Stormy Weather has some questions for Ilse Colic (nee Fourie) from Doggoroo Behaviour and Training.
Q. Ilse, please could you tell us a bit about yourself.
A. Thanks for chatting to me Stormy! Well, I am a qualified animal behaviourist and trainer and a member of international associations such as ICAN (The International Companion Animal Network) and CAPBT (COAPE Association of Applied Pet Behaviourists and Trainers). I have always had a fascination with behaviour and a deep love and passion for all four legged creatures – especially dogs.
My goal is to give pet parents and their dogs the tools for clear communication in order to live a happy life together. I aim to teach the humans how to understand their dogs, and in so doing, develop dogs that will find learning a joy.
Q. How long has Doggoroo been around?
A. I started Doggoroo in April 2018. I also train at Zimzala K9 Estate in Stellenbosch and decided to offer training to the Helderberg community, as it is often difficult for people in the Helderberg area to get to Stellenbosch in time for classes.
Q. What made you decide to go into dog behaviour and training?
A. As mentioned, I have always been intrigued by behaviour, psychology was my second major at University. It took me a winding and strange road, through the arts and marketing, before I truly found my vocation and life’s purpose. I have had dogs as part of most of my life, but an encounter with COAPE qualified behaviourist, Karen Sinovich. completely changed my understanding and outlook on dogs and set in motion the need for better understanding and drove my desire for knowledge – and I am still learning!
Q. What got you into Trick Training? Tell us a bit more about your current dogs.
A. Karen Sinovich introduced me to Trick Training in 2017, when I attended her classes held in Rondebosch. From then, I delved deeper into the sport itself and the training techniques, such as chaining, associated with tricks. I strive to keep learning and come up with useful and creative behaviours to teach my dogs and my clients. Also, I still try to attend as many of Karen’s classes as possible.
Q. During lockdown Stormy attended some of your Virtual classes, how did that work for you during this difficult time and will you be going ahead with it after lockdown?
A. Initially, I was very panicked and unsure of how to approach training during this pandemic. People still need help with their dogs, especially with having family at home constantly. It is not only a time to ensure mental stimulation for our dogs, but the perfect time to build on relationships and bonds, so I knew I needed to come up with a solution to be able to continue serving.
I did research and several tests to find a technical and practical solution to be able to host sessions. I did not simply want to make videos, as I believe live, online training ensures the same expertise and coaching as the in-person training – I am there with you while you train, so you receive immediate feedback to ensure effective learning for you and your dog. That being said, I did create some training videos for future use and to share with those who cannot join sessions. I am continuing to look at ways to deliver the best training and behaviour services and do believe that live, online training and consultations are viable going forward. The private sessions are a more flexible (time) and affordable (no travel fee charge) option and now I have a solution for those training days in winter when it pours with rain!
Additionally, I would not have been able to do this without the support of my wonderful clients who cheered me on and helped as much as they could. I will always be grateful to them.
Q. Stormy loves her tricks, and would love to take it further, what would you recommend for Doggies like Stormy?
A. The wonderful thing about trick training is that you are only limited by your imagination! You can build on previous behaviours taught to make more complex tricks. For example, if you have taught your dog to open a door and have taught them to fetch a can, you can then teach them to open the fridge and get you a beer or soda can.
Tricks are also a competitive sport, with the trick titles recognised by the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs. There are 5 titles, or levels, ranging from Novice to Champion. The entries are submitted via video, so even nervous dogs and owners don’t have to worry about attending crowded show rings or events.
Q. Please could you give more information on what trick training is? What type of dogs would you recommend attend your class?
A. Dogs, like us, never stop learning, so trick training is beneficial for literally any dog, regardless of breed or age. Of course, depending on the size of dog or injury history, there would need to be certain contingencies and precautions made during training, but that is the case with any training.
For me, Trick training encompasses so much of what dog training actually is. During the process of teaching tricks, you need to put into play the foundational concepts and techniques of learning: operant conditioning, marker training, consistency, timing, and motivation. In teaching tricks, we get to practice these techniques and see the results of reward-based training.
Also, when doing trick training, you need to reinforce many small increments in behaviour – allowing for a VERY strong reinforcement history with you. In essence, your dog learns that you are fun and the value of the reward is transferred to you, making your relationship so much stronger and creating a dog that is eager to learn and engage with you.
Q. Do you do any other types of training apart from trick training?
A. Yes, I do. I co-train puppy classes at Zimzala K9 estate in Stellenbosch with Amanda de Wet and I also teach obedience classes with the aim of working towards completing the Canine Good Citizen tests. I do also add some tricks to these classes 😉
Q. What are the most common dog behaviour problems bought to you on a regular basis?
A. It varies. I have noticed that it often depends on the time of the year or the breed’s popularity. For example, after holidays I tend to see more separation related distress cases and before Christmas many people want to “have their dogs ready” for large groups of people and visitors. But overall, the most common behaviours include excessive barking, anxiety or fear around strangers, inter-dog aggression and reactivity on lead.
Q. Stormy has recently contacted you about exercises for her weak back, what would you recommend for doggies like Storm.
A. As with Stormy, always consult a companion animal physiotherapist. They are able to determine exactly what the issues are and work with you to strengthen the muscles or joints. You can ask your physiotherapist for a maintenance program after therapy to ensure that you keep up with the work and not regress. The exercise suggestions I made for Stormy, is in line with what Stormy’s physiotherapist did and recommended and follows body conditioning work employed by professional sports dogs, such as agility champions.
Q. My 3 dogs are high energy dogs that are used to going on walks daily, we really struggled during lockdown as they were not coping at all. Trick training really helped, why would that be?
A. Dogs are always eager to learn! Like us, their brains want to be stimulated. Imagine if you stopped learning new things? How dull!
Trick training really challenges both dogs and dog parents. As the trainer, your mechanical skills are tested. For your dogs, they need to really think and figure out what we require from them. Each time they are successful, they receive a burst of dopamine (happy neurotransmitter) which is a feel-good chemical in the brain. Trick training also teaches focus, as your dog is kept on their toes, and all that focus will tire anyone out. I do love it when clients send me photos of their happy dogs fast asleep out after class!