The Podel's Rat training website!
Other ideas to train your rat!
Once you have mastered the basic concepts of training you may wish to try some more ideas and even link some tasks together. On this page I have looked mainly at what we trained Bramble but the possibilities for you and your rats are endless.
Ringing a bell...
This was actually one of the hardest tasks to teach Bramble for two reasons. Firstly she had to learn that not only did she have to make the bell move BUT get it to make a sound, before she would get a reward. Secondly we realised after that being fairly high up the bell was not in her line of sight (see above photo) when she went to do the other tasks in the chain so it could be easily forgotten.
Initially click and reward any small movements towards the bell. You may be lucky and be able to capture you rat pawing at the bell randomly while they investigate it. However when we trained the bell we found the best method was to lure (see tips page) her to paw the bell, because it wasn't occurring by chance often enough. We did this by rubbing a chocolate drop on the bell. At first she would just rear up and sniff at it, but quickly she started to try and grab the bell with her paws too and we clicked and rewarded this. Slowly she got the idea and we upped the criteria so that the grab became more of a pawing action i.e. she had to do more then try and hold it. In addition to this we rewarded for more movement of the bell and finally we only rewarded her for the bell actually ringing.
This was quite a slow task to train but looks very cute when the rat actually gets it. You may like to try getting your rat to pull a pulley? instead of ringing the bell with its paws, this was an idea we also considered.
This video shows one of the earlier repetitions of training the bell with Bramble, as you can see she takes a moment to think about it before ringing it.
Going through a hoop jump ....
This method could apply to either a hoop jump (see photo) or a simple pole jump. Again click and reward any small movements towards the jump. Start with a low jump as this will be easier for your rat to go over and hopefully prevent them from going under as well. Only raise the jump when they are going confidently over the lower level. Initially you may find that your rat just climbs over rather then jumps. This may be due to their lack of confidence and/or it may change once the jump is raised. If your rat is offering you a mixture of climbing over and jumps, try and reward just the jumps, that way you will deselect the climbing.
The main problem we found with training the hoop jump was that Bramble would often try and take the easy way out by going under instead of over. We used two different methods to try and get over this. Firstly as already stated we kept the jump low to start with making going under more difficult and also tried to build up a strong reward history for going over rather then under i.e. going under gets no treat! Then as we raised the jump if she was still tempted or because the criteria (height) had changed and she had "forgotten" temporarily what to do then we would put something under the jump to stop her from doing it a couple of times.
Other possible ideas...
What you train your rat is only limited by their physical ability and your imagination! So why not try training them to: Go up a ladder, walk over a tight rope, weave in and out of poles, rear up on command, retrieve, stay, sit, come etc etc etc I would love to hear about what you have trained your rats to do so why not send me an email at email@example.com .
Chaining behaviours together ...
When you have taught your rat several behaviours/tasks you may wish to link them together like we did. We used a method called Back chaining with Bramble that worked very well. If you have three tasks A, B and C and you want them to be carried out in that order. Using back chaining you would train C first separately, then B separately and then you would put B and C together. Rewarding several repetitions of these together. Finally you would train A separately and add it on at the beginning, possibly doing some A-B repetitions to build up confidence before doing all three.
Why do it backwards you ask? Well the main reason is that your rat will be travelling from the unfamiliar i.e. task A to the familiar i.e. task C, which by this point, the rat will have carried out more then any of the other tasks and thus has been heavily rewarded for. This in itself is more rewarding for them and generally gives them more confidence.
I hope you have found these ideas useful and for more help with your training please go to the hints and tips page.