The story about where we come from and what we stand for.
We have taken great care to create a practical, non-invasive, convenient facility that serves the community and residents in the area. People can leave their animals in a safe, secure, clean facility where they are cared for and stimulated while their owners are at work or away from home.
If dogs are kept occupied and are having fun, they are less likely to become a nuisance to your neighbours. You can avoid barking, howling and other behavioural problems like biting humans or fighting with other dogs. Our facilities are SPCA-approved.
Over 50 trees have been planted around the property to provide shade to "green" the area. We have a Beekeeping programme on the property for the bees to pollinate the vegetables for our Coffee Shop and the surrounding plants.
Animal Think Tank is owned and run by Niki Elliott, who has over 35 years of experience working with dogs and cats. Niki is a qualified TTouch Practitioner Level 3 for Companion Animals, has completed a Diploma in Dog Behaviour and Aggression, and is a Member of:
- The Pet Industries Federation in the UK
- The British Professional Dog Groomers Association & The Pet Professional Guild
- The Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals in the USA
Niki also runs several Puppy and Adult dog training schools in the area, a grooming parlour and trains people to run their own Grooming Parlours and Dog Training Schools. The British Dog Grooming Association and the Pet Industries Federation accredit these courses. The business looks to provide a quality educational skills programme enabling individuals to obtain employment.
The managers at Sangster Road are Aphelele Mpongo (who has a BSc in Animal Husbandry) and Anton Stoltenkamp (a qualified Dog Trainer). Both Managers are on-site every day.
The incredible woman who started it all
Niki was born in England, but her parents immigrated to South Africa when she was two. The first part of her schooling was in South Africa, and at 12 years old, she returned to England with her mother.
Growing up in South Africa, she felt as free as a bird—never wearing shoes or winter clothes. Her love of animals took root during these formative years. Their house was always full of different animals, from snakes to rats, birds, dogs and cats. Her father was an ex-army officer involved in intelligence work during the 2nd World War and never really accepted civilian life. He ruled with an iron fist—every person and animal stood to attention when he was around. During that time, Niki realised there was a better way to treat both people and animals and started helping with the neighbours' dogs to teach them how to "be good dogs".
When she returned to England, they lived in a tiny flat and were not allowed any animals. As soon as she was old enough, she went to stay in Italy. She encountered thousands of homeless stray cats roaming the streets and adopted a few. When it was time to return to England, she smuggled the cats back on the train in a basket. She returned to South Africa at 21, where she has lived ever since. She always wanted to be a Veterinarian but never had the finances to support herself through University. She spent her young adulthood learning new things. "Grow until you go" has always been her motto, teaching as many people as possible to do the same.
She has had several different businesses, from Squash teacher to African hairdressing, catering, owning a food shop, and helping her husband in his construction company. She worked for two years in the TTouch office with Eugenie Chopin, learned about TTouch and became hooked.
Niki qualified as a TTouch Practitioner Level 1 in 2003, Level 2 Practitioner in 2005 and Level 3 in 2017.
- In December 2003, she qualified to teach Puppy Socialisation classes.
- In March 2004, she incorporated the clicker method after qualifying as a Clicker Instructor.
- In December 2005, she qualified as an Obedience Instructor through MacKanine.
- In September 2016, she qualified with Compass Education UK as a Dog Aggression Behaviourist.
Together, Niki and Kay Aitcheson started the Puppies In Balance training school. They built this from just one puppy class to ten classes a week, some of which include Adult classes in Obedience, Agility and Heel Work to Music. In January 2006, Niki qualified as a Kitten Trainer and Practitioner. She consults with clients at their homes and the Animal Think Tank Sangster Branch.
Niki has been a guest speaker on radio and television programs and has written articles on TTouch, training and behaviour for Cats Life, Animal Talk, Dog Directory and several breed clubs, as well as presenting TTouch workshops to Veterinary Nurses at Onderstepoort and assisting with training at the Police Dog Unit at Roodeplaat in Pretoria.
Niki moved on to establish Fluffs-n-Tufts in 2011. It grew from a few daycare pups on her home property to the business it is today, with one venue in the Bryanston area for Doggie daycare and boarding and two venues for the Cattery. She moved into the world of grooming in 2011 and now has a grooming salon with two fully qualified groomers. Niki opened the ATT Café at the Sangster Road Branch in 2017 and channelled her catering experience into an excellent place for folk to come sit with their dogs, have a walk or relax whilst waiting for grooming.
Niki lives with her husband, two cats and thirteen dogs—seven of which stay at the Sangster Road property, where they have very important jobs to perform every day!
In 2021, Fluffs-n-Tufts unified its brand by marketing all services under its registered name: Animal Think Tank. To this day, Niki remains a critical part of all daily operations at both branches.
Our mission and vision guides us
Our mission is to bring about change in the Companion Animal World by:
- Educating people to treat all animals with respect, kindness, and compassion;
- Teaching punishment-free, positive-reinforcement methods;
- Establishing a deeper rapport between humans and animals through increased understanding and more effective communication.
- Assisting the community with an upliftment program;
- Providing valuable educational skills that allow community members to run their own businesses in dog training, grooming, house sitting, and animal care; feel a sense of self-worth and create a sustainable income for themselves and their families.