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How To Train A Rat To Come When Called – Audio Tutorial
Motivating Your Rat to Learn New Behaviors
While rats of all ages can learn new behaviors, younger rats (under age 2 years) tend to learn faster than older ones. Thus, it’s best to start training your pet rat when he’s young, as younger rats seem to be more motivated to learn and more curious about their surroundings.
Rats are extremely motivated to work for food, so food is an excellent enticement when you are trying to teach your rat a new behavior. Rats are omnivores, eating both vegetable and animal protein, so there is a wide variety of foods to choose from to tempt your rat to learn simple commands. Little bits of pasta or cooked lean meat, pieces of unsalted popcorn, small bits of grape, a thin slice of banana, and blueberries are great treats to try. The key is to offer your rat several different types of food treats and take note of what he enjoys most. Then only offer these most favorite “high value” foods during behavior training sessions. Just like people, rats have distinct tastes; you just need to find out what your particular rat likes best and what will motivate him most.
Once you have identified a few foods your rat adores, keep a stash of them on hand and use them to teach him to respond to simple commands such as to come when his name is called, to stand up on his hind legs, and to offer a paw to shake. Be sure the rat hasn’t eaten recently so that he is motivated to work for food, and train only in a familiar, quiet room in which he is comfortable and that is free of distractions.
In general, the best way to teach a new behavior is through positive reinforcement — offering a reward for performing the behavior.
Initially, the rat may only perform a behavior that remotely resembles the desired behavior, such as lifting a foot when you are trying to teach him to learn to shake with his paw.
Teaching a rat to shake may start simply with your saying the word “shake,” touching his front foot, and rewarding him with a treat. Once you do this a few times, he will make the association between hearing you say “shake,” having you touch his foot, and getting a treat, and he will start to lift his foot to touch your hand as soon as he hears “shake,” in anticipation of the treat. At that point, you can raise the bar for getting a reward and not give him the treat until he actually lifts his foot purposely to touch your hand. Once he masters that, you can raise the bar even further and not reward him until he allows you to hold his lifted foot.
This positive reinforcement of a behavior close to the desired behavior is called the process of “shaping” an “approximate” behavior (touching a foot) until the approximate behavior becomes the desired behavior (lifting the foot and letting you shake it); then, only the actual desired behavior gets rewarded.
The same process can be used to teach a rat to come when he is called. You start by saying his name when he is in front of you and rewarding him with a treat when he reaches out to take it from your hand. Once he does that a few times, you start to say his name when he is farther away from you and comes to get the treat from your hand. Eventually, he will hear his name wherever he is and will come to you anticipating the treat. The idea is to reward him immediately as he reaches your hand and only when he comes right after you call him.
Standing “Up” (Standing on Back Feet)
Positive reinforcement also can be used to teach a rat to stand up on his hind legs. Start initially by saying “up” and holding a treat over his head. He will reach up to get the treat. Over time, say “up” and raise your hand higher above his head so that he actually has to extend his body up on his hind legs to reach the treat.
Ultimately, your rat will hear the word “up” and will stand up on his hind legs, anticipating the treat. The key is to be consistent and to immediately offer the reward after the rat performs the behavior.
This process of positive reinforcement of desired behavior can be used to teach rats any number of simple commands. Remember, however, that just like us, rats can be moody or tired and may not always want to be trained. Keep training sessions short, and if your rat isn’t interested in learning at any given moment, try again another time.
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Before trying to shoulder train your pet rat, remove its food bowl from its cage an hour prior to training so its not too full to ignore treats. When you’re ready to begin, gently place your rat on your shoulder while you’re sitting down so it won’t get injured if it falls. As you do this, keep your hand on it so it can’t climb down and say “No” in a commanding voice if it tries. While your rat is on your shoulder, give it treats regularly so it associates being there with something positive. You should also keep the first few training sessions to 2 to 3 minutes so your rat doesn’t get stressed. If your rat starts fidgeting, put it back in its cage, since this is a sign it needs to relieve itself. For tips from our Veterinary co-author, including how to get your rat to climb on your shoulder by itself, read on!
Are rats easy to train?
Can rats learn verbal commands?
The same process can be used to teach a rat to come when he is called. You start by saying his name when he is in front of you and rewarding him with a treat when he reaches out to take it from your hand.
What tricks can u teach a rat?