Our Team

Dog Trainers: Meet our Trainers

With decades of experience in dog training, our dog trainers bring valuable insight to every aspect of our services and every dog and handler we train.

Nikki Bignell 

Lead Dog Trainer / Owner

Nikki was seventeen when her first dog, a German Shepherd named Boogie came into her life. She joined a local dog obedience group, where her passion for training dogs began. Since that time, Nikki has trained, handled and assessed many breeds of dogs under numerous disciplines.

In 1990, Nikki joined the Queensland Police Service and was selected into the Brisbane Dog Squad in 1992. Nikki served as a member of the Dog Squad for nearly twenty years, and during that time she trained and handled police dogs in the following disciplines: general purpose, accelerant detection (arson investigations), marijuana detection, narcotic detection and explosive detection. Nikki also created and led the inaugural Labrador breeding program of the Queensland Police Service.

As part of her role in the Queensland Police Dog Squad, Nikki developed and designed the procedures for the first Passive Dog Operations implemented in Brisbane City and Fortitude Valley. In overseeing this program Nikki was responsible for conducting continuous risk assessments, often in very fluid and volatile environments.

Nikki also worked with and trained members of the Australian Border Force (formerly Customs Service) Detector Dog Program throughout Queensland and in their Canberra-based dog breeding program. She worked with the unit operationally and also provided training at their puppy breeding centre to help develop their puppies to become operational detection dogs.

Dog Trainer Brisbane Nikki Bignell TASAA

 Nikki retired from the Queensland Police Service in 2010. She has, however, continued to work with animals creating a successful dog and cat mobile grooming business which she operates in Brisbane.  In 2016 a major security company based in Nairobi, Kenya, asked Nikki to come to Nairobi to establish a private explosive detection dog program in the country. During this time, she recruited and trained five handlers, two training officers who worked with five dogs. She overcame the challenges of cultural differences and language barriers to establish a successful explosive detection dog. Nikki is also particularly proud to have recruited and trained Kenya’s first female handlers.

Therapy and Support Animals Australia
 

  •  Establishing the acclaimed TSAA Stay & Train Puppy Program, a remarkable endeavour that has welcomed over 700 puppies in the last several years. Leveraging her extensive expertise in dog training, she meticulously crafted a comprehensive curriculum that places a strong emphasis on fostering calm behaviours, focusing on puppies destined to become beloved family members or those aspiring to obtain therapy dog certification. The program stands unmatched in its depth and breadth, offering an exceptional learning experience for young pups and setting a new standard in the field.

  • Developing and overseeing the signature TSAA Intensive Obedience Course, a cornerstone course aimed at establishing a solid bond between dog and owner while instilling calm behaviours. This program is thoughtfully designed for dogs between 16 weeks and 1 year of age, a crucial developmental period for learning and growth. It serves as the ultimate training course for family dogs and as a foundational step for future therapy dogs, providing the necessary skills and groundwork. Ensuring owners depart with a comprehensive understanding of canine behaviour and effective training techniques has always been Nikki’s goal.
  • Recognizing the impact animal-assisted therapy can have on individuals in all walks of life, led Nikki to develop the TSAA Therapy Training Course. This comprehensive program focuses on teaching both dogs and trainers the essential behaviors required for successful therapy dog work. Leveraging her vast experience in dog training, Nikki goes beyond training alone by certifying and actively facilitating the placement of therapy dogs and their handlers with various organizations and businesses. These partnerships allow for the transformative power of therapy dogs to positively impact individuals in diverse settings, including airports, medical practices, government support agencies, funeral homes, retirement homes, schools, daycares, universities, corporate environments, and disability service providers.
  • Training dogs to become beloved family members, medical alert dogs and assistance dogs is one of Nikki’s most cherished accomplishments.
Experienced Dog Trainer Dean Hanson

Dean Hanson 

Lead Dog Trainer

Dean has been training dogs since 1987 when he acquired his first dog, a Rottweiler named Kahn. Not fussed with the world of dog shows, he got together with a group of like-minded people and formed the Brisbane Sporting Dog Club. Together they set out to train their dogs in the sport of Schutzhund, (obedience, tracking and protection). At their first opportunity to compete in a trial, Dean and Khan finished 2nd in a field of 36 in Adelaide. This was the catalyst to him seeking a career as a dog trainer.

In 1989, Dean was accepted into the Qld Police Dog Squad. Over the next 31 years he has established himself as leading dog trainer and exponent of dog training in law enforcement circles. He has handled Rottweilers, German Shepherds and an English Springer Spaniel in the field. The capabilities of these dogs included tracking, obedience, apprehension, searching, cadaver detection, blood detection.

In 1997 he was selected to represent QLD at the Australia and NZ Police Dog Trials. He and his dog Nikko were crowned obedience champions. This led to him being invited to NZ to help implement new dog training techniques that were revolutionary at the time. Techniques he leant by regularly attending dog training seminars involving the best dog trainers from the USA and Europe. He continues to attend such seminars and strives to keep learning from the people leading the world in dog training methods.

In 2001 he commenced instructing on Police Dog Training Courses. Over the next 14 years he qualified 130 Police Dog Teams. In 2015 he was tasked with managing the German Shepherd Breeding Program of the Police Dog Squad. He is responsible for developing the pups that this program produces. From when they are born to 15 months old, he shapes their temperament and imprints the skills to put the pups on the path to one day serving the community.

Dean now enjoys the company of a new breed, the Jack Russell. His pet dogs Vegas and Winnie keep him amused and young at heart with their huge personalities.

Matt Grace 

Lead Dog Trainer

Passionate dog trainer and educator, Matt Grace, holds over 12 years of experience and a strong devotion to dogs. As a qualified service dog trainer and handler, Matt’s expertise spans various breeds, emphasizing the delicate blend of innate qualities and nurturing in his training approach. Whether nurturing pets or working dogs, Matt’s dog training philosophy centers on optimising potential, enjoyment, and the human-canine bond.

With a background in successfully handling two service dogs and training numerous puppies from seven weeks to adulthood, his specialisation lies in working line dogs like German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Shepherds. Matt is adept at fostering good behavior habits, resolving issues, and cultivating highly skilled working dogs. He embraces the challenge of any canine issue, believing that no problem is insurmountable. Beyond training, Matt’s experience as a breeder highlights his passion for producing robust, capable, and well-structured working line German Shepherds.

Connect with Matt to embark on a rewarding journey with your canine companion.

Experienced Dog Trainer Matt Grace
Experienced Dog Trainer Jess Kaddatz

Jess Jaddatz 

Dog Trainer, Trick training specialist

Since 2013, Jess has been breeding and dog training Border Collies, as well as Qualifying and working as a Veterinary Nurse. She’s been to countless seminars and workshops with behaviorists, veterinarians, handlers and performers. After purchasing her 6th dog, Zepin 2016 from The Flipping Disc Dogz, she was persuaded to do Freestyle Frisbee and hasn’t looked back. Since then, her dogs have won countless awards and titles in tricks and frisbee, including State Champions for Freestyle, Games and Toss and Fetch.

Both Jess and Steph auditioned and performed in the stage show “Let’s Be Friends Furever” at Brisbane Powerhouse and Gold Coast HOTA. Have given interviews with ABC, channels 9 and 7. Performed regularly at Eat Street Northshore, a few school visits and own the first dogs to perform a “death roll” and “trust fall” in Australia.