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Training Your Sugar Glider
Training Your Sugar Glider and tips on Bonding

Training Your Sugar Glider and tips on Bonding

TRAINING YOUR SUGAR GLIDER and BONDING WITH YOUR SUGAR GLIDER will truly enrich both your lives!  I hope these tips work for you, they sure worked for me!

Training and Bonding your sugar glider should go hand in hand.  I wouldn’t attempt any sort of training until your sugar glider is bonded to you, but at the same time, training can help the bond you have with your sugar glider.  So the two do go hand in hand.  While many people do not realize it, when you are going through the bonding process, you are in affect training your sugar glider.  You are teaching them that you are safe and the provider of treats, that this spot (pouch/bra/whatever) is where they should go, the hand is a friend and not a predator.

I want to repeat here what I wrote on my “Basic Care” for Sugar Gliders page (with some changes):
What is needed to bond with and train your sugar glider?  Here is my best advice to start:
PATIENCE! Did I mention patience is needed in this area? There are as many different techniques in the  area of training and bonding with sugar gliders as there are people. And not every technique will work on every sugar glider. They are individuals after all! But you do need to learn your sugar gliders' language and respect how he feels. Don't ever push trying to be friends. Take it slow! It may take weeks, months, or even years to develop trust.   And you MUST develop trust to bond with your sugar glider, that is what THE BOND is all about, trust.  For training, if there is no trust, you will not be able to effectively train your sugar glider.
 So remember these 10 key points:
1. patience
2. consistency (this builds trust, they know what to expect)
3. learn their language and when they say "bug off" leave them be
4. look at number 1 again
5. be a provider of good things, such as food, gentle messages, soft voice and for loud smells!
6. may sound funny but it works...think good safe calm thoughts when handling them. But don't try to "project" anything
7. did I mention patience?
8. respect their feelings and WHO they are (look at number 3 again) learn to think like they do
9. you must have “true love” for them (see below)
10. did I mention PATIENCE???

I have trained multiple types of animals and this works. My girls also respond to a few commands. Such as their names, "stand" and "wait", and "jump". "Training" is good as it increases intelligence as well as develops a "partnership" feeling between you. This will help with bonding also. It did with my Gizmo.

Another important item to remember when training your sugar glider, you should never ask them to do anything that is not a “natural” action or behavior.  Training works best when you are reinforcing natural behavior to be performed on cue.

You also need to remember that not every sugar glider will respond to training.  Training any animal, but especially ones with stronger wild instincts (read the “fear factor” article) is like baking.  You may have all the ingredients (animal, trainer, treats, etc) but if not put together in the right amounts or in the right order, you will not have a successful result.  Not every sugar glider can be trained, and not every person is capable of training a sugar glider, no matter how much they do what is right, it just may not work.  And then there is the problem of consistency.  And time.  How consistent are you? Do you devote enough time?  Just how patient are you?  Some sugar gliders learn quickly, some take longer.  My husband’s sugar glider is a quick learner, but since my husband doesn’t spend enough time on training an isn’t very consistent, it takes longer to teach his sugar glider something (if at all).  And once a sugar glider IS trained. You need to keep at it.  Every other day or so, at least a few times a week, you still should go through your routine to keep it all fresh.  

Very important when training your sugar glider (as well as when going through the bonding process) NEVER hit or reprimand your sugar glider!!!  Doing so will only cause them to fear you!  And it will take a very long time to undo that fear, if ever.

 Remember when I said to “learn their language”?  When a sugar glider doesn’t like what another sugar glider is doing, they either give them a squeeze with their teeth (it’s not a “bite” just a “squeeze”) or make a “psssst” type of sound (not the “crabbing” an angry or scared sugar glider makes).  We certainly cannot give them a squeeze with our teeth, and I would NEVER try to do so with any other means either, the best way to tell them they have done something wrong is with the “pssst” sound.  There should never be a time to do this during “training”.  If you are trying to teach them something and they do not do it correctly, there should NOT be any discipline, just redirect them and try again.  The “pssst” should ONLY be used if they BITE you or are about to touch or bite something that is harmful to them.  Using it in any other context could be greatly misunderstood by the sugar glider and have results you do not want.  Even when used when they bite you, it MUST be done AS THEY ARE BITING, not after as they will not know why you are doing it.

Tents are highly recommended as a safe areas to play with your glider until they bond to you.   It is also a GREAT place to start training your sugar glider to come to his name.  It is safe, enclosed, and small so they have to interact with you. DO NOT chase them around in the tent. Let them come to you! You need to prove to them you are safe! And chasing is not allowed until they KNOW you (if ever)! And bring treats in the tent! Food is a great way to show you are fun to be with and necessary for solid training! Once your sugar glider has bonded to you, then perhaps try a sugar glider safe room. Test your glider and make sure they come to you if something startles them. If so, it MAY be safe to go outside with them. But again, you need to decide for YOURSELF if this is something you want to risk. I would NEVER recommend taking them out at night! And even during the day has its risks. Even strongly bonded sugar gliders can become startled, frightened, and disoriented and do something they shouldn't, like go up a tree and you may not get them back! So use care and caution if you decide to take them out!

So how do you train them?  Writing about it is much harder than I anticipated, for there is much room for misunderstanding.  Demonstrating would be much better, but unfortunately I do not have access to videos at this time.  Training your sugar glider to respond to his name is probably the easiest to start with.

Every time you do give your little one a treat, softly say their name the same way every time.  Give the treat and AT THE SAME TIME say the name.  Every time.  Over and over until you think you just cannot stand it anymore.  They will eventually learn to associate you and the name and the treat as a happy occurrence.  Test out if they recognize their name, or even just your voice, by saying their name while they are playing in the tent, and see if they look at you.  When they do, you can go to the next phase.
Now you say the name and in the VERY NEXT 1/2 second give them the treat.  Doesn’t matter where they are in the tent.  Say the name, put the treat to their nose!  Do this over and over.  Eventually, and take your time here, hold the treat a few inches away in front of their nose while saying the name, and let them walk ONE STEP  to get it.  Work your way up to 2 steps, and more until they are definitely making a move when you say the name.  Test them out occasionally to see if they will stop playing when you say their name.  But remember to always give them a treat if they come to you when you said their name.  It also helps while “in training” the ONLY time you give them treats IS WHEN SAYING THEIR NAME.  This way they learn NAME=TREAT.  I also want to stress that while saying their name repeatedly is good, do not say it so it is one continuous droning sound, unless that is how you plan on calling them!  Say their name distinctly each time.  Separately.  Not “arwen arwen arwen”  But “Arwen.   Arwen.   Arwen”   Get it?

My sugar gliders have also been taught to “jump” to me on command.  They also know “wait” (works with a hand signal) and “stand” means.  The “wait” I use when I put them on a shelf and want them to wait to jump to me, perhaps I need to get into position or want the camera ready.  I will put them in their launching spot and say the wait with the hand command, and they wiggle like crazy wanting to go, but they wait till I tap my chest and say “jump” and …they jump.”
The “stand” is they get on their hind legs to reach for a treat.  Now this is very normal behavior, but they would always use their “hands” to grab the treat.  I have a friend who is an “animal actor agent” and I figured if he ever wanted a sugar glider to “pose” for a camera, they wouldn’t want the hand reaching up, so I taught them to stand up for the treat, but they couldn’t have it unless they kept their hands down.

Most important when training your sugar glider, or any animal:

"Love is long suffering and kind...Does not look for its own interests...Does not keep account of injury...It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…Love never fails."  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (in part)

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, and I will see what I can do.

added 5-20-10
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