Old chicken, new tricks!

Alexan­der Arm­strong and co-stars on their mag­i­cal new show in which a pony trains be a ho­tel porter...

TV Times - - Pets Special - Caren Clark

Teach My Pet To Do That fri / ITV / 8.00Pm (not STV, wales, ULS)

Can you train a chicken to recog­nise Katie Price? Is a horse or a dog bet­ter at open­ing a door? ITV’S quirky eight-part an­i­mal show Teach My Pet To Do That, hosted by Alexan­der Arm­strong, sees ex­pert an­i­mal train­ers Jo-rosie Haf­fenden and Nando Brown put a va­ri­ety of pets and their own­ers through their paces by teach­ing them a range of tricks.

‘We are a na­tion of an­i­mal lovers but we are se­ri­ously un­der­es­ti­mat­ing our pets’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties,’ says Alexan­der, 47. ‘Pets may be small but their brains are huge, so teach­ing them tricks is a bril­liant way of keep­ing them happy and healthy and ex­er­cis­ing their minds and bod­ies.’ Here, Nando and Jo-rosie tell us more…

How would you de­scribe the show? Jo-rosie: We want to show how dif­fer­ent pets, not just dogs, can be trained be­cause, given the right mo­ti­va­tion and tools, you can train them to do some in­cred­i­ble things. Each episode sees two dif­fer­ent species come to our pet school in Sus­sex to learn a trick, so a dog and a chicken learn to wipe their feet on a mat and, in the first episode, a minia­ture horse com­petes with a dog to an­swer a door.

Nando: It demon­strates how our pets are ca­pa­ble of so much more that we give them credit for. My favourite was the rook that ti­dies up its own toys and a chicken that learned to dis­tin­guish be­tween the faces of dif­fer­ent celebri­ties.

You also try out some more com­plex tricks, don’t you? Jo-rosie: Yes, we work with own­ers who have a par­tic­u­lar project they want to do with their pets. We helped one lady train her minia­ture pony to be a ho­tel porter for char­ity, and he picked up keys off a counter and car­ried guests’ bags to the rooms. In the first episode we also teach a cat called River to ride a dog called Moss to cel­e­brate the re-open­ing of a doggy day­care cen­tre. That was hard!

Are cats tough to train?

Jo-rosie: It’s easier than you think. Nando: That’s a lie!

Jo-rosie: No, it’s fine as long as you don’t try to train them like they are dogs – they are very dif­fer­ent. You have to be pa­tient and they need more phys­i­cal af­fec­tion as a re­ward. Nando: It’s all about find­ing the right re­ward for that an­i­mal and then build­ing up their be­hav­iour, so for dogs it is food and toys, while rooks and chick­ens want meal­worms. Jo-rosie: A fer­ret was the hard­est to train. We wanted to get it to ring a bell for din­ner but they aren’t food- or toy-mo­ti­vated, which makes the train­ing very slow.

is Alexan­der an an­i­mal lover? Jo-rosie: Yes, he has al­pacas at home, as well as a border ter­rier, so he was re­ally in­ter­ested in the tricks, and he could re­ally empathise with the own­ers when they got frus­trated. Al­pacas are hard to train, but no harder than a fer­ret!

do you think it will en­cour­age peo­ple at home to train their pets? Nando: Def­i­nitely, be­cause even a gold­fish in a bowl is ca­pa­ble of learn­ing some amaz­ing stuff. We have a carp pond at home and they are all trained to come when you call, so the three­sec­ond mem­ory ru­mour about fish is not true. Jo-rosie: I hope they’ll say, ‘I’m go­ing to train that rab­bit in the hutch to do some­thing.’ I want peo­ple to get off their sofas and train their pets be­cause they’ll ben­e­fit, not just by get­ting cool party tricks from their pet, but in terms of their re­la­tion­ship.

Ear, ear: Jo-rosie Haf­fenden and Nando Brown with pet fizz

Eight-month-old Ben­gal cat River with owner Han­nah

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