I’m writing this after two particularly frustrating days of clicker training. On Sunday, I had Louise coming to the “food corner” after I clicked about 70% of the time. I had almost completely phased out the second click (when she reached the food) and her behavior was looking very promising. I even have two great videos of her responding to the click… I was convinced that we had it down!
Then Monday rolled around and something about Louise’s behavior was just off. I came in for two sessions, one in the morning and one later that evening, and both had about 10 minutes of productive training. During each session, Louise spent the majority of the time walking to various corners, standing up on her hind legs, and sniffing the air. When she wasn’t doing this, she was grooming, scratching, or falling asleep! I have learned to recognize these behaviors as times during which Louise will not respond to the clicker at all. I like to joke that I could do a dance with the clicker and she would simply continue sniffing or grooming.
I figured that Louise was just having an “off day.” Maybe she was tired, feeling sick from her food, or something had scared her in the lab prior to me coming to train that had had some negative effect. Additionally, since I was able to get her to come to the corner when I clicked at least a few times during those sessions, I hadn’t completely given up hope.
Unfortunately, tonight’s session was anything but stellar. It was almost as if I was working with a different rat, and it seemed like we were back at square one. Although it was clear that Louise still knew where the “food corner” was because she lingered there nearly the entire time, she was showing no response to the sound of the clicker. Usually I can at least get an ear perk out of her, but today she just sat still.
Louise still managed to eat at least 40 or so pellets; however, that was only because I was going back to the “shaping” training I had started last week in which I would let her get a short distance away from the corner before I clicked and dropped the food. She was responding well to the “re-training,” until she began sniffing the air again and not responding at all. Eventually, she also began to leap and jerk around the tank, and she even tried to jump out once!
Additionally, a lot of my trouble stemmed from the fact that she wouldn’t even leave the food corner (which makes it somewhat hard to come running to the corner when I click!) And when she would leave the corner it was almost always because she was sniffing the air or grooming, which makes her nearly impossible to work with at all.
This behavior is extremely odd for Louise (especially the lethargic sitting in the corner) and I really hope it passes. I am hoping that it’s just some sort of fluke or unfortunate circumstance and not some biological rat issue. I can understand that living things can be unpredictable, but I never would have expected her to completely stop responding after doing so well for a couple of days. I also hope that it’s not something that I am doing wrong. I haven’t changed anything regarding Louise’s schedule and my techniques have essentially remained the same. I’ll continue to stay as consistent as possible.
I’ll be heading back tomorrow morning and hopefully there will be a change for the better.
Entry filed under: Carly and Louise.