Some of the most cherished traits of the Ragdoll are its intelligence and dog-like personality, making the breed a truly lovable companion. It’s difficult to believe at times this big, fluffy creature can even be a cat at all; you can bet she’ll follow you around the house and want to be by your side or in your lap on the couch.
Ragdolls truly have an amazing ability to get to know their owner well, their habits, preferences and body language. So although cats in general aren’t really known for being easily trained, Ragdolls are an exception to the rule.
The Best Training Method for Your Ragdoll
The most simple and effective way to train and reinforce tricks with your Ragdoll is through a method known as CPR, which stands for Command, Praise, Reward. Also known as Classical conditioning, this method works because it associated a reward with the behavior you’re trying to teach, and it can be applied to just about any sort of training.
You’ll begin by giving the command, whether it be “sit”, “come” or “paw” and then give the praise and reward after your Ragdoll shows the correct behavior. After repeated iterations of this, your Ragdoll will soon associate the praise and reward with the command and behavior, making them more and more likely to respond to the command.
Training your Ragdoll with this technique is truly a win-win: you get your Ragdoll to do cute tricks, and your Ragdoll gets a treat!
Use a Clicker with Your Ragdoll
It’s recommended that you use a clicker to help reinforce the positive behavior, which essentially takes the place of “praise” in the CPR method. A clicker makes a very distinct noise which makes it easier for your Ragdoll to associated that noise with the desired behavior and treat. In a way, the clicking noise brings it all together, teaching your Ragdoll how the behavior and treat go together.
Types of Tricks to Teach Your Ragdoll
There are an endless number of tricks you can teach your Ragdoll that will make her the life of the party. Keep in mind it takes a while to teach a Ragdoll a new trick, so be patient and try to minimize the number you try to teach at once, ideally limiting it to just one at a time.
Also, it’s really up to you what word you want to use to elicit the trick, but do try to keep it a short, easily-recognizable word.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the cat book. Getting your Ragdoll to come when called is both endearing and impressive, and can make it easier for you to retrieve your Ragdoll instead of having to prowl the house to find them.
Begin by calling from short distances and just before feeding times (to increase the incentive). Whenever your Ragdoll successfully comes to you, click the clicker and provide the treat. You’ll have your Ragdoll scampering across the house in no time!
Shake a Paw
This fun trick involves getting your Ragdoll to willingly put up their paw as though they were expecting a handshake. Start by saying “Shake a Paw” and touching your Ragdoll’s paw. Every time they move their paw in response, click the clicker and give the treat.
Over time try to reinforce the paw moving specifically upward, getting closer and closer to more of a handshake movement.
Yes, you can actually teach your cat to sit. Begin by holding the treat close to your Ragdoll’s nose. Once they begin to sniff the treat, move if backwards over their head, which usually causes them to naturally sit. As soon as their bottom hits the floor click the clicker and give the treat.
With enough training, your Ragdoll will sit faster than you can even believe.
Practical Behaviors to Train Your Ragdoll to Do
Training isn’t just reserved for fun party tricks; you can actually train in more positive behaviors that can make your life easier.
- Litterbox training – Provide clicks and treats when your Ragdoll cat or kitten chooses to use the litterbox.
- Staying still and calm while grooming – Begin by giving clicks and treats when a brush or grooming tool is introduced, and slowly increase to contact and then full grooming
- Interacting with you, other people or other pets – This one’s quite easy; just give your Ragdoll treats at times when they’re around you or other pets. Let other people hand treats to your Ragdoll
- Staying calm and quiet while traveling – Start by creating positive associations with the cat carrier simply by giving clicks and treats when you show the carrier to your Ragdoll. Slowly progress to giving the reward for going in the cat carrier and then making short trips in the house and then outside.
- Behaving well on a leash – Begin by just showing the leash to your Ragdoll, followed by a click and a treat. Progress to putting the leash on and then taking your Ragdoll outside on the leash.
Frequency of Training Sessions
If you don’t practice enough, your Ragdoll will never quite pick up the trick, but if you practice too much, they might burn out. Training twice per day for about 5 min per training session is usually just the right amount to get the best results. Try to repeat the behavior up to 20 times per training session.
How to Offer the Treat to your Ragdoll
It might seem like a no-brainer, but cats can sometimes have a hard time identifying or finding treats if presented incorrectly. Cats have a hard time seeing things that are still and close up, so if your Ragdoll doesn’t seem to see the treat right away try tossing it on the floor or offering it in your flat palm.
Types of Treats for Your Ragdoll
There are plenty of types of treats your Ragdoll will love (and you’ll love to give). You can go with standard hard treats or try yummy wet cat food. Some Ragdolls have a favorite food that they’ll just absolutely nuts for, whether it be shrimp or chicken liver.
Just keep in mind that whatever you choose to treat your cat with you’ll probably be giving a lot of it over time, so choose something that isn’t too unhealthy or could make your Ragdoll sick in high amounts.
You also don’t have to give your Ragdoll big treats as their reward, just small morsels will do the trick!