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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Teaching Dumbo Rat Tricks

By Shellyane Bryan
A rat owner from England shares tales of living with her first rat, Queen Dumbo Duncanson-Bryan, and a rat named Mouse.

rat tricks
Photo Courtesy of Shellyane Bryan
Use treats to train a rat or other small animal how to do basic tricks.

I’ve been looking into teaching my rat Dumbo tricks. About a year ago I tried to teach Dumbo and Fidget to respond to certain sounds, and to some extent it worked. Dumbo knows to come when I make a certain sound with my lips and she knows she’s doing something she shouldn’t be if I clap — though sometimes she just ignores this because she is enjoying exploring too much.

I’ve learned this week that the best way to train a rat is to first teach it to associate a noise with treats. I only wish I had known this when I first started training Dumbo! I trained her to jump large distances quite a while ago, but this was done without treats. This worked a little to my disadvantage, as now whenever she is in dire need of a bath, she can jump right out of it, soaking me in the process!

I’ve been working on teaching Dumbo to walk on her hind legs and to spin. In the space of a day, she has done really, really well. First of all, I taught her to associate clucking my tongue with treats. Once she had that down, I taught her to stand on her hind legs with the help of a little treat. When she mastered that, I encouraged her to walk just by moving my hand a little. The greatest amount of steps she’s managed so far is six!

I tried to teach my rat Mouse the same thing, but I think at this stage she is still far too interested in the world.

I’ve also attempted to teach Dumbo to spin, but she seems to get a little bit confused and forgetful about what it is she is meant to be doing. It can get a bit frustrating, but I know it’s just going to take a bit of time and I am looking forward to the final result. Eventually, I want to teach her to fetch, but I first need to find a small item that a rat will absolutely adore. I know she is rather fond of those little yellow capsules that chocolate Kinder Egg toys come in, so that might be an option.

On an unrelated note, Mouse has somehow managed to split her ear open. It’s not a serious injury, and it’s healed so it actually looks rather endearing. I have a feeling it has something to do with her needle-sharp rat claws. I think I need to get the clippers out of the drawer again. She isn’t going to like it.

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