How To Teach a Guinea Pig to Weave Poles
Weave poles are a cool trick that can stand alone or be added to an agility course. Weave poles are a bit more difficult and time-consuming to teach than other agility obstacles like jumps or tunnels.
However, they are a fun obstacle to include in a course. I usually only use 3 poles in an agility course because weave poles for guinea pigs generally take up a lot of space. However, when taught as a stand-alone trick, it looks super cool to teach your guinea pig to weave a row of 5 or 6 poles altogether.
How Long Does it Take to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Weave Poles?
Weave poles take longer on average to teach than most tricks. It often takes a couple of weeks or longer to teach this obstacle. However, you can reduce this time by teaching fewer poles. Naturally, teaching 3 poles will take much less time than 6.
Additionally, you can reduce the training time by teaching your guinea pig to weave through the set of poles once also instead of teaching them to weave down and back through all the poles.
What You Need for Training
To teach your guinea pig to weave poles, 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 up to 6 “poles” for your guinea pig to weave. I like to use a set of plastic cups for the poles. This way, you can use as many as you want, place them far enough apart, and then stack them away when you’re done with them.
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 Weave Poles (Video Tutorial)
The following video is how I taught my piggy Ace to weave 6 poles back and forth. You can follow along with this video or scroll below for the full written tutorial and additional training tips.
How to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Weave Poles – Step by Step
Follow along with these steps to teach your guinea pig to weave through a set of poles. Remember to go at your guinea pig’s pace. Practice each step until the guinea pig is completely comfortable before moving on to the next step.
Some guinea pigs will progress more quickly, but many guinea pigs will need to work on each step for a few days before they’re ready to move on.
Don’t hesitate to go back a step as well if your guinea pig gets distracted or off track a lot. Oftentimes going back a step helps your guinea pig to understand and get back on track much faster.
1. Lure Your Guinea Pig in a Figure Eight Around Two Cups.
Start with two cups and lure the guinea pig in a figure eight around them with a treat. Give your guinea pig a treat periodically as they’re following your hand through the poles.
Once your guinea pig seems comfortable following your hand around the poles, start to fade out the lure by using it less and less.
You can do this by gradually moving your hand faster, ahead of the guinea pig. If they get stuck at all, slow down again and practice a bit more.
2. Practice Until the Guinea Pig Can Weave Figure Eights Independently
After a while, try taking your hand away and see if they will do the figure eight on their own. Keep your hand nearby so you can get them back on the right track if needed.
Practice this until your guinea pig can do figure eights without relying on your hand.
3. Add a Third Pole
Add a third cup and repeat the same process as step one again. Remember to fade out the lure so the guinea pig can weave through all three poles without too much guidance from you.
4. Add More Poles – Rinse and Repeat!
Once the guinea pig can weave 3 poles on their own, you can continue to add one more pole at a time and follow the same process for each new pole.
Eventually, you can even work up to weaving 6 poles down and back! (if you choose to teach that many).
You can choose to stop at any number of poles that you want. This trick gets more challenging and time consuming to teach as you add more and more poles.
It is important to vary the times/locations that you reward your guinea pig while teaching the weave poles. If you always reward your guinea pig in one spot every time, such as at the end of the of the weave poles, the guinea pig will learn that they only get a treat in that one spot, so they may rush through to that spot or skip the rest of the poles in an attempt to get the treat faster.
To prevent this, you want to make sure you reward them in different places each time to keep them guessing where they will get the treat next. For example, one time you may give them a treat right near the beginning after they go around the first pole, then again after the fourth pole.
Next time you may choose to reward them after the second pole, then after the fifth pole. The pattern you choose doesn’t really matter, as long as it is varied and not too easy for the guinea pig to predict.
Additional Tips For Teaching This Trick
- Be very patient while teaching this obstacle. You will likely need to have lots of repetitions over the course of teaching this trick. Always stay patient and consistent.
- Guinea pigs often have “sticky spots” at one particular pole (ie. they always try to skip that one pole.) If you come across this problem, try to catch the guinea pig before they get to that pole and lure them through that particular spot before they get the chance to skip it.
- Also make sure you reward in different places each time. If you only treat in one spot, the guinea pig might try to skip other poles because it’s easier. Read the “Variable Rewarding” paragraph above for more information.
- It’s normal for guinea pigs to skip a pole, change directions, run off once in a while, or otherwise break the pattern. Don’t get frustrated with your guinea pig, just patiently redirect them in the right way and reward them when they are back on track.
- This trick can be hard and time consuming to teach. If you want to make it a bit easier, you can use fewer poles, or teach your guinea pig to just weave through the set of poles once instead of going down and back.
If Your Guinea Pig Isn’t Getting it
This trick can be challenging to teach. If your guinea pig is struggling to pick it up, try rewarding more frequently. Give the guinea pig a small treat every time they follow your hand for even a step or two. Be patient and go slow.
If your guinea pig is very slow at following your hand around the poles, you may want to spend some time teaching them to follow the lure first without any obstacles present. You can find more information on this on our page how to start training your guinea pig.
You can also try teaching your guinea pig to go through the poles in one direction rather than down and back. Teach just 2 or 3 poles to make it easier and less intimidating at first. You can always go back and teach more poles later on. Keep your training sessions super short so your guinea pig doesn’t get too distracted or easily bored.
Once your guinea pig has learned to weave some poles, try it out in an agility course! Make sure you also teach your guinea pig to jump and run through tunnels. You can then combine all these obstacles together to make a fun and adorable miniature course. Agility is a lot of fun to teach your guinea pig and it provides a great source of both physical exercise and mental stimulation.