Hamster Agility Training
To teach a Hamster to run an agility course may just be easier then you think. Does your hamster take treats from your hand? If so, it might just follow your hand around the small course following the food in your hand.
This is a photo of Teddy. Yes, a Teddy Bear Hamster. Teddy is running over the "A Frame" a fun and cute piece of agility equipment.
Any type of hamster can learn to run an agility course. However, a Dwarf Hamster may need smaller equipment then a Syrian, you may need to be careful with a really long haired Teddy Bear Hamster so that it's hair/fur does not get caught in any of the pieces, and an older hamster may take longer then a younger hamster to teach. Each hamster is an individual and should be treated as such.
To train your hamster it must first be a tame and friendly hamster. So your training really starts there.
Hamsters are prey to many types of birds and other animals. If your hamster was not handled much as a baby it may see your hand as something coming after it to eat it...and it may try to fight your hand.
When lifting a hamster use two hand, scoop the hamster up and cup it. If you hamster has not been held much before you purchased it, use a plastic coffee cup or a empty clean plastic jar to pick up the hamster in the cage, when the hamster calms gently "pour" the hamster into your hand and calmly cup with the other hand. Only hold the hamster (and I suggest over the hamster cage or a bed so that if the hamster should get out of your hand it won't fall on the floor) for a short time, a minute or less. Slowly increase the time and pick up the hamster several times per day.
Talk softly to your hamster anytime you are near it's cage. It will get used to your voice.
After your hamster excepts sitting in your hand you may want to set a small treat into your hand for the hamster to eat as it sits in your hands. A sunflower seed, very small piece of broccoli, or a small piece of yogurt treat will be a good choice....and tempting for the hamster.
Some hamsters are not afraid to try any of the equipment, but a more timid hamster will need to be introduced to each piece slowly. It may take several training sections before your hamster is comfortable running a full course.
In early training don't add another piece of equipment to the course until the hamster is doing well with the pieces you have already set up. It may be a slow or fast process, but let the individual hamster make the decisions on how fast you set up a large course, meaning, take you lead form how fast the hamster is learning and enjoying the course you have set up.
One thing is for certain, the more time you spend with your pet, the more time you will want to spend with your pet and it will want to be with you. The more time together, the tighter the bond.....and then, the easier the training will go.
You will be building not only a bond but also trust. An animal that trusts you is not afraid to do what you are asking it to do.
Do not train more then one hamster on an agility course at one time. The hamsters will be more interested in fighting or breeding with one another then learning to play with you.
Let me clarify, it is fine to use the same equipment, in fact the same course for more then one hamster or even a hamster and a gerbil, but not at the same time. Put the first animal away before beginning the next on the same course or equipment.
If you teach your hamster to learn to learn....give treats and verbal rewards, it will make each training step a bit easier the next time around. The more the hamster learns and is rewarded for learning and doing, the more it will want to learn and do. Thus we call that "learning to learn".
While training your hamster or other small animals to run an agility course, set the course up the same, that is keep the pieces in order, each time you set it up for them.
Many people use a wall, fence or some sort of barrier to keep the small animals moving forward down the agility course so that the small animals does not become distracted a go off course.
This Pause Table will be set up at the end of each of my hamster or gerbil agility courses. You can't see it very well in the photo but the piece has a little treat bowl. Yes, I will put a sunflower seed in the bowl for the hamster to have at the end of the agility run creating a motivation for the hamster.
You can use a treat at the end of your course to train by backchaining. Backchaining is to teach something "backwards". You would put a treat in the Pause Table, set the hamster on the Pause Table a few times til it learns that the treat is there. Then let the hamster climb up the Pause Table for the treat. After it learns to climb up for the treat. Set another piece of agility equipment in front of the Pause Table. We will say we set a Bar Jump in front of the Pause Table. Now have the hamster climb the Bar Jump then up the Pause Table to get the treat. After several sections add another piece in front of the Bar Jump. Say, an "A" Frame. So next the "A" Frame is added and the hamster goes over the "A" Frame, then the Bar Jump, then up the Pause Table to get the treat. Add another piece in front of the "A" Frame.....then the next adding until your hearts content (within reason).
Along with a treat even small animals enjoy and or appreciate knowing your are happy with their performance. Verbal praise, a clicker or other sound to let the animal know that it did a good job is encouraging to it.
Even if you do not own Hamster Sized Agility equipment you can get started training your hamster or other small animals to run an agility course. Just make sure the items you are using are the correct size as well as safe and stable for the animals.
You can use all types of house hold items for hamster agility pieces. If you have a small hamster, a toilet paper roll could become a tunnel. You can use a book set on a pencil for a Teeter Totter. Five pens set straight up in a link of clay can become Weave Polls.
I have seen a large elaborate mouse agility course made almost completely out of cardboard boxes cut and crafted into agility equipment. You are only stopped by your own imagination.
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.
DO NOT LET ANY MORE TIME GET AWAY! START TRAINING YOUR HAMSTER TODAY! HAVE FUN, TRAIN FAIR, BRING TREATS! Visit often. We are designing new Deluxe Hamster Agility now.
We do host a few fun elists at the Yahoo Groups website, we would love for us to join us and "chat" about animals training, cute things they do and all about them.