Me & my pets: Fiona & Chilli

PUBLISHED: 15:24 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 12 June 2017

Chris Christensen Brush

Chris Christensen Brush

Chris Christensen

Fiona Allen, a yoga teacher from Epping, on her fittingly named chilled out goldendoodle

Pet Head Pet Head

Chilli will be eight this year (that’s 56 in Doggy years, but he’s so not a grumpy old man!). We’ve had him since he was a puppy and it was definitely love at first sight. We got him from a lovely breeder in Devon and I will never forget the five hour drive back with him in a cardboard box! As soon as we got him home, he slotted into the family and has been a huge part of it ever since.

He’s a golden retriever poodle mix, which makes him a goldendoodle. He’s a big boy, with a lovely, laid-back personality. If I had to say he’s favourite thing to do, I’d probably say sleeping as he sleeps tons. That said, however, once he’s out in Epping Forest he goes wild chasing the squirrels, so there’s definitely life in the old dog yet!

We trained him as a puppy so he’s really good at coming back even if he goes off the beaten track .

Cat Training Cat Training

His favourite thing aside from sleeping is water and he would swim everyday given the opportunity, even in the heart of winter. He also enjoys rolling in muddy puddles!!! Another funny habit is when we give him an after dinner chew - he’ll only eat it outdoors! Never inside! I’m not sure what that’s about.

I had dogs as a child so it would feel weird not to have one now, he’s really one of the family. So much so in fact, that I even get him doing yoga with me, joining in the poses (I teach it as Bikram Yoga Essex so it’s great to practice with Chilli at home).

Warren London Wax Warren London Wax

Vet’s Corner

Goddard Veterinary Group Loughton on training your cat

Chilli in car Chilli in car

As with all animals, the best way to train your cat is through the use of positive reinforcement. This means giving your cat something nice when it performs a behaviour you like and ignoring any unwanted behaviour. The cat will learn to associate the desired behaviour with something rewarding and will therefore be more likely to perform that behaviour again. If the undesired behaviour has no positive consequence, the cat is less likely to repeat it. In this way, we ‘shape’ our cat’s behaviour to suit us.

A good place to start is to train your cat to perform a very simple task such as ‘sit’. Using one of your cat’s favourite food treats, move the food over their head and as their gaze follows the food and their head moves back, their rear end will naturally lower into a sitting position. At this point give the food to your cat while it is sitting. Move position so that the cat follows you and releases from the sitting position and try again.

We often need to reward approximations of the behaviour we want (ie taking baby steps towards the desired behaviour). Thus if the cat does not sit on the first try, give it a helping hand to the correct behaviour by initially rewarding when it lowers its back end. When the cat is reliably sitting when you use the food as a lure, you can begin to add the verbal cue ‘sit’ just as the cat is sitting. It will then begin to associate the word ‘sit’ with the action.

Teaching your cat to use a target is often useful too

This means teaching your cat to sit or stay or place a paw or nose on a certain object or location. Gradually increase the amount of time your cat stays with the target before the reward. The basics of targeting can be used to teach your cat not to jump on worktops (but sit on a target mat instead on the floor) or to enter the cat carrier (by placing the target mat inside the cat carrier).

While kittens and younger cats may learn certain tasks more quickly than older cats, it is never too late to start training. The important thing to remember is to keep training sessions short (no longer than a few minutes in the first instance and building up to a maximum of 10-15 minutes).

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