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Thread: Is it REALLY possible???

  1. #1
    Cavy Slave
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    Is it REALLY possible???

    I'm investigating. Is is it possible to train a guinea pig to do tricks? I know some people have done it, like @ClicknCavy. But, When do you start? How do you do it? How do you reward? Where do you do it? How often. I'm really curious. Any answers would be welcome.

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    Cavy Star, Photo Contest Winner ThePigAlchemist's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    I taught my pig Alex to do a very simple trick. He knows how to "kiss" (basically put his mouth to mine when I lean down near him). He's very food-motivated, which made him easy to teach. I taught him his trick over the course of a couple hours one night, and he'll still do it. I just started by holding lettuce in my teeth and leaning down near him. After he had taken the lettuce from my mouth a couple times, I started putting my face near him without holding any lettuce. When he put his mouth to mine (that was the thing that he took the longest to figure out), I would give him lettuce that I had been keeping elsewhere. Once he did it a couple times, he had it down.

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    Cavy Slave gpigluver14's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    I taught my last piggie how to 'do a circle'. It did not take that long to teach her and it was adorable. She'd do anything for carrots.

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    Cavy Slave ClicknCavy's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    Hi! I can answer some stuff!

    It is definitely possible to train your guinea pig and any guinea pig! I use clicker training, which is a method backed by science and useful for training any species as it relies on the laws of operant conditioning (learning through consequences). Clicker training has been used to train marine animals, zoo animals, rodents, birds, reptiles, cats, dogs, horses, and basically anything with a nervous system! However, I recommend any positive training method or system for training any animal.

    I reward my guinea pigs using very tiny pieces of carrot, lettuces, and other vegetables and herbs which are safe for them to consume. I use the same vegetables for training as I do for their daily vegetables. Training sessions are extremely short and highly rewarding. They are max, 5 minutes. I only do 1-2 training sessions a day, sometimes skipping a day between. You don't need to spend a long time to train guinea pigs. They are really smart and can pick up right where they left off the next day or two days after. I train my guinea pigs primarily in their cage and in a training area that I make by setting up an exercise pen. Once they understand a trick, they don't need the pen any more. The pen is simply to help them be more successful by giving them an environment with either one prop in it, which tells them to interact with that prop, or with nothing in it, which tells them to try to come up with something on their own.

    You can start training your guinea pig when they are comfortable with the following things:
    1. The environment where they are being trained
    2. The food reinforcers you wish to use
    3. Your hands

    The first thing I work on with my guinea pigs are behaviors to help them have reduced stress with living in the apartments. I clicked them for approaching us (which was the foundation for recalls), for displaying curiosity in new environments, for getting their feet touched, and taught them to touch their noses to my finger and a target stick as well (just a wooden dowel, c.

    I use shaping for most of their training, which is clicking the animal for approximations of the final behavior until it's perfected. It's actually really fun for the animal! I'll give an example session for when I taught Toora to hop into her carrier:

    I clicked her for approaching the carrier.
    Approaching the front half of the carrier.
    Approaching only the opening.
    Sticking her nose into the opening.
    Stepping into the carrier.
    Stepping into the carrier and stretching her head deeper inside.
    Hopping completely into the carrier.

    With a clicker savvy pet, the process literally takes a few minutes.

    Outside of the husbandry behaviors, I taught tricks mostly for mental stimulation and to keep their busy minds occupied. They LOVE showing off their tricks to guests and are actually really interactive with our guests, climbing into their laps and offering kisses. They have also started using their tricks to communicate their wants/needs with me. For example, in floortime, they offer running into their carrier when they need to go into their cage to go to the bathroom or if they are done playing outside of their cage.

    The reason I really like clicker training is that the animal's actions are completely intentional, which leads them to greater understand what they are doing and what is asked of them.

  5. "Thank you, ClicknCavy, for this useful post," says:


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    Cavy Slave LoveMyHerd's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    @ThePigAlchemist, what piggy is not food motivated?

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    Cavy Slave AmberCalzone's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    I trained my old girl Emma to do circles and 'get in the bed'. Get in the bed was a life saver because this girl HATED being picked up. The reward for her was not being picked up by my hands. She preferred being picked up in the bed, and caught on VERY quickly.

    I did circles with vegetables.

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  9. #7
    Cavy Slave ClicknCavy's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    I taught spin (circle) using shaping rather than luring (yay for different methods!).

    I also highly recommend training a behavior to load up into something such as "get in the bed" like @AmberCalzone has done. It helps make things a lot more stress free for the guinea pigs, especially if they are still in the process of learning to trust your hands.

  10. "Thank you, ClicknCavy, for this useful post," say these 2 members:


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    Cavy Slave aqh88's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    You should look up some of the dwarf hamster obstacle courses. It uses luring and has become popular on youtube. The hamsters follow food through more and more obstacles until they can do it on their own. Guinea pigs are not as agile but could learn some of it and their own equivalents. Guinea pigs were found to be smarter than most rodents and second to rats in common lab rodents.

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    Cavy Star, Photo Contest Winner ThePigAlchemist's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveMyHerd View Post
    @ThePigAlchemist, what piggy is not food motivated?
    True! :P I've noticed Alex is far more food motivated than Fuery, though. There seem to be degrees.

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  14. #10
    Cavy Slave Piggly12's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    Sorry if someone said this already, I couldn’t see it in the thread.
    What exactly is the ‘clicker’ part of clicker training? is that when you give them food, or do you make a clicking sound with a pen or your tongue?

    Thanks

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    Cavy Slave ClicknCavy's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    The clicker part of clicker training is a marker that marks the behaviors you like. You click, and then treat. Soon, the guinea pigs associate the sound of the clicker with food and learn that the click is contingent on their own behaviors (clicker savvy).

    The clicker I use is a mechanical clicker which costs $2. Although you can get a clicker from any petstore, most of them are designed for use for dogs. I prefer box clickers and i-clicks by Karen Pryor. I prefer box clickers because you can change the volume by either covering the metal part with your thumb or putting tape on it. And I like i-clicks because they are quieter and softer, not having a sharp CLICK-CLICK sound. I also use the verbal marker "Yes".

    The clicker part of clicker training is actually not required. Clicker training can also be accurately called marker training because use of a marker is what's important, not the clicker itself. Marine animal trainers use whistles. Trainers of deaf dogs use penlights or hand markers (flashing a hand from a fist to open, for example). Training fish requires a light or visual marker. Some people do use the click sound of a pen or their tongue. No matter what marker you use, if you are doing the same method, it's clicker training. Clickers are recommended simply because they are readily available, easy-to use, and typically novel (they've never heard a sound like it), salient (noticeable), and neutral (doesn't carry a meaning already).

    I also recommend that people use clickers if they aren't practiced in clicker training as a novel sound can also help people with timing issues and developing good training mechanics.

  16. "Thank you, ClicknCavy, for this useful post," says:


  17. #12
    Cavy Slave Piggly12's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    Hi
    I definitely want to try clicker training. I will probably get a clicker off Amazon, unless I find it somewhere else. So the first step is to click then treat when the guinea pig moves, right? Then once they realise that clicker sound = treat, you start with tricks/behaviours?

    Could you please help me to begin with the very first steps; like about the first 3 steps of conditioning or something?
    I really want to do this properly!

    What do you do after they are ‘conditioned’? the first trick? clicking them when they approach you?

    Also, will the piggies be scared of the noise, and how do I get my piggies accustomed to my hand, as they are still a bit scared of a lot of things at the moment!

    Thanks! (This will be really fun!)

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    Cavy Slave ClicknCavy's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    OK! I totally recommend taming your guinea pigs enough that they are used to your hands. You can use clicker training to tame them further once they are used to your hands.

    How I tame my piggies, step by step. You know you can go to the next step if they display normal guinea pig behavior or show curiosity (opposite of fear).

    1. Live life around them. Don't bother them for a full day, at least. Longer if they are highly stressed. You need their stress hormones to cycle through their bodies and resume normal levels before they can learn to trust you.
    2. Talk softly to them near the cage so they get used to your voice.
    3. Put your hands on the opposite side of the cage -- you want them used to the sight of your hands and you also want them to believe that they initiate contact with you and not the other way around. You want them used to your hands BEFORE you offer treats. Otherwise, they will be lured in with food, eat it, and then be alone with the scary hand suddenly without the food making them feel better.
    4. Offer treats--allow them to come to the food rather than you bring them food to them. Again, you want them to initiate contact. If they flee or startle, let them make distance and don't chase them around. They need to know that if they are uncomfortable, they can escape and hide so that they feel confidence again. Don't chase them and don't take away their hideys.
    5. Start clicker training!

    Now, when you begin training, you need to train your pigs one at a time, which could be a bit of an obstacle. You can do floortime one at a time and train during floortime and switch your guinea pigs. The first behaviors I worked with my guinea girls was targeting (touching my fingers) and loading up into an upside down hidey.

    The target touch is useful because it gets them used to the idea that my hands and fingers are cool things that make food happen and the loading up behavior is useful because it allows me to more easily move my girls in and out of the cage with even less stress (bad stress can slow learning or stop it all together--which is why I think working on trust is the most important thing to do first!).

    I hope I helped you out and it really is fun! Be sure to look up a bunch of YouTube videos to illustrate some good training mechanics. The important thing for beginners to remember is to move the treat hand only AFTER you click and to remember you aren't clicking obedience, but behaviors. So, if your guinea pig tries their best but can't get it, reward the effort!

  19. "Thank you, ClicknCavy, for this useful post," says:


  20. #14
    Cavy Slave animalmadlover's Avatar
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    Re: Is it REALLY possible???

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveMyHerd View Post
    @ThePigAlchemist, what piggy is not food motivated?
    Believe it or not, I've had guinea pigs that simply weren't interested in doing tricks for food.

    Golden rule: always finish the training lesson on a positive note, and before the guinea pig gets bored. If you keep them going, they will be more reluctant the next time. Thats my experience.

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