Fahrizal Nuria Ivani said he used to be scared of dogs and would never have dreamed he would end up as a professional police dog trainer and manage his own dog school.
Ivan, as he is popularly known, said his love for dogs began when he met his wife Intan Kusuma who taught him that dogs are not only charming and playful but can be taught different tricks and perform specific tasks.
And he found that somehow training dogs came naturally to him — something his wife could never muster despite being a dog lover. Ivan understood that as animals, dogs must have discipline and were not simply for playing and cuddling as that led them to misbehave.
Eventually Ivan and Intan set up Home and Away Dog Care in the Sukoharjo district, Central Java where he trained dogs for clients hailing from nearby cities such as Semarang and Yogyakarta, but also as far afield as Jakarta and Surabaya.
More recently he was asked to train police dogs at a training center in Kediri, East Java.
“I was asked to join the police’s K-9 animal unit and train police dogs special skills needed for protection and tracking,” Ivan said.
German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Dobermans are suitable for protection tasks, and are trained to guard and control crowds, such as in mass protests, football matches and music concerts. For tracking criminals and sniffing out explosives and narcotics, Ivan teaches German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Beagles — breeds known for their good sense of smell.
Ivan said the common misconception about police dogs is that they have to be strong and aggressive. Instead, police dogs are trained to be in control and only attack when they are commanded to do so.
And that takes a lot of training for dogs to beat their own natural instinct and aggression — much like training dogs to go after to the source of gunfire instead of their natural instinct of running away from loud noise.
Ivan also helps dogs suffering from the psychological trauma of abuse or torture. His dog care center can host 30 dogs at one time and has playing grounds, toys, training and exercise equipment.
“There was one dog who kept barking aggressively whenever he saw a pemulung [scavenger]. We found out that one pemulung used to throw rocks at him,” Ivan said adding that the dog soon become aggressive to not only scavengers.
And so the dog trainer carefully approached the aggressive dog to earn his trust. Later he made the dog feel that humans are not threats.
Ivan said it takes time to train misbehaving dogs and heal traumatized dogs, adding that training owners how to treat their dogs was equally important.
Ivan taught his clients that dogs can become aggressive and tended to misbehave when they are tied or caged all day, kept isolated from human interaction and rarely allowed to play outside. Another mistake is to let your dogs do anything they want.
“You have to discipline your dogs the moment they do something wrong without delay. If you wait, your dogs will be confused as to why you are angry,” Ivan said adding that dogs have bad long-term memory. The same also applies to praise.
Ivan said another mistake owners make is to keep dogs that are too big for them. Big dogs, he said, need more space and their owners should regularly play with them to drain their energy.
Ivan is the leader of the local Siberian Husky club and has two German Shepherds who have won several dog shows.