Tomorrow, at the end of Brianna’s pet store birthday party, she will learn that she gets to keep a Teddybear Hamster. BTW, she has “hamster-sat” a friend’s hamster a few times over the last year, so she/we knows what to expect.
Introducing a small, rodent into a house with a fun-loving, squirrel-chasing German Shepherd is the story here. Previously I took to “managing the environment” when hamster-sitting (basically keeping Luna out of the room with the hamster). But now, the hamster will be living with us, so I thought this would make a great training opportunity.
Cage = Cue to Lie Down
My ultimate goal is to make the hamster in a cage a cue for relaxed behaviour from Luna. So, we need to take babysteps and break-down this behaviour.
Today, I prepared the cage. Then for our 1st session, I got super-yummy leftover sausage and chopped them into tiny pieces. When I put the prepared cage on the floor I began clicking/treating (C/T) for interaction with the cage — sniffing and touching the cage. Then I began to wait for her to look/touch the cage then look up to me — I C/T’d this progression with about 3 clicks. I would toss the treat so Luna would move then re-orient to the cage. Then I asked for a “down”, after 2 C/T I waited and she freely offered the down — this opened the “treat bar” and she got 5 treats, one after the other (“big payout for lying down near this cage” Luna’s thinking).
I then began to move the cage to the kitchen, then the coffee table, then upstairs on the floor of the girls’ bedroom. During this time she offered the “down” every time. I’m training her to generalize that cage (no matter where it is) means she should lie down & when she does, she get lots of yummy treats.
Then we took a break to play some tug-of-war, because she LOVES that game.
Eager for more (she’s a hard-working GSD), we did one more short session where I put the cage on Brianna’s dresser (where it will likely remain), then opened the cage, etc. All the while Luna would offer a “down” and get her C/T. We ended with 5 treats in a row for lying down, then one more rousing game of tug!
Total training time: 12 minutes (train & play)
Stay tuned for more from “The Hamster Diaries”.
At Smart Paws, we use positive reinforcement training techniques to teach you and your dog the skills needed for a happy, co-operative life together.