Agility training is a popular sport for people who enjoy more structured activities with their dogs. According to the website of famous dog behavior expert, Cesar Millan, agility training helps your pup realize its innate hunting skills, is great exercise for your pet, helps get the human owner in shape, and strengthens the human-dog bond.1
Most people don’t know that there is a whole world of agility training for some of the smaller critters people keep as pets. Gerbil, hamster, and even guinea pig agility training are real pursuits and there are many people doing their best to promote all sorts of ways for humans to seek those same agility benefits for those cute pint-sized domesticated rodents.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes that pet rodents are easy to keep in apartments and condos but warns that “Although rodents require less maintenance than many other pets, they still need your commitment of time and care. You should plan to spend time interacting with your rodents every day to enrich their lives and monitor their health and well-being.”2
While we aren’t sure that hamster agility helps get the human owner in shape the same way it would with dog agility training, but it seems all the other enrichment benefits might be there.
The video below shows an exciting competition between two Dwarf Hamsters named Dumptruck and Porkchop.3
As you can see from the video, owners can devote lots of time to creating the perfect agility course. Materials easily adapted for creating your own course seem include lots of popsicle sticks that can be painted fun colors (with toy safe paint or you can use colored tape), sanded pine planks and dowels have many uses, and tubes are popular whether you use empty toilet paper rolls, a round oatmeal container with both ends open, or PVC tubing.
The website HamsterAgility.com set out to answer a question some of our readers may share: Just who established the first hamster agility course? The website doesn’t have an exact answer, but they observe that “all Agility Courses, dog, cats, rabbits, rats, any species type all stem back to a horse sport called Steeple Chase or Horse Show Jumping. The horses jump beautiful Fence Jumps and Bar Jumps. Each of the jumps are set up to look like horse fencing. This is why you hear some people call all jumps for all species ‘fences’ or ‘fence jumps.’ It is also why some of the events are called ‘Show Jumping,’ even for the smaller animals.”4
The video below shows two guinea pigs tackling an outdoor agility course that features some impressively constructed adjustable fence jumps and a seesaw that appears to require some thought before crossing. 5
If you already have a small rodent pet and haven’t considered agility training, this might be the perfect time to set up a tabletop course.
The Hamster Agility site offers this poignant reminder: “Have fun with your hamster, enjoy them every day, they live lives that are far too short, and they are gone too soon. Remember that they count on you for their every need, please don’t let them down.” 4
By R.A. Kroft
1Pajer, N. Benefits of Dog Agility Training. Cesar’s Way. 18 June 2015.
2AVMA. Selecting a Rodent Pet. AVMA.org.
3Video. April’s Animals. Tiny Dwarf Hamster Agility Course – Dumptruck vs. Porkchop. 10 December 2015.
4Hamster Agility Team. Hamster Agility. HamsterAgility.com. 6 April 2008.
5Video. Guinea Pig Adventures. Guinea Pig Agility. 6 May 2016.
R.A. Kroft writes about her day-to-day journey in living a smaller, more sustainable life and other topics that interest her.
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