What is Clicker training?
Clicker training is the use of positive reinforcement to teach an animal a certain behavior. Positive reinforcement can be things like treats, toys and words of encouragement “well done!” Clicker training emphasizes these positive things, making training a great experience for both you and your pet and discourages negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is used to make your pet uncomfortable with a particular situation to stop your pet from exhibiting a certain behavior, such as- a dog barking excessively when you leave the house. People who use negative reinforcement often use aids to stop this behavior, such as a chokey, an electric collar and anger “bad dog!” These are all things that we want to avoid because they often have a negative impact and install fear into your pet rather then achieving the desired behavior.
Clicker training is most commonly associated with tricks but it can be used to teach your pet valuable skills such as the recall. Few people realize how smart pets can be. Not only dogs can be trained, but other pets such as cats, mice and even fish can be trained! I am constantly amazed by the amazing things that people manage to teach their pets in videos on YouTube. Few people realize that guinea pigs can be trained to do tricks and not many people go beyond the basics to see what they can do.
Why Do Clicker Training?
Clicker training is one of the most rewarding and mentally stimulating activities for you and your guinea pig to do. I highly recommend it to anyone. Why not? Its heaps of fun! Mental stimulation is very important for guinea pigs because it helps them to have happier and healthier and evidently longer lives. It provides an opportunity for you to bond with your pet and I can honestly say that it is the most rewarding experience to teach an animal to do something that it wouldn’t naturally do.
People don’t realize the importance of the name. If the name is confusing to your guinea pig then the training will be tough. So please make sure to give your cavvy a good name. There are sites like Petsium where you can find really good guinea pig names ideas, regardless if you have a female, male or both. There are names for pairs, females and names for boy guinea pigs.
With the right timing and training, you can teach your guinea pig almost anything from pushing balls, jumping hoops and weaving poles, to pushing buttons, playing fetch and even coming when you call! You name it! What would you love to teach your guinea pig? I am here to teach you how to train your guinea pig and help you along the way 😀
How to Clicker Train your Guinea pig
Step 1: Voice or clicker?
The marker tells your guinea pig that he has done something right, and will receive a treat as a reward. It could be something as simple as moving a paw, but the effect is always the same. Your guinea pig associates the behavior with the reward and displays it again. The more that you practice, the more your guinea pig will begin to understand that he has to work out what you are asking him to do in order to get the treat. You can use your voice as a marker but the noise must always be the same, short and simple such as “yes.” The clicker is an effective tool to use as a marker because it is much more precise when marking the behavior and you can save your voice for encouragement and teaching the commands. I prefer to use the clicker because it is much easier to get the timing right.
Step 2: Choose a Treat
Some people prefer to offer toys as a reward for the desired behavior. However, treats are the most effective and it is up to you to figure out which treats your guinea pig will respond to the most. While most guinea pigs will do anything for food, some guinea pigs will only train with you if the treats are worth the effort. The treat must not be filling or fattening, it must be small and easy for the animal to swallow quickly. The smaller the treat is, the more effective it is for training. Experiment with different foods to discover what works best.
Step 3: *Optional* Training bag
The training bag, or bum bag as it is commonly called, clips around your waist and makes training much easier. They have pockets for the clicker and treats plus any other training accessories that you might want to carry around. I started training without one, and managed to get hold of one later on, I don’t know how I got on without it! It is great for keeping everything together so that I don’t loose anything. The handy thing about the training bag is that you don’t have to leave the treats anywhere if you need to leave the training area. Because one time, I returned to find the treats were all eaten!
Step 4: Training area
Now you need to find a quiet area with little or no distractions to begin training your guinea pig. This might be a large grassy area out in the fresh air, it might be a spacious room but make sure that your guinea pig is comfortable training in that place. When you first begin, it is not a good idea to have other people or pets in the room because they could distract your session easily.
Step 5: Choose an easy trick and get started!
Be sure to learn your guinea pigs body language as it is how your cavvy will communicate with you.
Most of all HAVE FUN!