dogs had aggression issues (and these were dogs that were trained to bite). They didn’t jump on people or pull on the leash. And as he trained his oldest dog Isaiah in French Ring, he started seeing a real difference; there was a new desire to please, a new confidence … and a much greater bond.
Steve wanted to bring these professional results to his clients—everyday people with household dogs. He started exploring different training systems used both in the U.S., and in Europe, working together with many different dog trainers, and has taken the best parts of multiple systems. The result is a comprehensive training program that uses non-cruel and humane methods that result in bonding, mutual respect, and stellar (not to mention reliable) behavior.
Over the years, Steve has trained thousands of dogs (and their owners) using the Nitro Dog training system. He has rehabilitated hundreds of “red zone” dogs and hundreds more that food and clicker methods have failed. Nitro K-9 training is also successfully used for advanced training, whether sports, protection or scent work—not to mention regular dogs that just need better obedience training.
Lead Trainer and Co-owner
Christina has been training for Nitro K-9 for more than six years. As a youth, she was involved in the 4-H dog program, where she participated in obedience, agility, and conformation with her personal family dog. She then trained and worked as a veterinary technician for a few years. But although she loved working with the animals, she discovered that she was less interested in the veterinary field and more interested in helping the many aggressive and anxious dogs she encountered on a daily basis.
Her formal dog training started when she consulted with Steve Walter about her personal dog—the same one she had titled in obedience–who was a dream in the ring, but could not walk down the block without lunging at other dogs or pulling. Upon seeing her dog happily heeling and engaged within minutes, she was hooked on the idea of “no food training” and started an apprenticeship right then and there. Within a year, she was seeing her own clients. Today—and hundreds of dogs later of all breeds, temperament, and size–—Christina runs runs our hands-off training and dog walking programs and both handles and decoys in our protection training. Well-versed and experienced in all behavioral issues, she is particularly gifted at resolving anxiety and fear issues.
When you call us, you’re likely to speak to Crystal—our office manager extraordinaire. In addition to a long work history as both receptionist and office administrator, Crystal is also extremely familiar with the Nitro K-9 system of dog training. With three German Shepherds—one of whom is a service dog—she started as a client and since 2012, has also worked for us as a dog walker, trainer under apprenticeship, and decoy in protection. Today, she is in charge of keeping us all running smoothly, including scheduling, invoicing, and restocking equipment. Plus, she makes sure that everyone is exactly where they need to be!
Decoy and Dog Walker
Danny is our main decoy in protection classes, with more than three years of solid decoy training and work under his belt. An invaluable member of the team, he also works tirelessly as one of our dog walkers. In his own words, he feels that dogs are his calling—and he loves working with them because it brings him a real feeling of accomplishment to see them learn, work, progress and succeed.
Erica grew up with dogs, horses, cats, and birds, and has been very involved with animals her whole life. She is also deaf, and has always felt a connection to animals, as they communicate so much without spoken words. Prior to apprenticing with Nitro K-9, Erica helped raise and train her family’s German Shepherds. As an adult, she adopted and rehabbed an aggressive German Shepherd as her first personal dog, and later trained her current GSD mix, Dutchie, as her hearing alert service dog—all with only books and online classes and no formal in-person instruction. Erica began seeing the limitations of DIY dog training when she started helping her friends with their dogs. She sought out a formal apprenticeship with Nitro due to the consistent, high-level obedience and happy dogs she saw us turning out. She quickly fell in love with the relationship building results of training without food. Erica is gifted both with dogs and with people. A very strong instructor, she excels at making sure her clients understand what they are doing and why. In addition, she is particularly good with deaf dogs and deaf handlers. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Erica divides her time between her dog training business Nexus K-9 and traveling up to Seattle to continue her education with Nitro.
For Greg—the newest addition to the Nitro K-9 team—returning to dogs and to teaching feels like a full circle. He grew up with dogs and wolf hybrids, and by his early 20s was informally training all the dogs of friends and acquaintances. But with a family and move west from his native New Hampshire, he pursued other paths, including working as builder. The call of working with animals was strong, however; in 2002, he started a side career as a farrier, which, in turn, led to working on a ranch training 30 wild horses (and a poodle because he couldn’t help himself). Working as an apprentice in the Nitro K-9 system has given him the technical knowledge to add to his considerable animal experience, a process helped by his background in martial arts. He is also learning protection work, including being a decoy, and search and rescue. Greg lives on Whidbey Island where he owns and operates a mooring company, and commutes to Seattle where he works with Steve and runs his own private training sessions.
Training animals has always been a part of Stephanie’s life. At the early age of 8 years old she started taking horseback riding lessons, which was just the beginning of her training career. As she grew up, she developed a bond with horses through training and ended up becoming a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. With the help from Steve on her personal dogs, her knowledge of training horses bridged over into the dog world. While horses and dogs are very different in their nature, the training mindset was similar – as food, toys, and clickers are not found in the horse world.
Working as an apprentice in the Nitro K-9 system has given her the knowledge to help dogs and humans work together. Whether it is a client’s dog or one of her Woof Project foster dogs, Stephanie feels a great sense of accomplishment and joy as the dogs learn and become more calm and confident. A trained dog is a happy dog (and happy owner!).