Posted by: mston2qj | February 8, 2009

Trick training!

I began teaching Beyoncé to do a trick on Wednesday, February 4th. The trick I decided to teach her to do was to jump from one solo cup to another. To train her to do this trick, on the first day, I started with two plastic solo cups about 1 inch apart from each other and when she walked from one to the other I clicked as I handed her a piece of food. The second day of trick training I tried moving the cups farther apart, about 4 inches, and she would jump up on one then try to jump out of the aquarium often. Then, I tried cutting the cups in half, to make it more difficult for her to jump out of the tank. When I did this, she made great progress. Once she associated the food with jumping from one cup to the other, she repeatedly did the trick. On 2/6, I moved the cups even farther apart, about 5 inches, and she was able to jump this distance and did approximately 70 trials of the trick during this training session.

I used shaping to train Beyoncé to do this trick because I used differential reinforcement to get at the desired behavior of jumping from one cup to another by gradually changing the existing response across successive trials. Therefore, I started training by reinforcing her with a click and food when she walked from one cup to another. Then, I moved the cups farther apart to 4 inches and reinforced her, then finally to 5 inches apart, where I arrived at the desired behavior.

Day 2

Day 3

Posted by: mston2qj | February 2, 2009

Beyoncé’s Clicker Training

After many, many hours of training, I believe she has it. She is wandering around and when I click the first time she runs over to the left side of the tank and stands up to grab the food from my hand!

Posted by: mston2qj | February 2, 2009

Week 2 Update: Clicker Training!


The goal for the week was to classically condition Beyoncé to approach the left corner of the tank for food each time I clicked the hand clicker. The hand clicker served as a CS for sign tracking.


The first day of clicker training was Sunday, Feb. 25, 2009. She did not respond well to the training on this day. I decided to use the method from last semester, the “Barron method” consisting of two clicks, one to alert the rat that the food was coming and another click when the rat grabbed the food. On this day I decided to place the food down in the tank when I clicked the first time, and she would not approach for the food for 10, 20, 30 minutes. I would sit and wait for her to do anything. I realized after this day that she had been fed a lot over the past few days, so I did not feed her tonight so that she would be motivated to work for the food tomorrow. Her weight today was 191.2 grams.

1/26: weight=180. 2 g

I used 4.3 g of food during clicker training. She responded well today, quickly running over to the left corner after I clicked. She did 75 successful trials. I fed her 6.7 g in her cage after training, for a total of 11 g of food for the day.

1/27: weight= 176.6 g

I used 6.0 g of food for clicker training. I did 90 successful trials with her today. She is showing a lot of progress not that she is more hungry. I fed her 4.1 g for a total of 10. 1 g.

1/28: weight= 176.6 g.

I used 6.0 g of food for for clicker training. Her weight stayed consistent today. She continued to perform well. She is showing signs of grasping sign tracking. She runs to the corner after hearing the first click and I don’t believe she sees my hand. I gave her 6.0 g in her cage after 15 min. for a total of 12 g. I gave her 2 more g of food today because her weight seemed to have dropped a lot.

1/29: weight= 175.9 g

I used 6.0 g of food for clicker training. I decided to hand her the food instead of trying to place it in the corner of tank. So when she runs to the corner she grabs the food from my hand now. I did 95 trials with her today. She is responding quickly. I fed her 6.0 g in her cage.

1/30: weight: 178.6 g

I used 6.0 g of food for clicker training. I continued to feed her by having her grab the food from my hand which seems to work much better than my first method. I did 100 trials with her today. I fed her an additional 6.0 g. She got a total of 12 g of food for the day.

1/31: weight: 176.3 g

I decided to use more food for clicker training, 7.5 g. I made the pellets a little bigger today. I did 100 trials with her. I put 4.5 g in her cage 15 min after we ended training. She got a total of 12 g of food today.


Using the Barron method was very beneficial. It made clicker training much faster than expected. Having my rat grab the food from my hand worked much better than trying to place the food in the tank without her noticing. I was consistent in placing the food in the left corner of the tank and clicking once before she got the food and once when she got in. I believe the goal of classically conditioning her was accomplished through the process of trial and error that occured this week.

Posted by: mston2qj | January 30, 2009

Beyoncé is a Sprague-Dawley rat!

Sprague-Dawley Rats

For our experiment in Applied Behavioral Analysis, the strain of rats we are using is called Sprague-Dawley and we are also only using females. We are using female rats only because they tend to be a little smaller and better-behaved than male rats of the strain. Our rats are albino rats with red eyes.

Sprague-Dawley rats are outbred rats as opposed to inbred. Outbred stocks are most often used in research projects, like ours, that require vigorous animals that are economically priced and where genotype is of lesser importance (Harlan). General characteristics of these rats are that they have a docile disposition, their average litter size is 10.5, and that they have excellent reproductive performance and maternal characteristics. Adult body weight of a female is between 250300g, whereas the adult body weight of a male is 450 – 520g. The average life span of Sprague-Dawley rats is 2.5 – 3.5 years.


This chart shows the average grams a Sprague-Dawley rat weighs by the number of weeks old it is.

History: Sprague-Dawley rats originated by R. Dawley, Sprague-Dawley Company, Madison, Wisconsin in 1925. The strain was created when a hybrid hooded male of unknown origin was mated to a white female of the Douredoure strain, and subsequently to his white female offspring for seven successive generations (Harlan). A stable, heterogeneous stock was created from inbreeding, and the original colony was closed after its development.

Possible ailments:

Research done of rat’s shows that the average median survival time is 24.5 months for virgins and 25 months for breeders (Cameron et al, 1982). A common cause of their death is neoplasms, or tumors, such as benign medullary tumors (27% in males, 11% in females) and endometrial polyps (22% in females) (Kaspareit and Rittinghausen, 1999). Ailments such as this can happen easily because they are handled often, restrained in a small cage, and transported a lot for experimentation. Therefore, it is important to make sure they are given time to run outside of their cage and that they are given plenty of water and an appropriate amount of food each day.


Ace Animals, inc. 2006. Sprague Dawley. January 18, 2009, from

Cameron TP, Lattuada CP, Kornreich MR, Tarone RE. (1982). Longevity and reproductive comparisons for male ACI and Sprague-Dawley rat aging colonies. Lab Animal Science, 32, 495-499.

Harlan. (2009). Sprague-Dawley. Retrieved January 29, 2009, from

Kaspareit J, Rittinghausen S. (1999). Spontaneous neoplastic lesions in Harlan Sprague-Dawley rats. Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology, 51, 105-107.

Posted by: mston2qj | January 12, 2009

Getting to know Beyonce!

I met my rat on Thursday, January 15th! During the first week spent with my rat, I went in for an hour a day so Beyonce, which  is what I named her, could get used to my scent. The story of how she got her name is: I was testing out names when Steve and I went in to play with our rats and I was thinking of celebrity names I liked and Beyonce came to mind. Therefore, every time I said “Beyonce” she would stop and stand on her hind legs and stick her head up and look at me, so the name stuck.

Say hello Beyonce!

Say hello Beyonce!

This is my rat!!

I'm a proud parent!

I'm a proud parent!

One more! 🙂