Taming Your Guinea Pig

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Post   » Tue Jan 01, 2002 9:31 am

This question seems to come up all the time. Anyone have any good ideas? I just waited them out and didn´t torture them -- they eventually got used to me and my slavish ways, satisfying their gustatory needs.

What do you do with a biter?
I find a towel helps -- some people let the guinea pig burrow into it for security. A new owner can expect some accidents so a towel is quite useful. I have read suggestions to leave them alone for a day and then pick them up regularly to try to get them used to you.

What are the pros and cons of feeding them in your lap?
How did you deal with your most unfriendly guinea pig?

Lou My advice is time, patience and repetition. Get a routine going so they know what to expect and when, it gives them confidence in their surroundings.

Soft words to calm them, confident and consistent handling so they know they can trust you.

Positive reinforcement through your voice, through petting and through treats works wonders. I don´t believe in physical punishment of any kind. It means nothing to them and what will it achieve apart from make you seem like a threat?

I always let my pigs have a hidey hole to retreat to - they have to make the decision to trust you themselves - if you deny their instinct to protect themselves your just backing them into a corner - if they can´t run they´ll try and fight. If a towel works then fine - I think it´s all about giving them a feeling of security and confidence.

I still believe indifference is the best and only cure for biters.You can also use a sharp tone of voice as reprimand and if you´re consistent with voice communication they will respond.

At the end of the day, however much we all love the snuggly pigs, they aren´t all like that. You have to let them be guinea pigs and not try to inflict human behaviour on them. Get them used to basic handling but also let them do the things they are good at and enjoy and don´t force them to be what you want them to be.

Humphrey was a maniac when I got him - ran like the wind, bit, fought and panicked. All of the above helped him calm down and let his personality come through.

He´s very tame and loves to interact with me of his own free will when I let him out, he´s sneaky and mischievous and thrives on attention - but he hates being picked up and requires careful handling as he kicks and bites if he´s scared. I´m glad I´ve got him as he´s not a childrens pig and he´d have not fitted in to a family home. But all my friends have watched him blossom from a neurotic to a little treasure.

Blimey what a long answer - I´ll shut up now.

Lou just a footnote - they aren´t stupid but most don´t have great powers of reasoning .That´s why repetition and consistency is so important, they learn quickly if they can rely on the response.

ECollins Oh man, that is so much work! Here´s what I do (harsh mistress that I am):

Chase their butts down! Around and under furniture, around the dog, behind chairs, under the bed (brooms are necessary to get them out) until they finally run into their bin (a large tray on the floor), then I grab them! The more they run, the more fun we have - wheeze-huff-pant-pant-pant.

Once I´ve gotten their little rotund bodies in my arms, there is much snuggling, soft nibbles on their tiny ears, head smooches, gentle rocking, and back stroking.

Honestly, I´ve gotten a lot of comments from the vet techs that my pigs never squirm around or run from people reaching into their space. I guess they know there´s no point in it: The human always win the game anyway.

ECollins On the other hand: I´ve met other people´s pigs that are just plain wigged-out! No amount of love will make those pigs relax and enjoy touching.

That´s OK with me, tho´. Not every human or pig enjoys being pawed at. If they enjoy their life as a miserable little creature, then so be it.

I don´t feed mine in my lap, only because they get two meals of fresh food a day, and graze hay and pellets all day long. They spent 90% of their time eating, they don´t need to do it on our time. Plus I don´t want them to associate me holding them with biting and chewing something. Food is always given on the ground or in their beds.

mon My boars are not as tame as my sows. I do try and handle them all of equal time but I might favour Bella just a little. She´s my snuggle pig. She´s also the only one that´ll let me pet her through the bars of the cage. The others all run as soon as i touch them.

sallytslc To all of the above I´d add having their home in a prominent, busy part of the house, and easily accessible (as much as possible) for petting and treats. Our two live right outside our kitchen door, in the hallway, on top of old kitchen cabinets, so we can´t possibly ignore them. Plus, the cage is open on top, so we can reach in and pat them as we go by, as well as giving them treats. They´ve gotten used to our general hullabaloo, and even Po, who used to run like a maniac when the Big Hand appeared, will now stand still to be petted and gives every appearance of enjoying it. I think that this is a good approach at first, especially -- spending a lot of time petting them in the cage without taking them out, so that they don´t come to associate the Big Hand with being swooped up into the air.

With this cage situation, the pigs seem much more integrated into our family -- not even separated by bars -- and we´re encouraged to socialize more with them, rather than tending to ignore them when things get busy (as I´m afraid would happen if they weren´t in our faces all the time). They seem to enjoy being able to interact with us on their own turf sometimes, too, rather than always being taken out -- they like lap time, but I think that they like being able to choose to come out and talk without leaving home.

Stacy Lynx, in regard to your question about feeding a guinea pig on your lap, I fed my guinea pig, Opie, on my lap twice a day. He had a a veggie snack in the morning when I got up, and one at night when I got home from work. Well, what ended up happening was that every time I took him out of the cage he expected veggies. He wouldn´t just sit on your lap and be content. He had to eat! He would look all around for food and just wasn´t happy at all!

Before Opie came along I always fed my previous piggies veggies in their cage, and I should have stuck with that I guess because it seems to work the best.

With my new little guy, Wuzzy, I am trying to feed him veggies mostly in his cage, so that when he gets out of his cage to play on the floor or sit on my lap he won´t always expect food. So far, it has worked well.

Lynx For me it is a double edged sword -- I started out mainly holding them -- they never seemed to like it and Nina always wanted to get down right away (so did Kitten). I think early on Snowflake was scared of me and would sit there in case anything she did would put her in danger.

So I found they could tune me out and enjoy their food and I could kiss their ears and pet away if I had something to keep them occupied. If I switched now, I know it would be a very very long road to get them happy with being held.

Stacy Lynx, I know what you mean. I find myself every now and then giving Wuzzy food while he is sitting on my lap. When he is eating, he seems so relaxed, and I can just pet him and love him. Plus, he will sit there a lot longer! Maybe if I just do this occasionally (and not all the time like with Opie!), he won´t come to expect food every time he sits on my lap.

Lou I thought you might like to hear a Humphrey story. This is a pig that I couldn´t touch when I first got him. Panicked at everything - cage cleaning, claw clipping - everything. If i let him out I couldn´t catch him and I despaired of him ever settling down and overcoming his nerves.

I´ve had him for about 2 years now.

Last night this little pig - whom I couldn´t touch - made a total nuisance of himself while I was making an important telephone call, by eating the yellow pages, letter, phone lead and bothering me intensely. He then climbed into my lap squeaked at the top of his voice and caused the person on the other end of the phone to fall about laughing. He also ran into my arms and laid down several times as I lay on the floor - all of his own free will, no food bribing at all. He also sits on my feet and stretches up my legs to beg for food.

Patience works - it takes time but my word it pays off. I have to say it again - teach them basic handling but then let them show you what they´re good at. He wont let me hold him and cuddle him for hours like Bp - but he will come to me of his own free will.
Believe me last nights shenanigans made up for any amount of missed cuddles.
When I brought Rusty home he was the biggest fraidy pig I have ever seen! I found what worked with him was handling him every night. I would lay on the couch and put him on my chest and pet him while I watched T.V. When I put him back I always gave him a treat.

alibabble I always end up ignoring that little piece of advice on leaving them alone when they first come home. Gavin was friendly right away, the first time I picked him up (in the store) he started to coo. He´s always been a snuggle pig, life was just way too easy with him.

When I got Sweetheart he was a little on the young side, I would guess just barely separated from his Mom. He was very quiet at first, but with consistent handling he has developed into quite a noise maker. He still runs when I come up to the cage, but the instant he´s in my arms he´s fine. Occasionally when other people hold him I can´t quite determine if he´s sitting still out of contentment or abject terror....

Anyway, back to my original point... I spent a TON of time with my boys for the first week they were with me. They spent any time I was at home on my lap, and when I wasn´t there one of my family members usually had them. It seemed like the best way, get them used to lots of attention right off the bat.

sallytslc I haven´t tried this with my pigs, but I´ve heard people say that they´ve carried their pigs around in slings (like baby slings -- ChiChi at CG made one by folding up the bottom of a t-shirt into a pocket and sewing it, then popping the pig in and carrying it around). Seems like a good way to bond -- attachment parenting as applied to guinea pigs! Laptime which leaves your hands free! Anyway, as I said, I haven´t tried this, but it seemed to me like a good way to get a new piggy used to you and to make sure you were interacting a lot.

Lynx Don´t forget to design it so it can accommodate the occasional leak -- maybe the part that lies against you could have an outer skin of vinyl.

ECollins Wow, Lou, that was a truly wonderful story! That sounds so lovely and rewarding.

So, maybe I should stop chasing and wait for attention? What if they aren´t "good" at anything except eating, pooping and demanding food? Or perhaps I have underestimated my little poopers, hmmmm?


Post   » Fri Feb 01, 2002 10:47 pm

Lynx, where´s the Little Nippers article? Do you have a link? Thx.


Post   » Sat Feb 02, 2002 6:18 am

Thanks Pinta

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Post   » Sat Feb 02, 2002 8:41 am

Vicki had given me permission to use it but I accidentally deleted a bunch of articles a while back (on the ezboard -- that one included) when I was trying to set it up to use as a conversation board (there was a glitch in the listing).

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