How to Teach Guinea Pigs Not to Bite
It is uncommon for guinea pigs to bite, but sometimes you can find yourself with a chronic biter on your hands. Some guinea pigs will turn around and nip you frequently when trying to pick them up and handle them. Some may even lunge and bite! If your guinea pig is being obnoxiously nibbly, there may be some common reasons that are easy to fix.
For guinea pigs that are biting much more seriously, this can’t be solved overnight. However, there are many positive training methods you can use to build up trust with your guinea pig and teach them that there’s no need to bite.
I’ve personally had a nippy guinea pig who hated being petted and picked up. He would swing around and bite you progressively harder if you tried to pick him up. These methods all worked very well for him, and he learned to tolerate being picked up and even learned to love head rubs! All guinea pigs are different, but communication is a two-way street. Learn to understand your guinea pig, and they will reciprocate and love interacting with you as well!
Why is Your Guinea Pig Biting?
The best way to stop your guinea pig from biting is to find the root of the problem and address the trigger.
Why is your guinea pig biting? How hard are they biting, and what exactly provokes the bite? When and where are they when they are most likely to bite?
If we can narrow down the problem, we can start to look at it from the guinea pig’s point of view. I’ll cover some examples below and explain why guinea pigs could be triggered to bite in each situation.
If Your Guinea Pig Bites When You Put Your Hand in the Cage
If your guinea pig is biting when you put your hand in their cage, they likely associate your hand in a negative light. Maybe you have to chase them around the cage to pick them up, and they feel they can’t escape. Perhaps they dislike being picked up, and they know you’re going to try to pick them up every time you put your hands in the cage.
If they are lunging and biting as soon as you put your hand near them, this means they’re anticipating something you’re going to do, and they’re trying to keep you away proactively. Guinea pigs are not territorial with people around their cage, so the likely scenario is that they do not want to be touched or picked up.
So how can you fix this? Change the way your guinea pig thinks of your hands. Don’t pick them up with your hands anymore. Put a carrier, fleece hidey, tunnel, snuggle sack, or something similar in your guinea pig’s cage and pick them up in that.
Try hand feeding your guinea pig some of their favorite veggies in the cage. Use a big leaf of lettuce or something similar, so they don’t have to come close to your hand at first. This will change the way they think of your hand coming near them in the cage, and gradually they will decide that there’s no need to bite you anymore.
If Your Guinea Pig Bites When You Try to Pick Them Up
Most guinea pigs do not love being picked up, but there are a select few that will let you know with a bite. If you have a guinea pig that is suddenly biting you when they didn’t before, this can indicate a medical issue.
Your guinea pig may have pain in their belly or soreness in another part of their body. This can also signify early arthritis if your guinea pig is getting up there in age. If you put pressure on a sore spot when you pick them up, this can trigger biting out of the blue.
Also, make sure you are picking up your guinea pig correctly. Always use two hands, one under the belly and the other supporting their back legs. If you try to pick up a guinea pig with one hand or if you accidentally squeeze them too hard, this can also trigger them to nip you in some cases.
Also, try to limit how much you carry your guinea pig around. Try to pick them up and put them down on the floor right away. Guinea pigs will be far more comfortable being picked up if their feet are not dangling in the air for too long.
However, some guinea pigs really dislike being picked up. It’s pretty normal for guinea pigs to hate being lifted out of their cage, but they usually don’t protest. If they are biting, this could be their personality. Some guinea pigs are more outgoing and opinionated. These piggies are more likely to let you know what they think through biting.
Some, however, may be intensely terrified of being picked up or cornered. These pigs feel like flight is not an option, so they need to defend themselves by biting. You’ll know which category your guinea pig fits into.
If your guinea pig hates being picked up, I’d recommend you pick them up in a carrier or something like a fleece hut or tunnel. Get them out on the floor with you and give them time to get to know you.
Spend time hand feeding veggie treats and really build up trust with your guinea pig. Once they are comfortable eating food from your hand, try petting them gently while they’re eating.
Gradually get them used to being touched on their back, sides, and under their belly.
Play the Elevator Game
Once they’re good with that, play the “elevator game.” Place some food on a bed or couch and swiftly pick up your guinea pig and place them on the bed in front of the food. You can do the same thing when you put them down again.
This will gradually shift their perspective from “I’m being picked up and forced to do something I don’t want to do” to “The magic hand is going to bring me to the food!” This can take some time to properly build up trust, but it will result in a guinea pig that willingly lets you pick them up without feeling the need to bite you.
I had a guinea pig in the past who would follow me around and practically climb onto my arms to be picked up because he knew that his nighttime veggies were always waiting in the cage.
Guinea Pigs That Nip When You Hold Them
If your guinea pig is constantly nibbling or nipping at your arms and hands while you hold them, you’re not alone. Many guinea pigs do this, and there are a lot of reasons why.
If they’re being overly nibbly all the time, they may be young and curious. Baby guinea pigs nibble a lot, and this can progress into painful little nips.
It’s best to give young guinea pigs some time to run around before holding them so they get all that extra energy out. It also helps to provide them with some food or something to chew on while they’re on your lap.
In most cases, nibbly babies will get better with age.
If your guinea pig starts biting you out of the blue, they may need to go to the bathroom. Guinea pigs need to pee every 15-20 minutes, and some like to do this in the privacy of their cage. This can lead to them impatiently nipping at you and squirming a lot.
Finally, some guinea pigs will get super nippy when they simply don’t want to be on your lap. Guinea pigs that are energetic and outgoing would often much rather explore than cuddle! It usually helps to give these pigs a bit of floor time first to get that out of their system. Give them some veggies while you hold them to keep them occupied and make cuddle times more positive for them.
Many guinea pigs will start to get uncomfortable being away from their cage for too long, and this can also lead to biting. Guinea pigs like to be able to go back to their familiar surroundings. Even if they appear relaxed, guinea pigs never completely let their guard down until they’re back in their home. Being out for a long time can cause guinea pigs to get a little homebound and anxious to go back to their house.
To make socializing more fun for your guinea pig, give them some veggies to munch on while they hang out with you. Many guinea pigs also appreciate a soft blanket to burrow and hide in. Hold them for just a few minutes and work up to lengthier amounts of time gradually. Try to put them down before they start biting so they don’t learn that biting gets the result they want.
Read Your Guinea Pig’s Body Language
If you have a guinea pig that bites, it’s essential to read their body language and pay attention to the little signs they’re giving you before they resort to biting. Is their body stiff? Tense? Like they’re ready to defend themselves?
Are they chattering their teeth? Angry, intense chattering coupled with a tense body posture indicates a guinea pig ready to lunge and bite hard. If your guinea pig is doing this, leave them alone until they’ve cooled off completely. On the other hand, soft chattering (with relatively relaxed body posture) indicates annoyance but not necessarily an immediate intent to bite you.
Guinea Pigs That Lunge and Bite Aggressively
If your guinea pig is lunging at you and trying to bite you, this means they feel like this is the only way to keep you away from them. It is rare for guinea pigs to do this.
However, if they don’t like being handled, they may learn that lunging is an effective way to deter people from picking them up. Guinea pigs will usually only do this if they’ve learned that there is no other way to communicate with you.
If your guinea pig is doing this, try changing the way you interact with your guinea pig. Look for small signs that they are uncomfortable and listen to those signs before the guinea pig feels the need to defend themselves more aggressively.
Get your piggy out of the cage in a carrier or hut, so you don’t have to pick them up. Start forming a bond with your guinea pig to teach them they can trust you. Let them roam freely on the floor and approach you when they feel comfortable. Offer them some veggies from your hand, so they start to form positive associations with you rather than negative.
Build Up Trust With Your Guinea Pig
The primary keys to teaching your guinea pig not to bite are communication and trust. To build up the latter, spend some time with your guinea pig on their terms.
Find their favorite veggie treats and offer them these treats from your hand. Use a little carrier or hut to get them out of the cage and sit with them on the floor.
Get them used to soft, gentle pets while they are busy munching on veggies. You can also teach them tricks as a way to bond without physically picking them up and cuddling. Eventually, this will change their outlook on you from negative to positive.
How to Train Guinea Pigs Not to Bite Cage Bars
Guinea pigs can sometimes bite the bars of their cage when they’re bored. Most often, though, it’s because they want food or attention. They may realize it’s almost feeding time, and they’re getting impatient.
Regardless, cage biting is very loud and annoying. It can also damage your guinea pig’s teeth if they do it a lot.
You can reduce the boredom aspect by providing safe chew items and daily floor time to run around. It’s also essential to provide unlimited handfuls of high-quality grass hay.
Another critical factor is feeding times. If your guinea pig bites the bars a lot throughout the day, you’ll want to set twice daily feeding times. Feed them at the same times every day consistently. If you are consistent about this, they will stop biting the bars throughout most of the day. They may start biting just around feeding times when they anticipate dinner time.
To eliminate this, walk away and ignore them every time they bite on the bars. Try not to feed them straight after they bite on the cage. To succeed, you may need to get the food ready and place it near the cage. Walk away and wait for your guinea pig to stop biting. After a few minutes of silence, go over and quickly feed your guinea pig before they have a chance to run out and start biting.
If this isn’t possible, have them work for their food a little bit to get their mind off the cage biting. Try teaching them tricks, like running in a circle for the first few pieces of food. Once you have their mind focused on something more positive, you can give them the rest of the food.
Wrapping it Up
There are many reasons why guinea pigs bite. Typically they do so to communicate, express some discomfort they feel, or react to pain. In some cases, they will bite to defend themselves, especially if they think fleeing is not an option. Once you’ve identified the problem, you can start working on the solution.
Biting isn’t typically an overnight fix. However, with the right amount of time and patience, you can have a great bond with your guinea pig without worrying about your piggy biting you.