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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm very new to rats and have only had my rat, Theodore, for a few days. I am completely obsessed and in love and am so eager to learn new things. I got him from a great breeder and he's very socialized, friendly, and seems to love being handled. Although admitantly, he does seem a bit out of control! He is very curious and loves to run around a lot when he's out, but I would really love to have some boundaries for safety.

The first one being to teach him to come when called. What is the best way to do this? Any advice on what treats work best when training this? Should you give them treats each time, or just some of the time when you call them?

Also he is very squirmy and although he comes up to me costantly when he is out exploring, he doesn't like to sit still for more than a minute or two. I'm guessing this is because he is young and impatient, but I would like to try and teach him that sometimes it's play time and sometimes it's just cuddle time. When I try to contain him a bit more, he will occasionally nip, which I don't like. I'm not squeezing him or anything of the like... more like just when he is sitting on my lap he decides he wants to run like a maniac again and I put my hand up to block him from running a certain direction after doing this a couple of times he will nip my hand and run past me as I pull away. It's not a hard bite, just a little nip. He seems to know it's the perfect way to get what he wants which is to run and play! He'll then come right back and run across my lap 2 seconds later and kiss my face, so it's not like has an issue with being around me.

Sorry for all the questions, just want to make sure I am doing everything right that I can! :)
 

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Repetition is your friend. As well as using the same simple command each time. What works for one of my girls, not the other is the command "come down play". Rats are pretty smart, but will learn best if you use the same words each time, so as not to confuse them. I buy the Gerber baby puffs (yes HUMAN baby). Not expensive, and you can often find coupons for them. Whatever you use as a training reward, resist the urge to also use them as a "just because" treat. Designate them as training only.
Use one when he comes, another when he sits. I trained Roxy to come to the door of her cage first, then to come out. Your rats will tell you what works for them
 

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Last night I realized that my 6 week old girl Ginny knows her name. She was on the bed playing with me when my fiancé came in the room and startled her. He then called to her softly with her name and she came right out from under the blanket to him with ears pricked forward nose twitching away looking for a treat! We haven't done anything formal just talk to them using their name every time we interact (giving treats, handling, when they crawl on us!). When he walked away I called to her using her name and she came bounding right up to my face! Made my heart melt!
 

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Rats learn their name very quickly and will do come without too much effort... stay! on the other hand isn't a command in a normal rats vocabulary so it doesn't translate well from English... That said, it can be done with certain very smart and communicative rats, hand gestures like pointing to the place they are seem to help as does an imperative tone of voice. It took over a year before Fuzzy Rat responded to the freeze of stay command although she did come almost from day two,
and she was a very bright rat.

As to sitting still, that just seems silly to some rats... with so much to do and so many places to go, sitting still when they are out of their cage is counterproductive to their goals of exploring the world. And rats pretty much like to do what they want to do.
 

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I've trained a backyard squirrel to come when called... I'm not sure if she knows it's her name or that I'm saying, "Time to eat!" upon calling her name. :p But ya - repetition is the key. ;D
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
He seems to come when called a bit already. When I tap the ground he perks up and comes over (or looks at me and takes off the other way to escape hehe) so I guess that part is actually going well.

So getting them to sit in your lap/and or cuddle for a few minutes is out of the question?
 

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I am told that males will sit more than females..trust me, my girls never stop. But like Rat Daddy said, sit and stop probably will not be trainable. Even when I am just giving Roxy and Daisy lap time, they are always moving.
 

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I am told that males will sit more than females..trust me, my girls never stop. But like Rat Daddy said, sit and stop probably will not be trainable. Even when I am just giving Roxy and Daisy lap time, they are always moving.
Just using your post to further this discussion.

First, no animal knows English--so when Rat Daddy makes the comment that "stay" won't be in a rat's vocabulary, um, no English words are in their vocabulary at all, until we teach them.

How well and precisely they learn those words depends--whoda thunk--on their teacher's level of skill ;)

There theoretically isn't a "not trainable" behavior.

If you're using appropriate methods, willing to put in the time, and are dealing with a healthy rat with no mental handicaps, there is absolutely no reason "stay" should be any less trainable than "come."

For the OP, on your question of whether to reward every time, or sporadically, on teaching the "Come" command, here is your answer, defined by learning theory, which is how all mammalian species learn:

At first, you reward every single time.

This is using classical conditioning, and pairs a reward with a behavior (the "Come") in a very clear, consistent manner.

This is the most effective way to teach new behaviors, to pair them with rewards (positive reinforcement, abbreviated +R) and thus increase the frequency and likelihood the rat will perform those behaviors.

But, once a behavior is learned, and learned solidly, the most effective way to maintain that behavior is thru the "slot machine" method of +R. That is, it is extremely motivating and interesting to the rat to get big payoffs, or rewards, sometimes, no reward other times, and small rewards at others.

This is called "variable reinforcement," and it makes for really solid behaviors.

So, reward every time until your rat is reliably coming when called at least 90% of the time, then switch to variable reinforcement.

This is a very simplified explanation--so much to learn about animal training!

But, using operant conditioning, and classical conditioning, effectively and knowledgeably, you can achieve an amazing bond and results with your rat.

Have you seen the youtube video where the handler has taught her rats a ton of cool behaviors, using the marker method? You can use either a clicker or a vocal marker, and get precise communication and cooperation, in a very fun and positive manner. No need for "imperative voices." ;-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g2rxtWu_FM
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
RatPax, this info is soo helpful! I seem to have a pretty smart and loving rat thus far (or I am extremely biased :p) but he is coming about 50% of the time when I call him. I've been giving him treats about 20% of the time, so I'll bump it up for now to get a higher result. I'm happy for just a days progress!

As far as him staying, he's actually been a bit better! I haven't been trying to force that, but when he comes up to me, he's more likely to sit down and hang out. He actually sat on my arm while I was at the computer (while he was free-ranging) for about 5 minutes and keeps curling up next to me for a bit. I praise him a lot and will start rewarding more with treats - but so far so good! I'm confident he'll keep progressing quickly.
 

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RatPax, this info is soo helpful! I seem to have a pretty smart and loving rat thus far (or I am extremely biased :p) but he is coming about 50% of the time when I call him. I've been giving him treats about 20% of the time, so I'll bump it up for now to get a higher result. I'm happy for just a days progress!

As far as him staying, he's actually been a bit better! I haven't been trying to force that, but when he comes up to me, he's more likely to sit down and hang out. He actually sat on my arm while I was at the computer (while he was free-ranging) for about 5 minutes and keeps curling up next to me for a bit. I praise him a lot and will start rewarding more with treats - but so far so good! I'm confident he'll keep progressing quickly.
Sounds very promising.

And yes, your timing and appropriate use of reward--whether that's food, praise, or play, whatever your rat likes individually--is key to them learning what you want from them.
 

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You can easily train the come command. i didn't have to even train that. It comes naturally with most rats, as does knowing their name. It just happens because we always call them by their name so they end up learning it by default, and I am always calling my rats over to me. I will just say Daisy come here in a very playful and fun voice and it works very well pretty much no matter where or what they are doing. The repetition of me calling for them on a pretty normal basis was basically like training them without having to do it with treat rewards. They pick up on things pretty quickly. they are very smart animals. By you specifically training them to come it will probably happen a lot faster though, so it can't hurt to have that advantage early in the game. It works great when they are getting into something naughty and you need them to stop. But as far as sitting still goes, there is a slim chance on that one unfortunately...rats are always on the move during playtime because they are always sleeping when they are cooped up in their cage. they want to run and explore when they are out. Especially girls. I have one girl and 2 boys, and my one boy is as hyper as a girl so he can run for hours on end, but my other boy will play for about a half hour to an hour and then find a favorite spot in my room to curl up for a nap. Unfortunately none of my rats like to nap on me, but some people have rats who will cuddle up on them. You may be able to get cuddle time out of your rat and have them cuddle up for a nap with you and be calm but I think that will only happen on their own free will when they are done playing. I don't think you will be able to command them to sit still unfortunately. But you may be able to teach them to sit and stay there for a short period of time so you could do something you need to do, like checking out something on their body or cleaning them up, giving them medication or treats, or giving them a quick petting and cuddle session. So it may be fun to try and teach that command to help make those things easier for you but I wouldn't expect to be able to force them to just sit on your lap for a while if they don't want to cuz most rats just don't do that unfortunately. They aren't like cats or dogs in that way. you usually can only get quick cuddles out of them.
 
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