Sunday, September 21, 2008

If your mouse is getting flabby...

Agility training for hamsters (and rats, gerbils, mice and rabbits)

From the Milwaukee Examiner...

POSTED September 20, 6:46 PM
Teri Webster - Pet Examiner

Running Bear likes to spin his wheels.

Every day, he runs for miles on his hamster wheel and rides a motorcycle.

Well, he runs inside the large front wheel of his toy motorcycle, and that propels it around a small track.

But Running Bear is up for a new challenge, so he plans to start agility training.

His owner, Marna Kazmaier of Belle Fourche, SD, says that hamsters, rats, gerbils, mice and rabbits can learn to run -- or at least meander --over an agility course.

Many people may not know that hamsters can be trained just like other pets. At least that's what some proud "hammie" owners say.

The good news is that you don't have to teach them to bite. They do that on their own. Agility training takes a little more work.

Running Bear runs in the front wheel of his motorcycle.

"It's a lot of fun and easier than most people might think to train the little animals to run a course," said Kazmaier.

If you put a treat in your hand, most hamsters will follow it, Kazmaier explains.

"Hamsters, as a whole, are not agility course runners," said Kazmaier. "They kind of meander over the course, but they're cute all the same."

Hamsters do not jump over obstacles but climb over them so the pieces need to be stable, especially for bigger males, said Kazmaier.

More information on hamster agility training is available here.

Kazmaier also has Web sites for training gerbils, mice, rabbits and rats; "Bible Donkeys," and working goats and llamas.

Apparently, there isn't much to do in South Dakota...

"I had a chicken I taught to do a few tricks," Kazmaier said. "Training animals is kinda my thing."

According to the Web site, you can teach your hamster to stand on its hind legs. Take a sunflower and hold it over the hamster's head and say the word "stand."

Eventually, you can just tell the hamster to stand without a treat, the Web site claims.

Right. And I can teach a "hammie" to fly.