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Behavior Havok, the defiant piggy.


Well-known Member
Cavy Slave
Sep 1, 2011
So, we have enough on our hands right now with Gizmo's Abscess and bills and all the other stresses of life; however, our First Piggy, Havok, is finally living up to his namesake.

This pig is doing everything possible to be a nuisance, I mean everything. He has figured out how to scale the 14 inch tall C&C cage wall like freaking spider man. We try to discipline him whenever we see him climbing it, with a few taps on the nose, but at this point they do absolutely nothing. He ignores them. The second we set him back in his cage, he is scaling the wall again, unless he is worn out or eating.

We have to put him in a tiny covered cage at night, lest he escape and wreak 'Havok' in our apartment (He has already chewed through a pair of 60 dollar headphones.). But even in the cage, he finds a way to be a nuisance. By constantly chewing and yanking on the bars, he makes a huge racket and keeps us up all night.

We are at our wits end. We tried giving him more floor time, but he doesn't seem to care about doing anything but breaking through barriers that prevent him from unsafe/restricted areas. We set up a 20 sq ft floor area for him today. He sniffed around for 5 minutes, and the proceeded to violently nose his was beneath the cardboard barrier and escape under our couch.

We hold him for 30 minutes everyday, he gets floor time a few times per week (Since he has a 10 sq ft cage.) He is well fed. I just don't understand what is the problem. Discipline of any form just seems to make matters worse. How can we teach Havok that he can't scale the cage, and keep us up all night by gnawing at bars? I know for a fact if a Guinea Pig can learn a wrinkling bag means food, and snapping fingers means 'come here', he can be disciplined.

Please Help.
The problem with negative discipline on prey animals like rabbits and guinea pigs is they will start to fear you. They also don't learn that way. Which is why the problem is probably getting worse and not better. Please do not tap your guinea pig to punish him.

To stop him from escaping put a lid on the cage and put clips on it. I use luggage locks and lids to keep my kids out I bet that will keep your piggy in. As for the chewing on the cage bars, it has been suggested to put up plexiglass to keep him from possibly breaking his teeth, you might just need to rearrange his home to keep him inside and safe. With my rabbits (who chewed on everything!) I have used ick or bitter apple sprayed on what I did not want them to chew on. Wires, because nothing is ever rabbit proofed no matter how hard you try, base boards, the kitchen table, edges of carpet, etc. It worked for them, it might work for the piggy but I have never tried it with a guinea pig.

Is he separated from Gizmo because of the abscess and just lonely and looking for his buddy? Could that be his problem?
First, discipline won't do anything for a guinea pig. Particularly not for climbing grids, when he's too far away for you to get to him and let him associate the event with the result. If he's sitting in your lap and you say "OW!" when he bites your fingers, he might eventually get it, but even that's not a sure thing.

And taps on the nose when he's climbing the wall probably don't register with him as discipline anyway. He's in his cage, he does something you don't like, you come over and pay attention to him. It's entirely possible that the wrong message is being conveyed.

I just think pig brains aren't big enough to really register discipline. In your two examples, he's learned something by positive association. But you want him to respond to a negative action, and that's something totally different. There's nothing humane that you can do to them to convey your displeasure that will register with them. And by the time you get to them, you've lost the cause-and-effect factor that makes negative reinforcement work when it does work.

Second, do you have a lid for the cage? Closet shelving makes a great lid, and is very easy to clamp down with the sort of clips that are on the end of a dog's leash. They're available at hardware stores, Walmarts, etc. Also, boars need a lot of room, and 10 square feet may not be enough for him.

Third, does he have a buddy? You mention Gizmo, but I don't know whether they're together or not. Having a buddy will let him run off some of the energy.

Fourth, is he in your bedroom? If so, move him somewhere else so you can get some sleep.

For floortime, is there a room you can let him loose in? We have a fairly sizable bathroom with tile floors, and that's where I intended my pigs to have floor time. They absolutely refuse to move when out of the cage, however, so I could have floor time in a 1'x1' cardboard box with no sides and no lid. But that's another story.... If you've got a room where he can be let out, that might help.
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If you have a problem with him climbing, you could get some closet shelving cut for you at Lowe's to the dimensions of your cage and use it as a top.

To comment on something: From what I have read in my research of guinea pigs, positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement. If you continue to flick your guinea pig, he could just come to associate you, your hand, and the act of you coming towards him as a negative. Instead, when you see him performing an action that you do not approve of, I would simply deprive him of achieving his goal, and do not provide anything to reinforce the act. If he is climbing, simply set him down in the cage and watch him. If he comes to the cage wall and just sits nicely, reward him with a matchstick sized carrot strip, or another veggie which he adores. Reinforcing behavior your approve of with a reward that the pig desires will lead to your pig trying to replicate the action to reap the reward. Being prey animals, they excel at being scared of things. Causing even minor harm will likely lead to your pig fearing you, and not associating the flick with the bar climbing, but with your approaching the cage.

ETA: great minds, you two... :)
I would find a way to get a lid on the cage. I like the idea of using veggies to train him to stop somehow (like they do with dogs), it's how people train their guinea pigs to stand for their food.

I read somewhere that they chew the bars when they are bored, so maybe that is his problem in the smaller cage. What kind of toys do you have for him and does he have a buddy? Only one of my boys, Perry, chews the bars and he only does this when he knows it's veggie time...

Other then this, what everyone else said.
He and Gizmo are always seperated. Since Gizmo is female. He Bunks with Duo, a Chunky Shy Adult we adopted not too long ago. I will try getting a lid, It surprises me how smart this pig is. Once he figures out something once, he remembers and innovates. He can scale stair up and down, he knows his name, he can respond to basic commands. We love Havok, its just a pain to try to keep him contained.
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