Animal Training to Target, Station, or Place

Above: Rat training video shows how a rat can quickly be conditioned to learn how to go touch a target.

I enjoyed this video illustrating the training of a rat to go to a target. You can teach any animal to go to a specific location using a target object.

If you want to try this technique I’d encourage you to do so–even if it is just for fun.

The target object can be a small towel, flat object, or mat. This is conditioned as illustrated in the above video.

When working with groups of animals, or if you are separated from an animal by a barrier, you can teach the animal to go to a specific “station” or location for easier management.

Usually a target pole or just a position withing the location (or stall) can be used and it is trained the same way. The advantage of using a target is that it gives the animal a clear visual cue as well.

If you read the series about Mr B’s cat training process, his stationing behavior prior to feeding was simply a location on the carpet away from the smooth floor.

Above: Example of a stationing behavior as Mr B waits outside of his feeding location. The criteria was simply that he had to be on the carpet but the mat became a boundary point. On the mat or behind it closer to the chair are the areas where he is most rewarded.

This texture change was the only criteria so that when we move into another location that texture is the SD for the location that is preferred.

Why use this technique?

When you train an animal to position, or go to a specific place, you can mitigate issues at the door, during feeding, and other things.

Many people use, “go to your bed” and often an animal will decide to go on his or her own during situations that have caused chaos in the past.

It changes the animal’s state and redirects their previous behavior into something more desirable.

See if you can watch the video and see how the rat is shaped. I had two rats for training in college. Some time I will share the differences in the techniques between the two because they are striking.

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  1. How timely!

    It seems like this past week, stationing keeps coming up in blogs and conversation.

    Here are 2 neat posts you (and your readers) might enjoy about a horse trainer using stationing with two eager horses.

    Mary H.

  2. Thanks for the links. Those were fun posts.

    Stationing is often overlooked or not discussed between pet owners so I am glad to hear that this was timely and to see someone figuring it out without much assistance!

  3. Glad you liked them!

    Your right, stationing isn’t often used in the horse or pet world, but I think it could have lots of practical uses.

    The principles and science of training are universal. However, I find trainers focus on different behaviors and come up with different tricks and exercises depending on the species. These things can often easily be applied to other species, it’s just that a lot of times the horse trainers don’t talk to the dog trainers and the dog trainers don’t talk to the zoo trainers, and so on.

    I know I’ve learned a lot of ideas and exercises for my horses by watching people train species other than horses. I’ve recently started reading a few bird training blogs, and have found them very interesting so far! (even though I have no bird nor any intention of getting one.)

    Mary H.

  4. LOL It is really frustrating on this end because I cross between a lot of different types of facilities and critters.

    It gets very niche-centric which drives me crazy. Principles ARE the same but people don’t seem to get it.

    When I wrote my behavior column for the zoo world they always wanted to know about the species–and although that helps–it is not really necessary to train if you are astute enough.

    The problem as I have identified it is that there are two types of people are involved in animal management. Those that can train and those that can caretake. They are not always mutually exclusive but those that train can get out of the box…

    I think it is more of a social style aptitude of how people move through life.

    Unfortunately many people like routine and animal training is usually better if you are consistent but not predictable when it comes to more involved techniques.

    BTW: the AP wire put out an article on cat training this week. Go figure!

  5. Thanks for the comments on my blog Diana and thanks for “linking” us, Mary! I have added your blog to my reader Diana. Another advantage of stationing animals is that it adds to their self control which is very helpful with enthusiastic learners!

  6. Hi Jane, so happy to see that you stopped by. I really enjoyed your articles and look forward to reading more–you are in my RSS too since I don’t always have time to get out into cyberspace!