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Discussion Starter #1
Long time, no post. I recently got 2 males that I want to introduce to each other. Gus is fine. He loves people, loves to play and is a little scared of being outside of a cage so we'll work on that.

Ollie is friendly too but it borders on aggression. He was abandoned at a pet store. I don't know his history or his age. He's overweight at 498g. He likes people and never wants to be in his cage. I've let him wander around the house and he just walks around, sniffing things. He has no fear of our cat. When you pet him when he's not in your arms, he'll whip his head around and give a series of firm bites. He never breaks the skin but its firm enough to give you a shock. Last night, he gave a few firm bites and puffed up before walking around to check out the room. I've been reading about biting and apparently, he knows exactly what he's doing and his intent isn't to hurt me. He eventually comes running back and climbs over me but whenever I stroke him, the biting starts. I want to make sure I'm alpha with him before I start the introduction.

Is this a behavior I need to worry about? I read through the Immersion training post and I am wondering what he is trying to tell me. Other than that, he's amazing. I can set him on the sofa or let him wander under supervision without him freaking out or getting into trouble.
 

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He does strike me as a dominant sort of rat, but he's certainly not out of control yet. I'd try and discourage the mock biting by shouting a firm "No Biting" when he nips you. Give him a lot of attention and manhandle him a little.

He's mock biting you and you are discouraging him, this can solve the problem, if the starts go get worse, be more firm and bop him (with love in your heart) along with the firm NO Biting!

It's hard to know much about his history he may develop serious aggression problems if you don't reign him in now, but as long as he's being gently respond in kind, if he becomes more aggressive don't back down and don't let him push you around....

A good rat trainer almost never uses force, and when he does it's measured for appropriate effect. You never want to punish a rat, but you have to always maintain his respect. If he gets that you are a good and loving parent but you aren't going to let him push you around he'll likely fall in line. If his condition worsens (I don't like him puffing up) get gloves and back him down fast... again defend yourself don't terrorize him...

Basically some rats do get aggressive and hormonal, but it doesn't usually happen overnight. They start out by being pushy and then they get to about where Ollie is right now and if no one intervenes they can wind up as full blown raving hormonal biting rats. The object of the exercise is to avoid worse down the road by a little tough love right now...

Also try the old dog test to see if it has been beaten, raise you hand and see if he flinches... As we don't know his history he may have been mistreated before, and if he has you need to be careful about bopping him to avoid triggering other problems. I've never actually tried this on rats, but it might work. Don't know unless you try.

I think you have made a good call to spot the trend before it gets worse. Too much force now can make things worse, no discipline and things get worse on their own.

Best luck.
 

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Well, he doesn't flinch when I raise my hand. But raising my voice makes him bite harder. He just drew blood. So I've got a lot journey ahead of me.
 

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I had him out for a bit tonight. I put on gloves and tried to be firm. I have a feeling that what Ollie wants is what Ollie wants. If he wants out of his cage, he's gonna sweet-talk you until you take him out. If he wants to sit nearest to the other rat cage, he's gonna do it. If he wants to run over you, he's going to. If you pat him too much, he'll whip his head around and get you. If you hold him too long, he'll struggle. I did manage to get him to acknowledge that I was trying to communicate with him. He would till his head my way and eventually come and sit there, looking at me. I'd talk to him on my "good rat" voice. But it took a good 10 minutes to get him back into his cage without throwing a fuss. He'd squeak and squirm. I did bop him a few times and he puffed up. I have a feeling he was probably a kid's pet that just got too dominant with him.

I'm unsure when to reward him and how.

Tomorrow evening, I'm going to get him out on the bed, which he hasn't been on before, and work with him.
 

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I like my rats to be independent and assertive, but there is a limit. Biting is always over the line. And no, I have a feeling Ollie, might have gotten too dominant in his former home, and perhaps started biting there. You recently got him and he's already testing his limits. Some rats learn to be pushy and dominant, it's not always that they start out as poor innocent creatures that are ruled by out of control hormones...

Reward him with treats and affection like any other rat, try to handle him assertively and discourage aggression, he may be accustomed to a lot of freedom, let him free range and see how competent he is... Don't try to degrade him and reward him for being independent... But don't ever let him push you around... Like I said, I have a bad feeling that he went too far at his prior home and he found himself back at the pet shop. If he's attempted a coup before, I'm thinking he'll try it again if he sees an opening. Keep your gloves handy.

Best luck
 

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Thanks! I told my boyfriend that we need to work on him and he had him out on his lap last night. No bites, nothing. He tends to have better luck with rats that I do. He's the one who got my girls introduced after I tried for hours. I put them on the sofa, he broke up a right, he put them in the cage and the were perfectly fine from that day on. It put me to shame. I'll work on Ollie over the weekend . I'm hoping to start intros soon because I don't think he's happy stuck in a rabbit cage by himself. Thanks again!
 

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Long time, no post. I recently got 2 males that I want to introduce to each other. Gus is fine. He loves people, loves to play and is a little scared of being outside of a cage so we'll work on that.

Ollie is friendly too but it borders on aggression. He was abandoned at a pet store. I don't know his history or his age. He's overweight at 498g. He likes people and never wants to be in his cage. I've let him wander around the house and he just walks around, sniffing things. He has no fear of our cat. When you pet him when he's not in your arms, he'll whip his head around and give a series of firm bites. He never breaks the skin but its firm enough to give you a shock. Last night, he gave a few firm bites and puffed up before walking around to check out the room. I've been reading about biting and apparently, he knows exactly what he's doing and his intent isn't to hurt me. He eventually comes running back and climbs over me but whenever I stroke him, the biting starts. I want to make sure I'm alpha with him before I start the introduction.

Is this a behavior I need to worry about? I read through the Immersion training post and I am wondering what he is trying to tell me. Other than that, he's amazing. I can set him on the sofa or let him wander under supervision without him freaking out or getting into trouble.
Because he didn't draw blood, I would not assume he is aggressive. You hit the nail on the head when you said you can tell his intent isn't to hurt you.
I also think dominance only exists in the context of resource-access, when two rats come together over a bean and one will get it and one won't, so behaviors play out. I also doubt that "alpha" is valid with rats. It is not valid with dogs or wolves, where the concept first originated, but unfortunately the term has gotten out into the thinking about other species.

You didn't mention their ages, but if they are intact males, and coming into about age 4-7 months, then hormones might be roaring up here, where that can push Ollie into aggressive biting. When you said he puffed up a bit and walked around, that has that hormonal feel. That's something to watch and maybe plan for neutering.

If you respond aversively in some way, such as flicking him, that could cause further aggression on his part. He's using his teeth for good reason (in his own mind), and from his perspective doesn't deserve being treated that way.

Because you mentioned that he likes people, I would work on strengthening you as GOOD in his mind. So when he comes to you, hold back from stroking him in any way that might trigger the teeth activity, and instead spend a lot of time giving him treats. You could consider changing his diet some so that the treats are meaningful to him. If he will lick yogurt off the back of your hand, that's a good one. The more he lives out "my human skin is good, it comes with yogurt", the more he will self-invest in not even accidentally drawing blood.

This page is about all the ways rats use their teeth for good. Your rat needs some help bonding with you where you do things he likes, and where he begins to to see you as good, so I offer this link only to give you an idea of what is possible for rats:
http://www.joinrats.com/EarningTrust/RatsUsingTeeth/15630450_hH8bsw


Positive reinforcement to help Ollie is the #1 biggest suggestion I have; here is the method which requires a precise order:
http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/PositiveReinforcement/Method/26681518_ZtkqN4

And this link may or may not match up with Ollie - see what you think, it has more ideas:
http://www.joinrats.com/EarningTrust/Carefulteeth/38359389_5SZTH8

If hormones are becoming an issue, here's a page on the importance of intervening between the rats to prevent aggression:
http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/Tworats/

And here is some information about the science of dominance, submission, and appeasement. There are several videos of very interesting behaviors to think about:
http://www.joinrats.com/ModifyBehavior/SubmissionDominance/30824154_xs7tkR

Boy your issue with Ollie throws a wide net over a lot of important subjects!

gwen
 

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Thanks! I told my boyfriend that we need to work on him and he had him out on his lap last night. No bites, nothing. He tends to have better luck with rats that I do. He's the one who got my girls introduced after I tried for hours. I put them on the sofa, he broke up a right, he put them in the cage and the were perfectly fine from that day on. It put me to shame. I'll work on Ollie over the weekend . I'm hoping to start intros soon because I don't think he's happy stuck in a rabbit cage by himself. Thanks again!
Ahh, I missed that the two rats are not yet introduced - this is a big one then because Ollie's puffy could be completely related to that.
Please be careful to wash your hands between rats, so as not to upset Ollie.

Because Ollie is signalling aggressive response to the other rat, from such a distance, I would be super careful about intros and slow the process down considerably. I would do swapping of cage items, moving cages closer together but only when both rats remain totally calm, etc., very slowly, so that you don't have a sudden eruption of major aggression when you do something like allowing them to roam on a neutral area.

Ollie is sending big signals here, I feel very forwarned about the intro process.
 

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Trematode,

I almost never train a rat with treats. I don't always have treats handy especially when I'm outdoors and I need a rat to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. I'm big on skritches and cuddles which rats may or may not find rewarding depending on their moods. If I have treats I'll give them to our rats and if I don't have any they don't get any.... Funny, I have tried bribing my rats with treats, sometimes they go for it, sometimes I get shown the tail like "Your've got to be kidding me. Give me the stupid treat or I'm walking away.... watch the tail.... see the tail... I'm almost gone... bye see you later.." poof gone.

I suppose my biggest failure in an attempt at teaching a rat to do something for treats was when my wife convinced me that French apple pie would lure Fuzzy Rat out for bedtime... And she was absolutely right, it worked. From that day forward as soon as I turned off the computer she tore off into the store room and hid until she got her bedtime snack... She hid out until she smelled something she wanted.... I had to keep tasty and smelly snacks on hand after that so I could get her to go to her cage every night after that. I suppose treats did work in a way, she trained me to give her one every night before bed.

There's actually a very valid body of evidence that rewards do work to reinforce behaviors. It's very important to note that the effects are relatively short term. As soon as the treats stop the behavior tends to decrease. Like a date that you take to expensive places and buy expensive gifts for... once the goodies stop, usually the relationship ends about as abruptly. The effects of positive reinforcement can be extended by making the rewards more intermittent. Like a slot machine that only pays off every so often. If you had a slot machine that paid off every time and it suddenly stopped you would stop putting money in as soon as it stopped paying off, but if you only get paid every so often you keep tossing your money in, in anticipation of the next reward which experience has proven to be forthcoming eventually. By cleverly manipulating the reward process you can create a gambling junky. Which of course is a negative consequence of positive reinforcement.

If you can use positive reinforcement to give you a chance to build an actual relationship it's not a tool that you should overlook, it works as part of a larger purpose. A fancy date might be a good way to get a nice young lady to go out with you, but if you don't meet muster and enchant her with your personality or other personal attributes, you're only going to see her when you are taking her somewhere expensive or when she knows she's likely to get something she wants more than she dislikes wasting an evening with you. In fact by mis-manipulating the positive reward practice you are more likely to wreck a friendship than create one. In the reverse instance, people that use affection to manipulate their S/Os often find their S/O to become less affectionate over time.

There has been a debate about social status in social animals. There is an exhaustive body of evidence that just about all social mammals have some sort of status related behaviors... That includes humans, monkeys, wolves, dogs and most certainly rats... Alpha rats have been shown to have higher levels of testosterone similar to higher status humans. Studies have shown that rats fight for status and Alpha rats do defend their status against challengers as do many primates. Curiously in rats social status does not extend to procreation as female rats will mate with males of different social status.

But some people have taken social status and the alpha role reality way over the top. Studies have show that some good rat alphas retain their status longer than their physical prowess would dictate. In other words they don't get challenged when there are stronger rats in the pack. I've seen this with my own rats. Yes a stronger rats will actually follow a weaker and older but wiser beloved alpha. That really shouldn't sound odd to us humans, because we don't generally wrestle for the presidency either.

Somehow social status among animals has gotten all tangled up with military pay grades and rank and file order. This absolutely is not the case. An alpha rat doesn't bark orders and the pack doesn't follow in formation. But when the alpha runs for cover or goes on a foraging mission some of the members of his social group will follow. Just like when a lead dog takes his group on a forage through the neighborhood trash cans they tend to follow. When I take my rats for a walk outdoors they tend to follow along. When Fuzzy Rat lead the stoney teenagers around the park she would stop to make sure everyone was following her and she would wait for her pack to catch up if she got too far ahead. So up to and including the follow the leader principle status does work and have it's perks.

Now to be perfectly clear when something terrifying happens some rats will run to their humans and other's will duck for cover. Rats definitely won't follow a leader into an overly dangerous situation. And if an alpha rat notices that another rat has found food or something interesting it's just as likely as any other rat to follow.

I'm not even sure if alpha rats get first dibs on resources... I've often seen inferior rats stop all over their alphas at feeding time or snatch their food and run.

Just like you can't rely on treats to get your rat to love you, you can't rely on social status to train your rats. There are limits to what you can do with each human or rat's personality traits and qualities.

If you want to teach your rat to jump through a hoop you use positive reinforcement techniques, (although negative reinforcement will work a whole lot faster if you don't mind the side effects) if you want him to stop biting you and pushing you around you establish your parental status. And if you are walking your rat through the park you rely on his or her trust in your leadership abilities and your role as a good and wise parent (alpha) to get your rats from one place to another, you don't leave a trail of cheerios.

I've never challenged any behavioral modification technique as being ineffective for what it does. And by the way, that goes for the whole package, both negative and positive reinforcement... Negative reinforcement can often be very effective! When your rat gets his tail squished under the wheels of your office chair don't expect him to ever go under that chair again. Similarly you don't use your superior social status to train a rat to jump through a hoop unless you want to leap through first.

I lump both positive and negative reinforcement together, there's really no way to separate them as they are based on the same theory of operand conditioning. Positive reinforcement usually has less undesirable side effects, but it's subject to all of the same downsides of negative reinforcement to one degree or another... like a gambling addiction in humans or rats that won't perform without treats.

When your problem is that your rat is challenging your parental status and is making a power grab for alpha status, handing out treats is about the worst thing you can do, even a behaviorist will tell you you are rewarding his bad behavior. You take a firms stand and let him know you are the parent and he's the child, no you don't beat him into submission but like an alpha rat you don't back down, it's not a punishment or negative reinforcement its simply a communication technique that you are not going to be pushed around and you are in charge, for what little that's actually worth, beyond not getting bitten. And as soon as he backs down he'll often want his belly rubbed or skritched.. this is when you reward that behavior with skritches and rubs. Rats don't actually expect or get food treats from their alphas, but as a human you can give him lots of treats too. There's nothing wrong with positive reinforcement but just simply being nice to your rat will usually do the trick.

As I don't train my rats to do tricks and I don't usually have treats with me when I train my rats to be outdoor competent.. I'm not much on traditional positive reinforcement methods. I need my rats to trust me and follow my lead and be firmly bonded to me for what I do to work. My rats absolutely don't fear me, but they don't bite or attack their parent (alpha). And when they have better things to do and they are indoors they do their thing ignoring me as much as not. And when they want treats they jump all over me until they get them.

As to dogs, I had a friend who was a military attack dog handler overseas. And he took his dog on actual missions. He was a strong believer in the human having a superior social status to his dog (respect), he was a huge advocate of bonding (love and trust) and he would have been just as comfortable talking about both negative and positive reinforcement techniques as any behaviorist. His relationship with his dog was life and death for both his platoon and his dog, his techniques were developed through years of work by the military and it was very successful.

I don't think I'm ever going to put this debate to bed. But I believe and I hope anyone that isn't stuck on a preformed opinion can see that alpha dominance is not the way to train a dog or a rat, on the other hand handing out treats is not the way to earn respect or build a relationship.

Several ladies have told me they don't ever want a man to push them around, but they couldn't love someone they didn't respect. (that's just a little confusing to some guys, but most of the girls here will get it) You can be a good alpha without pushing your rats around and you can earn respect without being abusive or even using force in most cases. On the other hand your not going to earn a whole lot of respect on which to build love from your S/O by being a doormat or your rat by being a chew toy. Naturally you will wreck any relationship rat, dog or human by the overuse of force based on size or status.

The question at hand is whether you are looking to modify Ollie's behavior or if you are working to establish a relationship. Where the various methods don't contradict each other and where one is more applicable than the other try and choose the most appropriate technique.

I'll address intros when we get there if you have any questions... I think you should get one issue resolved before you take on the next one.

Best luck.

Gwen,

I was a long term believer in operand conditioning and behavior modification. And in my day we were never taught that one was better than the other as they are both sides of the same coin. A personal friend of mine was even working on a project to cure homosexuality through these methods and she's still convinced she would have been successful had she not lost her funding when homosexuality stopped being a mental disorder circa (1977-1980). But even way back then, I had my reservations, there were always unforeseen side effects and rats that would respond badly and long term studies always produced unpredictable results. You could stop chain smokers from smoking, but they would become raging drunks instead and then they would go back to smoking. Or you got unpredictable resentment reactions and subjects that were called negatives... By the time most folks read the great things behavioral mod folks were accomplishing, the footnotes to the original experimental results had been sanitized. Psych 101 was all about how great BM and OC were... by the time you took 400 level experimental classes you started to see just how wrong things could go. Still it took me years to move from the BM model to the communication and social structure models... where you are appealing to a rats understanding, intelligence and emotional needs (which BM and OC pretty much deny exist as in "we are only the product of our conditioning")

Still, I understand why many folks have trouble when I use the term alpha, or dominant or submissive rat. or in fact alpha human. I don't use them in the traditional sense. I use alpha more like a parent and dominant or submissive to imply social status ranking which is actually pretty flexible between rats. It's more a shorthand for lack of better terminology, when it's important I do define the terms. (alpha as in parent). or (alpha as in leader)

For some reason whenever behavior mod advocates talk about fixing aggressive rats the topic of neutering comes up. Hormones are just a part of just about every male rat's puberty. I've searched the threads and I keep looking for the ways PRO fixes aggressively biting rats without neutering. Rather than recommending neutering I'd love to read about how PRO fixes hormonal aggression. I don't think it can be done because hormonal aggression is linked with social status in rats and PRO doesn't address that, but I would be willing to see how you guys do it and why you don't do it all of the time... Just about every PRO discussion I've read when it comes to "hormonal aggression" ends in a neuter, if PRO reliably fixes hormonal aggression, why all the talk about neutering? I mean you brought it up here too.

I personally can't see how operand conditioning or behavior modification would fix a hormonally aggressive or even biting rat that's learned the behavior... you can't reward the behavior and rewarding other behaviors isn't likely to diminish the biting and by negatively reinforcing biting you are just as likely to make the rat even more aggressive at least before it has the complete clockwork orange experience and that didn't actually work out in the movie either.

Seriously, if operand conditioning and behavior modification is having so much success fixing biting rats why all the failures resulting in neutering?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm going to read all of those points in great detail when it's not 11pm. We worked with him for the last few hours. He fought and struggled but we kept at it and tried to tell him that fighting with us isn't going to fly. Now he's all flopped out near me. Could this be submissiveness or tiredness? He wont take many treats. He's extremely picky anyway.

I'll read through the replies at some point tomorrow when I am not so tired :)

He is super relaxed now.
 

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I got a chance to read that over. Thanks Gwen and ratdaddy for the responses. I learned a lot. I was pretty rough with Ollie tonight. He drew blood really bad on my boyfriend so we moved him into the bedroom to work with him. He bit a little in the beginning. He got bopped. If he continued, He got pinned. He also would puff up and try to whip his head around to get us. He'd get picked up or bopped. The more we picked him up, the more he protested. We took turns trying to hold him. Whenever he struggled to get free, we'd fight back. At one point, he finally stopped struggling in my arms. We set him down and he just flopped out, like in the photo. We stroked him and he didn't seem to care. When I went to pick him up again, he struggled and eventually fear-pooped. I pinned him when it got too bad. When I let him go, he flopped. He'd groom, walk a little ways and flop. He was pretty close to me. I let him chill out for a while. When I picked him up to take him back to the cage, he struggled again. He never tried to bite but he was trying hard to get away. Pinning him didn't work. Telling him no firmly didn't work. At this point, 2 hours had passed so back in the cage he went. There was a change in his behavior. He went from being hyper and not giving a darn about me to a tired lazy limp rat that just looked at me with sad eyes and got mad at me for picking him up.

I hate being assertive like this. It's really difficult. I don't feel like I made progress. I feel like I started breaking the relationship we had. But he doesn't respond to kind words and treats either. And scritches? That's what makes him want to bite me.

If it helps, I can get some video of him and what we're doing.
 

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This is very hard. And I'm thinking you aren't the first person that's tried to work with him. There's a good chance his former owner gave up. When you see a rat or a human really stuck on a particular behavior, that's because it's worked for them in the past. In other words he's bitten before and he's gotten his way before, and yes he's feeling sad and upset because he's not getting away with what he's gotten away with before. Like a kid that throws a temper tantrum the more times he got what he wanted the longer and louder the next temper tantrum will be.

Now remember we're trying to get him to understand that you are the good parent and not a predator, so if he backs off or runs away give him a little room and a little time to recover, your not trying to beat him into submission. If he's fear pooping you went a little bit too far, you are looking for respect not fear. Take the next session a bit slower Armor up and don't get bitten taking him out of the cage, so there aren't any hard feelings to deal with on anybody's part. Then set him down in your immersion area and offer him treats and try and lure him to you, if he attacks you bop him (with love in your heart) Don't push the pinning so much... If he withdraws let him... then gently follow him up and try to touch him, again if he tries to bite you meet force with force, but don't go over the top, just send him the message that you aren't going to let him bite you. Try not to corner him, some rats bite when cornered out of fear, and this kind of behavior is handled with kindness and patience, you don't want to make him generally afraid of you, that's not the point. Whenever he's behaving himself offer treats and try to touch him gently.

This is a game of you initiating a friendly interaction and him responding and then you reply appropriately so that he understands what you are trying to communicate. Your saying I want to be your friend, but friendship has it's limits! You are going to be his alpha, but that means parent. Think if you were dealing with a child that was misbehaving, you want to discourage the bad behavior but you don't want your child to be afraid of you.

Actually, I wouldn't worry about having done any harm, if I'm right someone else really screwed him up before you got him. Ollie probably bit his former owners and may have injured his cage mates if he even had any, other people have tried to punish him before and he's going to fight back. And I'm guessing he's won his fair share of these fights and he eventually wound up at the pet shop when his former owners gave up. That's only a guess.

Now I know your overstating what you did with him, because you really feel bad about it, I know you didn't really hurt him and I know you wouldn't have been abusive... It just feels hard to do anything that might upset Ollie. But you made a promising observation... that he seems different and different is good! Unchanged is bad, so different is good. Make sense?
Also that you had a moment when he wasn't attacking you. If he was calm when you were holding him, I would have recommended not putting him down and really extending the "love fest" as long as possible. He's doing something nice, so you really want to capitalize on the opportunity to show him how nice you can be too.

I'm not sure I understand this part: "he struggled and eventually fear-pooped. I pinned him when it got too bad." I'm thinking you didn't pin him for fear pooping. so there was something in between, I'm not getting.

I might as well warn you about the last ditch effort phenomenon among humans and rats... If you or your boyfriend watch football you will notice that every losing team makes a tremendous last drive, yes they have been asleep the whole game and are losing 49 to 0 but now that they only have two minutes left they are fighting for all they are worth for one more yard and one meaningless goal. Somehow it's like the wake up and realize if they can only make another 8 touchdowns and a field goal in the two minutes they have left they can still win the game. Denial is the last stage to learning or in the case of football losing. And rats suffer from the same thing. Just before many aggressive rats toss in the towel and concede defeat they make a very fierce last stand. They give it all they've got and make a final drive to back you down... then suddenly they flop over onto their backs put their feet up into the air and expect you to skritch their bellies. DO NOT miss this opportunity. Because if Ollie rolls over for you he expects you to graciously accept his submission and he expects you to skritch the heck out of his belly and for you to welcome you into the family. That's what alpha rats do, they reward their new pack members promise of loyalty which is expressed by rolling over and offering of the belly. If you don't accept his surrender you are back to war.

Just because he submits to your superior status won't make him a submissive rat or an obedient rat, but it usually signals the end of the biting and aggressive behavior.. And don't put him back in the cage when it happens, that's where the friendly and nice part of immersion begins, lots of love and lots of treats as long as you and Ollie can hang in there, if he falls asleep on you just chill out with him until he wakes up..

Again don't push him to the point of fear pooping (he may just have had to go to the bathroom) but if you think that's whats happening back off, engage him, let him respond and reply appropriately, give him space to think about what's happening and change his tactics and never back down when he's attacking you. We don't know enough about his history so we don't know how bad he's been or how long his aggressive behavior has worked for him and generally change is good.

Remember a biting rat isn't a pet it's an insurance liability. This is a very bad problem and you are taking extreme measures to save his life. And believe it or not, it's harder on you than you are being on him. If Ollie attacked a real honest to goodness wild alpha rat and wouldn't back down for two hours, he'd already be minced rat by now.

Lastly try to schedule a longer session next time hopefully the time will be spent bonding but he's got to learn to understand biting you won't get you to back down and it won't get him back into his cage.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Thank you very very much for the help. I appreciate you taking the time out to respond. I've been reading up on aggression but it seems like Ollie I a bit different than the typical aggressive rat that I read about. I've been taking it slow with him. He doesn't bother me at all when he's in a situation that makes him happy but he finds a way into trouble and he hisses and puffs up when I take him out of that situation. Whenever he's in that situation, I'll pit on the thick gloves, give him a few pats and either put him.where he belongs or back in his cage if he insists on being bad. He likes to pancake a lot. It's like he's moping whenever he doesn't get his way. He flattens out like in the photo and doesn't move at all. He wont sniff me. He wont take treats. I've never had a rat do that.

I'm not sure when to start introductions or if it's a good idea. I don't really have the appropriate space to have 2 males living by themselves. Ollie is in a rabbit cage now and there isn't enough room in there for lots of things to keep him entertained. I'm thinking of swapping cages soon so that Ollie isn't bored. We do have a playpen we made but he jumped it so we might have to make it taller somehow.

I'll do a longer session this weekend. I'll get him out on the bed where there is less he can get into.
 

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I don't actually think aggressive rats are typical. But as far as Ollie goes I don't believe he's over the top out of control hormonal either. I just think he learned to get his way by being pushy and nipping or outright biting rather than by being friendly and asking politely. And that's got his mindset all wrapped around a feeling of superior status.... 'alpha confusion'.

Unlike a rat that's gone over the top and is having all kinds of trouble controlling himself, he's perfectly happy to get his way. Woe to anyone who pushes him around though, he's going to insist on getting his way.

I like the idea that you are taking it a little slow, because I don't want him to become fearful and I don't want him to lose his sense of independence. I'm starting to think pancaking is a wrestling move, passive aggressive... "I'm the boss and you will not skritch my belly, and no I don't submit" And I'm thinking he's saying "No you cant bribe me with treats either."

And frankly that would be cute. Our own rats are very independent too, and it's a quality I appreciate in a rat.

But because he's not out of control and he strikes me as very intelligent he can learn the new rules in his new home too.

The gloves and a few pats might be all it takes, but he may see being put back into the cage as a reward for winning an argument with you. Observe carefully to determine if putting him into his cage is actually something he doesn't like or want or if he thinks this is his reward. You never want to reward bad behavior.

Now to introductions, I won't pretend to be able to predict the future, some alpha confused rats actually become very defensive of their submissive rats, but more often than not they don't tolerate any fight back and can get really assertive to the point of injuring or emotionally harming other rats in their group. Normally I like to do intros in my immersion area (neutral hallway) and sit myself down in the middle where I can break things up fast if they get out of hand. I have enough space where the rats can run around and chase a bit and they have room to box or brawl a little and still get away from each other and regroup... I don't cut in unless it's getting out of hand, and when I cut in I introduce just a little force of my own as in "Back down, I'm the boss here" Kind of a teacher breaking up a playground fight very assertive but not aggressive.

Your current rat will get this message, but I don't know if Ollie will, which might get your friendly rat to back down and get even more beat up by Ollie. I've had this happen too. And you go from a fight to a massacre. In order for this method to work both rats need to respect you. I might add don't try this without the gloves, if either rat doesn't respect you, you will get bitten.

So when Ollie is being chill and independent offer him attention and affection, but if he starts to become aggressive or attacks you when you handle him discourage this behavior assertively.

Lastly, just because he hasn't lost complete control doesn't mean his hormones aren't elevated already, so it might take a little while for his hormones to return to normal even once her recognizes and starts respecting you has his alpha (read as parent).

Remember, independent assertive and competent are good qualities in a rat, aggression and biting are insurance liabilities. You are looking to gain Ollie's respect and not just fear. There may be some fear involved in respect but at days end they are different things. A rat that respects you can learn to trust you, a rat that just fears you can't. Keep working with Ollie at a pace that keeps making progress, you will know when your going to far or pushing too hard. And always stay quick to reward good and chill behaviors.

Best luck
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Well, I've started introducing them. I don't know how its going because they aren't doing the chasing/mounting/sniffing behaviors that my females did. The first intro, there was a bite wound immediately to Gus. He became really scared. He'd stand up and scream when Gus tried to sniff him. Then Gus would run up my back. Ollie started approaching Gus and would pancake out on the bed. Ollie would sometimes chase Gus but there would be no fights. This is the fourth intro. Ollie approaches Gus and Gus no longer runs or screams. Gus' hair stands up a little and he may get up on his back paws. Ollie walks away and excessively grooms himself. Now Gus is approaching Ollie and is trying to sniff his face. I don't know hoe to read their behavior at all!
 

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Honestly it's really hard sometimes to work with an independent rat. You want them to be cuddly and lovey dovey with you but that's just not how they interact. My boy Lily (yes, a boy named Lily) is like that too and actually looks a lot like Ollie. He only got nippy with me a few times and right away I tried to correct it with the nose bop and just telling him no. But he wasn't even as friendly as Ollie was because it seems like Ollie at least does like to come around you guys for the most part and just really hates being touched and pet and such. That's how Lily is now but at first he also hated even being around people and made it difficult for me to even do what I had to do to get him out of the cage and stuff because he would fight me so hard and run away forever and ever. So even though I didn't feel like he was dangerous I could just see that attitude in him that said "I am the boss here and I will not be coming with you mom." But I also see that sweet side of him that's so loving and caring and it makes me want to cuddle him even though he hates it lol. So what i did in order to make it easier for me to handle him and get him back in the cage after playtime and stuff is I would take him out of the cage a few times a day and I would hold him in my arms and manhandle him. He would struggle to get away and hated it so much and I would absolutely not let him go. I would pet him and just have my hands cover his body for a while until he completely submitted to me and stopped struggling. "When he realized ok she's in charge here and honestly this whole being held thing isn't so bad" then I would put him back. When I would do that I would also talk to him in a quiet and calm voice and tell him that it's ok and just try to let him know he's fine. I didn't reward with treats because he gets treats at a set time during the day so he can't afford extra but you could reward with a treat if you want too. It only took a few times of doing this for me to see notable improvement. To this day I continue to make sure that I hold him when I let them out for playtime instead of letting him come out by himself. That way I make sure I pet him for a minute and then let him go. even though he doesn't like to be pet I still make sure he at least gets that couple minutes of human cuddles. At this point though he has made great improvement where he hangs out with me all the time now and comes to see what I'm doing and will just sniff around me and stuff but if I try to pet him he will run away. He just doesn't like it and that's ok. he will give me kisses though. It's alright that he's independent as long as you give the attention that your rat is asking for and he needs. I'm thrilled that he no longer hides from me during the entire playtime and I get to interact with him even if it's not cuddles and the best progress is that there's no struggle when it's time to either get him out of the cage or put him back in the cage. he knows he has to get picked up and he's ok with it.

I am telling you this story because I feel like Ollie has a very similar personality to Lily. I think you are handling the situation great. You are completely right that he knows exactly what he's doing by how hard he's biting you. It's meant to be a warning. If he wanted to draw blood he would. He is saying hey, I do not want to be touched. he thinks he is the alpha and gets to make those decisions. He's allowed to not like being pet but obviously biting is off limits as a way to communicate that. I think that if you do what I did by just holding him and petting him and not letting him go until he stops struggling will help him realize that he is not in charge and doesn't get to react in that way. obviously all the time you guys have been spending with him is a great way to approach it. you need to give him lots of love and handling now just so he gets used to it, even if he doesn't like it, because it will make your life so much easier when it comes to doing things you have to do. Then you can let him just go and do his own thing and if he wants to be independent that is fine, you can encourage that. Or he may decide he actually likes being pet and if he comes to you for attention you can give him what he needs. You've done a great job and the hard part seems to be pretty much over. I hope your intros are still going well.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for sharing your story! Ollie needs work. I'm getting scared of him now. He's fine with the rest of my body but as soon as my hands are down, there are teeth. I'm scared to put my hands near his head so something has to change!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I'm happy to hear that you've made quite a lot of progress with Lily. He sounds like he really came around :)
 

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What if you were to try only feeding him by hand? Seems like that would be a powerful incentive to make peace with the hand? Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I haven't been on here but I wanted to give those of you who offered advice an update.

I had Ollie neutered and it completely changed his behaviour. He has not drawn blood since the neuter. I can pet him and pick him up without being bit. Every once in a while, he'll get annoyed and puff up as a warning but that's about it. Just recently, Maddie the cat approached him while he was eating a treat. He lunged at her to send her away but didn't bite her.

He had to go to the vet a couple of months ago. The vet was able to examine him without getting bit. I wasn't there, but my boyfriend reported that he got a little huffy and that was about it.

Even though it has been almost a year, I am still scared to pick him up unless I have to and I prefer to offer him my fist instead of my fingers... but, he's a good rat and I'm so happy that he's not aggressive like he was.

I tried to introduce him to Gus when he was alive, but that failed. After the neuter, Ollie was submissive and Gus had drawn blood. I took in a female, so I may try her with Ollie.

Thanks for your help!
 
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