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Nitro K-9 Team

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Steve Walter

Nitro K-9 Founder

Steve Walter

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.

Our Staff

Jessica Z

Jessica Zylstra

Office Manager – Scheduling Guru – Kennel Operator @ Nitro Board & Train Program

Hi, I’m Jessica and I’m extremely enthusiastic about animals.  We have horses, dogs, goats, and chickens on our farm property in Snohomish. I feel fortunate to work at Nitro K-9 to not only be around dogs all day but to take care of clients’ dogs on our property for board & train and boarding programs. I also try to make magic happen with our busy schedule and work with our amazing clients. Steve’s dog training saves dogs every day and I’m so proud to be a part of what he has created. I have two busy teenage daughters that play soccer and barrel race.  My passion for fitness and health has led me to compete in many races such as triathlons, so we are a very on-the-go family.


James Bowman

Protection Dog Decoy / Trainer

James joined the Infantry in 2006 and served in several combat units deployed to Iraq, Afgan and Africa. He also served in The Old Guard providing burial services to our nation’s fallen heroes.  James medically retired in 2013 due to injuries.  He got into dog training and bite sports by accident in early 2017.  He fell in love with protection sports and hasn’t looked back since. He says he lives for the bite and loves helping dogs develop into fine-tuned destruction machines.

Tanner Weiss

Trainer / Apprentice

Tanner Weiss is an artist and dog training apprentice. Originally from Southern California, he developed a love for art at his local high school. Shortly after moving to Seattle, Tanner quickly became attached to dogs on a deeper level and found his true potential working with dogs as a student at Nitro K9. It was here that he trained his first dog, Koda, to a very high level of obedience. His passion is working with dogs and their owners to reach their goals safely. In the end, he hopes that more dogs can be off leash and still maintain control. Tanner is grateful for the opportunity to work with such an awesome establishment like Nitro K9 and be mentored by Steve Walter.

Jude Menke

Jude Menke


For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a dog-mom and out in nature with my pups. As a child and teen I sought opportunities to walk and dog-sit for friends and neighbors. When I finally adopted my first puppy, Leon, a rescue from the streets in Taiwan, I was determined to raise the most well behaved dog out there. I devoted all my free time and hundreds of hours on training. Sadly we were misguided, using ‘positive’ only methods and despite our efforts Leon was fearful and increasingly reactive to strangers. Thankfully, we were eventually referred to Nitro and our lives changed. After spending hundreds of hours training Nitro-style, my boy is now calmer, non-reactive and reliable off-leash. He continues to enjoy the bonding experience of training sessions at home. Experiencing the dramatic effect of this training, I decided to help more dogs and their owners and began my apprenticeship at Nitro. I am passionate about helping rescue dogs and showing people that they can be amazing pets. In my free time, I spend as much time as possible with my two dogs and love to explore the mountains with them.

Heather Berry

Heather Berry


I began working with animals professionally 6+ years ago at a nonprofit animal rescue. I cleaned kennels and worked alongside the facility’s trainer which is where I decided dog training was going to be my profession. Watching the heart-breaking cycle of dog after dog being adopted and then shortly returned, I wished there was something more I could do to help. That opportunity presented itself when I met a dog with behavioral issues that I could help. I adopted Billie (black dog, pictured left) and she’s been beside me throughout my journey to become a great canine professional. I’ve now dedicated my life to helping as many dog owners as possible. I understand their struggle because I was once the dog owner at the other end of the leash of a barking, pulling, and lunging dog.

Bria Massie

Training Apprentice

My name is Bria, and I love big crazy dogs. I am currently an apprentice trainer mastering one command at a time, currently focusing on “Heel”. I started exploring dog training years ago with my own dog’s behavior problems and have been passionate about aggression and the relationship between the dog and its owners ever since. I love Nitro for its direct and effective approach to dog training. I’ve worked with many trainers throughout the years but many didn’t get to the core issue or deliver on their promises. I am currently learning at Nitro to meet my dog where he is at and work within those limitations to address his needs rather than judge him or myself for them. My goal is to combat the stigma of “aggressive breeds” and the judgment of “good” vs “bad” dogs that will inevitably lead to them being surrendered to a shelter or needlessly put down. Nitro provides the environment and support to perpetuate just that.


Luis Avila

Training Apprentice

After being in sales for 10 years, I found myself dreaming of being a dog trainer after getting my own dog Charlie(German Shepard/ Husky mix). I began working as a positive-only trainer with dogs at local shelters as well as my own dog. I couldn’t believe how much misinformation was out there. When I dug deeper, I found just a small number of trainers who were using true techniques. Luckily, I found Steve and the Nitro K9 team.  I’m proud to apprentice under Steve and his diverse group of dog trainers. I can’t wait to see all the dogs that Nitro saves. It’s truly incredible to see firsthand!

Rachel Allen


Rachel Allen lives in New York City and came to dog training after adopting a herding dog who was out of her league. After a lot of research, she came across Nitro K-9. She started with remote training and after seeing just how different this training was, she realized that it should be available to as many people as possible. She became an apprentice and flew out to work with the team in person several times. She is now starting up in NYC and working to help dogs cope with the stresses of living in the city. From basic obedience to anxiety and aggression, the Nitro training methods help with it all.

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