Trick Training

February 9, 2009 at 7:11 am (Uncategorized)

In this week’s project, I taught Bianca to crawl through a tunnel and stand on a pedestal. In the first two days of training, I spent 15 minutes reviewing the clicker training and 45 minutes shaping the trick. This blog will outline the steps of the training process and demonstrate Bianca’s current progress.

Stage 1:

1. Click after Bianca crawls through the tunnel

2. Reinforce outside of the tunnel

Stage Two:

1. Introduce pedestal

2. Click after Bianca crawls through the tunnel

3. Click after Bianca touches聽 pedestal

4. Reinforce Bianca above pedestal

Stage Three:

1. Click after Bianca crawls through tunnel

2. Click after Bianca climbs on pedestal

3. Reinforce Bianca above pedestal

The following video depicts the 4th trial in Stage Three.

After 5 days of training, Bianca consistently completed the tunnel-pedestal task. After Bianca accurately finished the trick in a 20 consecutive trials聽 I attached a bell ringing task to the end of the behavior sequence. In preliminary trials, the number of successful completions of the tunnel-pedestal task diminished substantially and correct bell-ringing behavior was slow and sporadic. The following video demonstrates her progress after 140 trials of bell training over a 2 day period.


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Weekend Update

February 2, 2009 at 3:24 pm (Uncategorized)

I have successfully eliminated the second click and decreased Bianca’s reaction time. Here’s a video of our progress.

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Trick Ideas

February 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm (Uncategorized)

After observing Bianca’s natural behavior, I have developed a few ideas for her trick.

  • crawling through a tunnel and ringing a bell?
  • pulling a box across her cage with a string?
  • standing on a platform and taking a bow?
  • running in a pattern while in the training box?

All of these tasks seem to align with what she likes to do naturally. I hope to decide on a specific trick by the end of today (2/2/09).

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Clicker Training Questions

February 2, 2009 at 6:07 am (Uncategorized)

I encountered a number of problems/questions regarding my rat and her learning process during this week. I will attempt to recreate and answer some of these questions in this blog.

How should I introduce Bianca’s food into the testing environment?

I chose to introduce Bianca’s food into the training box by holding a small pellet outside of a hole in the side of the training box. This technique helped in maintaining the consistency of where Bianca’s food appeared. Furthermore, Bianca was not confused by any of my movements because of the size and position of the hole. This technique ensured that Bianca did not associate the reinforcement with my hand instead of with the clicker.

How should I feed Bianca as she undergoes clicker training?

I chose to only feed Bianca 13 grams of food everyday during clicker training. Oftentimes, I fed Bianca the entire 13 grams during the clicker training sessions. If she did not finish the food during training, I would leave the remaining pellets in her cage overnight. I found that Bianca rarely become sated in the training process and maintained a healthy weight throughout the week. If she did ignore the food at any time during training, I would supply her with water so as to quell her thirst and increase her desire to eat more.

Does Bianca really notice the clicker?

During the first two days of training Bianca showed no signs of hearing the clicker. Unlike the other rats, Bianca did not move or startle after the first click was administered. To ensure that she could actually hear the clicker, I decided to click very loudly directly outside of the hole in her box. This seemed to increase the salience of the stimulus and caused Bianca to pause or approach the corner as the click was administered.

Does the time of day affect Bianca’s performance?

I conducted trials at many different times during the day. The time of day did not seem to affect her performance. However, I refrained from training her late at night on one day and then early in the morning on the next day so that she would not lose interest in food too quickly.

Does Bianca get distracted by other clickers in the room?

Yes and no! Bianca would often run to her food corner when she heard another student’s click. If she was clearly running to the corner in response to a loud click, I chose to reinforce her with food. However, on many occasions Bianca would ignore the clicks of other students. Could there be a maximum and minimum volume that Bianca hears/responds to? I would like to investigate this further in future training sessions.

If I change the orientation of Bianca’s box, will she still run to the corner that is closest to me? Or will she run to the corner with the hole?

I have tried to answer this question on numerous occasions. When I change my position in relation to the box, Bianca still consistently runs to the corner with the hole. However, her reaction time seems slower and she will often look up at me from the box as she moves towards the hole. It seems as though Bianca pays more attention to where the hole is positioned than to where I am positioned. I have not tested this question extensively because I do not want to disrupt the training process in any way.

How permanent is Bianca’s new behavior?

This is a question I am curious about but have not tested. If i did not clicker train her everyday, would her behavior become extinguished? I will be anxious to see how Bianca reacts to the clicker after we have finished our experimentation during this semester. Further research would have to be conducted to effectively answer this question.

Have I exceeded my word limit for this blog????

Probably yes. In an effort to be concise, i’ll discuss my other questions in a later post. 馃檪

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Clicker Training Details

February 2, 2009 at 4:39 am (Uncategorized)

Clicker Training

Tomorrow marks the end of our first clicker training week. In this blog I will describe the training materials, the training procedure, and the goals I have established for this coming weekend.


Bianca was trained in this box. The feeding hole can be seen in the lower right hand corner.


This is the size of the pellets I used for training. The middle pellet was used during the first two days of聽 training while the smaller pellets were used for the rest of the training process.


After Bianca adjusted to the novel environment for 3 minutes, clicker training began. For the first two days, I administered one click, presented food, and administered another click just before the food was consumed. Bianca showed no signs of fear or surprise at the sound of the clicker during the initial trials. Bianca spent most of her time running around the box, grooming herself, and attempting to escape from the container. After completing two 2-hour sessions, Bianca did not respond to the clicker in any way.

On the third day of training, I introduced shaping techniques. Initially, I only administered a click and presented food when Bianca was already in the correct corner. I will refer to this stage as the close-trial stage. After 15 trials, Bianca would consistently touch her nose to the hole in the box after hearing the first click.

This video was taped at the end of day 3 (1/23). Food was not presented until after Bianca touched her nose to the hole in the box.

On the 4th day, I began administering a click while Bianca explored the center of the box. By the end of day 4, Bianca responded correctly to 38 out of 45 trials. A correct response was defined by Bianca touching her nose to the hole within 5 seconds of hearing the click.

This video was taped after 13 trials on the 4th day (1/24).

On the 5th day of training, I attempted to administer the first click while Bianca was in the third section of the box. I continued to click once before the food was presented and once just before the food was consumed. Bianca was less successful with this stage than the previous two stages. She continuously became distracted and often groomed herself after I administered the first click. On a few occasions, Bianca turned her head at the sound of the click but did not immediately move towards the corner. This stage of training was continued during the 6th day.

This video was taken in the middle of the 5th day (1/25).

As is apparent, Bianca still has a long way to go. My goals for this weekend include:

  • Increasing the speed of her response when in the third section of the box

  • Increasing the rate of correct responses to 95% from all sections of the box

  • Removing the second click from the training process

  • Teaching Bianca to distinguish my clicks from the other clicks occurring in the room

  • Examine her behavior so as to determine what type of tricks might come naturally to her

Stay tuned for a video from this weekend鈥檚 training sessions and troubleshooting tips from the clicker training process.

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Week 1 and History

January 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm (Uncategorized)

My goals for the first week were not immensely ambitious. My primary goal was to become comfortable in feeding and handling her while observing her behavior. After spending an hour in the lab everyday, both the rat and I felt at ease as I held her. Her level of comfort became apparent as she allowed me to pick her up out of her cage, feed her by hand, and place her in my pocket without attempting escape. Towards the end of the week, Bianca would run to the front of her cage and stand on her hind legs as I entered the room, possibly demonstrating that she could recognize my voice and scent.

Sprague-Dawley History

Being cognizant of Bianca鈥檚 history and breed helped me to better understand her behavior. Sprague Dawley rats belong to the Rattus Norvegicus species and were originally developed from the Wistar strain. Because of their calm demeanor and comfort with handling, the Sprague Dawley rat is ideal for laboratory studies of pharmacology, toxicology and general behavioral research. Female Sprague Dawley rats conventionally weigh between 250 and 300g while male rats weigh between 450-520g. Their typical life span of 2.5 鈥 3.5 years is often curtailed by respiratory infections, cancerous tumors, or infections in the eyes, ears, feet, or tail. Because of their proneness to certain health issues, Sprague Dawley rats should be carefully looked after while in the laboratory setting. Cage ventilation, fresh food, and fresh water is especially important when creating a safe enviromnent for a Sprague Dawley rat.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Sprague Dawley is their unique anatomical structure. Sprague Dawley rats, like other rodents, have sharp, open rooted incisors that grow continuously throughout their lifetime. Because of their regular teeth growth, Sprague Dawleys should be provided with coarse and hard food that will effectively file down their incisors. Sprague Dawley rats are also unable to vomit because of the curvature of their esophagus. Stomach and intestinal problems may occur in older rats because of the structure of their digestive system. Furthermore, Sprague Dawley rats are known to respond to increasing temperatures by adjusting the vascularization of its tail.

Because of their unique anatomical structure, consistent genetic make-up, and kind demeanor, Sprague Dawley rats are ideal for our ABA course. If healthy and cared for, their behavior in the laboratory should exemplify the learning phenomena that we discuss in the classroom.


Ace Animals, Inc. (2006). Sprague Dawley. Retrieved January 28, 2009, from聽


Sprague Dawley Rat. (2009). Retrieved January 28, 2009, from the Wikipedia Wiki:


Sprague Dawley Rats. (2009). Retrieved January 28, 2009 from


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