A nose target is an easy and straight forward behavior to teach, and it’s part of an excellent foundation for teaching many other tricks. You can choose to teach your guinea pig to target your hand, a target stick, or both. Once they understand the basic idea of touching the target, you can also teach your guinea pig to follow the target object around.
How to Teach a Guinea Pig to Touch and Follow a Target (Video Tutorial)
For this trick, you will need…
- Your guinea pig
- Your piggy’s favorite veggie treats
- A safe enclosed space with few distractions
- A target stick or similar alternative
Choose a target. This can be as simple as your hand or two fingers, a handmade target stick (see the How to Make a Target Stick page to learn how to make this), or any other small object of a similar size.
Hold the target close to the guinea pig, about an inch or two in front of their nose. Reward as soon as they turn towards the object to sniff it. Repeat this a few times, and from different angles/sides.
Once they are reliably touching the target with their nose, try holding the target a little further away, so they have to take a step or two in order to reach it. Repeat this a few times.
Once they are comfortable taking a couple steps to touch the target, have them touch it twice before earning a treat by moving the target a little further after they touch it the first time so they can go touch it again. Repeat a few times.
From here, you can progressively increase the amount of time the guinea pig follows the target around until you are satisfied with the result.
Additional Tips For Teaching This Trick
- Remember to teach the guinea pig to touch the target from different angles and follow it in different directions so they learn to be completely confident in following the target anywhere.
- Be sure to reward periodically even after the guinea pig gets better at following the target. Reward at random times to keep them guessing when the reinforcement will come. For example, you may wait until the guinea pig has followed the target in a big circle one time, and reward after just a couple steps another time. This keeps them focused on following the target at all times, since they never know when they’ll get the treat.
- After you teach your guinea pig to touch and follow a target, try practicing with actual tricks to make sure your guinea pig has fully caught on. For example, you can try leading your piggy around in a circle using the target, or guiding them through a hoop. This will work best if your guinea pig has already learned these tricks/obstacles that you are practicing with. If your guinea pig still readily follows the target while working with familiar obstacles, you can start to use the target when teaching new behaviors.