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I'm trying to overcome what seems to be the massive hurdle of "come when called." It seems simple enough but I've learned from dog training that some pets really struggle to do this based upon their personality (whether or not they're eager to please, treat driven, etc.) My girls seem eager to please occasionally but equally eager to run off and not listen in light of more interesting artifacts. And while they are very treat driven in small spaces like the cage or the couch, when put in a bigger environment like the bathroom (which they've been in enough times to familiarize themselves with the space, and yet they seem very unfamiliar there) they won't take treats, so that's out of the question I suppose.

Are some rats just not eager to please and near impossible to train to come reliably at least? Is there some other way I can try teaching them to come other than the standard call them and lead them to you? When I do get their attention I can only seem to keep it long enough to come halfway and then they lose interest in the treat, even their favorite treat, and wander off. It's been a tricky state of affairs trying to train them.
 

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Rats are metacognitive. This means that they're always thinking, evaluating and reevaluating their decisions. Unlike dogs they typically don't follow commands. Once they learn what a command means they pretty much interpreted in context with their situation at that time.


For example, you call your rat and it knows exactly what you want, but it also knows that it's your bedtime and generally it's when you put him back in his cage for the night. Knowing what you want and why is a good thing for both you and your rat. The problem in the situation is that your rat would prefer not to go back to his cage and would rather spend the night exploring your house and building a secret nest inside your sofa. Therefore, rather than running towards you when he hears your command, he's more likely to look for a hiding place, wait for you to fall asleep and then begin on the necessary modifications to your sofa to make it more comfortable.


In my experience, the come command works best when paired with a tasty treat, but in this case a smart rat is actually coming to get the treat not so much to respond to your command.


I found that when working with rats outdoors, they tend to respond to your stress level or rather the stress level and volume of your voice. I found that certain rats are actually excellent at following commands when they are relevant and meaningful. For example, when I saw something dangerous approaching and I would recall Fuzzy Rat, she would bolt back to me. On the other hand, if I wanted to go home and she didn't, she pretty much just kept on exploring. Something in my voice or something in my body language determined how she responded to the come command. Although the words I used were pretty much the same, she could tell a difference between daddy is getting bored and run for your life. As Fuzzy Rat was always situationally aware, she might've taken my command as a clue to look around, have seen the danger approaching for herself and then responded appropriately.


Personality does have a lot to do with how some rats respond to commands, some are more compliant than others, but always remember that you rats are evaluating everything you say in context to the situation that they find themselves in when they hear it. I might add, that I've never seen a rat follow command that would otherwise put it into danger or into harms way. In contrast, when I was a little boy a friend of mine accidentally sent his dog to fetch a ball, the dog ran right under a moving car in pursuit of the ball and in blindly following the command. I'm not saying that rats or dogs are smarter, just that they think differently and we need to have different expectations of how rats understand us.
 

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I agree completely with what Rat Daddy said. My two boys have taught me how smart rats really are.

I do shelter animal behavior, which incudes working with some of An additional concept with any animal that has learned coming when called results in the end or good times is to have them come to you, reward them, and then let them go play again. Repeat this several times daily without returning them to their cage. Sort of like a slot machine that pays off part of the time - coming to you does not always cause a negative result.
 

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I found that shaking the treat container will bring them running. They get their treats in the cage, so they climb in and look at me expectantly. When I free ranged in another room and used a carrier, they willingly got in to be transported back to the cage.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for the advice and info everyone! I know rats are super intelligent and it makes sense that they're always comparing what you want with what they want. My dog actually does the same thing...if you want her to come and she has a tasty roadkill rabbit cornered...she opts in her best interest. I've started trying calling them while I'm standing up and walking away and they got the idea pretty fast, and were happily taking nummies for their good work. Then I let them loaf for a while and suprised them with the command, an 1 of them came dashing, the other kind of sort of...saw her sister had left and strolled leisurely to me.

I had a rat a long time ago who was so eager to please that she would come whenever called no matter what she was doing and stayed with me reliably. I could take her on rides everywhere and she never worried me, and all this with minimal training. So ever since I always wonder about their personalities and what in them makes them completely compliant or free spirited.
 

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That's a good question, but parents have been wondering the same thing about their kids since the dawn of time... and so far no one's figured it out.
 
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