Meet the Instructors

Affiliation: Stichting Contacthond ( , Hoofddorp the Netherlands

Dr. Nikki Rethmeier

instructor Bio

Nikki Rethmeier, Stichting Contacthond ( , Hoofddorp the Netherlands

Nikki has been a professional dog trainer and handler for more than 15 years. She obtained a Master in Science degree in Biology from the Free University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, followed by  a Ph.D. degree in the field of genetics from the University in Ghent in Belgium in 1997.

Nikki is founder and president of Contacthond (, a Dutch non-profit organisation that selects and trains therapy dogs. the therapy dogs and their handlers work alongside a therapist to aid clients with a mental or physical disability. At Contacthond, Nikki is primarily responsible for the development of new therapy programmes, keeping the selecting and training techniques up to date and the training and internships of new dog handlers.

Nikki advocates positive animal training methods and firmly believes this not only involves positive reinforcement of desired behavior but, amongst other things, designing the training sessions such that the animal is set up for success. Her interest in dog training and genetics brought her in contact with the Dutch Kennel Club, which she advised on a strategy to map the current gene pool of the most common dog breeds in the Netherlands.

Currently, Nikki also holds a position as member of the board of directors of AAIZOO, an organisation that focusses on improving the quality of animal assisted interventions (AAI) in the Netherlands by stimulating research, exchanging knowledge and establishing guidelines and quality requirements.

Nikki travels the world to meet, learn and work with other animal trainers. One of her latest adventures brought her to a huskyfarm in Eastern Finland, aiding in the selection and training of sled dogs.