Flower is one of my young rats. Even though I’ve had her about a year, I have not done a whole lot of training with her. (Although, she has learned some really cute tricks.) We have lots of training plans for this fall, though!
Targeting is a fun skill to teach an animal that is new to clicker training and it can be a great foundation skill for other behaviors.
Targeting commonly means teaching the animal to touch its nose to an object. (Check out Willy Wonka the pig learning to target.) However, trainers often teach animals to target other body parts as well. (Here’s Ginger the dog learning to touch her shoulder to my hand.) Once an animal understands the concept of targeting, a trainer can use targeting to teach all sorts of important skills and fun tricks. Targeting can also be a great way to ask an animal to move in a certain direction, without having to force the animal. For example, you could use targeting to ask your dog to step on the scale at the vet clinic. And here’s a fun post about targeting with a horse from a couple of summers ago. I used targeting to teach this young horse to be comfortable and confident when riding down the road.
So, back to Flower the rat. I have been teaching Flower to target the eraser end of a pencil. Since Flower is pretty new to targeting, I’m keeping the target pretty close to her so that it is easy for her to succeed. I also had to adjust how I held the target stick so that it was easy for her to find the eraser end of the pencil. As well, notice how and where I deliver the food rewards in the video. I deliver the food to the right side, so that Flower has to turn away from the target. This moves her just a little bit away from the target so that she is in a good position to find it again and make the next response.
Watch on YouTube: Flower the rat learns to target