There are many pet animals that can be trained to do some interesting tricks. Dogs are the most popular pets for training, they can jump and run a lot and when compared to our guinea pigs, they aren’t so agile. Still, this does not prevent guinea pigs from being trained, you can always make them learn something new.
Are guinea pigs trainable? Guinea pigs are trainable but training them requires lots of practice and patience. Guinea pigs are intelligent animals and you can teach them some of the basic commands such as name, stand-up, going-in-circles, how to use the litter box, and more. Also, guinea pigs are very social animals and they love to spend time with their owner, so it is quite easy to incorporate training while playing with your guinea pig. Still, have in mind that guinea pigs are not like dogs and you shouldn’t force them to learn some hard tricks that only dogs are capable of learning.
You can’t expect that guinea pigs can learn something in a short period of time, but we’ll give you some helpful advice on how to easily train your guinea pig.
Now, how do you train your guinea pig? In the following sections, we’ll talk about guinea pig’s training and how to establish a training routine with your guinea pig. But first, before we make it to that point, let’s see just how smart or trainable are guinea pigs. Let’s begin!
Guinea Pig Training: How Trainable Are Guinea Pigs?
Guinea pigs are very smart animals that can learn everything from simple to more complex commands. These creatures can easily learn various paths that lead to food and the best of all is that their memory is pretty strong.
Since their body doesn’t allow them to perform complex motions and traverse the world like dogs or cats, they aren’t the most agile animals. In fact, guinea pigs aren’t that active either. Their main motion is either running when they sense danger or stand in place. Where they are almost similar to dogs is that guinea pigs love training and will gladly play with you on a daily basis.
Once a guinea pig starts gaining trust in you, its behavior may noticeably change. For example, they can start ‘begging’ for food by standing on their hind legs, similar to a dog.
When happy, a guinea pig will confidently jump around and run in circles, displaying excitement and a good mood. Generally, these animals display a very pleasant behavior and aren’t usually prone to attack or bitting someone, especially not the owner.
How to Train a Guinea Pig | List of Commands
As we mentioned, you can train a guinea pig. First and foremost, focus on basic commands like teaching it to come when they’re called by the name. So let’s start with that!
• The Name Command
Like any animal, a guinea pig can easily learn this trick throughout a day or two. The easiest way to do this is by addressing it by its name whenever you interact with it. For example, if you want it to come to you, simply say the name you want. Alternatively, you can always call their name when giving them food or petting them.
If you notice that this command works, be eager to give it a reward. A favorite snack should do the trick!
• Stand-Up Command
Guinea pigs can stand on their back legs pretty confidently and as we said, they do it when they want something from you, especially food. You can make them learn this simple trick in no time.
The first thing you’ll need is a piece of snack (treat). Say ’stand up’ and raise the treat above the guinea pig’s head. Be sure to raise it enough so that it can catch it when standing on its back legs.
Be sure not to overdo it as it can sometimes be counterproductive. Once or twice in a day should be enough for the guinea pig to learn this simple command.
• Going-In-Circles Command
To make your guinea pig go in a circle, having a treat for this trick is a must! Again, you want to approach it and give it the chance to smell it. Once it has your attention, move your hand in a circle and say the command you wish. You don’t have to say ‘circle’ – it can be your unique command.
Once it finishes the circle, be sure to reward it with that treat. Repeat this process two or three times a day until your guinea pig can perform a circle without a treat.
Related: Can Guinea Pigs Run in a Ball?
• Litter Box Training
Training your guinea pig to pee and poop in a litter box is of high importance. You don’t want your guinea pig running around the house and pooping everywhere it wants. Unfortunately, this kind of training requires A LOT of patience and time to be realized.
Having in mind that you keep your guinea pig in the cage, where it should be, the first thing you want to do is to introduce a litter box inside. This box doesn’t have to take the majority of the space, but it should be comfortable for your guinea pig to lay down and do what it needs to do.
However, this doesn’t mean that the guinea pig training is over. Most of the time, the guinea pig will slightly reject the litter box and instead pee on the floor. To decrease the chances of this happening, place this box at the place it likes to pee and poop.
Make it comfortable with some hay and leave it at that place. Over time, the guinea pig will start to go to the bathroom at that place, meaning that it’s time for a reward. And what’s a better reward than a favorite snack? That’s right – you got it!
Why is Guinea Pig Training Important?
It’s one thing to train your animal to do some basic stuff and the other is training it to behave as it should. I mean, there isn’t any strict way in which guinea pigs should behave, but there should be basic rules.
First, you should look at your guinea pig similarly as you would a dog. Since both of these animals are trainable, you should incorporate training as soon as you can. The first and the most important thing for them to learn is their name.
Having a guinea pig to come to you when you call it is very important. This way, it will know who is the owner thus creating a special relationship between you two.
When the animal knows who is its owner, it’s much easier for it to learn new commands and rules of behavior. At least, training this animal won’t take more than half an hour per day, which is really the minimal thing to do.
Another reason why training is important is socialization. If you live in a family, the guinea pig will need to respect every member of the family equally.
Much like dogs, guinea pigs used to live in packs, meaning that they quickly get used to hierarchy. Having a guinea pig that knows its place in the family is of high importance.
Remember that most of the training should be in the first couple of months of guinea pig’s life. Usually, the first two to six months are crucial. During this period, the guinea pig will be energetic, it will most likely chew everything that’s close to him, and the energy level will be at its highest. Needless to say that chewing isn’t always malicious and in most cases, it is invoked by their ever growing teeth.
If you manage to train your guinea pig properly during this period of time, its behavior will get better with time and you won’t have any problems.
Establishing a Guinea Pig Training Routine
Establishing a training routine is relevant if you want to see fast results. But establishing a training routine requires you to establish trust between you and your guinea pig. As much as it sounds strange, the best way to establish trust is through training.
If you constantly abandon the guinea pig and never let it out of its cage, this behavior will prevent them from developing any kind of relationship with you or the family. After all, guinea pigs are social animals and they require frequent training and human interaction.
Be sure to train it near the time of feeding and not after you feed it. You can do some training routines 15-20 minutes before feeding and then rewarding it with a treat. Once again, food should be a reward for good behavior but also do not starve your guinea pig if it won’t perform tricks or your commands. Some guinea pigs just can’t be trained and that is normal behavior as well.
Training a guinea pig is fun, entertaining, and can lead to some hilarious moments between you and the animal. These tiny furballs are not only cute but also entertaining and can bring up a smile on your face almost every day.
The important thing is to LOVE your guinea pigs and also try to find time to learn new stuff about them. To be honest, guinea pigs aren’t that complex when it comes to their behavior. Whenever they’re happy or stressed, you’ll be the first one to know it.
On average, a guinea pig lives for about 4 to 8 years, which is really short (but not as short when we compare them to other rodents). That being said, don’t just sit there and do nothing, go and train your guinea pig and believe us, you don’t want to miss that experience! The time you have together is precious so cherish every minute of it.
List of Sources
Becker, R. F., Some observations on learning ability in the guinea pig, Quarterly bulletin, 1946.
Edwards, M. J., Lyle, J. G., Jonson, K. M., Penny, R. H., Prenatal retardation of brain growth by hyperthermia and the learning capacity of mature guinea-pigs, Developmental psychobiology, 1974.
Machatschke, I. H., Bauer, B., Glenk, L. M., Millesi, E., Wallner, B., Spatial learning and memory differs between single and cohabitated guinea pigs, Physiology & behavior, 2011.
Lewejohann, L., Pickel, T., Sachser, N., Kaiser, S., Wild genius – domestic fool? Spatial learning abilities of wild and domestic guinea pigs, Frontiers in zoology, 2010.
Brust, V., Guenther, A., Domestication effects on behavioural traits and learning performance: comparing wild cavies to guinea pigs, Animal cognition, 2015.