If you have recently got a new Guinea Pig, or are looking to bring one into the home, then you are going to need to build a new bond and connection together. While building this relationship can be fun, it is important that you gain and then keep their trust from the outset. But how would you do this? This is what you need to know.
Guinea Pigs will not just automatically trust you. They will need time to accept you as their owner and build confidence in you as their provider. Giving your Guinea Pigs food is an excellent way to build trust, along with regularly rewarding them, not picking them up and letting them come to you when petting them.
What actions can you take to get your Guinea Pig to trust you faster? How can you make your Guinea Pig feel at home sooner?
In this article, we will be providing you with some actionable tips to build a strong bond.
Guinea Pigs And Trust
Guinea Pigs exist in the wild as prey animals, meaning they have a natural instinct to ‘run away’ and protect themselves.
So, it is important to consider that it does not feel comfortable to have a large human being looming over them.
They are going to want to run away and hide, and it takes a bit of time for them to get to know you and trust that you will not do them any harm.
Trust will not just occur automatically; it will require time with and around your Guinea Pig(s).
You’ll soon notice that the more time you spend with them, the more comfortable and the more trust that they ultimately place in you.
Its absolutely worth it, even if it does not appear that you are getting anyway to begin with.
All Guinea Pigs have different personalities and some are more trusting than others. Some owners gain their Guinea Pigs trust within a few weeks whilst others spend months trying to establish that close bond.
If you’ve had Guinea Pigs for a couple of weeks and they still hide when you enter the room; do not panic. This is normal for many Guinea Pig owners and there are thankfully things you can do to speed up the process.
How To Get Your Guinea Pig To Trust You
Here are a few strategies and tips that you can try to gain your Guinea Pigs trust. Give them all a try.
Tip #1 – Give Them Food
Since Guinea Pigs are usually hungry, giving them food will help you build their trust. This is commonly given as a taming tip because Guinea Pigs are naturally inclined to seek out a regular food source.
Letting your Guinea Pig know that you are taking care of them and are a regular supply them food is only going to build their confidence in you.
You can cut up some vegetables into really small pieces. From there, you can hand feed-them which is great for bonding.
If possible, it is best to start by concealing your hand and holding the vegetables with your fingers. This way you can keep your distance and give them plenty of space.
If your Guinea Pig is not willing to take food out of your hand the first time you try this, do not worry.
By giving it time and routinely checking back, you’ll soon find that they are keen to give this a try. Just be sure to move slowly and be gentle.
Tip #2 – Leave Your Guinea Pigs In The Cage
In the early days when you are yet to gain your Guinea Pigs trust, it is a good idea to leave them in the cage and let them learn about and become familiar in their new environment.
Taking them out can cause stress, particularly if they are yet to fully trust you.
Remember, it is uncomfortable for Guinea Pigs to be taken out of that cage and it feels odd to them to not have all of their four feet on the ground.
So, a great way to spend time with them and help facilitate the bond is to make sure you regularly sit next to their cage.
Talking to them helps them to learn your voice and understand what you sound like.
Be sure to regularly fill their cage with hay; you want them to recognize you as the food person and someone who always makes them feel safe and secure.
Unfortunately as much as you want to pick them up and hold them, in the early days this is not usually recommended and is not a good way to build their trust.
If you wanted to check their weight and do need to take them out of the cage, a good alternative is to make them hide in a Tunnel/Cozy/Hideaway and then carefully take that out with them still inside.
This is particularly useful for Guinea Pigs who are easily scared and show signs of panic.
While your Guinea Pig may still be scared and not enjoy being put on a scale, you are still able to minimize stress with this approach.
Tip #3 – Reward Your Guinea Pigs
Another thing that you should do to build trust is to routinely reward your Guinea Pigs. This is especially true when you make them do things that is not familiar to them yet or that may cause stress and anxiety.
Health checks/clipping their nails are prime examples of this.
By rewarding them after, Guinea Pigs can learn to recognize the new experience with positive emotions rather than just an outright negative one.
You may see signs from your Guinea Pigs that they do not enjoy a particular endeavor (e.g. Chattering their teeth when they have their nails clipped).
But by giving a reward you should help your Guinea Pig to forget about the experience and you should see them return quickly to a happy state.
When giving rewards, small chunks of vegetables and or dill/coriander work very well.
When your Guinea Pigs are tame, you can also reward behavior that you want to encourage.
For example if they’re running around you during floor time and they start sniffing your foot or your jeans you can give them a small piece of vegetable.
If you do this often enough your Guinea Pigs will learn that you’re perfectly safe to be around you. At the same time, it will also enable them to go off and explore. They may even come back to you to get to know you better.
If your Guinea Pig displays behavior you don’t want to encourage ignore the behavior. Don’t punish it!
Reward the positive and ignore the negative. Your guinea pigs might not know how to behave around a human; it’s as much of a learning process for them as it is for you.
Tip #4 – Let Your Guinea Pigs Come To You
If you want to pet your Guinea Pigs, you should make sure that they are completely comfortable to do so. Being away of this can help you to build their trust.
To do this, you will want your Guinea Pigs to come to you (not the other way around). If they come to cage opening you can gently try to pet their nose.
If your Guinea Pig runs away, then you should take a step back and try again later – do not force it!
Some Guinea Pigs have no problem with being petted on their nose while others are more careful and prefer hiding.
For these types, they usually become more trusting if they know that they can always go away from you and that you will not follow them.
You’ll likely notice when petting your Guinea Pigs that they are okay as long as they can retreat. Ensure your hand does not follow them when they do.
Ultimately, its up to your Guinea Pigs to decide when they have had enough, just as much as it is okay if you want to leave the room to do something else.
Tip #5 Give It Time
If you notice that your Guinea Pig does not move when you go by the cage, perhaps it is completely frozen, you should leave the room and give the Guinea Pig time to relax.
This is a telltale sign that the Guinea Pig is very scared so you should give them time before you try to interact again.
A scared Guinea Pig cannot learn to trust you as its survival instincts kick in.
If you have a really scared Guinea Pig it may take as long as a year until it fully trusts you. But when it does its going to be really rewarding.
While it may feel frustrating and that you are not making progress, if you persevere, give it time and take it step by step, you’ll start to build the trust. Your Guinea Pigs will want to get to know you and recognize you as the Food person.
As we have covered in this post, getting your Guinea Pig to trust you is a process and does not just happen by itself.
Thankfully there are many things you can do. Give these tips a try and you’ll soon start to see some progress.
Remember, food is a fantastic reward for Guinea Pigs – use it to your advantage!
If you’ve had a Guinea Pig(s) for some time now and they’re still yet to fully trust to, be gentle, careful and persistent. They will learn to trust you in time and everything will turn out just fine.
I’ve been there multiple times; its not forever.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.