About Me

My name is Nikki and I’m the head trainer at The K9 Scientist. My mission is to help dogs and their humans live in harmony and happiness.


I received my PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 2019 and relocated to the Triangle for a position as a Research Scientist. Mid-way through my doctoral program, I rescued a cute little puppy with several health issues from a local vet’s office. This cute little puppy, named Finn, starting growing bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until he was a full grown 85 lb. German Shepherd by the time he was 6 months old. Along with his stature, he was also rapidly growing a mischievous adolescent attitude and behavioral problems! I quickly learned that Finn was very much smarter than I was, and the small amount of training knowledge I had from growing up with my family’s Golden Retriever was no match for him. I realized that I needed to learn how to build a better relationship of trust and respect between me and Finn, and so started my dog training journey.

During any spare time I had over the next several years, I began taking obedience classes, private lessons, dog sports classes, and did hundreds of hours of online learning and research until I found the tools, skills, and training philosophy that worked for me and Finn. From being highly reactive and an overall wild child, I was able to train Finn through passing his Canine Good Citizen test with flying colors, worked with him as a therapy dog for several months before moving, and was able to take him everywhere I went. Finn’s world opened up immensely and we were able to really start enjoying life together.

As I worked with Finn and shared our progress, I started gaining more and more hands-on training experience when family and friends began coming to me with questions and similar problems they were having with their dogs. From solving issues like leash pulling to having more reliable obedience skills, I quickly found that I excelled at being able to help all kinds of dogs and their owners foster great relationships with each other through basic obedience concepts. After moving to Durham, I also began fostering dogs for Southeast German Shepherd Rescue and quickly became a go-to for their more difficult rescue dogs that were having trouble finding or staying in homes. I have loved keeping in touch with my foster dogs after they are placed into their forever homes and provide advice, in-person lessons, and problem solving to their new families. I am an Associate Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and have their Dog Trainer Foundation Exam certification, and I strive to continuously learn how to better myself as a trainer through online and in-person workshops and seminars. Recently, I attended a week-long seminar for professional dog trainers with world renowned Ecollar trainer, Robin MacFarlane. I also train and compete with my own dogs in Rally Obedience and Schutzhund/IPO/IGP.

I am very excited to begin helping dog owners in the Durham community and surrounding areas. If you are struggling with your dog, I have been there! I know how frustrating, embarrassing, and deflating owning a difficult dog can be. The good news is that I have found a system that works and I’m happy to report that the end results are SO worth the hard work you’ll put in.

Training Philosophy

Oscar Wilde once said “Success is a science. If you have the conditions, you get the result.” In order to help more dogs and dog owners find success and see results, I use an approach called balanced training. Through balanced training concepts, I’m able to provide you with relief from struggling with your dog, allowing you to enjoy life with your dog to the fullest.

The balanced training approach used at TK9S incorporates both “yes” and “no” information for your dog in various formats that we are able to employ depending on your dog’s individual personality and behavior. In order to fix the communication disconnect between you and your dog, the training at TK9S utilizes training tools with which dog owners often see lasting results and success in a reasonable time frame. Sessions are structured to educate you to recognize, understand, and “speak” dog language through hands-on practice. When you learn to be a better communicator for your dog they begin to trust you and rely on you to make good decisions for them, which results in a calmer and less reactive dog.

Is TK9S right for you?

I love working with clients that are dedicated to their dogs and willing to put in the work it takes to train a well-behaved dog. My goal is to ultimately teach YOU so that you can go home and practice every day to make changes in your relationship with your dog. If you’re not open the use of training tools like a prong collar or remote collar to help you meet your training goals, I may not be the right trainer for you. I can provide you with the “recipes,” but if you don’t follow them you won’t bake the same cake that I do!

Let’s get started.

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