Guinea pigs are smarter than some folks give them credit for. Did you know that many guinea pigs can learn simple tricks? Yep, almost like little dogs. (Check out our friend Ace; he’s living proof!) Training your guinea pig is an excellent bonding opportunity. The recipe for success? You guessed it, lots and lots of guinea pig treats and veggies. Before you start training, get your guinea pig comfortable taking treats from your hand. Establishing trust is a crucial first step. Interactions should be only positive so she learns to associate your time together with all things good. A tame guinea pig is much easier to train, and you’ll both have more fun and enjoy the process when she’s truly ready.
Here are three simple tricks to get started, but the options are endless!
The High Five
Step 1: Place your hand flat on the floor in front of your guinea pig. With a treat in your other hand, encourage your piggie to approach until one paw steps on your hand. At first, you want to focus on the same paw every time. If she steps with both paws, gently move your hand and try again.
Step 2: Try to keep your pig’s paw on your hand for a little bit longer each time; you can achieve this by offering extra treats at first, and then gradually encouraging her to wait a little bit longer before she earns the reward. This step will require the most practice.
Step 3: After a few sessions, offer your hand and see if she’ll give you her paw automatically. If so, reward immediately with an extra yummy treat and tons of praise. If not, try to lure her with some veggies in an upward motion toward your hand or return to step one for some extra practice.
Jumping Through Hoops
Step 1: Start by placing a hoop at least three inches larger than the guinea pig’s body at ground level. At first, you can reward your guinea pig for simply sticking her nose through the hoop to reach for a treat at the other side.
Step 2: Continue to lure her a bit more until she is willing to walk all the way through the hoop for the treat. Repeat until the guinea pig will willingly walk through the hoop without food at the other end.
Step 3: Ask your piggie to walk through the hoop multiple times in multiple directions before giving a reward. When she is comfortable with this you can start raising the hoop slightly off the ground. Be sure to never raise the hoop high enough that the guinea pig could injure herself attempting to jump through.
Step 4: If you have a circus pig on your hands and want to up the ante, try a slightly smaller hoop or different types of hoops for an extra challenge.
Follow the Leader
Step 1: First, simply spend time with your guinea pig during floor time to get her used to you and build trust. Then, your next goal is to make her feel safe and comfortable around your feet. You can do this by sitting in a chair during floor time and dropping veggies on the floor near your feet.
Step 2: Attempt to lure your guinea pig with veggies to weave around your feet while you’re sitting still. Reward her for taking the first few steps, gradually encouraging her to explore the area on her own.
Step 3: Take a step away from your guinea pig and drop some food at your feet. If she doesn’t come running right away, try a smaller step and work your way up to gaining some distance. Guinea pigs don’t have the best eyesight, so fragrant herbs work well here. The goal is to have them approach you immediately when food is dropped.
Step 4: Now, take a step and don’t offer a treat until the guinea pig approaches your feet. If she’s doing this consistently, take more steps and reward her with a treat for following your feet each time. Start with one small step, working your way up to larger steps and steps in different directions.
If your guinea pig gets distracted, try luring her with veggies again for some more practice. Once she has mastered step 4, work your way up to taking multiple steps and turns before finally offering the prize.
Start slow and simple to build confidence, and work your way up to more advanced tricks. She’ll be playing basketball in no time!