Rats are extremely intelligent and are some of the easiest small animals to train as they are naturally inquisitive and love interacting with their owners. Rats can be trained to do everything from using a litter tray to sorting shape blocks – it all depends on how much time you have to invest in training!
How do I start training my rat? Firstly, make sure your rat knows you and is happy in your company. It is no use attempting to train a rat you have only just got as they need time to settle in. Take the training slowly and in short bursts of around 10-15 minutes a day. Always use positive reinforcement only (we find that yoghurt drops work particularly well!) and never punish a rat under any circumstances. If you have a good bond with your rat they will actively want to please you which is the key to easy training!
Here are some ideas for quick start training you can do with your rat:
Come to recall: This is a useful one, especially if you allow your rats to free range out of their cage! Each time you are ready for your rats to come to you, call their names or use a keyword if you have a group of rats you wish to recall. Keep calling until they come to you and reward instantly once they do. Rats in a group can all comfortably learn their own names and this recall is picked up extremely quickly, especially if there are treats on offer!
Litter training: Much like cats, rats can be trained to use a litter tray. Simply put some soiled litter into the tray each time you clean the cage. They will very quickly get the idea. Then you can just empty the tray each day and make your cage cleaning a breeze!
Fetch: Rats will fetch endlessly like dogs. Some pick this up more quickly than others. Experiment to find a toy your rat likes to fetch, something which is not too heavy or cumbersome. A budgie toy ball with a bell inside is ideal. Roll it away from you and your rat will follow. Praise and treat when they pick it up and work up to getting them to collect it and return it for you to throw again. This trick works well in conjunction with the recall training above.
Further tricks: Rats can successfully be trained to do just about anything. They can run mazes, climb ropes, jump through hoops, play basketball, lay down and even roll over on command. Just make sure you are always consistent and always reward your rat each time he does what you want. Break more complex tricks into parts and reward for each part completed.