Agility-Getting Started-FAQ

IDEAS AND INFORMATION ON HOW TO START YOUR HAMSTER WITH ITEMS FROM AROUND THE HOUSE THAT ARE SAFE AND STABLE ENOUGH FOR YOUR PET HAMSTER. ALSO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED! OUR WEBSITES ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS, CHECK BACK OFTEN PLEASE. thanks

Some of these items are shown with ratties, but you get the idea. More hamster photos coming very soon. Use only items that are wide and low for hamsters, hamsters do not have the balance that a rattie has.


If you are thinking about training your Hamster, start today. Don't put it off.

Take many photos of your small pets in action. Make videos and share with your friends. Their little lives, compared to ours are so short, and too very soon they are gone.


JUMPS

Fruit Jar Jump

Jumps for any animal doing agility need to be large enough and stable enough for the animal it is built for. You do not want the jump to break if the animal puts it's weight on the jump to climb it, and hamsters do climb the jumps.

This is a full fruit jar. Since it is full it is less likely to move as the hamster climbs up on it. You could also use this type of jar after it is clean and washed, just fill it with rocks or the like.


TOY JUMPS

Meet Coal - Block Jump Agility

If you use toys such as building blocks, the type that snap together or not, be quite sure, quite sure, that the blocks are securely together. You can glue them together or make sure your snapping blocks are secure by using your hand to try the jumps as a hamster would cross over them. The jumps also need to be secure so that they do not fall over as the hamster climbs them.

This hamster's name is Coal.


WEAVE POLLS

Toilet Paper Roll Weave Polls

There are do many items you could use for Weave Polls. Make sure that each Poll is stable, that it will not fall over on the animal using them. And make sure that the Weave Polls are light weight enough that if one of more did fall on the animal using them, it would not hurt the animal.

Your Weave Polls should be neither to close to one another nor too far apart. You want to start with five or less. When the animal does five well, you can add a couple more on if you like.


TUNNELS

Hamster Agility Oatmeal Box Tunnel

I wish I had a nickle for every idea I have seen used for small animal Tunnels. For hamsters the best way to get started for FREE is to use a finished toilet paper roll. Again, there are safety concerns. Your Tunnels can not, or should not, roll when the animal is in them or headed into them. The tunnel should not be so long (to start) that the animal might go in and stay in or try to turn around within.

You might want to start your hamster with an Oatmeal box with both ends open. With something this large if your hamster stops inside or turns around you can easily reach in and correct the the behavior before it becomes a problem in your training.


BENDABLE TUNNEL

Hamster Agility Slinky Tunnel

Bendable or Posable Tunnels can be a lot of fun. BUT KEEP THEM SAFE! A slinky toy can be used if used correctly. The bendable tunnel needs to be set securely. You do not want to use a slinky when any part of it is not set on the table, ie dangling in the air. The spring will move as the animals come through it and a toe or nose could get pinched. These can be set up in an open circle, an S shape, a tunnel from one piece of agility equipment to another, the slinky or bendable tunnels have almost endless possibilities.


HOOP JUMPS

Nineveh Working The Hoop

Again, a nickle for everything I have seen used or could be used. To start and or to train your animal you need something that is small enough and has an opening enough for the animal to use.


PAUSE TABLE

pause box idea

The pause table needs to be stable and full enough to support the animals weight without bend or flex. It needs to be heavy enough not to move as the animal is getting up on it or coming down from it. It also needs to be large enough so that the animal is comfortable on it, not all squished up.


TEETER TOTTER

Coal Teeter Totter Book

Careful, Careful, Careful! You need a flat, wide, item that is on a small tetter, to start you animal on. The Teeter Totter should not wobble, it should teeter, it only goes back and fourth, with one end in the air at a time. The platform area should be off center to one side so that the Teeter teeters and does not "hang". The teeter under the platform should not be very tall at all. A Teeter Totter is NOT a Sea Saw. Sea Saws have a taller teeter and are a more advanced agility item. A Sea Saw should be built very stable and for the type of animal and out of proper materials.

A Teeter Totter can be a hard back book, teeterd on a ink pen or a kitchen large cooking spoon or the like. The hardback book in this photo id tettered on a butter knife.


SEA SAW

Hamster Agility Sea Saw

Sea Saws have a higher, larger, teeter attached to the swing board then a Teeter Totter. Please do not try to just use household items for this piece of equipment. Buy or build this piece for the animal that will be using it. Train with a Teeter totter first.

The Sea Saw is an advanced piece of Agility Equipment. This baby hamster was not really using this piece yet. He was just posing for the photo. He will not be trained to this piece for a while. He needs to be able to travel the tunnels, Teeter Totter and jumps first.


MUCH MORE ON IDEAS ABOUT WHAT CAN BE USED FOR EQUIPMENT FOR HAMSTERS TO COME!


FAQ

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 HAMSTERS 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 hamster is healthy and is bonded to the owner that will also make a huge difference when training Agility. Does your hamster love treats, that also may help in your training. All in all, it is not too hard to teach a hamster 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 hamster with that same perspective. I have honestly seen humans talk louder to an animal 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?

Hamsters 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 here's 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.

HOW DO I GET STARTED WITH MY HAMSTER AND HAMSTER AGILITY?

First and foremost, start with a healthy hamster that is tame. One that comes when it is called by name or at least follows your finger (with or without a treat) on a table. Please see our training page for more training information.

I HAVE MORE THEN ONE HAMSTER, CAN I START BOTH OF THEM TOGETHER?

Yes, but let's clarify "together". Train each animal one at a time with the other in a holding cage set up where it can see the other being trained. You may actually have more success training like this then someone training only one hamster off and by itself.

HOW OLD DOES A HAMSTER HAVE TO BE TO PARTICIPATE IN HAMSTER AGILITY?

My opinion is to start with a young hamster. Younger hamsters are often more agile and adventurous then older hamsters. Younger hamsters are not yet "set in there ways" as an older animal can be. That said, what is old? If you have a one year old animal I believe you can still train them. Even up to 18 months for a tame and happy pet.


WHERE CAN I GET AGILITY EQUIPMENT?

Most people make their own Agility Equipment. We do sell sets and pieces in our On Line Store here at this site. You can also use "make shift" equipment with items around your home. See above for ideas. Just make sure what ever equipment you chose it is safe and stable for your hamsters. Make sure you use wide and low Equipment. While hamsters do have a good time on the pieces, they are not dogs or ratties and do not have the balance and or depth perception that the others do.

HOW OFTEN DO I TRAIN?

I recommend you spend time with your hamster a few minutes, at least twice, every day. You do not have to be training each time, just spending time with your hamster taming it and letting it get used to you. I highly recommend that if you have an event coming that you spend at least 10 per day training or readying your hamster 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 pet will want to spend together.


WHAT PIECE OF EQUIPMENT SHOULD I START MY HAMSTER 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 A-Frame.

Keep working with the same piece until your hamster "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 hamster has learned the first piece well add another piece behind this first one. Work the hamster in a continuous matter. In other words have the hamster do the first piece then do not reward until it does both pieces....piece one then piece two, then reward. After the hamster 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 PIECE OF EQUIPMENT MAKE A FULL COURSE?

It depends on what you are doing at the time. Is this a training event? Has the hamster 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 host. For novice classes usually five pieces are used. It can go up from there.

It also depends on how many pieces of equipment are available for use. Do you own one piece or 20? Hamsters are smart and with good training and for a good treat many will run the course no matter how large it is.

MY HAMSTER 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 the hamster to run. Bring new and tasty treats. Make a bigger fuss over your pet as it preforms. Just make it fun for the hamster.

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 Pet 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 great time. 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. Send an Internet post out. 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, pet treats, information written out for folks about the next event.....take extra, someone may have forgotten theirs.

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. Dog Agility came next and so people called the jumps fences for quite sometime. When it came to rat and other small animal agility many people continued calling the equipment fences, even the tunnels may be called fences.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AGILITY COURSE AND A MAZE?

An Agility Course has equipment on it that the animal will menouver over, under around and trough. A Maze is usually a "puzzle" set up out of cardboard or wood with high walls and dead end halls that the animal 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, gerbil/gerbils, rat/rats/ratties, mouse/mice, guinea pig/pigs as well as rabbit/rabbits also enjoy 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 with their human, the more time spent training them, the better they will do at agility or trick training.


YOU ALONE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SAFETY DURING THE TRAINING OF YOUR ANIMALS. THESE ARE IDEAS. MAKE SURE THE ITEMS YOU USE FOR YOUR ANIMALS ARE SAFE AND STABLE. WORK IN YOUR HAMSTER IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT.

PLEASE JOIN US ON A YAHOO GROUPS ELIST CALLED THE AGILE RAT. WE ARE A FRIENDLY GROUP AND WE LOVE TO HEAR ALL ABOUT RAT AND OTHER SMALL ANIMAL TRAINING AND GENERAL SMALL ANIMAL CARE AND STORIES. YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT SMALL ANIMAL AGILITY TRAINING AND EVENTS, MEET OTHERS THAT ARE TRAINING AND ASK ANY RAT OR SMALL ANIMAL QUESTION ABOUT CARE AND OR TRAINING OR ANY THING ELSE YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW.

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