Your guinea pig is an intelligent little creature who can be trained to follow basic commands and actions with treats. Bear in mind, they are not very flexible learners like cats and dogs; but with a little patience and motivation, you can still train them up to use a litter box, tame them and more.
It’s also worth noting that every guinea pig is unique with varying degrees of intelligence, so some will take longer to learn commands than others. Be sure to use positive reinforcement when training them, and never get cross if they struggle to manage.
Here are some of the best ways you can train your guinea pig.
Potty/litter box training
Some owners may not know that guinea pigs can be trained to use a litter box! To start: place a litter box in your guinea pig’s cage, where they go to the toilet most often. Line the litter box with fresh bedding and a few fecal pellets. Keep an eye on them, and as soon as you notice them going to the toilet in the litter box, immediately reward them with a treat. Over time, they will start to associate using the litter box with being rewarded. However, results may vary based on the nature of your guinea pig. Ignore any mistakes they make and don’t use negative reinforcement if they don’t succeed.
Training them to stand up and beg
Sitting up or standing is a natural behaviour for guinea pigs, which can make it easier for them to learn as a command. Hold a treat over your guinea pig’s head so that they will have to sit or stand up to get it. Say “stand up” or “sit up”, and then reward them with the treat as soon as they do. Repeat this command on a regular basis, and over time your guinea pig will learn to stand up when you verbally command them, even without a treat in your hand.
Coming when called
Your guinea pig can learn to come to you when called, with the help of treats. Place your guinea pig a few feet away from you, and then place a small trail of food items between you and them (with the last food item in your hand). As they follow the food trail, call out their name and hold the food out in your hand. If they run to you, feed them the food immediately. Practice this regularly and try different distances between the two of you each time. Eventually they should learn to come to you when you call even at various distances or locations in the room.
Training them not to bite
If your guinea pig bites you, it could be doing so out of fear. This could be for a number of reasons, such as having the scent of other pets on your clothes, being held in a noisy environment, being held too tightly and more. If that is the case, you can train your guinea pig not to bite you. Keep them in a quiet environment, approach them with clean clothes or even gloves if needed and be gentle when you hold them. Use plenty of positive reinforcement and treats, so that over time they will associate your presence with affection and kindness.
Remember; every guinea pig is different and some will take longer or never fully adapt to training. So while there is no guarantee that your guinea pig will pick up the actions you would like it to, practice regularly and always use their favourite treat - this will vastly increase your chances of success!