Pet rats playing pianos, guinea pigs spinning in circles, ferrets jumping through hoops, rabbits sitting up on cue, hamsters running agility courses, gerbils wearing clothes — these are just a few of the wonderful things that pet owners are training their small pets to do these days. How do they do it?
Train Yourself First
First the trainer needs to learn how to teach. When training any type of animal, think of it like this: If someone came to you and spoke a foreign language and tried to teach you a task, what would it take for you to understand? Work your pets with that same perspective. Believe it or not, I have seen people talk louder and slower to an animal, perhaps thinking that the animal would understand better if the words were just a bit louder and/or slower?
Communication is the key to animal training. Small pets have ears and hear very well, they can and do learn words we teach them. Words, not paragraphs. Keep your cues/commands in a word and use the same word consistently. When an average person trains a dog, they tell the dog “down.” “Down” might mean, “get off me” and another time it might mean to “lay down” and another time it might mean to “get off the couch.” People have no idea they are confusing the dog.
For the full article, pick up the 2012 issue of Critters USA or click here to buy the issue.