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Discussion Starter #1
So I'm trying to introduce 2 new young males to my current mischief of 2 girls 2 boys. The girls and the less dominant boy took to the new kids immediately, but I'm having trouble with the dominant male. He has bitten me twice now, and the second time he didn't let go which was scary. I've never seem this behavior in him, he's always been a squishy lump and has never bitten or been aggressive towards me in any way. I don't want to allow that kind of behavior though, and I've heard about people saying they're the alpha of their rats and some have a co-alpha if you will. Does Pepe think that he's dominant over me? How do I get him to understand he can't attack me, no matter how defensive he gets? Ive tried all sorts of things to get him to understand but nothing works. This is a completely new side of him, this behavior came completely out of the blue. He chases his brother, but he's never gone for me like that before. What can I do to work with him?
 

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I'm no expert in this by any means but I thought I might try and give you a bit of insight into what I've noticed with my two. I didn't really understand the whole "alpha" thing and how to become alpha and such until I started playing more with Dela. From what I can tell, she's the dominant rat of the two. She'll roll Neera over and power groom her belly, which is alpha behavior from what I understand. For a long while I played with Neera and then I flipped her over on her back and skritched her belly. She complied immediately and even seemed to enjoy the attention. I attempted the same with Dela and she squirmed and squirmed and really didn't want me to scratch her belly. So, I did a few immersion lessons with her, playing with her more forcefully and refusing to let her just wander off from me. I stayed in her face, crouching down to her eye-level and I just scratched her and kissed her and hugged her.

Well, I brought my friends over (The first time they were introduced to new people) and I brought Dela out into the immersion area and basically had an immersion with her and my friends. About half-way through this session I snatched her up off the floor and without really thinking I just turned her over and snuzzled her stomach. She was completely compliant and didn't seem to mind it at all, even bruxing a little. I was pretty surprised and excited (Though my friends didn't understand me when I started saying that I was the alpha XD). Basically I think it was that she had figured out I could be a fun person and when introduced to a new and potentially scary threat she decided I was a good ally and much better at being calm than herself. So, she submitted to me. My advice is to go back through and re-enter immersion like you would do with a new rat. Center this on playing with him and get in his face. Focus on being able to flip him over and scratch his belly. Once this is done with him submitting, play with him for a while longer until he seems to be fully submitted under you again and then he should be good. If you're scared of him biting you again oven mitts seem like a good idea. :3

I hope I might've helped some and I wish you luck! <3
 

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Discussion Starter #3
That's the weird part though, up until now he's always been a jelly rat. I can easily grab him and toss him around and hold him any way I please, I flip him over and scratch his belly all the time and he just takes it. It's just the introduction of new boys that's brought out this side in him and I don't know how to make him understand he can't attack me. After he bit me he went right back to being his usually floppy self. I'm not scared of him, I know his biting wasn't because he was angry with me, just he was riled up and my hand was grabbing him. I'm just shocked he would even do that though and am wondering what I'm doing wrong
 

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That does seem weird then... Is it at all possible he smelled the two new rats on your hands and bit you thinking it was them and then relented when he realized it was you?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That's possible, the first time he bit he quickly released after he realized it was me, but the second time he held on. I was literally shaking my hand trying to get him to let go and he was locked on to my hand, and the new boys had already been removed from the scene
 

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I really wish I could help more but I'm at a loss here... The best idea I have is that he's just got some pent-up nerves from trying to protect his colony from these new rats. I hope someone on here can help you more than me and soon. :I
 

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First of all please get some gloves or oven mitts before you continue. The more you get bitten the more you are going to become afraid and withdrawn. Then take him into your immersion area and start working with him... If he bites respond with a loud NO BITING and repulse him, or bop him (with love in your heart) so he realizes biting is wrong... Once you've got his little biting you issue fixed, bring in the new rat and supervise the intro. If he bites you discourage him immediately and forcefully... within reason and with love in your heart. You don't have to pick a fight with him, but if he challenges you, don't back down.

No don't punish him or hurt him, just make sure he gets the message that he can't bite you or your new rat. Being a good alpha is not a matter of pushing your rats around, but it does involve setting limits and sometimes exercising authority. No rat has ever decided biting me was a good enough idea to try it twice... so far.

It might sound just a bit harsh, but him biting you isn't exactly a friendly gesture either.

Unless he's got some kind of health issue the new rat has him seriously flipped out and he's over the top. It's about time to reel him back in.
 

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That's the weird part though, up until now he's always been a jelly rat. I can easily grab him and toss him around and hold him any way I please, I flip him over and scratch his belly all the time and he just takes it. It's just the introduction of new boys that's brought out this side in him and I don't know how to make him understand he can't attack me. After he bit me he went right back to being his usually floppy self. I'm not scared of him, I know his biting wasn't because he was angry with me, just he was riled up and my hand was grabbing him. I'm just shocked he would even do that though and am wondering what I'm doing wrong
I know a dog is not a rat, nor is a rat a dog ;D

That said, all mammals' brains do learn along the same general principles, and I've witnessed endless debate, over many years, on the interwebs, about the whole "alpha" type training techniques, in particular with regards to dog training.

In general, those who have behavioral science degrees, good biologists, and just good scientists overall, have debunked the whole "alpha" thing.

^^^All that is by way of saying--you really weren't doing anything wrong, per se.

What most likely happened is your rat boy was very stressed, and you startled him and he went over threshold.

"Threshold" is a scientific term for when we (humans and animals) cross over into what I like to call MeltdownFlipOut Land.

If you think of a day when you suddenly snapped in traffic and just lost it over something like someone cutting in a lane in front of you--if you'd had a great morning prior to that, you'd likely make a verbal remark at most, and go on. But, if you'd lost the shoes you wanted to wear that day, dropped oatmeal down the front of your shirt and had to change last minute, stepped in dog poo on the way to the car, and had a dead battery and had to scramble to find someone to give you a jump... and THEN someone cut you off in traffic--bet you'd then have a much stronger level of anger and kind of wish you could drag them out of their car and slap them!

Does that make sense?

Your rat was probably clearly signaling (in rat language) that he couldn't handle any more, just at that moment, but since we are human, that got missed, and well, you picked him up and he went all panic-ninja on your hand.

In other words, it doesn't have anything to do with whether he respects or loves you or thinks you are "alpha" or doesn't think that--and that's a GOOD thing, 'cause you want to keep a good relationship with him, obviously.

He probably feels more pressure and stress because he is the leader of your rat group, and new, big changes are happening.

Maybe giving him an extra bit of space, slow-and-gentle on the handling, as if HE were the brand-new one, and some extra treats, might help him to settle down some and not make a mistake with your hand again.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
First of all please get some gloves or oven mitts before you continue. The more you get bitten the more you are going to become afraid and withdrawn. Then take him into your immersion area and start working with him... If he bites respond with a loud NO BITING and repulse him, or bop him (with love in your heart) so he realizes biting is wrong... Once you've got his little biting you issue fixed, bring in the new rat and supervise the intro. If he bites you discourage him immediately and forcefully... within reason and with love in your heart. You don't have to pick a fight with him, but if he challenges you, don't back down.

No don't punish him or hurt him, just make sure he gets the message that he can't bite you or your new rat. Being a good alpha is not a matter of pushing your rats around, but it does involve setting limits and sometimes exercising authority. No rat has ever decided biting me was a good enough idea to try it twice... so far.

It might sound just a bit harsh, but him biting you isn't exactly a friendly gesture either.

Unless he's got some kind of health issue the new rat has him seriously flipped out and he's over the top. It's about time to reel him back in.
The thing is, he doesn't bite me unless it's when I try and introduce him to he new boys. Moments after he attacked me, I could easily pick him up and toss him around like a beanbag. It's not that he's normally aggressive, it's ONLY during the intro, any other time he's fine. I'm not afraid of getting bit and I won't stand for it, so how do I correct him when I have to break up a squabble? I was watching the new boys interact with my less dominant male, and I saw normal rat wrestling take place and pinning/grooming to establish who's who. But with Pepe, he goes right into it ready to hurt someone
 

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Discussion Starter #10
He's normally a sweet rat, I can cradle him like a baby and he just lays there. I didn't think he would react this badly
 

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Geez I don't know what the heck is going on with him anymore. Bringing in these new boys has turned him into a complete different rat. So he was free ranging and of course kept climbing the cage to look at the boys, and for the 10th time tonight I went to get him down. When I reached up to get him though, this time he bit me. I grabbed him and brought him to the bed to tell him off and he kept trying to go for me and nip my hand. I wasn't wearing gloves because I didn't think he would try and bite me during free range when the boys aren't even out with him. I'm still not scared, I'll just keep bandaging my hand up and get through this. I don't know what I need to do, if I take him in for immersion away from the boys, nothing will happen and he will act normal. It's only when they boys are around he turns into someone completely different
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The rescue owner and I talked, and she said neutering could be an option if all else fails. Right now they're in each other's cages and Pepe is acting like a maniac. If he doesn't come around it might be that I can't get more rats as long as I have him :/
 

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It's not that he's normally aggressive, it's ONLY during the intro, any other time he's fine.
Well that's your problem right there, right? He's fine with you but very territorial about his home when it comes to strange rats, which is natural. When he smells a strange rat he gets so pumped up on testosterone and adrenaline he can't control himself and he accidentally lashes out at you. He must be blind with rage from smelling the 'intruders'. And again, this is natural. In many cases an unsupervised alpha rat will outright kill an intruder if neither is neutered.

Are the new rats used to being around other rats? Rats have learned social behaviors and I've read that intruders are much more likely to be rejected if they have been isolated and don't "speak rat".

I'd say you either need to give him more time for intros, do a neuter (you can neuter him or the new rats, he won't see them as nearly as much of a threat if they've been neutered), or ditch the intros entirely and leave the rats in separate spaces, but I'm sure there are other approaches.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The rescue has neutered males too, but the onwer told me it might be best to try unneutered males first. Yeah I know what the cause of his behavior is, but I just don't know how to stop him, he should bite me like that but I don't know how to make him understand it's not okay, he's likes rock when it comes to understanding things
 

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If it's only around the new rats then maybe take him into the immersion area with the new rats in a safe tank/travel cage and then work on what everyone is suggesting here? That way the bew rats are safe but you can work on his reactions.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I've tried the carrier method, as well as intros on neutral ground they're never been in before, and he went crazy pretty fast. I was watching my other less dominant male with the new boys and he was wrestling/pinning them but it wasn't over the top. I feel like Pepe is going for blood every time and since these are Foster rats I would hate to return them hurt
 

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First, seriously, get gloves or oven mitts. If he doesn't bite them it will hurt a lot less than if he bites you without them.

Next Ratpax is correct some dog people have taken the alpha thing way over the top. Neither dogs nor rats fall into the military model of social structure. An alpha rat is more of a leader or a protector/cop than a commanding officer. And an alpha human also works very much like a parent. What happens is that someone recognizes that animals are social and have a social structure and then takes it over the top. Like Freudian psychology is pretty much all based on a sexual model. Perhaps most folks might like to have sex with models, but in all reality many things humans do aren't sexually driven at all. This is the same with rats... social status is very important to a rat society and in the way a rat sees the world, but it's just one part of the equation all be it an important one.

So, I've seen exactly the behavior you are describing: that wild and crazy look in Pepe's eyes and I hate to say this he's going to get even crazier until the intros are over... Max went through the very same thing when we adopted Cloud. She became a raving maniac. And she MOCK BIT me a couple of times. No pain, no blood, but for sure she grabbed me when I reached into the middle to break things up. She's a brown eyed rat and her eyes were glowing red like a demon and her fur was all puffy, but she didn't chomp down. And the longer things dragged out the worse she got. It took 3 weeks of chasing around the house for the two rats to become friends, but she's back to her normal self again.

So as Pepe is biting for real, you need gloves or oven mitts and you have to make sure he understands he can't bite you. No you don't have to pick a fight, but for sure you don't back down from one or things will keep getting worse.

Pepe is doing what a good alpha rat should. He's protecting his family from invaders. But he's going over the top and he's pushing you around. You have to reign him in. He needs to understand that you are in charge and you decide who comes and who stays. I use intro methods that are somewhat unique to me. So I'm not going to get into that for now, but I am going to stress that part of your problem is that Pepe is way out of line in attacking you and that has to be fixed quick.

Even when the intro's are over and all of the rats are happy, Pepe might continue to push you around if you don't make it clear to him that he's not allowed to do that.

Best luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I will be sure to get gloves, the last time the attack was completely unexpected as we weren't even in intros, it was just normal free range he was just climbing the cage to look at the boys. So HOW exactly do I make him understand biting isn't okay? I'm following an intro method that the rescue owner told me to try, so last night I did a cage swap and Pepe was driven crazy trying to get to the boys, he was pacing the cage and gnawing at the bars. The boys are really perking up and starting to get more comfortable in the family, I'd hate to have to give them back :/ but any progress I make with them is destroyed after even one intro attempt with Pepe, they get so shaken up they revert back to skittish and jumpy. I'm going to try a bathtub intro tonight and try to let them fight it out a little, but I'm so worried he's going to go for blood as soon as he can. If this doesn't work out, a neuter might have to be a possibility, but only as a last resort
 

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I will be sure to get gloves, the last time the attack was completely unexpected as we weren't even in intros, it was just normal free range he was just climbing the cage to look at the boys. So HOW exactly do I make him understand biting isn't okay? I'm following an intro method that the rescue owner told me to try, so last night I did a cage swap and Pepe was driven crazy trying to get to the boys, he was pacing the cage and gnawing at the bars. The boys are really perking up and starting to get more comfortable in the family, I'd hate to have to give them back :/ but any progress I make with them is destroyed after even one intro attempt with Pepe, they get so shaken up they revert back to skittish and jumpy. I'm going to try a bathtub intro tonight and try to let them fight it out a little, but I'm so worried he's going to go for blood as soon as he can. If this doesn't work out, a neuter might have to be a possibility, but only as a last resort
A lot of the reading I've done from folks who seem to know their stuff, says that cage swaps and side-by-side caging just winds up intact bucks, and makes intros more prolonged and worse, with lots of stress on everyone.

I really don't think he's biting you to try to get by with something--I think he's stressed to the max, wound up, and over threshold.

Going back to basics in handling him might help calm things down. Treat him as you would a new, skittish rat, with care and gentle caution. Help him to calm down about the new situation--he's been SUCH a good rat prior to this, from what you describe.

It's kind of sad to hear about him being so upset like this. I really hope you guys can get it all worked out peacefully.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks everyone, it's so upsetting to see him so stressed :( he's taking it out on his brother too now, last night I heard screeching in the cage and it seems like the rest of the rats are avoiding him now. I'm going to try tub intros tonight and let him get a little physical and sort things out, I'll let you know how it goes. Hopefully not too bad
 
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