The week of 2/1-2/8

February 4, 2009

Goal: Use operant conditioning to train Fluffy to touch a plastic bottle with her two front paws.


Phase I: Fluffy will touch the bottle with any part of her body, immediately hear a “click” and will sign track to the front right corner of the box and receive food.  This is the same corner that was used when she was classically conditioned.

Phase II: Fluffy will place her two front paws on the bottle, immediately hear a “click” and will sign track to the front right corner of the box and receive food.  This is the same corner that was used when she was classically conditioned.

Phase III:  I will extingush the use of the clicker as a reinforced.  Fluffy will place her two paws on the bottle and return to the corner to recieve food without hearing the click.  She will continue to do this until she is no longer hungry or has consumed 7 grams of food.


          Plastic Box


          A plastic bottle that holds at least 16 oz

          Pieces of food (I used larger pieces, see picture)

Example of the size of pellets used during training


After four days of training Fluffy her behavior has successfully been conditioned.  Operant conditioning was used in order to shape Fluffy’s behavior so that she would place two paws on a bottle in an effort to receive food.  She travels to the bottle, places her two paws on the bottle, hears a “click”, sign tracks to the corner, receives food and repeats this processes as long as she is hungry or until she has consumed 7 grams of food.  When I began training I had hoped that I would be able to condition Fluffy to walk across the bottle, however on the second and third day of training every time she got on the bottle she would jump out of her box.  On the fourth day, I decided that her behavior has been so strongly conditioned to touching two paws, that even this minor behavior illustrates how her behavior has been conditioned by a contingency=reinforcer relationship and decided to just continue reinforcing this behavior.   Fluffy is now able to complete this process in the absence of the clicker.  She now travels to the bottle places her paws on it and then travels to the corner to receive her food without ever hearing a click.  This demonstrates that Fluffy has grasped the idea that her receiving food is contingent on her placing her front feet of the bottle. 



The Week of 1/26-2/1

February 2, 2009

Goal: To classically condition my rat to approach the right corner of the box for food each time she hears a click (the click serves as the CS for sign tracking).

Summary of each day:

 January 26, 2009

Today is the first time that Fluffy has shown any understanding.  It appears that she is beginning to understand that she only receives food from the right corner.   In order to get a piece of food she must stand on her back legs.  Prior to training her she weighed 197.4 grams.   I was able to train her with 6 ½  grams and she was later feed 10 grams in her cage.

January 27, 2009

Today we suffered somewhat of a setback.  Fluffy was doing very well for the first 45 minutes of her training and then she found her reflection.  I spent the next 30 minutes trying to get her to focus, but was unsuccessful.  One explanation for this change in behavior, is that today I trained earlier than I normally due. Prior to training, she weighed 202.5 grams, I trained her with 5 grams and she was feed 4 grams in her cage.

January 28, 2009

Today Fluffy at times continued to struggle with her reflection.  She would work for about 30 minutes and then become distracted.  When she would begin engaging in the behavior, I would remove her from the box for 1 minute and then place her back in.  Prior to training Fluffy weighed 193.2 grams.  I was able to train her with a total of 9 ½ grams today and she was feed 5 grams in her cage.

January 29, 2009

Due to lack of her responding to the one click method, I decided to switch to the double-click method.  Immediately after switching to the double-click method she began to understanding the association of the click and food.  She was able to sign-track from a short distance.  However, becomes easy distracted when on the opposite side of the box.  Prior to training she weighed 194.2 grams.  She was feed 10 grams during training and an additional 4 grams in her cage.

January 30, 2009

Today Fluffy weighed 195.1 grams.   I was able to train Fluffy with 8 ½ grams.  Fluffy continues to understand short distance sign tracking and is gaining a better understanding of long distance, but is still not quite there yet.  After training her Fluffy was feed 7 grams in her cage.

January 31, 2009

Today was the day that I decided to film Fluffy’s progress. I trained her with 6 ½ grams and feed her 8 ½ grams.  Fluffy continues to respond very well to short and middle distances, but continues to struggle some with long distances.  After about 45 minus of training Fluffy seemed to lose interest in eating. Prior, to training Fluffy weighed 199.1 grams. After training Fluffy was feed 8 grams.

February 1, 2009

The focus of training today was to strengthen Fluffy’s sign tracking, especially from long distances.  With continued practice, Fluffy is improving her responses.  Prior to training today, Fluffy weighed 198.5 grams, she was trained with 5 grams and feed 10 grams in her cage.

Procedure for Clicker Training:

Stage 1:

 Fluffy was given a piece of food each time she came to the right corner of the box and stood up.  As she received the food, I would click the clicker.  I continued this for three days.

Stage 2:

On the fourth day of training, I began the double click method.  I would click the clicker, Fluffy would run the right corner and stand up, and she would receive food and simultaneously hear a second click.

Stage 3:

I am currently still in this stage, but the idea is to continue to reinforce sign tracking and eliminating the second click.  Reinforce the sign tracking by continuing to work with her daily.   Eliminate the second click by first starting with short distance clicking, then middle, and so on.   


A video of Clicker Training Fluffy






            Toady Fluffy explored the importance of balance.  She explored the rim of the box and eventually improved her balance.  Fluffy was also introduced to two other rats (Boy and Sly).  



            Today Fluffy met another rat (Cleo).  She continues to be extremely curious of her surroundings and others.



            Fluffy continues to gain confidence when working with me which is demonstrated by her changes in behavior such as less shaking. 



            Fluffy spent her time with me today a sleep.  For the first 15 minutes or so she explored, but after that she snuggled up and went to sleep.



            Again Fluffy spent her time with me today, asleep.  I weighed her for the first time today and she weighs 209 grams.  She was given 16 grams of food.  I will begin clicker training tomorrow.



            Today I attempted to begin clicker training.  Unfortunately, Fluffy was not interested in eating.  She did work for a little less than 1 gram of food.  After ingesting the one gram she was no longer interested in eating.  I will continue with clicker training tomorrow.  Prior to clicker training her she weighed 206.2 grams.  She was given 12 grams of food in an effort to motivate her to work tomorrow.  



Today Fluffy weighed 200.4 grams and she had consumed all of her food from yesterday.  Clicker training resumed today, Fluffy was given one small piece at a time, and just prior to eating the food I would click the clicker.  At first, the sound of the clicker bothered her and she would drop the food and run away.  After several trials, she began to no longer be scared by the noise.  After about an hour, Fluffy seemed to lose interest, however she did work for about another 30 minutes and ingest a total of 4 grams of food throughout training.  After training was completed for today, Fluffy was given 10 grams of food in her cage.  

Background Information

Sprague Dawley rats were first breed by…yep you guessed it, Sprague Dawley in Madison, Wisconsin.  Sprague Dawley rats are more commonly referred to as “lab rats.”Sprague Dawley rats have since then been widely used for research. Lab rats have played an important role in the development of many fields of science including psychology.  These animals provide researchers with an almost perfect model for research.  


General Information about Rats

Sprague Dawley rats are albino rats.  They have white fur and red eyes. Females generally weigh 250-300grams and males weigh 450-520 grams. Their life expectancy is 2.5-3.5 years.  In general, these rats are extremely clam and easy to work with.  They are intelligent and relatively easy to train.  Rats are social animals and enjoy the company of other rats and humans, so it is important for the rat’s owner to interact with their rat daily.  Rats are generally nocturnal; however they will adjust to the schedules of their owners if they are receiving attention daily.  Rats are said to be natural burrowers, and even though pet rats are domesticated they enjoy this activity as well.  They also enjoy being active and especially enjoy exploring objects like tunnels. 


General Care Guidelines

Rats require general care just like any other animal.  First, your rat should have a well vented cage.  The most important basic need of every animal is water, and rats are no exception.  Rats must have clean fresh water everyday.  It is recommended that a water bottle with a sipper tube as opposed to a water bowl.  Finally, rats should be feed some type of commercial rat food each day.      


Important Health Information

Rats in general are very much like us when it comes to health ailments.  The Sprague Dawley species are susceptible to allergies, ear infections, dermatitis, and even bacterial or viral infections. More serious ailments include stroke, heart attack, and tumors.  Symptoms to watch for include sneezing, itching, gasping, head tilting, swollen abdomen, and so on.  According to my research rats are particularly prone to respiratory infections, so it is important for their cages to be properly ventilated.  



Ace Animals, inc. 2006. Sprague Dawley. January 18, 2009, from


Pet Care Vetinary Hospital. Rats. January 18, 2009, from


Wikipedia. 2009. Laboratory Rat. January 18, 2009, from


Our First Weekend Together

January 19, 2009

Our Goal for Week 1:  Handle and observe Fluffy for at least one hour a day in order to tame her and foster questions about her behavior. 

Friday January 16, 2009 

Today was the first time that I meet Fluffy.  Her general attitude is curious.  She was extremely active for the first 15 mins of us meeting.  As time progressed she gradually became more comfortable.  I noticed that she was clicking her teeth together and through research have discovered that this is a sign of contentment, hopefully this means she likes me. 

Saturday January 17, 2009

Today I went to visit Fluffy and she appeared to have remembered me.  Unlike yesterday her general attitude was relaxed, even at the beginning.  Fluffy enjoys being petted because once again she was clicking her teeth.  Another sign of her trust is the fact that today she spent 15 mins. sleepy on me and an additional 40 mins. just sitting still being petted.  I allowed her to spend about 15 mins. in the wood box today.  This was the first time that I had placed  her in the box.  She traveled around the box making sure to smell and explore every inch.  

January 18, 2009

Today was an exciting day for Fluffy.  She discovered the pocket on the front of my sweatshirt and spent most of her time traveling back and forth for side to side through my pocket.  She appears to becoming more familiar with me and is beginning to trust me more and more each day.  I placed her in the wood box to allow her to explore it again, since she enjoyed it so much yesterday and when I was ready to pick her up, I placed my hand into the box and she came right to it.

Some Fun Cartoons

January 13, 2009