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Discussion Starter #1
So Ratdaddy's immersion thread was a lifesaver for me. I feel that sometimes I got lost in the words though. If we had step by step and progression videos of the entire process from picking the rat out, to the endless cuddles and skritches after the initial immersion is complete (I know immersion never ends but I mean the first steps that will guide us into learning how to do it ourselves throughout their lives), I feel that this would be extremely beneficial. I myself learn by example, and sometimes it's hard for me to put words into actions.

I understand that this would be a lot of work, and completely understand if it can't be done for a while, if at all, but it was just a thought. And I feel more people would be able to bond properly with their furry friends this way. =)

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I actually do understand the issues of converting words into actions, as you might appreciate the issues of converting actions into words to write the guide.

The problem I faced in writing the guide was that every rat is different when you first adopt it. Some have been partially socialized and already crave human companionship while others have been mistreated and abused and just about every shade of grey in between. To make matters even more complicated is that the humans involved also have different experience levels and personalities. So in order to do a step by step cook book type recipe, I would wind up with an endless stream of flow chart permutations of if and then branches. And then it gets even more complicated or perhaps interesting if you do multiple rats at once or if you are including kids or even your dog in the process as someone actually successfully did. A video of me immersing a friendly pup, won't look much like your video of immersing an abused biting rat or someone else's video of immersing a terrified neglected rat.

That's not to say that videos would be a bad idea to supplement the guide. They will certainly be helpful to some people.

Basically I chose to write immersion as more of a guide than a cook book. If you understand how the ingredients work in making a dough, you are going to wind up with bread. My bread is going to be different from your bread, but overall we are both going to wind up with something to put butter on. Even the immersion space different people use will be different. My bathroom is old and has a cast iron stand up tub where a rat would be impossible to recover from underneath or behind, so I use a hallway, someone else has a more modern bathroom without hiding places and it becomes a perfect space. I work with my daughter who is young and playful, so I like more room to work with, someone less physically active might prefer a smaller space. I'm not a big multi-tasker and only adopt one rat at a time, so I don't typically immerse multiple rats at once, but someone else might love the higher energy challenge of doing three rats at once.

But it all comes down to the philosophy.... rats are intelligent and learning social animals. Just like humans they have a need to become part of a family. As rats don't instinctively see humans as family members you have to engage them... basically you have to say "hi" and then see how they respond... some will greet you back, others will run away and yet others might attack you. Then you have to address each response appropriately in your reply. The rat that responds with curiosity and interest needs to be welcomed and played with, the rat that runs off in terror, needs to be coaxed and comforted and reassured and the aggressively biting rat needs to learn the new house rules before you can work on bonding properly. And in between there are countless permutations. So when I write "engage, let your rat respond and then reply appropriately" these words have lots of different meanings depending on your situation, but the philosophy and theory is still the same.

Once there was a truly remarkable rat, Fuzzy Rat, she had a gift for understanding humans and somehow she pretty much figured out that we were sentient and intelligent beings just like she was and she began trying to communicate with us, mostly trying to get us to understand her. She would try the same behavior many times and then change it up a little until we understood her... she would give kisses and reward us when we got it right. It was actually quite a revelation when I realized she was training us. And it sent me back to the drawing board. Armed with a new understanding of just how smart rats were and the realization that they can think like we do and that they intuitively communicate, a whole new world of possibilities opened up in my mind. Rat training was more like social psychology or child psychology than like behavior modification... and it wasn't done with reward or punishment stimulus, it was socialization based on communication and understanding. A kid doesn't burn down the house because he was punished for playing with matches, he understands that burning the house down is just a stupid thing to do and the reasons why. Similarly a rat joins your family because it wants to belong with you and feel safe and protected and it will actually learn to love you. It has emotions similar to your own, which was another surprise for me...

Immersion is basically derived from my understanding of the way rats actually feel, think and behave. Based on my theory, I added some basic methods like the immersion area, the longer session, engage, let the rat respond and reply appropriately and the idea of fixing rat behavior by establishing social order with yourself as the leader or parent (alpha). Oddly, and perhaps uniquely, it's rat socialization based on a rats point of view.

Sadly, the most remarkable Fuzzy Rat has long since crossed the rainbow bridge... until moments before she died she still communicated her feelings and desires, she groomed my lips one last time, pointed her nose towards her cage and tapped her front paws to be taken there, where she waited for my daughter to say good night before she passed away in grace and dignity. But though what we learned from her, we've raised three more true shoulder rats that have become remarkably competent and good family members and immersion lives on world wide building better relationships between rats and their humans and faster than any other socialization method. I might add that every night Cloud asks to be picked up and then points to her cage and expects to be put back into her home for the night. Communication is still very much the rule in our house.

Not all rats can communicate as well as Fuzzy Rat did, but down deep rats are pretty much all alike. They have feelings, they are smart and they can communicate and understand and most want to belong to a family... we grow so attached to our rats because they are so much like us. When we lose a rat, it hurts so much, because we aren't losing a pet, we are losing a real friend.

So sure, I think more videos will help, but always keep in mind everyone's immersion experience will be a little bit different. You bring your personality, and experience into the immersion with you and you bring a rat or rats with you that are individuals too. The philosophy and the theory remain the same as does the general method, but the techniques and application of the techniques vary from person to person and rat to rat.

Happy holidays
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