Getting Started & FAQ
There are many things you can use to train your mouse on an agility course and not spend a dime. Many of the items are throw away items, so really, you will be "recycling". Please do make sure any and all items you use for your pets, any pets, are clean and safe for your animals to use.
One idea is to build many agility pieces with an old clean cardboard box. Make sure it is put together well and if peed on, throw it out and make new.
When you go to Garage Sales or Flea Markets, check the toy boxes for little fences and other items that may be used for your Mouse Agility Course. I have found little toy horse set fences and gates that can be used for mice to jump. You can find hoops and other items that would work great to make items for your "littles".
Now I know you have some of these. Empty Toilet Paper Rolls laid on their sides can become Open Tunnels for your mice.
I highly recommend that if you are training your animals on an agility course not to put tunnels into their cages. They, the "littles" all love tunnels. You will have to train them to got through the tunnel, training to go into the tunnel is easy...coming out, well, that is where the training will be spent.
You might just see a lid that has been washed from off a liquid laundry soap....look again, it is a Mouse Size Pause Table.
What could you use for Weave Polls? These are thread spools. I sew for a living making animal items, so I save all the empty spools.
There are many items you could use for Weave Polls, just be sure what ever you use make sure they will not fall unto the animal as it walks or runs by them and could indeed touch/hit them. Even if what you use is not heavy enough to hurt the animal, it may scare the animal to the point of not wanting to "play" on the agility course any more.
This is a fun little jump made out of Coke tops. I have put popcycle sticks in between the tops to make a jump. I have the directions (as if you would need them to do this) on my The Agile Rat website. The glue may look a bit unsightly but is thick to make the jump stable for the mouse. I reinforced it on the outside with a glue gun.
The contents of this page for Getting Started & FAQ is still under construction. Please check back for more free ideas!!
I hope this page will help you with Frequently Asked Questions....(we just started working on this page so check back often)
HOW HARD IS IT TO TRAIN MICE TO RUN AN AGILITY COURSE?
Well? LOL That depends largely on the animal and the trainer. If you have trained dogs or cats or any type of animal you are "one up" on someone that has never trained before. If the mouse is healthy and is bonded to the owner that will also make a huge difference when training Agility.
Does your mouse love treats, that also may help in your training. All in all, it is not too hard to teach a mouse to run an Agility course. If you are consistent and fair with the animal, it will come relativity easy.
Think of it like this.....if someone came to you and spoke a foreign tongue and was trying to teach you something what would it take for you to understand? Work your pet with that same perspective. I have honestly seen humans talk louder to a animals thinking, I guess, that the animal would understand better if it were just a bit louder. LOL Now you understand what I am saying, ey?
Small pets can and do learn words we teach them. Words, not paragraphs. Keep commands in words and use the same word consistently. Something I have noticed with the average person when they train a dog....when they tell the dog "down" it might mean, "get off me" and another time it might mean to "lay down" and another time it might mean to "get off the couch". Now, most dogs can understand, but it takes longer. For instance, if you use the same word "down' for all three commands heres what might happen....you come in and the dog is sitting on the couch. You say "down" and the dog lays down on the couch and you get mad at the dog......who is in the wrong here? LOL Keep the same word for the same action you want and use it each and every time.
Mice are known for running the same path. So if you set up the agility course and show the mouse, by gently guiding it with your hand, where to go, it will learn the "path" to take each time.
HOW DO I GET STARTED WITH MY MOUSE AND MOUSE AGILITY?
First and foremost, start with a healthy mouse that is bonded to you. In my opinion raising a mouse from a baby is the best candidate.
IS A MALE OR FEMALE MOUSE BETTER TO TRAIN?
In my opinion, and another trainer will probably disagree, a male or buck mouse is easier to train to an agility course.
I HAVE MORE THEN ONE MOUSE, CAN I START BOTH OF THEM TOGETHER?
Yes, but let's clarify "together". Train each mouse, one at a time, with the other in a holding cage set up where it can see the other mouse being trained. You may actually have more success training like this then someone training only one mouse off and by itself.
Mice like to live with other mice. It is a good idea to train two mice from the same cage. Once they start moving through the agility course, they will most likely smell the "path" and go right along.
HOW OLD DOES A MOUSE HAVE TO BE TO PARTICIPATE IN MOUSE AGILITY?
My opinion is to start with a young mouse. Younger mice are often more agile and adventurous then older mice. Younger mice are not yet "set in there ways" as an older mouse can be. That said, what is old? If you have a mouse over 7 months old, you may want to start with a younger mouse.
Keep in mind that an "older" mouse, that is a geriatric, is not as agile as it once was. If you have an older mouse, do not start it in agility. If you have an older, geriatric mouse that has enjoyed an agility course....it is time to start a new younger mouse.
WHERE CAN I GET AGILITY EQUIPMENT?
Most people make their own Mice Agility Equipment. You can see some of our Equipment here at this site. You can also use "make shift" equipment with items around your home. See our Getting Started page for ideas. Just make sure what ever equipment you chose it is safe and stable for your animals.
The Agile Rat/Mouse Agility to offer Rat, Gerbil, Hamster and Mouse Agility Equipment Packages and pieces here at our sites.
HOW OFTEN DO I TRAIN?
I recommend you spend time with your animal a few minutes, at least twice, every day. You do not have to be training each time, just spending time with your pet.
I highly recommend that if you have an event coming that you spend at least 10 per day training or readying your pet for the event. An event can be competition, an organized training section with friends, a demonstration you are putting on for a local school, church or other organization.....or, even if you are just going to show off for your family and or friends. The more time you spend with your pet, the more time you and your rat will want to spend together.
WHAT PIECE OF EQUIPMENT SHOULD I START MY MOUSE ON?
The truth is, it does not matter. I do however highly recommend that you start with an easy piece such as a smaller jump or a low, wide Balance Bean.
Keep working with the same piece until your pet "gets it" and manipulates it correctly, getting on and getting off in the right manner at the same end of the piece each time.
After the mouse has learned the first piece well add another piece behind this first one. Work the mouse in a continuous matter. In other words have the mouse do the first piece then do not reward until it does both pieces....piece one then piece two, then reward. After the mouse has learned to run two pieces well and correct add a third piece and so on until you have your full course set up.
HOW MANY PIECES OF EQUIPMENT MAKE A FULL COURSE?
It depends on what you are doing at the time. Is this a training event? Has the mouse learned to use each piece of the course? Is this a Competitive Event?
In training you may use as many or as few as you like.
In an event the amount and what pieces would be set by the event giver.
It also depends on how many pieces of equipment are available for use. Do you own one piece of agility equipment or 20? Mice are smart and with good training and for a good treat many will run the course no matter how large it is.
MY MOUSE HAS LOST INTEREST IN TRAINING, WHAT DO I DO?
Change your training technics. If you train on the same table the same course the same direction each time your train (and I recommend this to start) change the side of the table you stand on, change the course, mix up the pieces of equipment so that it is a new course for your pet to run. Bring new and tasty treats. Make a bigger fuss over your pet as it preforms. Just make it fun for the mouse.
Many times if you start a new mouse, while the mouse you were formally working daily watches, it will refresh the oldsert to want to "play" again. Many times too, it will help both mice, watching one another to do better when running the course. (This does not work as well with mice as it dose with dogs, cats, rats...but it is true with all animals including human children).
THERE IS NO ONE IN MY AREA DOING AGILITY THAT I CAN FIND.
Maybe not, but I bet if there are other small animal owners they would be interested in learning more about Small Animal Agility. You might want to start a group. I did this in WI by just setting a date at a park and inviting friends that had rabbits and ratties to join me there for the fun. I took the equipment I had and we had a ball. We met twice a month and ate out, dutch treat, after the event. Some evenings we had as many as 14 people that participated.
Make or buy some equipment and find a folding table you can use to set up on. Set a date, time and place. Invite anyone you know that might be interested in coming with or without their pets. Put up fliers at pet stores, feed mills and maybe even take out an ad in a local paper. Be sure to make a list of what you want to take to the event and double check it. Ideas, equipment, animals, holding pens, something to wipe the equipment down with if soiled, animal snacks, information written out for folks about the next event.....
Make sure you have separate equipment for the mice. Gerbils and hamsters can share equipment (not at the same time, but the same pieces). Make sure you have larger items for rattie to use, and you may even want to invite Guinea Pig and Rabbit people...animal people are the best!!
For the first few times at these training events you will need to "host" them. Welcome each person as they come, take notice of their animals, introduce people as they come, set up the table before others get there, be a host.
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE CALL THE AGILITY EQUIPMENT "FENCES"?
Some people, mostly in the UK and Sweden call the equipment pieces fences because all small animal (including dog and cat) agility ideas came from horses in Steeplechase. Steeplechase is an obstacle course with many types of fences for the horse to jump. The jumps were made to look like fancy fences you might see in the country, so each jump is called a fence.
Dog Agility came next and so people called the jumps fences for quite sometime. When it came to rat agility many people continued calling the equipment fences, even the tunnels may be called fences. So it continues down even to mice.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AGILITY COURSE AND AN OBSTACLE COURSE OR A MAZE?
An Agility Course has equipment on it that the mouse will maneuver over, under around and trough. A Maze or Obstacle Course is usually a "puzzle" set up out of cardboard or wood with high walls and dead end halls that the pet must get through for a treat at the end.
I HAVE HEARD THAT OTHER SMALL ANIMALS ALSO DO AGILITY, IS THAT TRUE?
Yes, that is true. Many small animals, rat/rats, gerbil/gerbils, hamster/hamsters, mouse/mice, guinea pig/pigs as well as rabbit/rabbits also do agility. Each species has their own size equipment. Each species is a little bit different, but one thing is the same in training them, the tighter the bond, the more time spent training them, the better they will do at agility or trick training.
You alone are responsible for training your animals. Any training you do with your animals is your responsibility. We only tell of what has worked for us with our animals. We can not and will not except responsibility for something so far out of our control, people we do not know, training, who knows how, with animals we have never seen.
PLEASE JOIN US ON A YAHOO GROUPS ELIST CALLED THE AGILE RAT. WE ARE A FRIENDLY GROUP AND WE LOVE TO HEAR ALL ABOUT RATS, MICE AND OTHER SMALL ANIMAL TRAINING AND GENERAL SMALL ANIMAL STORIES. YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT RAT, MICE AND OTHER SMALL ANIMAL AGILITY TRAINING AND EVENTS, MEET OTHERS THAT ARE TRAINING AND ASK ANY RAT, MICE AND OTHER SMALL ANIMAL QUESTION ABOUT CARE AND OR TRAINING OR ANY THING ELSE YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW.
Below are a few of the Yahoo Group eLists that we host, we would love for you to join us on these.
-- The Mouse Agility Team
Mon, 05 May 2008 20:16:25 -0400