Tuesday, March 10, 2009

10 weeks - training the pigs

Let's get something straight right here. Training a guinea pig should be a mutually enjoyable thing. I would never do any of it if I didn't feel certain that the piggies like and desire the experience. We have sort of fallen into word command training (or whatever you want to call it) as we noticed that the piggies instinctively seem to do things that suggests they enjoy the process. They seem to be teaching me and I follow along.

For instance, as the girls have warmed up to us, they are now accepting some hand feeding. Along with this, when they have gobbled up some romaine and want some more, they wait at the side of the cage near us and stand on their hind legs. We have used this opportunity to teach them 'stand'. They now stand up for food.

Here are the voice commands (with food incentives) that we have decided to try:
1. Stand Up - they can do this now
2. Circle - we'll start this when they are hand feeding from within the cage
3. Upstairs (to get them to come upstairs in the cage to say hello)
4. Downstairs (to get them to come downstairs to the food area at meal time)
5. Their own names (they seemed to recognized their different names around 8 weeks)
6. Shake hands (later when they are comfortable with climbing on our hands)
7, Kisses = almost touching my nose to theirs at side of cage. They do this now though I hesitate to really touch in case they think my nose is food.

We thought it would be a good idea if we all used the same words and approaches for these commands. I do the most cage care so they are most responsive to me so far but they definitely like our whole family which is great.

We had a big change this week. While I was cleaning the cage (sweeping the hay and poops off the fleece with a little dustpan and broom), Harmony came right up to me and licked my hand. Considering she is by far the most skittish of the two pigs, this was a big event. I was quite honoured to have her trust me this way.

Fun and Play - Change Things Up Daily
In a way it seems contradictory to their skittish nature, but the piggies definitely enjoy having daily changes to their cage. I spend as much time as I can with my hands in the cage, cleaning up and just being near them, and at each cleaning I move their hideys around, creating new play scenarios. They are always interested in changes and chat about whatever I do and fully investigate it. I love it when they get silly, climbing on their hidey tunnels and racing around.

I've been looking for inexpensive but safe ping pong balls to add to the cage in case they will play with them. Other people seem to use various bird toys such as mirrors and hanging chewy wood toys. I haven't found anything yet at a good price that seems right but I'm on the lookout. It's so hard to trust a product that says 'Made in China' to be truly safe for piggie to chew on.

Many of my photos are taken by leaving my camera turned on, recording video, and then placing it on the floor of the cage. I later snatch still photos from the footage. It's blurry but better than nothing. It seems that the piggies are either racing around and hard to photograph or hidden and sleeping at this point. I'm sure they'll settle down when they're old and plump.

I had used duct tape to hold the corrugated plastic together on the outside of the cage (where they couldn't get it) but Harmony managed to find some she could get to and had a little chewfest. As soon as I found this, I removed it. She then took to chewing the corrugated plastic at the top of the ramp. To stop her, I bought plastic project spines at Staples and covered it up. This plastic is too thick for her to attempt chewing and that seemed to stop it.

Some guinea pig advice says to always have wood available to chew, some warns that treated woods are toxic, but some raw woods are also harmful. I haven't sorted this out yet... For now they have their hay to munch on as much as they like.

Rear Sniffing
Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, they have started sniffing each other's rears. One will get a whiff and follow the other around. It's something they obviously don't enjoy being the recipient of but they enjoy being the instigator. Silly piggies.

By my estimates, they have already doubled in length and weight. They look like pubescent piggies now, not quite teenagers. I still don't have a scale but there's no mistaking how big they're getting.

Ten weeks ended up being another great milestone in their acceptance of us. I can now clean the cage without scaring them. They just play around my hands and sometimes approach me for a sniff. I so look forward to being able to pet them or perhaps have them on my lap.

Piggie Cam
Is it just me or does sweet Kazula look like a sheep? She's very comical and because she's still so slender, she runs like the dickens!

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