How To Train A Gerbil To Sit On Your Shoulder

When pet owners bring their gerbils home, one of the first few things they want to do with their new pets is to teach them some tricks.

Gerbils can be very intelligent at times so they are able to actually learn a few simple tricks.

One of those tricks that some owners like to have them learn is shoulder sitting. So, how do you train a gerbil to sit on your shoulder?

To train a gerbil to sit on your shoulder you first have to make sure they are comfortable enough with you, then you can get them in the palm of your hand with a treat and place them on your shoulder.

Keep giving them treats when they’re on your shoulder and make sure to move slowly and stay calm so they don’t get scared.

Also when you’re trying to train them to do this, do it in an area where they can’t easily run away and get lost.

So if you want to know how to train your gerbils to do this in a more in-depth way or want to know what you can expect as you try it, check out the rest of this article.

How To Train Your Gerbil To Sit On Your Shoulder

Training your gerbil to sit on your shoulder is one of the many simple things that they can learn to do.

It can be a really great activity to try and it’s a fun way to bond with your gerbil.

There are some steps that you have to take for this type of training to be successful though.

To have your gerbil be able to sit on your shoulder you should:

  • First, build trust with your gerbil.
  • Train them in an area where they can’t get lost.
  • Wear a long sleeve shirt for them to climb up onto your shoulder.
  • Give them treats so that they stay on your shoulder.
  • Know what to expect when they’re on your shoulder.
  • Have patience with them.

Shoulder training does come with some risks though. There is a risk of your gerbil falling off of your shoulder, so it’s best to start this training while you’re lower to the floor.

There is also a risk of them getting lost so you’ll want to try this training in a blocked-off area.

Also, gerbils can be very hyper and won’t sit still for long so always be prepared to reposition them.

Building Trust With Your Gerbil

Shoulder training requires trust between gerbils and their owners. So if your gerbil is new and is still trying to get used to you, you may have to give it some time before you try to train them outside of their cage.

This type of training really only works when you have a gerbil that is comfortable with you.

If you haven’t established that trust with your gerbil yet, then they still can be scared of you and try to run away while you’re trying to train them.

So if you’re still trying to build trust with a new gerbil, you may want to hold off on shoulder training them until they become a little more familiar with you just to be safe.

However, if you still have your heart set on training them to do something while you’re still building trust, then you can try litter training your gerbil.

It’s really easy to teach and it’s a great way to start bonding with them. If your gerbil already trusts you and they don’t get scared or nervous easily, then you can move right into learning how to get them onto your shoulder.

Train Your Gerbil In An Area Where They Can’t Get Lost

Gerbils are prey animals so it’s normal for them to get scared easily. Things like loud noises and sudden movements can frighten a gerbil and cause them to try to escape what they think is a threat.

So because of that, when you’re trying to shoulder train your gerbil you’ll want to do it in a space that is blocked off.

That way if they do get scared and try to run away, they won’t escape and get lost.

For example, try training your gerbil in a room where you can close the door and there’s no chance of your gerbil getting under the door if they somehow try to run away.

Being in a room with the door closed can also prevent other people or pets from coming into the room and scaring your gerbils while they’re on your shoulder.

You can also try sitting in a big playpen. That way they can climb all over your body and shoulders without being able to run off.

Getting Your Gerbil On Your Shoulder

The first thing that you should consider when trying to get your gerbil onto your shoulder is how far away you are from the floor.

So when you’re first getting started try sitting down when you do it so that your low to the ground just in case they fall.

Even though gerbils know how high up they are and they usually won’t jump off, it’s just to be safe.

When it comes to getting your gerbil onto your shoulder the two ways you can do that are:

  • Wearing a long-sleeve shirt.
  • Holding them in your hand and placing them on their shoulder.

The First Option

If you wear a long sleeve shirt, that will allow your gerbil to be able to climb up onto your shoulder better than if they were to try to climb up a rope.

The shirt can give them something to cling on to as they’re climbing up. It also allows them to easily climb down or move from shoulder to shoulder.

Some gerbils will climb up your arm and onto your shoulder just to explore, while others will be more hesitant.

So it’s recommended that you start with a treat in your hand that you can give them and then you can also feed them more treats while they’re on your shoulder.

The Second Option

If your gerbil really trusts you, then the other option is to just place them on your shoulder.

The reason why your gerbil has to really trust you for this option is that they have to already be used to you holding them or be comfortable being in your hand in general.

This process will also go faster if you give them a few treats while holding them first and then put them on your shoulder.

Remember to handle your gerbils with care no matter which option you decide to go with.

That way they won’t associate anything negative with this experience and are more likely to enjoy this activity.

Keeping Your Gerbil On Your Shoulder

Once you have your gerbil on your shoulder you’ll want to try to keep them there for a little while. Gerbils can be very hyper animals so most of the time it’s hard keeping them still in one spot though.

So when it comes to keeping them on your shoulder, like with almost everything else the best way to do it is with their favorite treats.

Those treats will usually keep your gerbil still on your shoulder for a short period of time as long as they’re eating them.

However, because gerbils like to explore, once they’re done with their little snack they’ll most likely start to crawl all over you.

So to increase the amount of time that they are able to stay up there, you should do the shoulder training for only a few minutes at first.

Then once they’re starting to get used to being on your shoulder, start increasing how often and how long you put them on your shoulder.

Also, you want to try your best to have them not associate being on your shoulder with anything bad. You can do that by always staying calm and speaking in a soft and soothing tone so that you don’t scare them.

That way it’s a little easier for them to be more comfortable with being up there.

Even though you can try your best to keep them on one shoulder, what will most likely happen is that they will climb all over you. That’s normal and perfectly fine.

What You Can Expect When Your Gerbil Is On Your Shoulder

As your gerbil is on your shoulder there are some things that you should expect that can happen.

The first is that they’ll crawl all over your shoulders. Gerbils are very curious and love to explore so that’s normal.

Next is if you have long hair be prepared that your gerbil may start chewing on it.

They love chewing on almost anything, so it’s no surprise that they’ll chew on hair to see what it is too. Some gerbils will even try to get into the shirt that you are wearing.

Once they’re comfortable with where they are, that’s when you’ll see them start exploring you more.

Another thing to be prepared for is their nails. So as their on your shoulders you can expect to feel their nails on your skin especially if their nails are starting to get long.

It’s not really that painful, but it may tickle so try your best not to twitch as much when you feel it. However, you can try to prevent that by trimming your gerbil’s nails.

Also because gerbils randomly poop be prepared for that to happen on your shoulders as well.

All Gerbils Are Different So Have Patience

Remember all gerbils are very different with their own unique personalities.

So some gerbils don’t really get that nervous and may like being on your shoulder.

While some others may get nervous easily and not like this activity. So when you’re trying to shoulder train your gerbil, have some patience with them.

Not all of them will pick up this activity quickly and it can take some time for them to get used to it.

As long as you’re trying this training in a safe environment where they can’t get lost, shoulder training can be a fun and great way to bond with your gerbil.


Hi, I'm Mason, I've kept small animals as pets since I was 8 years old. I love to learn and talk about them basically every day. Over the years I've adopted small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

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