Guinea Pig Training


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                   Training Your Guinea Pig (scroll down for tricks)

Guinea pigs are incredibly intelligent animals, and can be taught to perform many tricks. They can be taught to stand up, ring in a bell, respond to the call of the name, push a ball, turn in a circle, and other tricks. Actually, they can be taught any trick or action that they are physically able to perform. (So don't try to teach them to jump and do a salto in the air.)

Guinea pigs should be rewarded every time they do something right, or even if they only did a bit of it. The reward should not be just praise or a pet, but a piece of food that this certain individual likes. You might also try to vary the size of the treat depending on how good the action was. It is like paying money for tea to waiters at the restaurant, more money for better service.                                                              

If the animal just recently came to your house, give it a few days to get used to the surroundings. Avoid making any loud or sudden noises or movements. Then start handling your guinea pig, petting it, speaking soothingly in a calm voice. When you are certain the animal has full trust in you, you can start the training.

Also, let it run and sniff around before starting training when you move it out of the cage to the place where you train it. Sounds of things happening in the house, sounds from outside, can all startle the pet and ruin the training, if the animal keeps listening for danger instead of paying attention to you. Give it time to understand that these are just harmless sounds. And be patient.


                                 The Stand Up

Getting the guinea pig to stand up is easy. The different matter is to teach it to do it on command. Let the guinea pig see the treat in your hand, and saying the command, (like "stand") hold the treat above the guinea pig, visible but out of reach. If the guinea pig picks its front paws off the ground, you can give the treat then. Repeat the exercise, making the guinea pig stand up higher and straighter every time in order to receive the treat. In time, the pet will learn a basic formula: voice - stand - treat. Or, you can teach the animal to respond to other commands rather than a word. For example, a whistle, a fingerclick, or even a gesture.


                                 The Call Over

One of the basic tricks is the call over - getting the guinea pig to respond to the call of the name, or, a command, such as "come here".

Hold a piece of the pet's favourite food so it can see and smell it, and call the guinea pig's name (or any other command). The guinea pig will take a few steps closer to you (it's better to start with a small distance between you and the guinea pig). Give it the treat. Repeat this, lengthening the distance a few centimeters every time, and soon the animal will learn that if it runs in the direction of the voice, it will receive food, no matter if it will receive food a the end or not. However, as with all of the tricks, it is best not to leave your pet unrewarded too many times in a row, as then the conditioned reflexes will weaken, and the animal will be highly disappointed.


                                 Ringing in a Bell


Getting the guinea pig to ring in a bell is more complicated. It's good to attach a bell between the two back legs of a chair. Attach a ring, nail, or anything else that can work as a pulley, in the middle of the back of the chair, where the back meets the seat. Tie a small, light bell with light, gentle ringing to a thick piece of string. Put the string through the ring or over the nail so that the other end of the string hangs straight down and nearly reaches the floor.



Tie another, shorter piece of string to the bell and attach it to one of the back legs of the chair. You can stick it with tape. This way, the bell will ring if the long string is pulled, but will not pull the string down with its weight. It also helps to tie a knot at the end of the long string, to give the guinea pig something thicker to grab onto.

Now for the training. First gently ring the bell. The animal will probably nearly jump out of its skin. Handle the pet gently, stroking it, and keep ringing the bell for a few seconds now and then. It can take about half an hour for the guinea pig to get used to the bell. Then the training starts. It helps to first tie a piece of food to the string. When the animal pulls the piece of food, trying to eat it, it will probably drop the rope in the shock of the ringing. Reward it with a treat, so that it learns that it did something right. After a few times put the piece of food on the string away, but press the end of the string into a piece of food (cucumber is best), soaking it in its juice. The animal, attracted by the smell, will still pull the string. After a while the smell will wear off, but the animal will still ring the bell. If that happens, reward it, it has learned the trick!


                                 Pushing a Ball

You can teach your guinea pig to push a ball around with its head. Get a ball. As long as the ball is not too heavy (and not too light either), it doesn't matter what size it is. The animal has to be able to head it around easily, without the ball rolling away from it too far. This also depends on how smooth the surface you're training on is.

Get a piece of vegetable or fruit. Cucumber is good. With a knife, cut a thin, flat piece (so that the ball won't roll off it) and show it to the guinea pig. Before it grabs it, put the food on the ground and put the ball on top. The animal will sniff the ball, trying to identify where the smell is coming from. Finally, it will try to push the ball away, and discover the treat. After a few times, do this without the food. Reward the animal if it pushes the ball again and again, not discovering the treat. If it only pushes it once or twice, keep working on the simple food-under-ball trick. It should believe that it will find the treat if it pushes again.


                                 Turning in a Circle

Another trick which can be taught is turning in a circle. Place the animal in front of yourself.  When it turns its head in the right direction even a tiny bit, reward it. Repeat this, each time making it harder to earn the treat. For example, make it turn 20 degrees, then 25, 30, and so on, until the guinea pig learns to turn in a circle.


                                        The Kiss

You can teach the animal to "kiss" you when you hold it up. However, this is not a very hygienic trick, and I have not personally tried it, I've just read about it. Put a piece of guinea pig food between your lips. Hold the guinea pig up so that it sees the food, and eats it. After a few times of eating the food, try that without the food. If it has learned right it will try to "kiss" you every time you hold it up.


                      Standing up on a Ball

You can teach the animal to stand up with its front paws on a ball. Get a heavy ball (but nothing like a bowling ball) which is small enough for the guinea pig to put its front paws on it. This trick better works if you teach it in the cage. When you feed the guinea pig, put the ball in front of it, and lure the animal forward by holding the food on the other side of the ball. When the guinea pig comes close enough, hold the food above it. If the guinea pig stands up, with its front paws on the ball, give it the food.




Copyright(c) 2003 Ekaterina Romanova. All Rights Reserved.