Yes. Teaching your guinea pigs some tricks will amuse both you and them, as long as you do it in a sensible and kindly way. Very nervous guinea pigs may be too frightened to learn, but most can learn to come when called (McBride 2011). For years scientists have been training laboratory guinea pigs to press levers for food. What matters most is making sure that the food offered is something more rewarding than its normal diet (Poling & Poling 1978).
So first you need to find a food item that your guinea really enjoys. It could be a veggie: it need not be fattening. Don’t feed it this item in the normal diet. Keep it for training. You will need a special treat to reward your guinea pig when it does what you want. There’s a book about it – Training Your Pet Guinea Pig by Gerry Bucsis and Barbara Somerville. And there is even a famous dog expert, Roger Abrantes, who puts on guinea pig training camps here.
For instance, if you call the guinea pig by name and give it a treat, it will start paying attention to its name. You can also call its name before putting down the food bowl. This way, the guinea pig will begin to come when called.
You can also clicker train your guinea pig using a clicker. A good clicker training book for dogs will explain the principles. There is an article here. Simply adapt these for guinea pigs. But don’t expect it do things it can’t naturally do – like climbing up ropes! And never ever punish it.
There’s a good website here.
McBride, A., (2011), Guinea Pigs. Understanding and caring for your pet, Magnet & Steel.
Poling, J. & Poling, T., (1978), ‘Automaintenance in guinea pigs: effects of feeding regime and omission training,’ Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 30, 37-45
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All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.
General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.