How To Train Your Rat To Come When It’s Called: An 8 Step Program

Did you know that you rat is an incredibly smart animal? Well, it is and if you want to, you can teach it to respond to its own name in the same way that a cat or a dog might respond. In fact, you can get it to come when it’s called. We’ll show you exactly how to do it and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is!

How To Train Your Rat To Come When It’s Called: An 8 Step Program includes how to name  your rat, how to motivate it, how to set up the learning environment, how to distance yourself, how to call it, how to reward it, how to grow the distance and when to cut off the treats because you’ve succeeded!

In addition to teaching you rat to come when it’s called, we’ve also got a bunch of other neat tricks you can teach your rat after it masters responding to its name.

An 8-Step Program To Teach Your Rat To Come When It’s Called

Before you begin teaching your rat to come when it’s called you need to have completely tamed and socialized your rat. It’s not going to start obeying your commands if you don’t have a working relationship – so, if you haven’t done this, you might want to check out our complete guide on this subject, first.

Choose Your Rat’s Name

Possibly the most important step in teaching a rat to respond to its name is to choose an appropriate name for it.

While you may feel like giving it a long and silly name (many people do because it seems “right” for small animals) – your rat isn’t going to be able to remember that and you may need to spend several years trying to train it to respond to that kind of interaction.

So, if you can’t bear to give your rat a short name, for the purposes of this trick – give it a nickname. Otherwise, give it a name that is two syllables long.

Why two syllables? Well, all the other words you teach your rat will be a single syllable long and are commands. So, two syllables help this one stick out in the rat’s mind. Any longer though and your rat will forget.

You can call you rat whatever you like within this constraint and we wouldn’t presume to tell you what to name your rat. Go wild!

The Best Motivator Is Food

When teaching rats anything and, indeed, while bonding them in the first place – you quickly learn that rats are kind of single-minded and what they have on their minds is food. Lots of food if they can get away with it.

That means your best instruction tool is treats of a food-type. Pick their favorites whether it be meat (which should always be lean – too much fat is not good for rats), vegetables or fruit. It ought to be clear what they love best after a short period of experimentation.

It is this that you’re going to use to reward the rat when it gets things right.

Take The Rat Somewhere Familiar With Little Noise

Rats are clever for small animals, but they have a fairly limited attention span. If you try and train your rat somewhere noisy or full of distracting smells or sights – it’s going to end up confused and won’t be focused on learning the trick.

The best place to learn is in a small empty room or on a table with nothing on it.

Distance Yourself From Your Rat

Now, that you have the rat and the room, you need to move away from your rat. Place them a couple of feet down the table and then place a treat in your hand. Show the rat the treat and then wait for them to come for it.

Call Its Name Out

You should then start to call your rat by name. “Jimlad!” Don’t be too loud. Try and make the noise emphatic so that the rat can understand that it’s supposed to grab their attention but not so loud that it makes the rat afraid.

You may need to do this a few times before you have your rat’s undivided attention. Just be patient. As a last resort, get a little closer to the rat and try again. This is the bit of this training that requires the most patience. Don’t give up!

Treat Time For Success!

As soon as your rat comes to your hand, you want to reward it for doing so. This is how you rat learns that obeying your orders is a good thing because they get rewarded for it.

You may also want to lavish them with praise, give them a little pet or a scratch behind the ears too. The more your rat understands that good things come from being called, the more it’s going to be happy about being called.

More Space!

Once you’re finished praising your rat it’s time to repeat the trick. You want to gradually increase the distance between you and your rat as you do this – eventually you should be able to call the rat’s name and it will come from absolutely anywhere.

However, don’t overdo it. You want to run this exercise for no more than 10-15 minutes. Otherwise, you rat will get bored and despondent. You can always run another session later in the day or the next day.

When To Stop The Treats

There should come a time when your rat always responds to being called. When that glorious day arrives, it’s time to cut down on the treats. You should start to replace the with praise or some gentle petting, instead.

You don’t want your rat to get fat and there are other tricks it can learn that will still bring it treats.

8 Other Awesome Tricks You Can Teach Your Rat

Now that you’ve taught your rat to come when it’s called – it’s time to break out and be even more ambitious because that’s not the only trick that you rat can learn. In fact, they can learn at least another 8 tricks (and the last one, while a little challenging to teach, is mind-blowingly awesome).

So, let’s take a look at how each trick works and what you need to do to help your rat master it:

The Shoulder Ride

This one should be very easy for your rat to learn because between us, rats really love spending time on people’s shoulders. It allows them to see the world and at the same time to feel safe and happy while they do it. As long as you have a reasonable bond of trust – you and your rat should have a great time doing this.

Watch out though, they may start playing with your hair – so, if you don’t want them to, just tie it back before you start the learning process. That will keep it out of reach. However, we’ve never known a rat to any real harm to your hair.

We like to let rats get up to our shoulder themselves and just extend our hand into the cage so that it’s flat on the floor for them to jump on and then run up our arm. However, if your rat can’t work this out (and some can’t), you can gently pick them up (speak softly as you do) and then gently place them on your shoulder.

We think it’s best to sit down the first time that you do this because otherwise if they get spooked, they might fall.

As soon as they’re up on your shoulder, no matter how they got there, give them a treat. You want them to understand that going on your shoulder is a good thing.

If the rat begins to act spooked (they might make shrieking noises or grind their teeth) you can take them down and then try again another time. You don’t want to leave a rat on your shoulder forever, anyway, because sooner or later they will need the toilet and if they haven’t got back to their litter, they’ll go on you.

You should offer your rat a treat every 2-3 minutes when it’s on your shoulder, so that it doesn’t get bored and has something to do besides look around.

The Shake Paws Trick

This is, of course, one of the nicest tricks that you can teach any animal because it allows a certain level of anthropomorphic connection (that is where we project human qualities on to animals) with the person and the rat.

To help them learn this trick, you begin with a treat in your hand. Then you touch their paw and say “shake!” Then give them the treat.

Soon, they associate the shake with the treat. So, when you say the word, they put out their paw and look to shake. To begin with, this won’t look great but if you keep practicing, eventually it will look like a genuine handshake and that’s a really satisfying thing.

Don’t forget, as with all these tricks, you must use the training word consistently – if you start changing it during the process, it will take much, much longer for them to learn.

Stand On The Hind Legs Trick

Now, it’s important to remember that your rat is not a dog and the standing on hind legs position is not entirely natural for it. So, while you absolutely can (and we think, should) teach your rat this trick, you shouldn’t use it all of the time in case they injure themselves.

You want to begin with a pocket full of treats because, as always, if you can motivate your rat with food – they will be hungry to learn as well as for treats. You’re also going to want to make certain that there are no distractions around when they first learn this – as it’s a bit complicated for them.

What you want to do is show them a treat above their head but without handing it over. At the same time say “up!” (or any other one syllable word that you feel like) and move your hand to suggest getting up.

This should, assuming your rat has thought things through, get the rat to stand up on its hind legs and attempt to grab the treat. Now, that you’ve got what you wanted – it’s time to give the rat what they want and hand over the treat.

You can do this over a period of time and each time go just a little higher than before. Eventually it will look like your rat is standing upright on its hind legs. As long as you are consistent with the word that you use each time you do this trick – they will eventually stand when you say “up!”

The Jumping Rat

Rats are natural jumpers. In the wild, they run up and down trees, walls, etc. and they often launch themselves to safety by throwing themselves through the air. However, pet rats may be a little nervous of unleashing their natural capabilities to begin with but with some patience they will be fine!

This is a bit harder for your rats to learn and for you to teach – so, expect to spend some serious time if you want them to learn this.

Begin with the rat sat on a pillow and have another pillow adjacent to it. You want a narrow gap between the pillows.

Take a treat in one hand and place it on the opposite pillow from your rat. Wave to get its attention and then say “jump!” You may need to wave a bit and say “jump” a bit before it works out what’s expected.

As soon as it arrives on the 2nd pillow hand the treat over and watch as it scoffs down the treat. Then try this again and again and gradually increase the gap between pillows. You may not believe it but a rat can jump up to 4 feet – so, they can easily make a big jump eventually.

However, it’s important not to allow your rat too much room to fall. So, try to keep both pillows on the ground when you play this game.

A Game Of Fetch

Rats may not look like dogs or cats but they’re plenty smart in their own right and just like dogs and cats, they can learn to play fetch and they seem to enjoy it just as much too!

It’s important to think about this game before you decide to start playing it. You need to find an object that your rat is likely to want to go and fetch. Some rats like bright colors, many of them like shiny things, others may have a real thing for little balls and so on…

Our rat likes a miniature soccer ball that came from a children’s toy set. Yours may like something completely different. Once you work out what they like, this game becomes easy.

You begin by throwing the item in the rat’s line of sight. It will quickly chase after it and attack it. Because that’s what rats do.

Cheer them on while this is going on. Say something encouraging. Maybe pet them a little.

Then once you’ve got them to chase the ball. You start to say “fetch!” at them. They should then associate this with grabbing hold of the item.

Then you want to call them to you (easy if you’ve already taught them to respond to their name) for a treat. They ought to bring the item with them. If they don’t. Say “fetch” and start again.

This one takes quite a bit of patience to teach. It’s an advanced level rat trick.

Pole Weaving

Pole weaving is kind of slalom for rats without skis. Dogs can learn this trick too, but we think it’s way more impressive with rats.

You can use pretty much any objects for poles – they can be simple wooden stakes, or they can be gloriously decorated shiny items. We’re not going to put limits on your creative urges here, go all out and create something that you love as much as your rat will.

You don’t need to buy in anything to make these poles, but if you want to – go right ahead. If there are children in your family, you might want to get them involved in this project as it can be loads of fun.

This is an easy trick for them to learn. Once you’ve set up the poles take a treat in your hands and hold it just in front of your rat’s face so that it follows your arms as you move through the course. Say “bob” repeatedly as you do.

Over time, you can make this course very complex and hopefully the command word that you’ve taught your rat will eventually have him/her executing the course on demand. Treats must be given every time they finish the course.

Hoop Jumping

If you’d like you rat to demonstrate just how much it could have been a dog, then you might want to teach it to jump through hoops!

You can buy small rings from a department store (curtain rings might be fine) or you could even make one – the important thing is that there’s nothing on the hoop that might hurt your rat.

Once you have the ring, you just hold it up in front of your rat and with your other hand – you point through the ring. You might also add a quick statement of “hoop!” or “jump!”

Many rats will instinctively know what you want and jump through immediately. Others may need a gentle nudge the first time. As soon as they get it right, give them a treat.

You can then start to experiment by moving the ring both higher up and farther away from your rat – rats can really jump, so, there’s no reason that this can’t be a serious challenge for them in the long run.

Rat Thief!

This is the most advanced trick of them all and it’s absolutely brilliant if you want to impress other people with just how clever your rat is.

You want to make sure, however, that your rat has mastered all the other tricks first because if they haven’t, there’s a good chance that this will be too complicated for them and you and they may become frustrated.

The objective here is simple. To get your rat to “steal” a bill from your wallet. We’d recommend that you make this a dollar bill just in case the rat gets confused and starts chewing on it rather than bringing it to you.

You begin by teaching your rat to fetch a folded dollar bill. You’ve already taught him/her to fetch by now, so they shouldn’t find this too confusing. After they bring back the bill a few times (always rewarded by treats), you put the bill in the wallet in front of them.

Leave the wallet open (for now) and get them to fetch. Soon, they’ll start grabbing it out of the wallet and bringing it  back (more treats, please!)

Finally, you want to close up your wallet and start going again. Now, if you want to play this to maximum effect – you can change the command word over (start by saying “fetch” followed by “thief!”), then over time stop saying “fetch”.

The rat burglar will soon respond to the challenge and you can show off his antics to others who will be amazed at what your little furry “thief” can accomplish.

Some Simple Hints For Rat Training

Right, that’s it for our list of tricks. We think that’s more than enough to be getting on with and that you and your rat should really enjoy learning these tricks together. However, we do have some final tips that are appropriate to teach rats ticks of any kinds.

Think of them as general rules which will save you and the rat quite a bit of frustration.

Keep The Time Spent Short

Can you remember what it was like to be a teenager and to be told to spend all afternoon working on chores? You didn’t much like it, right?

Well, that’s pretty much how rats feel about extended periods of work too. They don’t mind helping out for short intervals but eventually it all gets to be a bit too much.

So, if you want the maximum levels of cooperation with a rat – you need to keep training sessions short. No more than 15 minutes and in the early days maybe even just 5 minutes working up to 15 over time.

Keep Distractions To A Minimum

Rats are curious and intelligent and there’s nothing harder than keeping your attention on learning something when all sorts of interesting things are going on around you.

You need to ensure that the space they are learning tricks in is clean and free from any distractions. You want to eliminate noise where possible, too.

The easier it is for your rat to focus on you and the trick in hand, the faster that they will learn it.

Keep Other Animals Away

Most of the time, it’s a good idea to keep animals away from the training area too. They’re just another distraction and one that your rat can live without.

However, there is one exception to this rule. Sometimes, if you have a rat that already knows the trick – they may be able to teach their friend faster than you can. Try it out and see if they work well as a team but if the other rat is a distraction, don’t keep bringing them out.

Keep Going!

The biggest “trick” of them all is that there are no tricks involved in rat training. The key is patience and persistence. Rats are very clever for small animals but compared to people, they have very tiny brains and it takes a bit of time for them to remember what’s expected of them.

Don’t shout or scold a rat for failing to learn – that won’t encourage cooperation. Do reward them when they do well and just keep going back for another try.

Keep Having Fun

The training should be fun for you and for your pet. Don’t turn it into a stress session. If you or the rat start feeling frustrated – end the session and start fresh another day. The good news is all the time spent together will build a really strong bond between you and your pet.


So, not only have you learned how to train your rat to come when it’s called: an 8-step program but you’ve also learned 8 other awesome tricks that you can teach your rat to enjoy with you too!

Rats are super creatures to work with because they’re so smart and so ready to throw themselves into learning with you. As long as you are patient and kind and have plenty of treats, they will soon master them all and wow you and your friends with their escapades.

Darren Black

I'm Darren Black, the owner, and author of I am from Scotland, United Kingdom and passionate about sharing useful information and tips about properly caring for an animal's wellbeing.

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