The Podel's Rat training website!
Your first training session!
Once you and your rat have mastered the clicker and you have read and considered the issues covered in the session page you can start to think about your first training session.
What do you want to train your rat to do?
Do you have a specific task in mind? If so then it is important to have a clear idea in your mind of what the final behaviour/task will look like as this is your goal. It will be very confusing for your rat if you keep changing this so why not write it down to start with. Although the training we did with Bramble is likely to be more regimented then your training at home some of the ideas that we used can actually be very helpful. Before we started we had to outline a complete training plan that looked into our specific chosen species and detailed the tasks and individual steps we would aim for to achieve each (Follow this link to look at the training plan). Although I am not suggesting you do this, it does highlight the importance of breaking down every task into smaller parts. This is SO important because it gives you the opportunity to reward your rat for any progress made AND gives them knowledge/a reward history to fall back on.
Alternatively you could just see what behaviours your rat offers you and reward this until you end up with something you are happy with. For example if your rat stands up a little bit then you could try rewarding this until you have them rearing right up on their hind legs!
Example of the first task you may like to train your rat ....
Lets look at training your rat to go through a tunnel. First get a suitable tunnel (not too long, you can always increase length later) place it in you training area and make sure its not going to roll around too much and put your rat off if they go straight through it.
Place your rat near the tunnel and click and reward any movement towards the tunnel. Slowly increase the criteria so that the rat has to get nearer and nearer to the tunnel before they get a click and reward. When the rat is going right up to the tunnel increase the criteria again so you are only rewarding the rat for putting its head or front foot into the tunnel. Keep increasing the criteria until you have you rat reliably going into the tunnel and repeat a similar effort with them exiting the other side. With time you should have your rat going smoothly into the tunnel and coming out the other side looking to get a click and treat from you.
Possible problems ....
The most likely problem with training the tunnel is that your rat will happily enter, in fact they may not even need much encouragement and go straight in! (still click and reward this) but they may not be so happy to come out the other side. Rats are primarily nocturnal prey animals in the wild so are drawn to small darks spaces such as the tunnel because they feel secure there.
If your rat enters the tube and doesn't want to come out straight away you can tackle the problem in one of two ways. You can be patient, they may not come out straight away but a small movement in the right direction can be rewarded and slowly, slowly you can increase the criteria and have them moving in the right direction till you have what you are looking for. Alternatively you can try luring (described more on the hits and tips page) them out of the other side with a treat.
Finally when training any animal any task the form of the animal on that day is very important to consider. If the rat is ill, in season, having group disputes, breeding, thirsty, tired etc etc then it may not want to be trained and will therefore not respond in a way you expect it to normally. In which case give them a rest that day and see if they are more willing tomorrow. As I have said before training is meant to be fun for both of you and no one wants to be made to do stuff when they aren't feeling well!
How to finish off!
When you have finished your 15-20 minutes training, make sure you end the session on a positive note! i.e. The rat gets rewarded for something. Even if this means going back a stage to something that the rat was doing really well earlier and rewarding that. You want your rat to remember the training session as something it enjoyed and not as something to dread next time!
Now that you have mastered training your rat to go through the tunnel why not try some of my other ideas on the Training ideas page.