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How to Train Pet Rats
Rats can be easily trained to do simple tasks. You may actually be training your rat already.... You just may not know it.
Teaching your rat to come when called- When you go to the cage and either say the rat's name or make a clicking noise, you teach the rat to come to the cage door so that you can open it. The rat comes to you when he hears his name or the noise, and you reward that behavior by either giving him a treat or taking him out to play.
Simple tricks that do not require much serious training.
You can teach your pet rat to kiss you by smearing a small bit of yogurt or baby food on you cheek or the back of your hand. Let the rat lick it off your skin. You'll need to do this several times over a period of time. But, every time the rat is offered your cheek or hand they will lick expecting to taste yogurt or baby food.
The clicker is a powerful training tool for training just about any animal. When used wrong it is highly ineffective, but properly, it makes an effective training aid.
A clicker works on the basis of positive reinforcement to which the animal wants to work for you. By using positive reinforcement methods for training, the animal remains attentive and focused for longer pierods of time.
Because rats do not understand human language, we can confuse them with different voice tones and noise, so using a clicker for training works best, as it is a distinctive sound that they will quickly associate with a reward.
You will want to try to minimize talking to your rat when training because you will usually confuse it. Use the clicker as the praise, as you will not click until the right behaviors are performed. Wrong behaviors are ignored completely.
Using the clicker training method, it's a more hands-off approach, so never punish your rat.
Training Pet Rats
When getting started, make sure that you have a clicker and small treats that your rat can eat quickly. Make sure it's your rat's favorite treats, so that he won't get tired of it. You can use yogurt or baby food so that you rat gets a lick and you can take it away.
Make sure there are no distractions around you or the rat. No toys. No other rats. Etc. Make sure that it's you, your rat, and an empty table or bed.
When you start using the clicker, the rat may jump at first, but be patient, he will get used to the sound.
Training to Come When Called
Training Your Rat to Come
Without saying anything, when the rat starts to come towards you click the clicker. Wait a second before treating the rat.
Don't let the rat have too much of the treat because you want him eager for more.
You will want to try this again, but at this point your rattie friend may not want to leave your side, hoping to get another taste, so go to the other side of the table or bed and wait for him to come to you again. Once he does, click and treat.
Repeat this a few times.
Then, start to wait longer between the click and treat, so that the rat knows that the treat comes after the click, and when you release the click, he will be rewarded.
Depending on how fast your rat picks this up, you may want to stop now before he looses interest in the game. Otherwise, if you wait too late, he will get tired of the clicker and more than likely loose concentration.
As you continue training you rat to come towards you, he'll start to master it. At this point, you will want to begin alternating the time you click and treat with clicking without treating. Basically, start giving treats out more sparingly. Otherwise, you'll have a rat that will only work for food until he's bored or full.
Training Your Rat to Beg
The next step includes luring the rat to do the behavior.
You can start with "begging."
Using the treat, draw your hand above the rat's nose, so that he gets a good sniff of the treat. Hold the treat right above his head. He should automatically reach up to grab the treat, and when he does click and treat him.
Repeat this a few times until he knows what you want him to do.
After a few repetitions, you may want to take a break.
When you start a new training session, begin where you left off. Then, start to vary the time between the click and treat.
Move towards varying the up treat giving. Remember to always click, even if you don't give a treat.
Rat Trained for Agility Course
Training Pet Rats by Shaping a Behavior
When you shape the behavior, you are basically using natural behaviors that your rat already does, but now showing him to do it when you ask, so to speak.
Take training a pet rat to use a weave obstacle. To start, you will want to click after every stage of the behavior, one pole at a time.
As soon as the rat moves towards the weave, click and treat. Repeat this a few times, but stop after the rat realizes, "Ok walk towards the obstacle, get treated."
Now, you will only click and treat the rat when he moves around one weave pole, in the right direction. Repeat this several times. It may take different training sessions to complete this one stage.
Once the rat picks up weaving one pole, only click and treat if he does 2 weave poles. Then, 3, 4, 5, and so on until he completes the full weave.
The goal is for the rat to perform the full weave obstacle with only one click and treat. Once the rat understands this and can complete the task without fail, begin to vary the time frame between click and treat and then start being stingy with the treats.
Tips to Remember
- Keep training sessions short- no longer than 10 to 15 minutes
- Always stop training before the rat gets bored or tired
- Work on one behavior at a time
- Do not speak when starting off with a new behavior- add the cue LAST
- Recap previous sessions before moving on
- Vary your click and treat once the rat starts to get the hang of a behavior
- Click AT the behavior, not before or after
- No hands. No punishment
Adding the Command
So, now that your rat knows the behavior that you want him to do, you probably want to teach him to do the behavior on command. I mean, that's what a trick is, right?
Ok, so here's where it gets a little tricky.
Before you consider adding a cue, you need to make sure that your rat is performing the behavior almost all of the time without fail.
One he is, you can start to exchange the click for the command or cue that you want to use. Make sure that is short and clear, so that it's easier to understand. You will confuse your rat with longer phrases and cues.
In this instance, you will have the rat do the behavior and say the cue, then treat. No click.
Repeat this over and over and over again.
Don't start adding multiple cues with multiple behaviors at once. Work on one at a time, as to not confuse your rat.
When agility training, the rat will recognize the obstacle and perform the behavior from memory.
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