It is important that the rat understand how the equipment is to be maneuvered. It is also important that during training and competition the rat is not hurried over the equipment so that it may be hurt. Some rats will catch on quickly to what you are asking it to do and really enjoy the agility equipment. Some rats may be slow to understand or even uninterested...my suggestion is to have at least two rats that you work with in agility.
Please take the time, or let your rattie take the time to learn the equipment at it's own pace. It is fun to see a rat run the course at a quick pace, but getting hurt doing it is not worth the hurrying. Most ratties get faster and faster as they run the course that is set up for them. Just let them have the time they need to learn.
The Hoop Jump">Take a look at out trick training page at this website and teach this piece of equipment the same as you would a regular hoop.
Since the Teeter Totter is lower to the ground then the Sea Saw and does not pivot as harshly, all rats should start on the Teeter Totter before moving on to the Sea Saw.
It may be a good idea to have a small piece of wood that is about 4" X 16" that you set on a couple of stacked coins (two nickels) so that the wood moves a bit but not much the before introducing the rat to the Teeter Totter.
This is Sugar on the Teeter Totter. She looks so much like Nineveh in the photos, I thought I should make a note of who is who. Sugar was our first Agility Rat and was featured in Rats Magazine highlighting Agility.
You should teach your rat to use the Teeter Totter before working it on the Sea Saw. If your rat is steady and using the Teeter Totter, then move on to the Sea Saw.
This is a photo of Sugar, it was featured in Rats Magazine with an article on Sugar doing Rat Agility.
The trick here is getting the rat to come out of this piece. Teach your rat to come to your finger as you tap it on the table or the item it is working on. By doing this you will be able to tap the table to teach the rat to come out of the Tunnel.
Sometimes a short, say 4" - 6" wide Open Tunnel for training is helpful too. This way the rat will not stay in the center and you can coax it through a little easier.[/break]
Open "S" Tunnel
When training the Open "S" Tunnel it is a good idea to use only 1/2 of the tunnel until the rattie is coming though it reliably. After the rattie is coming though the half (as in photo shown), add the other half to the first and continue training.
Again, this is easy to teach the rat to go into, it is coming through it that is the problem. Teach same as Open Tunnel and have a treat waiting on the out side of the Closed Tunnel.
This is a photo of LaRue. LaRue did come through the Closed Tunnel, but hesitated for the photo. On this day he was still learning about Agility Equipment, as you can see, he thought it is great fun.
Double Open Ended Closed Tunnel
This Tunnel can be used in an Agility Course but is more of a training tool then an official equipment piece.
The Double Open Ended Closed Tunnel (DOECT) is approx 4" x 18", the middle area drapes like the Closed Tunnel would. I made it with the same type good grade polar fleece.
I was having trouble getting a young doe (Nineveh) to come all the way through the Closed Tunnel so I did two things. I made this piece, it has wider openings on each end but drapes in the middle section for her to use. This way she could see the opening and I could reach in if I needed to to "help" her on through.
I also worked a bit more on the "Shoulder" command. This is where I put my hand down on the table/cage/desk and tell the rattie "shoulder" and they learn to run up my arm to sit on my shoulder.
Between the double open ended tunnel and having my hand where she could see it at the end of the tunnel, she learned to come through the tunnel reliably.
After you have the rattie coming through the Double Open Ended Closed Tunnel (DECT) you can switch the piece back to the Closed Tunnel or just continue to use the DOECT.
Some Fancy Rat Weave Polls are set up in a "box", that is with side, and the polls set at an angle that the fancy rat can figure it out on it's own how to run the piece of equipment.
Use the tapping on the piece of equipment with your finger to teach the rat to come along that direction. Most rats will learn the tapping trick VERY quickly if they trust you and your encourage then with a soft voice.
You might just be pleasantly surprised though at how quickly your rattie can learn to weave polls without sides. You could use a food treat in your hand for the rattie to follow, or, like I did, just guide the rattie through with your hand, guiding the head in and out of the polls. They catch on pretty quick. Nineveh, my young does did really well after just three short lessons.
They learn this piece easily. Start at the end, that is stet the rat at the end of the piece so that they only have a few inches to go before they are finished with the piece. As they start enjoying the piece set them back closer and closer the the beginning of the piece.
In this photo is Nineveh who on this day is just learning to dismount they piece. It is important that your ratties learn to mount and dismount at the correct area of the piece as well as to run the course in the correct direction. You should always teach the rattie to run each piece in a one way order.
This piece of equipment is a solid piece so by setting your fancy rat with it's front feet ON the jump, the rat should get the idea. If not, give the fancy rat's bottom a boost over. Then try the piece again. I will just about promise you after the third boost your fancy rat will either climb or jump this piece with gusto.
Set the Fancy Rat on the Pause Table and keep your hand on the rat as you tell it in a soft voice to "staaaaaay" count outloud to 5 and at five kinda gently push the rat off the table in the way it is suppose to exit the piece of equipment.
Set the rat IN the Window of the jump facing out. It should come through the piece and make a big deal. Do this several times then set the rat in front of the piece and tap the opening with your finger, the rat should look where you are tapping and move toward that spot. If it does encourage the rat to come through. If not, set the rat back into the opening until it learns to come up to the opening on it's own.
After the fancy rat has learned this odd piece it will really enjoy doing it over and over. The Over Under has "pegs" placed high and low within a box such as the 'Weave Polls only the over and under are set side to side. The first peg is high the second is set low, the third high and so on. Usually an Over Under has six pegs...the Fancy Rats wish there were more, far more. Most rats will catch on to this piece right away, but if not it will only take a couple of lessons to get the fancy rat LOVING this piece. Set the rat into the piece and use you fingers to help the fancy rat along. If that does not work, move the fancy rats body along with your hand as best you can. Start at the end of the piece and backchain for best results.
The Cross Jump is a jump with a cross of two "sticks" in the center (think about a horse jump at a Steeple Chase) This is an easy jump for a rat to learn. Try to move the fancy rat toward the jump by tapping the table. If the fancy rat hesitates in front of the jump, set the rats front legs ON the cross of the jump and encourage the fancy rat over the jump. If the rat comes over, praise in both voice and treat. If the fancy rat does not come over gently lift the back end of same guy and it should get what to do. Fancy Rats are not only smart and agile animals, they love this "game" of agility and enjoy the equipment. More then one owner has been amazed how quickly the Fancy Rat will learn to use the equipment.
They love this piece...very little training is needed. Most rats will just take off once you set it on the beginning ladder. If not, start at the end and work the rat backwards... meaning "back chaining" not running the piece backwards. Set the rat near the end of the piece facing the off side. Encourage the rat to come off the piece by taking the steps on the ladder. After the rat has learn to do that set it further and further from the end, but facing the off side.
Wire A Frame
The Wire A Frame is one of the easiest pieces to train a rat to. Rats love to climb. With the Wire A Frame the rat can see the other side, has wire to grip its toes around, so it feels very safe and at ease on this piece.
What you will have to teach the rattie is to come up one side and go down the other. Many times the rattie just wants to "play" on the Wire A Frame, or to go to the top and look around, turn around and go back down the side it came up.
To teach the Wire A Frame set the rat on the piece facing up. Move your finger on the Frame and see if the rat will follow your finger. If the rat goes off to the side, turns around or wants to step off the piece, gently set it back on course and encourage the rat to go in the correct direction.
This is The Ballerina our Hairless Dumbo in this photos.
This is one of my favorite pieces of agility equipment, I just think it is a cute piece.
The one in this photo, I added a rat to show, is a bit small. We do have a larger tire toy, but have not made the frame up yet. This one is OK for smaller or young rats, but for the bigger guys would be tight.
This is an easy piece to train...just set the rat half way through it and encourage it out, next set it in front of the jump and encourage it through. I have taught this piece to several ratties and not had any training problems.
EARLY TRAINING FOR FANCY RATS
The first thing you want to do to train your rat for agility is to bond with the rat so that it will come to you and follow your finger on the table as you point to the equipment.
Spend time with your rat, let it sit on your shoulder and pet it alot.
Teach your rat to come when called and teaching the "shoulder" command will also help later while training your rat for agility.
TRAINING BABY FANCY RATS TO ENJOY AGILITY EQUIPMENT
There are many items you can use to teach your young rats to enjoy agility. Give them an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll in their cages to play with. Make a small Wire A Frame and encourage them to climb it. Make a small tire jump with a smaller tire like dog toy or use a hoop to teach your rattie to jump through. The list goes on and on, just use your imagination and have fun....Keep it Safe.
OLDER FANCY RATS AND AGILITY
When is it time to train a new younger fancy rat? When your older rat starts slowing down and is not as limber. As the fancy rat ages it too, like people, will get arthritis, harder hearing, poor eye site. Fancy Rat Agility will not be safe for the older rat any longer. I highly recommend that a person train two fancy rats for agility. Even while your fancy rats are still young it is good to have two to work with.
WHEN IT DOES NOT GO WELL
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, your rat will not want to participate. That's OK. Just end the training section on a good note and quit. Have your rattie do a trick or task that it does well and stop for the moment. Sometimes rats, like all of us, will just be distracted.
This is Nineveh at about 18 weeks who just spotted the TV and has decided she is not going to come when called. I waited a moment, recalled and turned her toward me...she came to me, I praised her and made a fuss but I knew to end the section at that point.
GOOD FOOD, WELL RESTED
Make sure your rattie is healthy, and it is getting the right nutrition and it is well rested. This is something every pet should have, but is so very important for a working animal. They will not be able to preform to their best ability without these three important things in their lives.
Make sure also you keep your rattie's environment clean and interesting for them. Toys given in your rattie's cages will give them a stimulation that might indeed help them want to learn Agility. A rattie that is stimulated in it's cage seems to learn faster then those that are not. Change toys often to peek their curiosity and keep them interested in playing with the toys.
Keep your rattie's cage and environment clean. Make sure they have a nice warm bed or hut to sleep in. This will help them stay healthy and think about how you feel in a clean environment as compared to a messy, dirty environment....yes, it makes a difference.
You alone are responsible for training your animals. Any training you do with your animals is your responsibility. We only tell of what has worked for us with our animals. We can not and will not except responsibility for something so far out of our control, people we do not know, training, who knows how, with animals we have never seen.
While at your computer why not have your ratties with you on your shoulder? They love to be with you and most are happy to sit quietly on your shoulder. Hint: When it is cold weather... both you and the ratties will enjoy the extra body heat!!