Mice and rats are renowned for their ability to use mazes and tricks to get a hunk of cheese or another treat. Guinea pigs are, if anything, even better at it than their cousins! These fancy little wheekmachines are ready and willing to please if you’ll just consider giving them a round of carrots and alfalfa!
So can guinea pigs learn tricks? Yes, guinea pigs are enthusiastic and like to try new things! But what can they do? How much is too much to expect from a guinea pig? They’re very intelligent creatures, but those little legs do hinder some of the more popular pet tricks. Let’s take a look at what they can do for you!
Start here: Sittin’ pretty!
Though like dachshunds, guinea pigs are pretty close to the ground, they are happy to learn how to sit!
Better yet, they can even learn some pretty complicated maneuvers. To teach sit, simply hold a treat over the guinea pig’s head and gently move it backward.
It will slowly lean back onto its haunches and plop its rear end down. When it does this, it gets the treat. Ta-da!
The basics: Watch me!
“Watch me” is the first trick a guinea pig should learn.
You can do this by resting a treat near your cheek. The guinea pig will watch you.
After they concentrate on you for a moment, use a clicker to click and offer the guinea pig your treat. After a week or two of this, the guinea pig is likely to watch you when you’re in the room in the hopes of a sweet snack! This is the basis of guinea pig training. Reward with food (be careful about offering too much food though as guinea pigs can definitely overeat).
With “watch me” completed, you can build from that! Use your imagination.
Your guinea pig will be excited to learn anything that doesn’t involve steep climbing steps or other injury-causing acts.
A Little Harder: The maze!
Teaching a guinea pig to run a maze is deeply satisfying.
Lay a scent trail by dragging the treat along the bottom of the maze (or the ground) so the guinea pig can smell a treat ahead.
The guinea pig will follow the trail.
We recommend giving them a dead end or two to figure out. It’s amazing how smart our little furry pals are, and you’ll be very impressed when they realize they can go no further.
As the guinea pig becomes more and more experienced with the maze, try switching the path or not working with the scent trail.
Guinea pigs have excellent memories for repetition, despite their size. They will run, frolic, and play as they traverse your maze.
Don’t have enough room for a maze? That’s okay. You can harness train your guinea pig and take them along with you on a walk. Just watch out for hot or cold sidewalks. Those little paws are sensitive.
Experts only: Agility course!
Agility courses aren’t just for rabbits!
You can make use of popcorning to send your guinea pig over jumps! Want to train your guinea pig to be a world-class athlete?
Start out by teaching it how to wiggle through a cavy-sized tunnel. Guinea pigs who have already worked in mazes will understand this faster than those who haven’t.
Lay a scent trail through the tunnel by dragging the treat through it. Don’t allow the guinea pig access to the far side of the tunnel, only the near side. Most will attempt to climb over or search for a way to pull the tunnel aside. You can hold it in place if need be.
Eventually, the guinea pig will trot through the tunnel and out the other side. Praise the guinea pig and offer it a treat.
Most agility tricks are taught in this same manner, by “baiting” the pet across the obstruction and encouraging them on the other side. We do recommend that jumps be of a height in which the guinea pig can walk across them. Not all guinea pigs enjoy jumping and it can be hazardous.
Wrapping it up
There you have it! Guinea pigs can be taught a plethora of tricks so they can earn their treats. It also assists these little guys in keeping up muscle definition, enriches their day, and encourages a healthy mind! Just keep in mind that these are fragile, long-bodied animals that can be hurt easily. Again, a dachshund is a very good comparison because the body style is similar and guinea pigs may suffer from slipped discs easily, too.
We still recommend taking your guinea pig out and training it on a daily basis. This will form a bond between you that will last a lifetime, as well as giving your guinea pig well-needed exercise!
Some great treats to use as rewards are bits of carrot or mango, a small piece of cilantro per trick, or delicious sunflower seeds. Play to your guinea pig’s strengths and you’ll never be disappointed!
Pet Central – Basic guinea pig training
Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training – Guinea pig training