Many people might think that hamsters are only capable of running in a wheel and hiding treats, but with some perseverance, training a hamster to perform certain behaviors is possible. Hamsters can not only be taught to allow themselves to be handled calmly, but they can also be litter trained. With patience and practice, it's also possible to teach a hamster to do tricks.
The first step in training a hamster is to make sure he or she is comfortable with being handled. It is essential to get the hamster used to having large human hands in her presence, and this means reaching into the cage, moving things around, and eventually offering food by hand. Once the hamster is comfortable with this, allow her to climb over the hands that are feeding her and gradually lift her out of the cage. This may take time, but as the foundation of almost all other training, it is well worth the effort.
Nipping is a common hamster behavior, which may be done when the creature feels threatened or simply if she smells food on the hands holding her. Hamsters should never be hit; instead, a simple yet effective reprimand is blowing on her. This is an irritating reprimand, yet she will not associate the punishment with human hands or be physically hurt.
Litter training a hamster is easy and has the practical application of making cleaning the cage much easier. A hamster will naturally choose one corner or spot in the cage to make into a bathroom; putting a plastic box or other container in this corner will encourage the hamster to use it for bathroom functions. Once this behavior is established, it will leave the rest of the cage relatively clean.
Hamster-sized ramps, fences, and tubes can be used to create an agility course. Training a hamster to run the course can be easily done with a few of her favorite treats and some encouragement. Once the hamster is accustomed to being hand fed, holding treats on the other side of an obstacle will encourage her to run through a tube or up and down a ramp. After some repetition, she will get used to performing the trick for a treat.
Training a hamster to stand is equally easy when using her desire to take a treat from the hand. Holding a treat just above her head will encourage her to stand up, and the reward system will quickly teach her to stand as soon as she sees the hand over her head. This behavior can also be used to encourage her to jump into the hand rather than having to be picked up.