Posts filed under ‘Erika and Penelope’


After clicker training our next assignment was having our rat do a trick. I have been working this past week with Penelope to go through a tunnel, which is a plastic cup. I took a solo cup and cut the bottom out of it. I tapped it to the floor of the aquarium. I have been shaping Penelope to go through the cup and I think she has it. At the beginning of introducing this trick Penelope was very distracted by the cup. The first time I tried to train with her, I got nothing accomplished because she was seemed to be too interested in jumping on the cup, trying to chew the cup and rip it off from the floor. The first step in shaping that I did was when she put her head in the cup I clicked. Once she got use to this the next step was half her body in the cup. In this video you can see her standing on the cup and her first stages of shaping.

After a week of practice and shaping Penelope is completely going through the cup now. Here is a video showing off her new trick!!  


October 5, 2008 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Penelope is Clicker Trained!!!

We have finally reached our goal. It was a long hull but Penelope is finally clicker trained.When you condition a rat to be under stimulus control by the click of a clicker this is called clicker training. In this class we had to clicker train our rat to hear the clicker and run to the corner with food. I want to summarize the past couple of weeks that I have had with Penelope, the ups and downs I have had with clicker training.

 First and most importantly, I spent about a week with Penelope just getting to know her. We became comfortable with each other before I started to train her. I think this is very important, in order for your rat to have success. The other important factor before clicker training is knowing your rats weight and about how much they eat a day. You need to know this so you can cut down on their food, that way when it is time to train they participate. I had a major problem with this. Every time I went to train Penelope she would not be hungry enough so she did not have motivation to move toward the food. I cut Penelope’s food down to half of what I was giving her, about 15 grams a day. Once I saw that this amount worked than I stayed consistent with that amount. I weigh Penelope everyday to make sure she is maintaining her average weight and I am not starving her. Also, when clicker training be sure to train in a quite non-distracting environment, you will see the best results here.

Now that Penelope was hungry enough we began clicker training. My first method was placing the food in the bottom right hand corner and clicking right before Penelope ate the food. This was a great starting point. This method helped Penelope figure out this was now the “food corner.” One problem I had was my food pieces were too big so I was not getting many trails in per day. I made the pieces smaller which increased the trials I got in and I placed the food in the corner while Penelope was not looking. Penelope was still startled by the clicker at this point, so when she heard the clicker she would run across the aquarium to eat the food. This gave me the perfect opportunity to put a new piece of food in without her seeing me. I felt Penelope and I were not moving forward with clicker training at this point. In class we discussed our progress and several people shared a different method they were trying, clicking when they dropped the food as well as when their rat ate the food. Everyone seemed to be having success with this method, so I gave it a try.

 The new method ended up working perfectly. I was able to start shaping her at this point. I wanted Penelope to start getting a little bit away from the corner and still respond to the clicker. Each new trail she would get a little bit further and further away from the corner. I found new problems here. I was not sure if Penelope was responding to the sound of the food dropping or the clicker, so I decided to start clicking twice. The second click covered the sound of the food dropping. Another way to cover this was not dropping the food until Penelope got to the corner. Also, I infer that Penelope was making an association with my hand and the food. At certain points during training I would stick my hand over the corner and not drop any food. After a few rounds of this, she was done with my hand. Another point to make is that during training Penelope did a lot of grooming, scratching, and sniffing. I had the best responses to the clicker when I made sure she was not busy and she was not distracted. The best advice I can give to anyone clicker training is to be consistent, it is really important!

  I continued shaping her with this method and now I feel like she is clicker trained. She still gets somewhat distracted, but once she is done doing whatever she is doing she comes to the corner. Penelope runs to the “food corner” after hearing the clicker stimulus about 80% of the time. This is when you know your rat has got it!


 This is a video that shows Penelope is clicker trained!! Enjoy!









September 23, 2008 at 4:28 am Leave a comment

New Method

I have tried a new method and seems to be working. I think that my previous method was useful and a good starting point, but I think this was a good next step. The new method involves me clicking and then dropping the food. When Penelope runs over to eat the food I click again right before she eats it. I have a few videos to show how Penelope’s progress is coming. In the first video you can see how I’m starting the shaping process. I let Penelope get a little bit further away from the food each time before I click the clicker.

In this second video you can see how Penelope is on the other side of the aquarium and when she hears the clicker she runs back to get the food. Exactly like she is suppose to!

September 23, 2008 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Erika and Penelope- Clicker Training

We are about a week into clicker training and both Penelope and I are learning lots! Penelope is not completely clicker training, but she is getting much better. We have been at this for many many hours and it is beginning to pay off.

Penelope finally started to participate. She takes a minute to get use to the environment she is in when training and then she is good to go. She has been doing a lot better now since her feeding time and amount of food are more consistent. CONSISTENCY is key when clicker training!!

I am posting a video that will show Penelope’s progress and how I am attempting to clicker train her. In the video you will notice that Penelope is still a little scared of the clicker.  My method is to put the food in the bottom right hand corner everytime. Once she gets to the food I click right before she picks it up. You will see that when she hears the clicker she runs to the other side of the box to eat and then returns to the corner. This is a good start. I have trained her where the food is going to be, but now I need to associate more with the clicker to the food.

There are a few problems here with my method that you will see in the video. First, I have not been able to get a lot of trials in with Penelope because she gets too full. You can see in the video that it takes her awhile to eat the food, so I have fixed this problem now with making the food smaller. Also, when Penelope runs to the other side of the box to eat the food, she is easily distracted when she is finished.  Penelope pays a lot of attention to my hand. I try to put the food in when she is eating the previous piece that she picked up. I also stick my hand in the box every so often so she sees that everytime she sees my had does not mean food.

We are still working hard. This video shows a great first step to clicker training. I think I am actually going to start a new method with her that will hopefully eliminate some of the problems I am having. Cross your fingers!!

September 18, 2008 at 2:03 am Leave a comment

Erika and Penelope

I have a little bit of catching up to do. First, Penelope and I met for the first time on Sept. 2. It was not love at first sight as I had hoped for, but I definitely thought a friendship was in our future. Penelope was very shy and timid. Most of the time when I handled her she would pee on me. After many hours of bonding she has gotten a lot better. I like to think she is excitied to see me. One of her favorite things to do is climb in my lab coat and crawl around. She also likes to play in my arm sleeves. She seems to be more comfortable with me. I would enjoy more time with her before I start training, but this class is only a semester and we have to get moving.  Penelope and I will be just fine together!

We started clicker training yesterday. I do not feel that we have made any significant progress. I am scared that I am starving her too much. When we start, Penelope is more interested in the box she is in than the food. We have tried several times, but she just has not gotten comfortable being in the box yet. I am going to have to let her play around in the box for a while before I start next time. Whenever she did grab the food, as soon as I would click it scared her and she dropped the food and ran away. I do not think she is making any connections yet. I gave her food today after I left and will take it away in the morning. We will try again tomorrow afternoon. Wish us luck!

September 10, 2008 at 10:29 pm Leave a comment


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