How to Teach a Guinea Pig to Play Fetch
Fetch is one of my absolute favorite guinea pig tricks. It’s a super fun (and incredibly adorable) trick to teach your piggy. Although it does take some time and practice to teach a guinea pig to fetch accurately instead of just throwing their head around everywhere, the cute puppy-like result of this trick at the end is totally worth it.
It’s a good idea to teach your guinea pig to play basketball (with a mini net or simply a shallow bowl)
before starting to teach them to play fetch. If your guinea pig knows the basketball trick already, you should be able to skip some of the steps below and work through this trick a bit quicker.
This video shows my guinea pig Ace, when he was 4 months old, practicing his fetch trick. We practiced the basketball trick for a couple of weeks before starting this trick. Although he’s not perfect quite yet, he’s off to a great start!
Can Guinea Pigs Play Fetch?
Fetch seems like a rather strange trick to teach to a guinea pig. However, guinea pigs can and do carry things naturally without training. Have you ever given your guinea pig a veggie treat and watched them snatch it and run back to their house to eat it? Naturally, they are capable of fetching any type of object that is small and lightweight enough for them to carry easily. It can take some time to teach them to fetch a foreign object and bring it to you rather than running away, but it is a trick that stems from natural behavior.
Some guinea pigs are much better at carrying items than others, however. I have found that some of my guinea pigs can learn to fetch from quite far away. They seem to be able to carry things quite well without dropping them. However, I’ve had other piggies who drop the ball multiple times while bringing it back. These guinea pigs can still learn to fetch, but they do best when you roll the ball only a short distance away.
How Long Does it Take to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Fetch?
It can take several weeks to teach your guinea pig to fetch when you factor in the initial training of learning to put the ball into your hand or a bowl. This trick actually requires a lot of skill on the part of the guinea pig. They have to learn to carry a foreign object accurately and learn to control where they put it. This is actually quite hard for most guinea pigs.
Often, guinea pigs will wave their head back and forth while trying to put it in your hand. This is because it’s hard for them to put it in the right spot. It takes a lot of time and patience to teach this trick from beginning to end.
What You Need for Training
To teach your guinea pig to play fetch, you’ll need your guinea pig, some of their favorite veggie treats, a safe enclosed space that is free from distractions, and a small ball that is easy for them to pick up and carry. My favorite type to use is these slotted cat toy balls. You can remove the bells, and then they are the perfect size and weight to use for guinea pigs.
Choose vegetables that are low in calcium and well-loved by your guinea pig. My piggies love green leaf or romaine lettuce, cucumber, radicchio, bell peppers, and carrots the most.
Once you have some favorite treats, break them up into small pieces to use for training.
You’ll also want a quiet environment to train your guinea pig. Choose a space that is familiar to your guinea pig. A room that you use for your guinea pig’s floor time is usually a great option. It’s a good idea to block off a smaller area of the room, so there are fewer distractions. If you have multiple guinea pigs, it’s a good idea to separate one at a time for short training sessions.
You can do both of these things with a foldable exercise pen. Personally, I love to buy a pack of wire grids and zip-tie them together to make a pen in the exact size I want. The wire grids also fold like an accordion for storage, as long as you don’t zip-tie them too tightly!
It can also help to have a waterproof floor mat to protect your floor or carpet from messes while your piggies are running around. My favorites are these waterproof splat mats made for kids. They are washable, easy to sweep clean and do a great job of preventing any pee from seeping through.
How to Teach a Guinea Pig to Play Fetch (Video Tutorial)
This is a video of my guinea pig Ace demonstrating the steps to teach your guinea pig to fetch. Keep in mind that this video was filmed after he had learned the trick, so most guinea pigs will not progress as quickly. If you’d rather view the written tutorial, keep scrolling below. I have more information and training tips closer to the bottom of this page.
How to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Fetch – Step by Step
Follow along with these steps to teach your guinea pig to play fetch. Remember to go slow and progress at your guinea pig’s pace. It never hurts to spend extra time on each step, especially for this trick. If your guinea pig gets stuck at any point, don’t be afraid to go back a step again. This is often the easiest way to get your guinea pig back on track and prevent them from becoming frustrated or distracted.
1. Teach Your Guinea Pig to Pick up a Ball
Place the ball in front of your guinea pig or hold it in front of them in your hand. Give your guinea pig a small treat anytime they sniff or show interest in the ball. If they’re not overly interested in the ball, try stuffing some lettuce inside or rubbing some food on it so the ball smells like food to the guinea pig. Let them chew or bite at the ball to get at the lettuce.
Anytime they bite at or pick up the ball, give them an additional treat from your hand. You can keep refilling the ball with lettuce as many times as you need until the guinea pig is picking it up frequently.
Once your guinea pig is picking up the ball with lettuce inside, try placing the ball on the floor without any lettuce. Give a treat from your hand if the guinea pig tries to nibble at or pick up the ball at all. Your guinea pig may find it easier to learn this if you pinch the ball with two fingers and hold it in front of them instead. Some guinea pigs give up easily if the ball rolls away from them on the floor, so this can be very helpful for those guinea pigs.
Once your guinea pig starts picking up the ball, it’s a good idea to practice this for a while before moving on to the next step. Give them a treat every time they pick up the ball until they are eagerly and consistently picking up the ball.
2. Put Your Hand Under and Catch the Ball
Every time your guinea pig picks up the ball, quickly put your hand under it and catch it. Only reward when the ball lands in your hand. Practice this several times so the guinea pig begins to understand that the ball is supposed to land in your hand.
3. Teach The Guinea Pig to Put the Ball in Your Hand Independently
Hold your hand close to the guinea pig, but keep it in one place. Use your other hand (holding food if necessary) to lure their head towards your open hand and encourage them to drop the ball in your hand. Practice with your hand in one place for a while until the guinea pig is able to put the ball in your hand confidently.
Once they’ve mastered this, practice the same thing with your hand on the other side of them.
You will likely need to spend at least a few sessions working on each side individually before the guinea pig fully understands this step.
Once they can put the ball in your hand from both sides, practice switching your hand back and forth to each side in the same session. Practice until the guinea pig can confidently put the ball in your hand on both sides.
This may seem like an easy step to skip, but it’s important to take the time to teach this. Teaching your guinea pig to put the ball in your hand teaches them the direction and accuracy they need to be able to fetch and bring the ball back to you. This step often takes the longest to teach, but if taught properly, it makes teaching the rest of the trick very easy.
4. Place the Ball a Few Inches Away and Gradually Increase the Distance
Start placing the ball a couple of inches away from your hand. Over time, you can gradually increase the distance you place the ball away for them to bring back to your hand.
Be patient and practice each step thoroughly before moving on to the next one. Practice frequently, but always keep your training sessions short and fun!
Additional Tips For Teaching This Trick
Be extra patient with this trick. Be generous with rewards, progress at your guinea pig’s pace, and make sure they have a really solid grasp of one step before moving on to the next step. Fetching is a skill that takes time for guinea pigs to develop.
Guinea pigs naturally tend to pick up objects and throw them around, tossing their head back and forth. With time and patience, they will eventually replace the throwing with something a little more controlled. Short, frequent sessions are key.
If Your Guinea Pig Isn’t Getting it
If your guinea pig is still struggling to learn this trick, go to the basketball trick page and work on that first. I usually spend several weeks on the basketball trick before spending several weeks on fetch. These are not easy tricks for guinea pigs to learn, and it generally takes a lot of practice and patience.
It’s also fine to switch back to different tricks in between. Working on basketball and fetch every day for weeks on end can be tiring for guinea pigs. I often spend a week or two on basketball/fetch, then work on a few easier tricks for a couple of weeks, and then go back to it again.
Oftentimes, taking a break can even accelerate learning. Animals are thinking and putting things together even when we are not working on something. Starting and then stopping the training after a few weeks usually brings a fresh perspective as well.
I hope you found this tutorial helpful in teaching your piggy to play fetch! Fetch is a lot of fun, but it definitely has its challenges. There are so many other tricks you can teach while working on tricks like this to switch up your training a bit. Check out these lists of 10 easiest tricks to teach your guinea pig as well as 7 coolest tricks you can teach for more trick training inspiration.