Rat Training

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Rat Training

Post by DJF on Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:19 am

Does anybody here train their rats?

Rats are so very clever and responsive, my little experience tells me that training can be a conscious attempt to shape a behaviour or something that happens just by automatic repetition like saying their name when interacting.

With my five girls, I set out thinking that all rats should know two basic commands: to come when called and up on arm/hand. My three older girls visibly react when their name is called and sometimes come (in truth, they get distracted on their way over and usually take a bit of coaxing to focus them). Up on arm, they are happy with this. Also with up on shoulder. The two younger girls are still mastering these basics.

I started out using a clicker but it is difficult to give physical cues, click and hold treats, so I moved to just clicking my tongue. I think they are still trying to figure out this change.

So, I am at a stage where one of the older girls, Peig, is showing real promise. She is quite the enthusiastic girl and very food motivated. Maud is also a candidate for training, but for 'slow' tricks. She is a buck in doe's clothing. So very laid back and lazy. Now, I want to up the game a little.

So, have you guys successfully trained rats to do complex tricks? Have you attempted to chain behaviours together into a sequence? What age did you find your rats most receptive?

I don't want to turn my rats into neurotics who offer repetitive behaviours like spinning without command to just get treats. I would like to encourage natural behaviours as much as possible as well as allowing them have fun. Observing the girls figure out the food traps in their cage (I hide food pieces in all manner of things to encourage foraging), tells me that a problem solving rat is a happy rat.

So yep, to bring this ramble to a close, what tricks have you taught your rats? What tricks have they taught themselves? What 'stand-out' examples of rat ingenuity have you observed?

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Re: Rat Training

Post by Zoundz on Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:01 am

I don't train - to be honest I have too many rats to give them all that extent of individual time, as in my experience (having tried to train in the past) they take quite a while to learn things. I could, I suppose, pick one or two promising fellows and try them, might do at some point! Smile

I do know of someone who had a rat that knew the names of its cagemates as well, and when asked where they were - such as... 'where's Luna' - she would run to the cagemate in question... Shocked

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Re: Rat Training

Post by Dangerousbeans on Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:49 am

Ours know their names, but that's as far as we have gone. They will come when called for a treat, unless its not a good treat, and then they run off!
When out of the cage they will come over sometimes when called, but not if there's something they are more interested in, and not for treats, they don't want food when out.

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Re: Rat Training

Post by redrach on Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:26 am

Most of mine knew their names.
Schuster would come when called, the rest would come when I clicked my mouth.
The boys would give me kisses (lick my lips) if I made kissing noises.
Schuster could count. She would steal everyone's treats and knew when she had 4 (when there were 4 in the cage, or 5 when there were 5) that she had collected them all and would then sit down and guard them.

There were various other things like this. But for the most part I didn't train them. Schuster is the most clever rat I've ever known and just picked up things easily. The boys just started licking me when I made the noises one day randomly (I actually have a video of the first time they did it).

I tried to train Schuster to spin for treats and she started to pick it up, but I felt things like that were too unnatural and so stopped trying to train them.
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Re: Rat Training

Post by DJF on Thu May 09, 2013 10:22 am

Zoundz wrote:

I do know of someone who had a rat that knew the names of its cagemates as well, and when asked where they were - such as... 'where's Luna' - she would run to the cagemate in question... Shocked


That's pretty amazing.

I really enjoy trying to train the girls. We have moved from the basic commands now to target training. I just use a feather wand with a bit of baby food or moistened peanut butter to direct them. The object is to move to the target. I also tap my finger as a target. The point of this is to shape more difficult behaviours that require direction.

But as said, one of mine shows real promise and I guess little Hillary, the top-eared devil, will be good when she calms a little. Her behaviour out of the cage tells me she is particularly sharp. Well, her habit of escaping to places where she shouldn't!

@Zoundz - if you pick one or two you think will enjoy it, I would suggest starting with associating a sound with a treat. Everything builds pretty straight forwardly from there.

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Re: Rat Training

Post by Zoundz on Thu May 09, 2013 9:20 pm

I was thinking I might try clicker training one of the babies I keep from the next litter... should be fun! Grin

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Re: Rat Training

Post by hkfiesta on Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:15 am

I think my rat trained me in reverse fetch Smile In short I collect his toy from a hidden location and place it anywhere in the room, he picks it up, "hides" it, I retrieve, place it somewhere else, rinse repeat. Didn't really teach that though, I was just organizing his toys one day when I found out they like to place it back where it was scattered. Lots of fun these fellas!Smile 

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Re: Rat Training

Post by OceaneKS on Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:39 am

Hello !

I add my own experience to this topic, maybe someone would be interested in !
I started clicker training my two girls from the age of three months and I usually do 1 to 2 training sessions per day (morning and afternoon/evening). One training session lasts until they decide they are not interested anymore. I only use positive reinforcement, of course !

So after two months and a half they know (in the order of learning):
- recall : they come when I call them, unless they are sleeping or eating somewhere. Sometimes (when they are "busy", they do not come to me but just show up where they are, which is actually what I want (know where they are if I can't see them)
- beg : get up on their hindlegs
- walk : on their hindlegs
- spin
- shoulder : jump on my shoulder (I am sitting)
- push : push a ball with either their nose or forehands
- circle : turn around an object, next step will be to know "right" and "left"
- tunnel : go through a plastic tunnel

Work is still in progress for most of those orders since they do not respond only to the auditive cue (I still have to use visual cues) but as DJF mentionned, I do not want them to spin continously until I reward them. I think that teaching them several tricks together is a good way to challenge their mind, however I only start something new when they respond well to the previous of course Wink
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Re: Rat Training

Post by smokierat on Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:41 pm

That all sounds really cool Smile i know exactly what you mean about not coming over when they are busy!

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