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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Pip's biting is just absolutely out of control and I don't know how to stop it because he's extremely aggressive about it. I could try to bop him on the nose when he bites and he'd just lunge at the finger doing the bopping. He bites hard and deep and honestly this is the first time I've actually been afraid to pick up a rat. He just bit my wrist and was about a millimeter from puncturing a very prominent vein. I say no very loudly anytime he bites or is lunging but it doesn't phase him at all. I just don't know how I'm supposed to bond with something that just wants to maul me :( He's sitting behind me in the chair at the moment and doesn't seem scared to be there and isn't nipping at my back or legs so it must just be my hands that he's got a problem with. Any advice on how to proceed?

Just thought I'd edit with some background about Pip. He came to me after being abandoned at a petsmart and shuffled through a small rescue that didn't have room for him. He was extremely skinny and I could see his spine when I got him. I'm assuming he's around 8-12 weeks (the gap is so significant because he was obviously malnourished). He has since gained weight and looks like an active healthy young rat.
 

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The extreme variant of immersion usually works with aggressive rats, it's an ugly procedure but it has a pretty good success rate. The other option is to have him checked by a vet in case there's something healthwise wrong with him... At 8 to 12 weeks old I'd say he's still too young for normal hormonal aggression, so neutering might not be the first option I'd suggest....

Pip sounds like another rat screwed up by a previous owner now suffering from emotional and social issues, but health issues can also have a big impact in his behavior.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I did treat him for a very mild respiratory infection that I thought might be the source of the problem, but he is now healthy and happy...as long as my hands aren't anywhere near him. What does the extreme immersion variant entail?
 

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Like all immersion, the extreme variant is a way of building communication. But with aggressively biting rats you are sending the message that you are the social superior and you aren't a chew toy. Basically it involves establishing your role as the parent or as some folks prefer, alpha rat. You don't attack your rat, but you do aggressively defend yourself. This can get ugly when a rat really has issues to work out on you... Thick welding gloves or oven mitts are a good idea along with a towel or blanket to keep things from getting too far out of control.

The object is not to beat your rat into submission, just to make it understand that the correct social structure of your family means you are in charge. Once the hostilities are over, and you aren't getting bitten anymore you move onto normal bonding and building trust and friendship.

It can be a bit hazardous as some rats really put up a fight. Other rats get the message pretty quickly and it's over almost as soon as it starts. But you can't make friends or bond with a rat that's biting you.

To some degree it is only mock combat, like when rats introduce themselves to each other, to some degree it's serous business, because it's going to affect Pip's social status for the rest of his life and it's going to determine if you can keep him. Somewhere Pip learned he can push people around and get his way by biting... for whatever reason he thinks it's working for him, but he doesn't realize how badly his strategy will end. You might call it tough love, or some folks have less polite euphemisms. In any case, it's not something you would ever do with a normal or friendly rat.

There's more information in the immersion guide and there are several actual extreme immersions in the archives, where you can see what other people have gone through hour by hour. And yes this can take several hours or even a few days to get through. But once your rat learns to play nice you can start to make progress on bonding and all of the other normal issues with socializing a new best furry friend.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Pippin responded to gloves with so much fear that I decided it was not worth doing; scaring an already fearful rat seems more detrimental than helpful. Instead, I've been taking things really slow with having my hands in and around his cage. I started by offering him a treat after my hand had been inside the cage for a minute; I did this by sticking the treat (a banana chip) between my thumb and finger in a way that he could take it without me having to worry too much about him snagging my finger. We did this for a few days and he came to expect it when I got home, so I moved on to giving him treats from my fingers held flat and then letting him sniff my hand. So far so good. He does make a few very slow motions towards biting, but he's no longer lunging at me. I'm going to take him out today for his first free range of the bed and hope that it goes well. He's now living with Mithrandir and Thorin, so hopefully they can help him along in understanding that I'm not the enemy.
 

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I had the same problem with kaylee and was doing basic immersion training with her with no success. Then suddenly she just changed her mind and last night actually came up to sniff my hand without me realising and she didn't try to take chunk out of me. I've come to the conclusion that they are just stubborn and require a lot of persistence.
 

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The speed at which immersion works depends a lot on how a rat got screwed up and how long he's been screwed up, it also depends on how assertive the human is... Some folks have a knack for pushing along the process more quickly while others tend to be more laid back. And yes some rats can be resistant to change. Fearful rats can be among the hardest to bring around, because some have very good reasons to fear humans, other's are just wired for fight or flight and they have to overcome their instincts to give you a chance.

I suppose I would have preferred to write a cook book recipe but as every human and every rat is different I wound up writing a guide instead. Since the truly amazing Fuzzy Rat taught me about rat communication and understanding, and I wrote the guide based on the way rats communicate, bond and understand their world, I've seen a lot of strange and unanticipated morphs on the procedure. For the most part they almost all work, as long as they remain based on understanding through communication. Once your rat gets the message that you are his friend and parent and he can communicate with you that special bond starts to form and immersion happens. It really is a very natural process, it's the way rats have been building families since the dawn of the species. Sometimes you just need to be persistent, sometimes you try different approaches but mostly you try to understand what your rat is telling you and try to respond appropriately.

It would be nice if there were a cook book approach that worked on all rats, but that would be akin to a dating strategy that worked on all women or men. But some young ladies might prefer to go camping while other's will prefer fine dining. Yes, the general rules of communication and understanding apply to both, but the procedure has to be adapted to each person or in the case of immersion to every rat - human pairing.

And yes, break through events are commonly reported.... once the rat gets the message it often does an on the spot turn around. It's like the light bulb goes on and everything just changes...

It does sound like you are both making progress, keep up the good work. It will be well worth all of the effort in the end.

Best luck.
 
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