Sex differences in rats' performance on a stationary hidden-platform task (spatial task) in the Morris water maze and the effects of initial nonstationary hidden platform training (NSP training) were examined. The NSP training was designed to familiarize rats with the general requirements of the water-maze task without providing spatial information. NSP training led to faster acquisition and improved retention of the subsequent spatial task in both males and females. There was a sex difference favoring males on acquisition and retention of the spatial task only in rats that had not received previous NSP training. Moreover, there was an apparent reversed sex difference favoring females on some measures of spatial performance in NSP-trained rats. These results suggest that performance on the water-maze task, including the expression of sex differences, can be altered by previous familiarization with nonspatial aspects of the task.