Tunnels are an easy and fun obstacle to teach your guinea pig. A short open tunnel is typically very easy to teach. After that, you can also teach longer or curved tunnels to make it even more fun and challenging.
You can also teach your guinea pig to go through a closed tunnel and a tilting tunnel after they have learned to go through a regular tunnel. Instructions for teaching these types of tunnels are at the bottom of this page, below the main tutorial.
Tunnels can be great as an individual trick, or they make a great addition to a miniature agility course. Tunnels can be bought or made out of all kinds of things. You can make a tunnel out of small rectangular boxes or similar items you might have around your house. You can also purchase a tunnel that is extendable and bendable to add a bit more variety to your agility course.
How Long Does it Take to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Go Through a Tunnel?
A short open tunnel usually doesn’t take long to teach at all. Most guinea pigs love tunnels and can learn to go through a basic tunnel in just a couple of days. Longer tunnels and curved tunnels can take a week or so because you have to extend the length gradually. It involves a bit more time and repetition.
A closed tunnel can take an additional few days to a week. Some guinea pigs can learn the closed tunnel quite quickly. Some piggies like the private atmosphere of a closed tunnel and don’t want to come out once they go in! These guinea pigs can take a bit of extra time and persuasion to master this obstacle.
What You Need for Training
To teach your guinea pig to go through tunnels, you’ll need your guinea pig, some of their favorite veggie treats, and a safe enclosed space that is free from distractions.
You’ll also need some tunnels! I like to use tunnels that are at least 5″ in diameter.
My favorite tunnels are ones that can be extended and bent in different directions. You’ll also need some fabric material to make a closed tunnel if you want to teach this obstacle.
Or you can purchase a fleece type of tunnel with curtains and use that as your version of the closed tunnel.
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 Go Through a Tunnel (Video Tutorial)
The following video is Ace demonstrating the steps to take to teach your guinea pig to navigate both open and closed tunnels. You can find the full tutorial below the video.
How to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Go Through a Tunnel – Step by Step
Follow along with these steps to get your guinea pig running through tunnels in no time! Most guinea pigs naturally gravitate to tunnels, but some may be more cautious and nervous about going inside at first. Give your guinea pig some time and space to check things out first if they are hesitant to go through.
As always, remember to progress at your guinea pig’s pace. Only move on from one step when they are completely confident at the current step they’re on. Never be afraid to backtrack temporarily to a previous step if your guinea pig becomes confused or distracted. This is one of the best ways to get their confidence back up and get them focused again.
1. Get Your Guinea Pig Used to the Tunnel
Encourage your guinea pig to check out the tunnel and go through it a few times. You can do this by putting several treats inside the tunnel and around the entrance to the tunnel. Help point out the treats to your guinea pig if they can’t find them at first.
If they come all the way through the tunnel at any point, give them lots of treats and praise. Do this a few more times until the guinea pig seems comfortable going inside the tunnel to look for treats.
2. Lure Your Guinea Pig Through the Tunnel
Next, lure your guinea pig through the tunnel with food in your hand. If they are hesitant to come all the way through, give them some treats while they are still in the tunnel and reward them just for following your hand one step at a time.
Practice until you can lure them through the tunnel easily. Be sure to lure the guinea pig through the tunnel both ways so they don’t become too one-sided.
3. Fade Out the Lure
At this point, you can start to fade out the lure. Try guiding the guinea pig to the start of the tunnel and hold your hand at the other end to encourage them to come the rest of the way through.
After a few times, try guiding them to the start of the tunnel and see if they will go through on their own from there. Give them a treat as soon as they come through.
After a bit more practice, wait and see if they will go through without any prompting at all. Practice until the guinea pig will consistently go through the tunnel on their own.
4. Extend the Tunnel
If you have a flexible and extendable tunnel, you can start to gradually make it longer each time. Practice a few repetitions and then make it another inch or two longer. Keep going until the guinea pig will go through the fully extended tunnel.
5. Bend the Tunnel in Different Directions
You can also use the same process for curving the tunnel around in a semi-circle. Curve it just slightly at first, and gradually curve it more and more as your guinea pig learns. Eventually, they’ll be able to race through the long and curved tunnels with no hesitation.
Teaching the Closed Tunnel
Once your guinea pig has learned to go through the open tunnel, you can also teach them to navigate a closed tunnel. The closed tunnel is a little more challenging than a regular tunnel.
However, if your guinea pig has already mastered the open tunnel, they should be able to pick up on the closed tunnel fairly quickly as well.
1. Hold the Fabric Up and Lure Your Guinea Pig Through
Start by holding the collapsed part of the tunnel open with one hand. With the other, lure the guinea pig through and reward.
Practice a few times until the guinea pig can go through without relying too much on the lure.
2. Gradually Hold the Fabric Lower
As your guinea pig becomes more comfortable going through, you can start to hold the collapsed end lower each time gradually.
Lower the fabric very gradually each time, so the guinea pig doesn’t a big difference all at once. Keep slowly lowering it until the fabric is almost touching the floor.
3. Leave the Fabric All the Way Down
After a while, try leaving the collapsed end of the tunnel on the floor and see if the guinea pig will come through it on their own. If they hesitate in the tunnel longer than a couple of seconds, lift up the collapsed part and help encourage them to come through.
Practice until the guinea pig will consistently go through the closed tunnel on their own. If they seem to be struggling with the closed tunnel at all, go back a step and practice a bit more before moving on to the next step again.
How to Teach a Guinea Pig to Go Through a Tilting Tunnel
This is a video on how to teach yet another version of the tunnel trick. This tilting tunnel can be found at Haypigs.com. This tunnel is super cool, but it is much harder to teach. The tilting tunnel is kind of like a cross between a seesaw and a tunnel, so it moves a lot as the guinea pig goes through. However, it is a super cool and flashy tunnel to teach to your guinea pig!
Additional Tips For Teaching The Tunnel Trick
- Make sure your guinea pig knows the open tunnel thoroughly before you attempt the closed tunnel. It’s important to spend enough time teaching the simpler obstacles, so you have a good foundation for some of the more challenging ones. The same goes for teaching little variations to the open tunnel, like curved tunnels. It will be far easier to teach these if you teach your guinea pig to go through a short straight tunnel first.
- Remember to repeat this obstacle thoroughly so the guinea pig can complete it independently and without hesitation. In an agility course, a guinea pig is likely to avoid the tunnel if they don’t know it well enough.
If Your Guinea Pig Isn’t Getting it
If your guinea pig is struggling to learn even the basic version of the tunnel trick, try teaching other types of similar obstacles. Going through a hoop is a great one. You can also try cutting a super short tunnel out of cardboard. Make this “tunnel” only an inch or two long (basically an extra wide hoop).
Lure your guinea pig through this a few times to get them used to going through something very easy. It may also help to leave the tunnel in your guinea pig’s cage for a couple of days. Put some treats inside and let your guinea pig investigate it at their own pace.
If you’re struggling with any other part of this trick, try going back a step or rewarding more frequently. If your guinea pig doesn’t want to go all the way through a tunnel, hold your hand partway through the tunnel and let your guinea pig nibble on a leaf of lettuce while half of their body is inside the tunnel. Eating is very relaxing for guinea pigs, and they’ll automatically start to feel more relaxed in the tunnel after a couple of minutes.
After you’ve taught some tunnels to your guinea pig, you may be wondering what else you can teach. A fun thing you can do is set up little agility courses for your guinea pig! First, you’ll want to teach your guinea pig to jump. You can also teach your guinea pig to weave poles so that you can add those obstacles to your course as well.
Agility can be a lot of fun and great exercise (mentally and physically!) for guinea pigs. It’s also a great way to spend time with your guinea pigs in a positive and interactive way.