Rob Smith lights up when he goes to work with a leash and chew toys in hand. His job is training dogs.
"I really got into it when I was a K-9 officer in Lyndon," Smith said. "My first dog was a Belgian Malinois."
Smith poured hours that turned into years working with his four-legged partners, teaching them to detect narcotics and follow trails. Soon his experience began to be in demand from friends and neighbors.
Deciding to focus on dog training as a career, Smith studied and graduated from the Highland Canine Training's master trainer program so he could start his own enterprise — Frog Valley K-9s. The Newton-based business offers services such as teaching dogs basic obedience, search and rescue, trailing or even bed bug detection.
"I like seeing the lightbulb come on with a dog," Smith said with a smile.
Smith has worked with many breeds of dogs — labrador retrievers, rat terriers, cocker spaniels and German shepherds, to name a few — when their owners want to resolve aggression or socialization issues that keep their pets from being able to be around other animals or people.
In his endeavors to change an animal's behavior, Smith takes his expertise directly to his customer's homes.
"A lot of times when you go to do work with a dog, especially an aggressive one, sometimes they feel more comfortable there because they have their people around, which they look at as their pack," Smith explained. "The advantage for the owner is they don't have to drive somewhere with the dog to come to me."
Not only is Smith willing to travel to a customer's location — he noted he has customers as far away as northwest Missouri — he also gives free evaluations.
"I have a list of about 40 questions that I ask," Smith said. "I talk to them and look at the dog in its environment so I can see just what that dog is going to do. A dog may act one way at home and then it will act different somewhere else."
Effort is required from the dog's owners as well, who are given homework to complete between Smith's weekly training sessions. He makes sure they understand that they must be dedicated to continuing the process so that the dog does not relapse into old behaviors.
"If they keep up with their training and with what I show them, before long the dog's just doing it naturally," Smith said. "You don't have to work so much on it."
With Frog Valley K-9s, Smith also plans to offer group lessons for basic or advanced obedience courses.
Dogs can be used for many purposes, Smith noted, from protecting a business or finding a missing child or elderly person who has wandered away from home. They can also be used to detect firearms, search an area and serve as K-9s in law enforcement.
"I'm willing to teach them anything I can that I'm certified in," Smith said.
For more information about Frog Valley K-9s, visit https://frogvalleyk9s.wordpress.com or call 785-893-1616.