Niki was born and raised in England but at an early age set out to fulfill her dream of seeing the world. Her career in hotel executive management from London to the West Indies, the Middle East and Africa, not only provided her with the means to work and live in many different countries, but it also gave her real-world business experience. In addition to business degrees from Oxford University, Niki is also a qualified corporate leadership coach, project manager, and certified people trainer. Niki also holds the prestigious Six Sigma Black Belt Certification (Six Sigma is a statistical based methodology of improving business processes by eliminating defects that impact business profitability and quality).
Niki rose quickly up the corporate ladder becoming a senior executive manager and training consultant at some of the world’s most luxurious hotels owned by Fortune 500 companies. Wherever she worked, Niki found ways to help rehabilitate abandoned and abused animals. In Nigeria, she spearheaded a project, in cooperation with Fauna & Flora International, to rescue endangered and protected species from poachers and transition them back to their natural habitat. This project saved many orphaned chimpanzees, endangered drill monkeys and Preuss’s monkeys. Niki also worked with Nigerian Police K9 units training German Shepherd puppies, deemed “unsuitable” for police work, so they could be adopted as family pets.
In 1994, while living in South Africa, Niki became even more interested in animal behavior. Inspired by research on Cape Hunting Dogs, Niki set a personal goal of working with local communities and animal rescue centers to improve the relationship between families and their pets. Recognizing the growing need for effective management of the animal-human relationship in an increasingly crowded society, Niki provided consultation services to private game reserves and helped them improve not just their hospitality operations but also their ability to manage improvements across their animal care facilities and programs. She still carries a small scar from her volunteer work with an overly affectionate lion cub orphan. More and more, Niki became convinced of the limitations and dangers of using aversive, punishing or ‘fear-based’ methods of training.
Though her work with Africa’s native animals was fulfilling, Niki’s first love was always the family pet dog. In 2000, having been transferred from her job in South Africa, Niki settled in Hawaii where she recognized that the US was emerging as a world-leader in progressive pet dog training. Niki began training her own pet Kelpie using positive reinforcement-based methods. It was in Hawaii when Niki decided that to have an impact on the pet world, and improve the human-animal relationship, she should combine her passion for dogs with her professional business and teaching expertise. It was here, in 2001, that Niki opened her Hawaii Canine Academy where she specialized in teaching Agility to pet dog owners through fun and games.
Niki believes that pet owners can learn to truly communicate with their pets, and understand their emotional needs, by using training techniques based on the most recent scientific learning theory. As a result of strengthening the human-animal bond and increasing the quality of life for both pet and family, the issue with abandoned, neglected, and abused pets will significantly lessen. For Niki, it has always been about building a relationship of trust between the differing species.
In 2005, having left Hawaii and landing in the Sunshine State, Florida, Niki established a full-time training center and boutique pet-care facility. It was in Florida, where Niki realized that the most effective way to share the benefits of humane training would be to teach ‘like-minded’ animal lovers how they could start their own dog training and pet care business. The DogSmith was born. Niki’s unusual combination of business and dog training expertise leaves her uniquely qualified to coach and support other pet industry entrepreneurs with not only their practical skills and knowledge but also the different elements needed to successfully launch and manage a business. Additionally, Niki is the president of Doggone Safe, a 501c3 organization with a vision to help dogs and kids live successfully together, and the founder of DogNostics Career Center, an online educational forum for pet owners and industry professionals.
As choices for training methods increased, and the availability of quick-fix gimmicks popularized by TV grew, misleading ‘entertainment-based’ training techniques became generally accepted by the pet-owning public. As the information became less transparent, it became more confusing for pet owners to understand and differentiate between available dog training and pet care methodologies. Because of this, Niki saw a need for a professional association where pet professionals committed to humane and progressive training methods could gather to support each other and provide an educational resource to the pet-owning public. In 2012, The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) was Niki’s answer to this need. PPG is dedicated to supporting its membership, the Pet Professionals and pet-owning public, who want to be confident that the resources they choose for their beloved companions adhere to a consistent, ethical training and business philosophy.