You already spent some time researching how to care for guinea pig, so it is time to learn how to train him. A careful and efficient training improves the bond between an owner and a pet. Moreover, piggies who train regularly find things more interesting because they are leaving their cages more often. So, if you are a complete newbie in the guinea pig agility training, you found a right place to start from.
What is agility training?
Agility is the ability to start, stop and change directions quickly. The agility course is usually comprised of various obstacles which your pet has to run through, jump over or weave in and out in a short time period.
Agility training is a great activity for both an owner and a pet. You can have a good time watching your piggy completing a full agility course and have fun whilst training him. In fact, training can be the most enjoyable part of owning a guinea pig.
Can you teach a guinea pig tricks?
Some people tend to compare guinea pigs to rats saying that they are stupid and very hard to teach and train. Actually, it is other way around. Guinea pigs are capable of learning a variety of tricks. However, not all of them are willing to learn.
If you noticed that your piggy is calm and comfortable around people, he will probably make a great trickster. Also, it is probably a good idea to give up excessive training if your pet is shy and skittish because you will put him under stress.
There is another common belief that guinea pigs are not active animals. That is not completely true. If you noticed that your pet became inactive it might be due to him being bored. These animals need to have something new to explore in order to stay active. Guinea pigs tend to get rusty when their body and mind are not challenged.
What is a perfect age for guinea pigs to start agility training?
In comparison to dogs and cats guinea pigs are ready to start training relatively late. Adult piggies are very good at training. So, start to learn basic tricks at the age of nine to ten months. However, you can start training at the earlier age. Practice with one guinea pig at the time because he can be easily distracted in a group.
Teaching guinea pigs agility obstacles course
Before committing to an agility obstacles course you have to familiarize your pet with each obstacle separately. Here is a quick overview of the most popular obstacles for guinea pigs:
- Bar jump
- Fence jump
- Open tunnel
- Closed tunnel
- Tire jump
- Window jump
- Teeter totter
- The bridge
- Weave polls
If you are starting out the best way is to teach your pet how to jump over bar jumps and run through the open tunnels. Once your pet is confident with a few of the obstacles you can put them into courses. Agility courses can be of any length and difficulty.
There are certain things you have to know about when training your guinea pigs. The first one is that guinea pigs are very cautious and you have to help your pet to overcome the fear of doing something new.
Helping guinea pig to overcome fear
Caution plays an important role in guinea pigs’ life. Therefore, whenever you want to teach your pet something he might be cautious and scared. However, once piggy feels safe and secure, he is ready for a challenge and is eager to learn. If you introduce your piggy to a new obstacle, let him to sniff it first and inspect the object with his incisors.
Positive reinforcement guinea pig training
Reinforcement is a way to train your pet when you are rewarding him for a certain behavior to increase the chance of the same behavior happening again. Similarly to other animals (cats and dogs) guinea pigs only respond to positive reinforcement. The most common examples of positive reinforcement are lavish praise, cuddling, petting or treating (more on this later). Also, this depends on what your piggy likes.
The principal is to reward your pet for doing something right. You can’t punish guinea pigs in order to teach him that his behavior was wrong. It will only put your pet under stress.
Training your guinea pig with treats
Using treats in training is a most effective type of positive reinforcement. Give your pet his favorite food when he did something you want him to repeat. However, it is important to do it quickly, so the training is effective. Usually, delivery within a few seconds of performed behavior is sufficient.
Why is treating a great way to train a guinea pig? Well, it is very simple. Guinea pigs have a healthy appetite and can be easily tempted to do something you want when you give them a reward.
Once a guinea pig has learned the required agility course with the aid of treats, try swapping it for the verbal phrases or cuddling. That way you won’t be afraid of your piggy gaining weight.
Which tricks can guinea pigs do?
Every guinea pig is different. So, what is easy for one pet can be impossible for another one. You are more than welcome to try the following tasks with your pet, but don’t put too much pressure on your piggy if he is struggling to complete it.
Here is a list of tasks guinea pigs are capable of performing:
- Find the way out of the complicated maze
- Recognize colors
- Distinguish voices
- Recognizing shapes
In this article I put some basic information about the guinea pig agility training. If you are interested in this topic and want to learn more about different training techniques or agility equipment, please let me know.