Kristi Smith – A Life of Passion and Mission of Service

Devotion is a word which many can describe but few will really, truly experience in their lives. For some their passions become a focal point for their very being – a consuming force that defines who they are and who they will become. For some, such devotion can take many forms and is all too often mistaken for obsession. It may be the animal hospital veterinary technician, working her third double shift that week. It may be a teacher, staying up late at night for months on end, drawing up lesson plans for her eager students. A search and rescue volunteer spending the last of their few hard-won dollars on medical equipment. A student spending nights engrossed in veterinary medicine books and taking copious, time consuming notes with no pending evaluations, exams or certifications on the horizon – just a hunger for the knowledge of her trade.

However, Kristi Smith is like none of these people.

That is, insofar as Mick Jagger bears absolutely no resemblance to the pre-teens that will undoubtedly be screaming into garage band microphones across suburbia tonight. Kristi Smith has a unique acquaintance with a professional level of devotion, a nearly all-consuming fixation with saving and improving lives – canine and human alike, which is rarely seen and unfortunately all too infrequently recognized. Her dedication to this ideal permeates her spare-time, hobbies, career, and volunteer service.

The seeds of Kristi’s career were planted at the young age of 13 after her family moved from Durango to Bayfield, Colorado when her mother tasked her with showing a family dog in an obedience competition. Before she knew it, Kristi was training and showing multiple dogs in obedience and conformation categories. Among the titles’ she and her dogs obtained were Champion, Companion Dog and Companion Dog Excellent. Eventually, this love for dog training took a turn. In 1986, Kristi joined the Kentucky Search Dog Association (KSDA) and certified for, as well as mobilized in, multiple search and rescue missions. If her past in showing dogs was the seed from which her career sprung, this time in77KSDA was the initial fuel that sustained the fire of her passion for search and rescue and eventually veterinary medicine. Kristi would progress in search and rescue – to be a nationally renowned name within K-9 circles, first through the Maricopa County Sheriff Office’s Mark-9 Unit – eventually as the unit commander and then as a founding member and commander of Arizona Search Track and Rescue.

In 1998, Kristi made her switch to veterinary medicine formal, gaining her certificate as a veterinary technician in 2003. Just prior to that in 2002, her talents, knowledge of the veterinary technician field and veterinary medicine in general was recognized shortly before her certification and she was solicited to be a founding member of the Veterinary Healthcare Team of Arizona. She would serve as a board member, director, president as well as community leader of the organization – to which she still belongs. However, in 2005 economic circumstances, medical conditions and a now lifelong passion served as a catalyst for her to pursue other opportunities as a professional dog trainer.  Her business would focus on basic and advanced obedience, but she would later go on to specialize in behavior modification, therapy dogs, and service dogs as well.  As with her other professional forays, it was marked by both her overcoming adversary and excellence from the start.  She soon found her training methods and techniques were in great demand – even during the ensuing economic crisis of 2008. While many small businesses across the country were shuttering their doors and windows in the face of the crisis, her business persevered. Throughout her time as a professional dog trainer, she has gained multiple specialty certifications from the premier International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) such as; certified dog trainer, certified dog trainer advanced, professional dog trainer instructor and is currently one of only four people currently certified in the world by the IACP as a certified service dog trainer.

Even now, her business survives and thrives, only marginally effected by her blossoming search and rescue career which has been marked by over 1,200 searches both domestically and internationally. While she receives no money for her search and rescue services, despite aiding families in recovering their loved ones and law enforcement organizations in closing cold cases every year – much of the time at great physical risk to herself and her four-legged companions – she continues her work. Through search and rescue and her work as a veterinary technician she has torn her rotator cuff, broken her back, suffered a severe knee injury and contracted West Nile Virus resulting in meningeal encephalitis. Smiling when asked how she continues her work despite this, the answer she will say is simple: sleep less, do more and always, always train hard.

To this day, if you ask Kristi her hobbies she will say tell you that she is a master scuba diver and a water rescue specialist that holds thirteen additional certifications. However, more often than not, when she isn’t working, you will find her mobilizing search teams, planning operations, preparing for Veterinary Healthcare Team meetings or even just training one of her six search and rescue dogs or a client dog. Also, late in the night when she thinks no one is watching, you can find her perched upon her favorite recliner (along with her award-winning search and rescue K-9, Keahi) reading the latest search and rescue, scent theory, or dog training book. So, is she devoted to K-9 medicine? To search and rescue? To training dogs? To serve others? Or, all of these things? That’s for you to decide.

Dogs and Fireworks: A Top Ten Survival Guide

K9-Games, LLC. Dog Training provides Pet Owners help for the Fourth of July

(Phoenix, AZ) July 01, 2014 – K9-Games knows that with the upcoming 4th of July weekend, dogs across the country will react with fear and anxiety to all the firework celebrations.”The noise of fireworks can be extremely stressful for dogs,” said Kristi Smith, a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and HEAD TRAINER of K9 Games in Peoria, AZ. “We recommend these top ten strategies to Phoenix’s dog owners, to help them through the 4th of July Holiday weekend.

  1. DO expose your dog to loud, unexpected noises on a regular basis, especially leading up to an event that includes firework celebrations. Drop pot lids, toss a soda can with a few pennies in it, slam a door: anything to get your dog accustomed to being startled, so he can practice recovering quickly.
  2. DO NOT bring your dog with you to a fireworks celebration.
  3. DO provide your dog with a safe, comfortable place that will help her feel more secure amid the scary sights and sounds. Close the blinds to keep out the flashes of color in the sky, and turn up the television or some music to help muffle the sounds.
  4. DO NOT put your dog in a crate; a panicked, frightened dog can easily injure himself in a crate.
  5. DO ask your veterinarian if an herbal remedy or prescription sedative may be appropriate for your dog.
  6. DO consider giving your dog a highly valued chew toy before the fireworks celebration begins, which may help to keep her mind off the disturbance.
  7. DO attach a “house leash” to your dog, to act as an extra long handle, should your dog try to escape or run away.
  8. DO NOT comfort or “baby” your dog if he is afraid. Dogs take their cue of how to behave from their owners; if you are acting “strange” by offering soothing words and gestures, your dog may interpret your actions as praise for being frightened, or as confirmation that the fireworks are truly scary.
  9. DO act as normal and as “matter of fact” as possible, to help your dog understand that there is nothing to Dogs and Fireworks:
  10. Most importantly, DO ensure your dog is wearing proper identification in case he manages to escape.”More dogs escape during holiday celebrations than at any other time,”  “With a little preparation and an understanding of how to help dogs through their fears, dog owners can help prevent their pet from becoming a statistic this Holiday weekend.”

Kristi Smith, Head Trainer and K9-Games offer unique, effective communication methods that are unparalleled in achieving faster more reliable training results that every owner can master.  Kristi Smith is a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals, a certified Veterinary Technician as well as the Training officer for Arizona Search Track and Rescue, Inc. (a non-profit organization that trains dogs to locate missing people).

For more information contact:    K9-Games, LLC     623-594-2637

American Kennel Club Awards K9-Games trained dog – Awards for Canine Excellence!

The American Kennel club has awarded Keahi a Belgian Tervuren trained and handled by K9-Games head trainer Kristi Smith an Award for Canine Excellence as the 2012 Search Dog of the Year.  Local News station Arizona Family interviewed Kristi and Keahi on September 26th regarding this award.   Follow the link to see the coverage!


2012 Search and Rescue Dog of the Year!

K9 Games’s Keahi (a Belgian Tervuren) has recieved a very prestigious Award for Canine Excellence (ACE)  from the American Kennel Club.  She has been named as the American Kennel Clubs 2012 Search and Rescue Dog of the Year.  (see full article at   Keahi has been trained and handled by the head-trainer at K9-Games, Kristi Smith.  Together they have worked numerous searches, many of them successful.  Keahi and Kristi are also featured in a documentary soon to be released, see the trailer at    In her spare time Keahi also volunteers as a Therapy Dog.

Be a Good Dog Training Leader

Some people believe that the only way to transform a disobedient dog into a well-behaved one is to dominate him/her and show them who’s boss. However, the “alpha dog” concept in dog training is based more on myth than on animal science. More importantly, it leads misguided pet parents to use training techniques that aren’t safe, like the “alpha roll” and can increase aggression.  Dogs who are forcibly rolled onto their backs and held down can become frightened and confused, and they’re sometimes driven to bite in self defense.


Keep in mind that ditching the “alpha dog” concept doesn’t mean you have to let your dog do anything he/she likes. It’s fine to be the boss and make the rules—but you can do that without unnecessary conflict. Be a benevolent boss, not a bully. Good leadership isn’t about dominance and power struggles. It’s about controlling your dog’s behavior by controlling his/her access to things they want as well as marking clearing actions or cessation of actions.  Clear, concise training will help you achieve your leadership position.


YOU have the opposable thumbs that open cans of dog food, turn doorknobs and throw tennis balls! Use them to your best advantage. If your dog wants to go out, ask him/her to sit before you open the door. When he/she wants dinner, ask them to perform a task to earn it. Does your want to go for a walk? If he/she is jumping up on you with excitement, wait calmly until they sit. Then clip on the leash and take your walk. Your dog will happily work for everything he/she loves in life. They can learn to do what you want in order to earn what he/she wants.


For more information or assistance with clear, concise training through our canine  training courses

Contact K9-Games

at 623-594-2637

Benefits of Obedience Dog Training

Statistical information proves that a primary reason for our  high euthanasia rate is due to too many unwanted pets which are then relinquished by their owners. Research indicates that 87% of all relinquished dogs received little or no obedience training. Pet owner education, therefore, is very important.

Many dog owners can benefit from training their dogs under the guidance of a qualified dog trainer in Phoenix, AZ who will teach them to communicate on a level that their dog understands. It is not uncommon for an owner to believe that his dog is stupid because the dog does not respond to his teaching methods. It is, in fact, in the teaching methods where the problem lies.

When you train your dog, you strengthen your role as a leader. Your dog learns that he can look up to you for direction, that you have something to show him, that you expect something from him and that you expect him to be good. When you are a good teacher, you become a good leader. This is very reassuring to a dog.

Telling A Dog Not To Do Something
Is Not Enough!

Contrary to popular belief, it is not enough for you to tell your dog not to do something. It leaves him clueless as to what to do instead. Obedience commands are the tools you use. You tell him to WAIT rather than holding him back from running out the door. You tell him OFF and SIT instead of grabbing him so he can’t jump on someone. Your directions acknowledge his intelligence and establish your leadership.

“The Criticism Trap”

Other owners seem to constantly correct their dogs for one thing or another. These owners really need obedience training. It will give them opportunities to praise their dog.

There are dogs that are so accustomed to an owner’s negative attention they become insensitive to it and find it rewarding. Wesley C. Becker, in Parents are Teachers, refers to this as “The Criticism Trap”. He uses the grumpy old school teacher as an example. The grumpy old school teacher turns her back on the class to write on the chalkboard, and instantly the kids are standing up and acting out. The teacher turns around and yells, “Sit down!” The kids sit down and so the teacher is rewarded for yelling, “Sit down”. However, as soon as she turns her back again, everyone is standing up again. Why? It is to get her to yell, “Sit down”. That’s the trap. We yell “NO!” and the dog quits. We’re rewarded, and then he does it again to get us to yell “NO!” Negative attention can be very rewarding.   Dogs are constantly being rewarded by owners for Negative behaviors.  They jump up on people and get touched when they are pushed down.  For many dogs this invites them to jump more.

If You Only Notice A Dog
When It’s Being Naughty
You Will End Up With a Naughty Dog!

When you go through obedience training, you practice daily and on a daily basis you praise good behavior. Your dog gets treats, but, most of all, he gets positive attention for appropriate behavior.

An owner may say, “We don’t need obedience training, he does everything I ask. The dog is perfect except for this one problem.” Obedience training will make the difference even in this case, because the dog has learned to take your praise and affection for granted. You’re so pleased with him that he doesn’t have to try to please you anymore. Your reaction to his misbehaving is rewarding. Obedience training emphasizes the fact that the dog does have a job and responsibilities. He does have to be a good dog for your praise.

Obedience training is an opportunity for you to reward your dog for being good and to motivate him to want to be good. I’ve always said that a dog that knows he’s good usually doesn’t want to do bad things. Yes, dogs have self-esteem. A dog that values praise is not only more correctable, but is motivated to be good.

It is never too early or too late to begin training!