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