Using one of the wide range of large hamster cages available on the market has proven to be a very good choice for your furry friend. Giving pet hamsters enough space to roam around, and good quality accessories have been shown to significantly reduce their stress level. Add a quiet house environment to that, and you might just have a trainable hamster.
Of course, the hamster’s age is a factor to be taken into consideration. Just like with any other pet animal, the younger the pet hamster is, the easier it is for the owner to teach him new tricks, or even just to accept being touched and handled. Since these small rodents are known for minding their own business, training them can be quite a challenge.
A bit of hamster history
Hamsters are very small nocturnal rodents. Records show they have been domesticated and successfully bred in captivity somewhere in the early 1940s. Since then, hamsters have become very popular home pets, especially for children, due to their small size and easy care.
Interacting with your pet hamster is made a bit difficult by the fact that they are nocturnal animals. Hamsters usually spend the entire day hidden in their special houses or beneath the flooring on the bottom of their cage. It is at night time that they start their feeding, playing and cleaning activities.
For this reason, training a pet hamster is also a thing of a timing between the owner and the pet. Very similar to other pet rodents, with a little bit of scheduling and structure, you will soon have your pet hamster tamed and enjoying the activities you are doing together. Training your pet hamster is also a great way of bonding and strengthening your relationship with him.
What can a hamster learn?
There are a variety of tricks you can teach your hamster, as long as you have the time and patience to do so, and by using a reward-based training system. Once your hamster becomes accustomed to you, you can teach it to jump, climb or roll over. However, you need to be aware that this whole process takes a bit of time, love and understanding.
First things first, when you have just received a pet hamster, you need to give it the time and space to settle in. This means that for the first three days you are not to interact with him, not even to change his water or add more food to the bowl. All of these aspects should be resolved, in sufficient quantities, prior to your furry friend’s arrival.
Giving your hamster this time alone will give him the opportunity to get accustomed to the new surroundings, the environmental smells, your voice, and the overall pace of the household. This way, your pet hamster will develop a sense of safety, a routine, and when you first try touching the animal, the chance of him biting you is much slimmer.
Once this three-day stage is over, you can safely move on to step two: holding your hamster. Your pet should always feel comfortable with being held by you before you can even think of beginning training. This trust-based relationship you are developing now with your cute friend is the foundation of all training that is to come.
Training preparation tips
Training sessions should be short, a maximum of 15 minutes at a time, but it is advisable to repeat them at least twice a day. After every training session, you should allow the hamster play for a bit. Never make the mistake of waking him up to start training — schedule the training sessions when he is already awake, like late afternoons or evenings.
Choosing the right reward is very important. Sunflower seeds can be used as treats, as well as chopped pieces of fruits and veggies, or hard-boiled egg. It is definitely not advisable to use treats like chocolate, candy, citrus fruits or dairy products. Always keep in mind that these are treats, so they should be offered in limited amounts.
Since some tricks are learned faster than others, consistency of both training and expectations is very important. Spend as much time and training sessions needed for the basic skills to be acquired before moving on to the more difficult tricks. Keep things interesting for your pet by alternating between two commands, until he/she masters both of them.
The actual training
One of the first commands to be taught to your hamster friend is to stand. How do you do that? You should place the sunflower seed above your hamster’s head, close enough so he can smell it, and in a firm manner tell him “stand”. If he does what you told him, give the sunflower seed as a reward. If, however, your pet did not stand, repeat the word until he does.
Training your hamster to roll over can be a lot of fun. How can you do that? Place a sunflower seed on your pet’s back and tell him to roll over. If he does, give him the seed as a reward. If he still does not roll over, then keep on repeating the command until he does. Only after he rolled over should you give him the sunflower seed so as not to get him confused.
Teaching your pet hamster to jump can be a fun trick, too. Place a sunflower seed above your hamster’s head so he can see it. Move it across in front of him while saying “jump”. Typically, the hamster will leap a bit in trying to reach it. Repeat the command while doing the same thing until your pet associates jumping for the seed with your command.
Teaching your hamster to climb on your shoulder can be tricky. First of all, put the hamster on your shoulder and see if he is comfortable there. Only if he is comfortable can you pursue training him that way. Put your arm on a table or sofa, place the hamster near the wrist and guide him up the arm with a treat while saying “climb”.
Can you house train your pet?
Because of their continuously growing teeth, hamsters feel the need to chew on a constant basis. If you notice your hamster chewing on objects he is not supposed to chew on, say “no” or “stop” in a firm manner, and remove the hamster from that area. After that, offer a chewing alternative, such as a suitable chewing stick.
To better encourage your pet hamster to chew on the appropriate things, you can try rubbing carrot pieces or fruit pieces onto to a special wood stick or putting a little bit of honey across the wood sticks. Having plenty of chewing choices, a pet hamster is encouraged to chew on his preferred item that is also suitable for that.
If your hamster does, however, bite you for any given reason, completely avoid hitting it, punishing it or yelling at it. These actions will only make him scared of you and increase the chances of him biting you again in the near future. Try softly blowing air in its direction to distract his attention, put him back in his cage and give him some time to cool off.