Rat Forum banner
1 - 4 of 4 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
365 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My first rat was a true shoulder rat. I could take her outside and never worry. I never thought about rat leashes then because she didnt need one. She use to walk around the block with me and there were never any issues. I let her roam anywhere in my house because all I had to do if I lost where she was was call her name and she'd come running. I miss that. She passed away sometime ago and I feel like my other rats just aren't getting this shoulder rat thing. I think part of the problem is I unfortunately had to leave them with my dad for a couple months when I first moved for my new job and I dont think he took them out of their cage often enough. I feel like during the time they spent apart from me they forgot all their previous training. For example before leaving them my oldest three came to their names, they werent' at the point when I would dare trust them outside but since I got them back they sort of pick and choose when they are going to respond to their names. It drives me crazy. I cant really trust them to do much of anything on their own because I never know when they are going to come when I call and when they are going to ignore me when I call. My other rat is technically still considered a baby, well maybe a toddler by now I guess but I understand why she isnt getting the shoulder rat thing since shes still young and we haven't done enough training but I dont get why my older girls were becoming shoulder rats and now just dont care. I feel like leaving them for those two months was such a big mistake. Even though I cant take back those months before is there any hope these girls can ever be trusted to come to their names 100% of the time and maybe eventually be trusted to go outside? I feel like I was so blessed with my first rat like she was a super smart girl without me even having to try. I dont expect my new girls to be an exact replica of her, but Id love if they could at least somewhat listen as well as she did. Do you think part of it's a trust issue because I abandoned them for a couple months there? I really didnt want to but there was no other way. It makes me so mad now though that they use to listen and now just dont care. I literally dont know what to do.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,244 Posts
First, the finest true shoulder rats are literally born that way. Literally the first time we took Fuzzy Rat outside my daughter took her across the front yard and I called her and she rat to me 10 times in a row when I called her... she was under a month old... Then suddenly she saw the bushes and took off into them. An hour later she came back entirely on her own. She just wanted to explore. And after exploring she came home... in fact she did that a lot... so many times I can't even count how often we lost her. But within an hour she was right back with us.

Fuzzy Rat and your first rat were naturals... they are simply wired differently from other rats. They don't have the same fear of open spaces as normal rats, they don't experience stress like normal rats do and this gives them a remarkable advantage when it comes to learning. Being calm allows them to better observe and understand you and to communicate with you. They may actually be smarter, but that's hard to quantify. Suffice it to say you just got lucky when you picked out your first rat. Chances are that you will never see another one like her.

But we have trained two more true shoulder rats since Fuzzy Rat and we are working on a third. Normal rats cover a range of stress tolerance. Those that will panic simply can't be true shoulder rats.... ever. If they can't manage their natural agoraphobia and maintain self-control you will lose them. It's not that they won't follow commands, they simply can't. It's like humans.. some panic and others keep their cool. Those that panic jump out windows; those that keep their cool crawl out the fire exits.

When you aren't dealing with natural super stars like Fuzzy Rat or your first rat, you have to train and test your rats at a safe site. The stress level outdoors is way higher than indoors. For a rat the difference is like walking in Central Park or walking on the moon. Uninspired indoor rats can come alive under stress and well behaved and obedient indoor rats can freak out outside.

Any rat that you take outdoors needs to be bonded to you or it won't trust you and it will run to the first safe place it sees... Building a strong bond comes first and you can do that indoors... but then you need to go to a safe site. This is a special place where your rats can't run away or get lost or get killed. It has to be a place where you have control of just about everything. There should be some bushes, small trees or plantings your rat can hide in if it gets too stressed. But there should be no places from which you can't recover your rat.

At the safe site you have to train them... let them wander off a bit and recall them, see how they explore and mostly how they handle stress. A rat that sticks to you like glue is very stressed as is a rat that runs and hides in the shrubs... those will be trouble... some can be managed others will get lost when you take them away from the safe site. The best rats will explore some and come when recalled (most of the time). They all have to eventually come back to you on their own.

Fuzzy Rat blew through the safe site like a PHD candidate through first grade. Most likely your first rat would have done the same. But some of our other rats have washed out there. It's important to understand that most rats won't make it through the program and not get dangerously over optimistic. And remember that the rat that sticks to you like glue is just as dangerous as the one that bolts off. You are looking for rats that can handle the stress at the safe site. Once you are away from the safe site things will get even more dangerous for your rats and more stressful... so we carefully explore with them under controlled situations taking them to more and more dangerous places until their final test...

Which Looks like this:

Sky Tree Wilderness Cloud Sunlight

Yes those are real town fireworks and we are under them and it's dark and we're surrounded by a crowd of people... and if the rat can handle that, it's made the grade, it's a true shoulder rat.

The rat in the photo was Max, she was no Fuzzy Rat, but she never panicked and was generally manageable. Not all true shoulder rats are naturals, but they have to be darn good.

Fuzzy Rat actually loved fireworks... she would sit calmly mesmerized by the light show... Max obviously didn't want to be there, but she didn't panic or bolt away and Cloud passed the test by hiding under my T-shirt and peeking out... But this is a very hard test and squeaking by is still passing. A rat that loses self control washes out. But you shouldn't take a rat to the fireworks test until it's proven itself everywhere else.

So, odds are, you will never see the likes of your first rat again, but you might still be able to train one of your other rats... I wrote a thread on the subject which I will post below.

Just keep in mind, that it's perfectly normal for normal rats to wash out, they still make great friends and indoor rats. If you don't let your rat wash out when it doesn't make the grades and keep pushing him or her, it will not end well. When a rat washes out in the real world it's either lost or dead.

Also you will have to improve your rat handling skills. Natural shoulder rats don't need much management, they pretty much take care of themselves, like a well trained dog. All other rats you will work with will need closer supervision and more careful management to stay within their limitations. In other words, you will need to protect them more. Your skills will need to make up for your rat's lack of skills.

I hope that helps.

http://www.ratforum.com/showthread.php?51718-Shoulder-Rats-and-all-out-of-home-rat-activities

Best luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
365 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That does help I think. and makes a lot of sense. But it makes me very sad that I will likely never again see a true born shoulder rat like my first rat. I absolutely loved her ability to be almost anywhere doing almost anything and still always come back to me at the sound of her name. I guess I got a lot luckier with her than I ever realized. Reading your post though I am already trying to think through safe places in my neighborhood to try an outdoor test which I don't think anybody is ready for yet though. my understanding from your post though is , if I'm interpreting it right, that my other girls may not be born shoulder rats or true shoulder rats but they can likely become a different version of a shoulder rat with training, patience and never forcing them into something they aren't ready for. I am already thinking one of my rats may never pass a shoulder rat test with fireworks cause she's so scared of everything and panics so much if I'm not right there. but I think if I start doing some of the things in the forum you linked my other rats may be able to learn to be some version of shoulder rats. I'm just so bummed now to learn my other rat was one of a kind and it likely won't be that easy again. I didn't truly realize what I had with her until she was gone.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,244 Posts
Yup, that's about how it happened for me too... Fuzzy Rat was the first rat we decided to train as a true shoulder rat... and it was just so easy... she actually chased around with the kids at the park and jumped into the lake to swim with my daughter and the other kids on her own... She was literally charismatic, everyone who met her fell in love instantly and wanted to pet or hold her.

It was so easy and natural, I couldn't imagine why everybody didn't train their rats to be shoulder rats. Then we started to work with another rat, named Curly and everything went absolutely wrong. It was a rude awakening to discover just how special our Fuzzy Rat really was. I suspect from the number of actual true shoulder rats in the world at any given time, perhaps one out of a thousand or one out of several hundred are naturals, maybe it's even rarer. Most people have never seen a true shoulder rat, much less have lived with one, some folks don't even believe they exist, that we're making them up. I suppose that's why I shot some vids and photos.

Among the rats that would fall into the "more normal" category a certain number don't panic easily. No, they aren't naturals, but they can learn skills. They won't chase kids around the park, or likely ever jump into a lake and swim with their humans, but they can be taught to walk at heel, and come back when recalled and stay with their humans for protection. For most purposes they can become true shoulder rats. Like I said, Fuzzy Rat enjoyed fireworks. Cloud hid under my shirt, no she didn't panic, but she was highly stressed, she didn't like the noise or the flashes. For Fuzzy Rat, fireworks were and adventure, for Cloud it was a stress test. Yes, neither rat bolted off or freaked out, but in all reality from the handlers point of view it was a very different experience with a very different type of rat.

So yes, with enough work and careful handling you might be able to develop another true shoulder rat, but you would be very very lucky to find another rat like your first one... and if you treat a normal rat, even a good one the same way as a natural, you will get it lost or killed.

Last weekend we lost Cloud in a salt marsh/overgrowth, she eventually came back to where she fell in and waited for us... No she didn't have the courage to come out into the open to look for us, but she was good enough to survive. She did magnificently for a highly trained 'normal' rat. If Fuzzy Rat disappeared into the same marsh we wouldn't have even looked for her, we would just have waited at the car or kept doing our thing until she turned up looking for us.

I suppose someone might argue that the only true shoulder rats are the naturals, but that wouldn't be entire fair. Basically, I set the bar at the fireworks test, if the rat can handle that, it's good enough to qualify.

Some day I hope to meet another rat like Fuzzy Rat, I wish you the same grand fortune. In the mean time with good handling skills and a very good rat you can still develop a true shoulder rat that can enjoy the great wide world, up to a reasonable point. Just remember most rats can't cut it and don't try to push them into something they can't handle. Be mindful of their limits and you will be reasonably OK.

Best luck.
 
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Top