Georgie Learns a New Trick

One thing I’ve been doing more of this semester is rat training. I started some clicker training with my rat Georgie last fall. However, I didn’t get too far past teaching food delivery and conditioning the clicker.

So far this fall we’ve worked on a handful of tricks, including targeting, standing on a platform (including increasing duration), and going through a tunnel. I am a teaching assistant at school for an introductory behavior analysis class. This week, since we were talking about shaping, I put together a short edited video of Georgie learning how to go through the tunnel.

On youtube: Clicker training a rat to go through a tunnel using shaping

In this video you can see how Georgie and I used shaping to break the final behavior down into lots of tiny little steps, first approaching the tunnel, then going through farther and farther, until she was finally going all the way through. Training this trick took several sessions over a few days. You can see in the video that later in the training she will often try things that earlier on were reinforced, but when she doesn’t hear the click, she tries going a bit farther.

So far, I’ve learn that rat training is super fun, but also quite a challenge!! Georgie is super, duper smart and she figures things out pretty quickly if I break the task down into enough steps and set her up for success. However, she also gets bored and frustrated super fast if I go in too big of steps or do not keep a high enough rate of reinforcement.

In fact, she’ll hop up on the windowsill and ignore me for a minute or so if she doesn’t think my training is up to par! But, this is always a good indicator of when I’m going too fast or not communicating effectively what I want.

I’ve learned that training a species that I’m not use to training is a great way to really improve my training skills and my mechanical skills. I’ll continue to report back as Georgie continues to train me how to be a good rat trainer!

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