Once tamed, your Degu will be excellent pets, climbing into your hand and, for those showing the greatest trust, sleeping in your care. Degus have an excellent memory, and so for you to maintain your relationship with your pet, you need to show the greatest care from beginning to end. You will need constant contact to bond successfully.
Degu Training is most effective when young, although degus have the capability to be trained at any stage of their lives, however, this can be significantly affected by the amount of trust they have in not only the trainer but humans as a whole based on past events.
You can teach an old Degu new tricks. If you have the confidence and wish to train your Degu, first prepare the room to be ‘Degu safe’ i.e. no open cracks or areas to run under if you accidentally drop your pet or they make a bid for escape, and then follow the steps below.
Taming your Degus
The first step to taming your Degus is to start talking to them. Speaking in a soft voice will allow them to get used to you, recognizing you every time you see them and help build the bond between you. Degus are scared of loud noises so these should be avoided, and will over time get used to different sounds like TVs and radios.
Getting Used to Human Contact
Once used to you voice, offer the Degus some food from your hand, ensuring to wash it first, so you do not smell like food and avoiding any mistaken biting, and eventually, your Degu will trust you enough to climb onto your hand. It is advised during the early stages to have someone there to help you in case your pet decides to make a break for freedom or tries to jump off an area you cannot reach like behind a cupboard.
Being Gentle with your Degu
If you ever hurt your Degu, it may never trust you again, so always be careful when handling and during any interaction. You should never place your hand inside the cage as you are invading the Degu’s space, and so may be interpreted as a threatening action. Instead, you should allow your pet to come to you at the cage door, climbing onto your hand and being rewarded with a treat as a real enforcer which will promote your pet to do it again and again. However, don’t do this too often, as it could lead to obesity and health problems for your pet.
Using Treats as Training Aids
The JR Farm Degu Snacks are perfect to help train your pets, as experienced by a lot of Degu Owners including myself. More details about this brilliant treat can be found here.
Once used to your hand, allow them to explore your body, such as climbing up your arms and onto your shoulders, always keeping a close eye and placing them back into the cage if they get too excited for you to handle. Using treats as positive enforcers, you could train your Degu’s to do anything, like responding to voice commands, and some have even been known to have been trained to use a toilet tray.
Handling your Degus
When handling your Degu, you should never attempt to pick them up from above. Degu’s natural predators, birds, attack Degus from above, and so they are born with the instinct to be wary of anything on top of them and may bite if scared.
You should always allow your Degu to walk onto your hand, never grabbing them around the body for the same reason. It will take time for your pets trust you enough to walk onto your hand, but persistence is the key to it.
Pet Store Tricks
A trick that pet shops use make it seem like degus, and other rodents seem more social than they are in reality. Pet store staff will rub the sawdust in their cage onto their hands so the animal will sniff around their hand rather than jump off it, giving the illusion the animal is trained but just tricking it to stay on hand long enough for a demonstration.
Please note: Never grab a Degu by its tail! It is very painful for them and could result in a part coming off.
Degus like to be tickled on the belly and the back of the head. Degus will bite and run away if held too tightly or for too long. It is advised that during the first handling, you are in a safe area away from wires and escape holes. Open doors are also an opportunity for your degus to escape. A small playpen or similar would be perfect.
This Play Pen by Trixie is 28cm tall, which means they can be relatively climbed out of with ease. If you use this play pen your Degus should never be left alone. It is still a great tool when trying to tame your pets outside the cage.