Thursday, August 29, 2013

Agility Training--with Mice?

I haven't posted on positive animal training in a while, so here's a link to a youtube video from a few years ago that stuck in my memory:  "Trickmousing."  It's a bit less than 3 minutes long, and "cute" is a word that inevitably will come to mind.

Most people have heard of dog agility by now; there are local and national competitions in which the dogs eagerly leap hurdles, dash through tunnels, and handle a series of other obstacles as directed by their humans, who run alongside.  On the Links page of my website is a video of a lamb surmounting the same challenges.  Why not?  Even so, how cool that mice can do this sort of thing too--and more.  On the video, the mice leap little hurdles, retrieve marbles, dunk a basketball, and even skateboard.  (Hey, remember that dogs can learn to drive a car, no foolin'.)

The accomplishments of these mice show what positive reinforcement and clicker training can do.  As many of my readers know, the clicker sound is immediate and obvious (you can hear it in the video), and serves as a reinforcer in itself as well as a "bridge" to a more powerful reward like the food that the mice get. Specific information about these mice and their training is available through the links at the youtube site.  (For general information, see the links on my website or the references in my book.)  I appreciated that the trainer recognized how social these animals are and took pains to avoid isolating them.  That's why more than one mouse is frequently in view, although only one is showing off its stuff at any given time.



  1. Once again- I have been introduced to a youtube gem through your blog! Susan I am so completely impressed (though not surprised) to see such a great example of positive reinforcement training. I particularly like the "how to" videos posted on the account.

    Every time I watch a video I imagine what could have occurred "behind the scenes" or during the first training session. I try to imagine how the terminal behaviors may have been broken down into smaller incremental steps and then shaped into what it is we see on the video.

    I would give anything to see a naive mouse being trained "in real time". I think THEN we would see just how brilliant this trainer really is. That is one thing I cannot wait to master (and it will take a lot of practice). Hmm... maybe I should make videos (as a novice) so people can see my progression! :)

    Thanks for posting! As always, looking forward to the next post!

  2. Thanks, Valerie, I'm glad you enjoyed the mice too! And what a great idea to post videos of the learning process for the trainer. I know there are videos of dogs in the early stages of training, but I don't know how much is out there for other species . . .

  3. Well this is very impressive i am glad to read this blog because i am surprised about the mice actually little things have really awesome abilities.