This article is from the WSSF 2012 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Karen Robbins
Sariah Lily Jones, Facebook
QIf a mouse bites, do you squeak at him like you do for rats?
ANever tried that. With temperament being so important for show and breeding for show, anything that bites is eliminated and not bred from. Temperament is inherited/genetic so if nervous/biting animals are bred, they are just passing down their bad traits. Now if they are biting because they smell something like food or another mouse on your hands, then washing your hands before handling should take care of this.
Raincloud, the service mouse. Photo from Sariah Lily Jones.
QYeah, he doesn’t seem to be biting for nerves or any smells ON my hands (I’ve tried changing soaps, etc.) He’ll just be exploring, come along to a finger and bite! Only my fingers, though. Squeaking at him does seem to be helping; he’s getting gentler and doing it less often. I’m also making sure to hold all my fingers straight and together when offering him my hand to climb on my palm, which seems to help a lot too.
I’ve been wondering, the night I got him I accidentally pricked my finger. I thought I had cleaned off all the blood but I noticed later he licked a little bit off. He didn’t start biting till after that, so I’ve been wondering if that played a part somehow? Especially since it’s so out of character with no apparent cause. He’s quite precocious, not nervous or frightened, loves cuddling in my hair, and I always wash my hands before getting him out.
AIt’s possible your pricked finger may have had something to do with him biting, hard to tell. Sometimes scented soaps, hand lotion, or perfume will be a problem. Sounds like the more handling he gets, the less he is biting, so keep up with that. Also, give treats after you have played with him as a reward for good behavior, e.g. oats, millet, small pieces of healthy cereal such as shredded wheat, Cheerios, puffed cereals, bits of healthy whole grain breads, sunflower seeds, sprouts, etc. One mouse trainer told me she uses tiny pieces of walnut in training her mice.
An Austrian mouse fancier has done extensive training with her mice http://schlaumaeuse.jimdo.com and http://mouse-agility.com, from doing an agility course, to playing basketball, to riding a skateboard among other things, and has several videos on YouTube, showing how she trains the mice https://www.youtube.com/user/MouseAgility and https://www.youtube.com/user/kittenandtiger.
Update: I thought I’d drop you an update with the answer: YES! I’ve discovered I have to squeak just about any time he uses his teeth, even when he’s really gentle, or he starts getting harder and harder. But through persistent squeaking, as well as treating him when he interacts with me without using his teeth, he doesn’t nip at all any more. Once in a blue moon he’ll touch me with his teeth again, but not nipping. It doesn’t hurt but I still squeak so he won’t get harder. (Went through a period where I stopped squeaking and he went from gentle to drawing blood again pretty quick. Then 2 days of squeaking and he was gentle as can be again. I think it’s just his way of playing and he doesn’t realize it hurts when I don’t squeak. I have not been able to come up with any other explanation; it has no bearing whatsoever on what my hands smell like. In fact, when they do smell like food, he doesn’t bite—he licks!)
The times he does get too rough (very rare now)—more than just once or twice—he gets put away without a treat, and that has also helped I think. I also practiced teaching him to come when called, specifically to crawl onto my hand for the treat. Now he’s super gentle, and pretty cuddly.
He also alerts me the night before I get dizzy spells! It took me a long time to figure out that he only played with my ear the night before the dizzy spells. It was actually the rats that clued me in, when they all did so (same ear) the same night he did once! They only did the one time, though. I think because they understood when I pulled away that I didn’t like it. Raincloud never caught on to that, so he keeps doing it, but he’s also less annoying, being so tiny. It’s helped me a lot to know the night before, so I can plan the next day accordingly. Actually been able to reduce their intensity by preparing.
Logo from Tripod Ranch, Dani Moore, Hesperia, CA, who has service rats https://www.facebook.com/tripod.ranch.
And he’s learning to spin and sit up on command.
Thanks for the update! It’s great to hear your squeaking at him did work and that the treats are helping to reinforce his good behavior. Since he likes your hands to smell of food, maybe you should make sure they smell good to him before handling.
service mouse is pretty special. There are
service rats, but this is the first mouse I’ve heard
of—glad to hear he is able to help you.