Small Animals

Hamster Tricks

I found this video highly amusing, because I have had hamsters in the past, but mine could never do tricks. So, I started looking into it a little bit. I found out that, like many things, there is a right way and a wrong way to train a hamster.

The approach these people used in the video was purely for entertainment purposes. Therefore, it wasn’t the friendliest approach for the hamster.

Hamsters react in a cage much the same way they would in the wild. They stuff their cheeks with food to hoard in a safe place and make little nests to sleep in. Instead of providing ample tunnel digging space though, we give them plastic tunnels and domes to satisfy that need. When a hamster is scared in the wild it’s natural response is to hide. Pet hamsters don’t have as many options for hiding spots, so if it can’t find a place to hide it will lay down and play dead. Playing dead is a sign of extreme anxiety and is enormously stressful on the little fuzzy creatures.

If you truly want your hamster to do tricks, then positive reinforcement is the best way to train your hamster. Trying to force them to do something will likely only result in injuring your little friend and that should never be the desired outcome. Using treats will make them far more cooperative.

The best time to train your hamster is at night, since they are mostly nocturnal creatures. An excellent way to tell which treat you should use in training is to gather five or so different types of food and the same amount of paper cups. Then place one kind of food under each upside-down cup in the bottom of your bathtub. Put your furry friend in and see which one it goes for. That should be the food you use for training and use it only for training.

You may need a clicker that you can use to get the hampster to associate it with treats. Make a click, give a treat; repeat. It’s important not to move on until you have completed this step.

Once your hamster looks to you expectantly for a treat after each time you click, then you can try something new. Try to get your hamster to follow something like a pencil or a pen, then click, treat. Start small and work your way up to having your hamster follow something through a tunnel or over a small set of stairs. Always use the same thing for it to follow and always reward with the same treat.

Training any animal can be a tedious job. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience which can be stressful. Teaching is done best with kindness, remember that during the hard times and you will be rewarded with good results.

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Julie Antonson

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