How to make playtime more interesting?

jellybellybean

New member
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
4
Hi everyone!

When I first got my chin I was living with my parents and so her room was my room, and I used to just let her out to explore my bed, bookcase etc. As you can imagine it resulted in a lot of damage to baseboards and furniture while I went through the process of trying to train her not to eat whatever she finds on the floor and not to tear up the room. Training didn't go very well despite being very consistent with it. She's very...very mischievous.

Skip forward 2 years and I've moved out to an apartment. Naturally here because I'm renting I can't afford to let her go through trial and error with the baseboards and the walls. She's a master of damage. Even if I'm a foot away from her, one chomp and we've got a sizeable divot to figure out how to fill in inconspicuously...

Shes no longer in a room, either. Since she is loud at night and my boyfriend is a light sleeper she has to be in the living room. So for playtime now I have to set up a playpen for her before she can come out. It's a big playpen but nevertheless she doesn't like it because she can't really rebound off of it like she could the walls, which has seriously cut down on her popcorning, sprinting and jumping. It's also see through, which I think is throwing her off, but it's the only playpen I could find that was tall enough and infinitely expandable.

I can't put anything too high inside the playpen or she'll climb to the top and try to fly over the playpen like a sugar glider.

But because of all this she seems to have lost her interest in playtime and I think overall she just seems sadder now since we moved. She's still interested enough to come out but because there's not really anything for her to climb on except a few of her own furnitures she loses interest fast and just returns to the cage, even if I've scattered treats and hay around for her to find.

Does anyone have any tips for how to make her playtimes more interesting, working with what we've got? Any recommendation for toys or furniture to set out during play time? I've found that she doesn't really care to chew on things while out in the playpen, she'll just take them back to her cage. She also doesn't like crinkle tubes. :( And unfortunately I can't give her cardboard or paper products, because she straight up eats them.

We've been at this new routine for a year now. As much as I would love to let her explore the apartment, it's dangerous for her (cords, etc) and my boyfriend does not want to rework the whole apartment to accomodate her potential mischief nor does he want bites out of our furniture and baseboards. (I don't blame him really, she has a habit of not listening to warnings or admonishments. She's pretty stubborn and bull headed.) She will put anything she finds in her mouth and try to eat it whether it's actually edible or not, which is another concern. So right now I have to try to do what I can to make the playpen interesting, which is difficult.

Any advice would be so helpful! Especially if you have a playpen system and have worked it out successfully I'd love to know how!!
 

Amethyst

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
May 7, 2012
Messages
2,447
Location
Alberta
I know some people claim they "trained" their chin not to chew, but almost always those same people come back at some point later to say their chin ate something it wasn't suppose to. :rolleyes: They are like permanent little 2 years old humans, they test the world with their mouth it isn't really possible to train a chin not to chew. They literally have to chew things to survive so they are going to try to chew on anything they can, and you don't really want to discourage them from chewing so it's up to you to make sure anything they have access to is safe to chew. Basically chin sounds like a normal chinchilla, not really stubborn or bullheaded at least not anymore then any other chins 😉 .

I do know some people have had success covering the baseboards with fleece or making wooden upside down L shaped covers to set over them. Since you can't use cardboard you can try PVC pipes or metal pipes to offer tubes for her to crawl though. My guys also like large hard plastic balls they can push around.
 

jellybellybean

New member
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
4
I know some people claim they "trained" their chin not to chew, but almost always those same people come back at some point later to say their chin ate something it wasn't suppose to. :rolleyes: They are like permanent little 2 years old humans, they test the world with their mouth it isn't really possible to train a chin not to chew. They literally have to chew things to survive so they are going to try to chew on anything they can, and you don't really want to discourage them from chewing so it's up to you to make sure anything they have access to is safe to chew. Basically chin sounds like a normal chinchilla, not really stubborn or bullheaded at least not anymore then any other chins 😉 .

I do know some people have had success covering the baseboards with fleece or making wooden upside down L shaped covers to set over them. Since you can't use cardboard you can try PVC pipes or metal pipes to offer tubes for her to crawl though. My guys also like large hard plastic balls they can push around.
Thanks so much for the advice! I have read a lot from people across the web saying their chins are properly trained little angels around the house and that if they're not it's because the owner isn't consistent with the training... so it's comforting to know mine is just doing what chins do 😂 Although I do feel a bit bad for her that she's lost some of the joy of playtime...hopefully I can find something to put in there that will spark her interest again even if she has to play in a playpen.
 

Binki

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2020
Messages
8
I am not a chin expert but believe that chins can be trained, at least to a certain extent, because although they are ludicrously intelligent they are most of all self willed and mischievous, and they would do the wrong thing just out of mischief.

I say this because I have a chin that I got as an unfriendly and finger-nipping adult, so a more unpromising beginners' package is difficult to imagine; the fact that he proved to be trainable makes me believe that most chins are.

The most useful bit of training (which I undertook after many severed cables and ruined furniture) is to stop the chin doing damage. Because they can understand language, an emphatic NO CHINNY! can stop the miscreant on the spot, whatever s/he is doing. What one needs is consistently catching them in the act and after several repetitions they are smart enough to get the gist.

That does not mean the chin will not try to do the same again. Mine does but I know it is purely out of mischief because while putting his teeth to the skirt board he looks at me as if saying 'are you gonna stop me'? A simple 'no' suffices in this case and he just trots away. I have also trained him to go back to his cage after playtime and few other things but those developed as fun things to do after the NO command, which to me is the equivalent of the recall in dogs.

In all this masking tape, cardboard and bubble-wrap have been my best allies in covering the tempting surfaces. After a while the chins even forget they are there. Of course all chins are different, so what is the most effective way to cover tempting objects is a bit trial and error. Mine does not like the noise the bubbles make while exploding and masking tape proved 100% unattractive; on the other hand black tape is chin caviar: oh, black, yum!. Of course one's house ends looking a bit funny, and there is additional work to be done if one has stuffy relatives for dinner, but it gives you a nice pretext not to invite them in the first place.

I have no advice about the usual toys because my chin, who must have had a deprived kit-hood, does not even look at them. The only ones he likes at play time are toys he can run through, jump over or hide in. I started to experiment with hides made of shoe boxes and when I found what he liked, I replaced them with wooden ones. Unpainted doll houses with doors big enough to run through have been favorites.

His play area is a long empty corridor, perfect for running and popcorning and often those hideouts/houses are used as obstacles to jump over like a rabbit. He also likes to be 'chased' by taunting me to catch him and then hoping on my hands so we can start another game. The good part of those three dimensional elements is that they allow for a great variety in the games played by just moving them around. Chins like things to stay exactly the same for a while but suddenly they get bored and one has to to move things around or they get cross.

Perhaps the key to having just one chin, and this took me a long time to get, is to tune to your chin, to think that you are the other chinchilla. Needs some effort but can be fun also.
 

Amethyst

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
May 7, 2012
Messages
2,447
Location
Alberta
I am not a chin expert but believe that chins can be trained, at least to a certain extent, because although they are ludicrously intelligent they are most of all self willed and mischievous, and they would do the wrong thing just out of mischief.

I say this because I have a chin that I got as an unfriendly and finger-nipping adult, so a more unpromising beginners' package is difficult to imagine; the fact that he proved to be trainable makes me believe that most chins are.

The most useful bit of training (which I undertook after many severed cables and ruined furniture) is to stop the chin doing damage. Because they can understand language, an emphatic NO CHINNY! can stop the miscreant on the spot, whatever s/he is doing. What one needs is consistently catching them in the act and after several repetitions they are smart enough to get the gist.

That does not mean the chin will not try to do the same again. Mine does but I know it is purely out of mischief because while putting his teeth to the skirt board he looks at me as if saying 'are you gonna stop me'? A simple 'no' suffices in this case and he just trots away. I have also trained him to go back to his cage after playtime and few other things but those developed as fun things to do after the NO command, which to me is the equivalent of the recall in dogs.

In all this masking tape, cardboard and bubble-wrap have been my best allies in covering the tempting surfaces. After a while the chins even forget they are there. Of course all chins are different, so what is the most effective way to cover tempting objects is a bit trial and error. Mine does not like the noise the bubbles make while exploding and masking tape proved 100% unattractive; on the other hand black tape is chin caviar: oh, black, yum!. Of course one's house ends looking a bit funny, and there is additional work to be done if one has stuffy relatives for dinner, but it gives you a nice pretext not to invite them in the first place.

I have no advice about the usual toys because my chin, who must have had a deprived kit-hood, does not even look at them. The only ones he likes at play time are toys he can run through, jump over or hide in. I started to experiment with hides made of shoe boxes and when I found what he liked, I replaced them with wooden ones. Unpainted doll houses with doors big enough to run through have been favorites.

His play area is a long empty corridor, perfect for running and popcorning and often those hideouts/houses are used as obstacles to jump over like a rabbit. He also likes to be 'chased' by taunting me to catch him and then hoping on my hands so we can start another game. The good part of those three dimensional elements is that they allow for a great variety in the games played by just moving them around. Chins like things to stay exactly the same for a while but suddenly they get bored and one has to to move things around or they get cross.

Perhaps the key to having just one chin, and this took me a long time to get, is to tune to your chin, to think that you are the other chinchilla. Needs some effort but can be fun also.
I didn't mean they can't be trained, though I think of training them more like training a cat then a dog, they just can't reliably be trained not to chew on things. They are smart, but they aren't actually smart enough to understand that for example a piece of wood outside the cage, like baseboards, is not the same as a piece of wood you give them to chew like wood ledges, toys, or their wood house. You can train them not to chew when you are looking, but I don't really see that as training them not to chew certain things. That is also often when accidents happen, the person believes they have taught their chin wont chew certain things and they look away or steps out of the room for a moment, and that is when they go chew or eat something they shouldn't. Also you may not run into this problem, but discouraging them from chewing can actually also backfire and end up teaching them you don't want them to chew anything. So you could end up with a chin that wont play with toys or chew on things, which will lead to tooth issues. So it's actually a much better idea to just make sure they don't have access to anything they shouldn't chew. 🙂
 

Binki

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2020
Messages
8
Apologies if I did not express myself correctly; I did not mean to say that one can train a chinchilla and leave it unsupervised. The No! command I mentioned is useful to stop a problem behavior while it is taking place but I would not leave my chin unsupervised in a room any more than I would allow the best trained saluki (or any sighthound for that matter) to walk off the leash in an urban area or run in an unfenced one.

I am not an advocate for training or was trying to prove a point; I only posted because having to make playtime interesting for a chin with the temper of Attila the Hun and the teeth of a T-Rex, I sympathize with any owner of just one chin struggling to make playtime rewarding. I found that training ultimately helped with playtime because it improved communication with the chin, but that was all the extent of my comment.
 

Latest posts

Top