The first step involved in teaching your guinea pig to run an agility course is teaching the individual obstacles. The following is a list of obstacles that are often used in guinea pig agility. You can learn how to teach these obstacles by going to the How to Teach section under the Agility heading above.
*** Be sure that all agility equipment you use is stable, low to the ground, and wide enough for the guinea pig to use safely. Guinea pigs are not very athletic animals. This should always be taken into account when selecting items to use for your agility course. ***
Bar jumps can be either fixed or flexible. Fixed bar jumps can be made with large popsicle sticks and dowels, just make sure that they are sturdy enough to support the guinea pig’s weight. Fixed bar jumps can be made a little higher than flexible jumps, as the guinea pig uses the bar as support to help “climb” over, but I would still recommend keeping the height lower than 4 or 5 inches. The jumps I prefer to use are flexible and the guinea pigs have to fully jump over them without the extra support of a fixed jump, so I keep the height under 3 inches. Ultimately, the height you should have your guinea pig jump is dependent on each individual guinea pig. If your piggy seems to have any difficulty jumping something, simply make it a little lower. Some guinea pigs have more natural athletic ability than others. As a general rule, pay attention to your guinea pig and choose a height that is comfortable for them to jump consistently.
A hoop jump is essentially just a hoop that the guinea pig has to jump through rather than walk through. Make sure this hoop is big enough though, as a guinea pig needs more space to jump through a hoop than they do to walk through. Your guinea pig should know how to go through a hoop and jump over a bar jump before you teach this obstacle, although it shouldn’t be very difficult to teach once they have learned these other behaviours. The jump height suggestion for the fixed bar jump above would apply to this type of jump as well. As mentioned above, priority when deciding how high to make a jump should be the individual guinea pig and their physical state and athletic ability. Always choose a height that your guinea pig is able to jump comfortably.
The open tunnel is a basic piece and one of the most common obstacles in agility. It is easy to teach and also has some little variations that can add to make your agility course a little more interesting. You can start off by teaching your guinea pig to go through a short, straight tunnel, then add some more unique tunnel shapes. You can purchase a guinea pig play tunnel from pet stores that is bendable, and this can be used to teach guinea pigs to run through a longer straight tunnel, a curved tunnel, or even a slight S shaped tunnel. Straight and curved open tunnels are a great obstacle to have in any guinea pig agility course, even if you are just starting out with only a few simple obstacles. This will probably be one of the first agility obstacles you teach your pet, as it is really an easy piece to teach, and it is one of the most frequently used obstacles in agility among all species.
The closed tunnel is similar to the open tunnel, but with a twist. Rather than being open all the way through, the last section of the tunnel is collapsed, so the guinea pig can’t see what’s on the other side until they have their head out. It is a step up from an open tunnel, so the open tunnel is definitely a prerequisite for this obstacle. The chute part of the tunnel should be at least as long as the open part, and can be longer. Make sure the open part of your tunnel is heavy enough to hold up as the guinea pig runs through the closed part. My tunnel is made out of a more lightweight material and it does sometimes fall over, so I have to either hold the top of it as the guinea pig is going through, or put my solid tunnel inside to keep it steady. If you have a tunnel made out of plastic or thick cardboard, you should have no trouble with this. If your tunnel is made out of thin cardboard or any other fairly lightweight material, you can still use it, but you may have to be creative about how you can make it work more effectively.
You can make weave poles with dowels and a base, but I prefer to use plastic cups for guinea pigs. They don’t take much space to store and they are super easy and convenient to use and move around. The containers I use are shown in the picture. While they aren’t exactly cups, they are pretty similar and work the same as regular drinking cups. Thicker type plastic cups seem to work best for teaching this obstacle as they aren’t overly heavy, but aren’t light enough to be knocked down or moved when a guinea pig brushes against them on their way past. Other types of cups, such as light plastic, styrofoam, and glass can be used, but I find the light plastic and styrofoam to be easily knocked over as they are really lightweight.
While glass is less likely to be knocked over, it will probably still happen a handful of times (either by you or the guinea pig) and glass stands the chance of breaking if it falls over, depending on the surface you are training on. Glass is also much heavier than plastic, and if it falls when the guinea pig is near it, there is a chance of the guinea pig being injured. These are basically the reasons why I prefer heavier type plastic cups/containers to use for weave poles, although others may find something else that works better for them. No matter what type of weave poles you choose to use, the obstacle is still performed the same way. You will probably find this obstacle a bit more of a challenge than most of the others, so you may decide to hold off on teaching this one for a little while. It is definitely worth while to teach in the long run, as it is an interesting obstacle. When used in a course, you will probably find it easier to use just 3 poles, as guinea pigs need more space to navigate the weave poles than a more athletic animal like a dog or a rat, but weave poles can still be used successfully as an obstacle in an agility course, no matter how many poles you decide to use.
Re-using Household Items For Guinea Pig Agility
There are likely lots of items in your own home that would be suitable as guinea pig agility equipment, either as is or with a few minor modifications. Be creative as you look around your house and think about things that you could transform into potential agility pieces. Some popular ideas are using a small cardboard box or appropriately sized plastic container with the bottom cut out as a tunnel, using cups as weave poles, or cutting out a hoop from a scrap piece of cardboard or bristol board. You can even build some things, such as jumps, using popsicle sticks and dowels. You may also be able to find some cheap things at yard sales or dollar stores that could be turned into agility obstacles with a little handiwork. Use your imagination and see what you can come up with!