Positive Reinforcement Training

Training Tales: Getting fit with Roxanne

Chimp Haven
Chimp Haven March 4, 2019
Roxanne Chimp

Chimp Haven retirees are trained (using positive reinforcement) to participate in their own veterinary care and individualized wellbeing plans. Chimps can be trained to show care staff a scratch on their arm, to take an injectable medication (such as insulin), or even to allow for monitoring of more complex health issues, such as arthritis or heart conditions. Although at Chimp Haven the chimps have lots of room to roam and climb, they are just like people and occasionally need the motivation to get moving. We address weight management with our Personal Trainer program. 

Chimp: Roxanne, 28 years old, living the Chimp Life since 2014

Personal Trainer: Rebekah Lewis, Positive Reinforcement Training Program Coordinator

Roxanne is a smart, enthusiastic participant in our positive reinforcement training program. When Roxanne’s vet team told me that she needed a personal trainer to maintain a more healthy weight, I was excited and motivated to help. You see, when Roxanne and I started working out together I was seven months pregnant with my little boy, and I needed to stay mobile and healthy myself.

Every morning, if you looked out at Roxanne’s enclosure you saw us: two larger ladies waddling up and down the grass together. Roxanne would walk with me, but she would also climb shelving and other yard obstacles when I asked her to. Some days we would even muster up a light jogging pace!

There were some days that I was just exhausted and she motivated ME to keep going, big baby belly and all. She would race ahead and look back at me as if to encourage me to keep going. Roxanne will also allow me to take her temperature and monitor her heart rate with a stethoscope, so I am her own personal FitBit!

We tried to always meet in the cool of the morning and I always brought some low calorie treats for motivation. After she finished an exercise set she would receive either a small snack of sugar-free juice and heart-healthy nuts or a little portion of frozen fruit.

Since I have been back from maternity leave we have continued our exercise commitment to each other, meeting almost every day to walk and train. We’re not perfect…sometimes we have cheat days, where she decides that the weather is not to her liking and she wants to sleep in, nestled in her hammock, and I’ll retreat to my office for coffee (with extra sugar!).

However, for the most part, Roxanne has been a joy to work out with and she has definitely helped me “lose the baby weight.” I thought I was her personal trainer, but I suspect she may really have been mine all along.

Chimp Haven
Chimp Haven