Teaching a paw target is useful when teaching many paw related tricks such as wave or give a paw. A paw target is a little more challenging to teach your guinea pig than a nose target. However, it’s still generally quite easy for them to learn. Most guinea pigs will pick up on it relatively quickly, and it’s a great skill for them to learn early on.
How Long Does it Take to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Paw Target?
This trick doesn’t usually take too long to teach. It should take about a week on average for most guinea pigs, although this time can be a little shorter or longer. Paw targets generally take longer to teach than a nose target, but less time than many actual tricks.
What You Need for Training
To teach your guinea pig to paw target, 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 a ball or other small object to use as a target. You can also use your hand balled up in a fist for them to paw at instead of a target object.
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: Paw Target (Video Tutorial)
The following is a video of my guinea pig Ace demonstrating the steps to teach this behavior. If you’d rather read the tutorial, you can find the written steps below, as well as some more tips and training insights.
How to Teach a Guinea Pig to Paw Target – Step by Step
Follow along with these steps to teach your guinea pig to target an object with their paw. Remember to go at your guinea pig’s pace. Some guinea pigs will progress much more quickly than others. If your guinea pig gets stuck at any point, don’t hesitate to go back a step to where they were previously successful. Often, this is the best and fastest method to get them back on track and learning faster.
1. Lure the Guinea Pig’s Paw Onto the Target
Place the target object on the ground in front of your guinea pig. Hold it with one hand so it doesn’t move. With your other hand, lure the guinea pig towards the object with a treat.
Give them a treat anytime they step on the object or touch it with their paw. Repeat this several times until your guinea pig is consistently stepping on or touching the object with their paw. Also try to use the lure a little less and see if the guinea pig will touch the target with less prompting.
2. Raise the Target Off the Ground
At this point, start holding the object just off the ground. Give the guinea pig a treat for either standing up and stepping on the target with both paws, or preferably reaching up one paw to reach for it or touch it.
Reward anytime they swipe at the target with their paw, regardless of whether they actually touch it or not.
3. Get Your Guinea Pig Touching the Target Consistently With One Paw
If the guinea pig has already started to touch the object with only one paw, reward this and keep repeating until they are doing it every time.
If they are still stepping up with both paws, hold the target slightly to the side of the guinea pig to encourage them to put one paw up instead of both.
At this stage, don’t reward when the guinea pig touches the target with both paws. Keep the target to one side so it’s difficult to step up with both paws, and wait until just one paw touches or reaches for the target. As soon as this occurs, offer lots of treats and praise and keep practicing until they are consistently touching with only one paw.
Additional Tips For Teaching This Trick
Be sure to reward the guinea pig accordingly whenever they put in extra noticeable effort or make some kind of progress. Doing so helps the guinea pig understand that this is the right thing to do and they will be more likely to do it again in the future.
Holding some food in your closed fist can also be a good way to encourage your guinea pig to paw at your hand if you’re using a hand target. Some guinea pigs will nibble at your hand instead, so be careful of this.
If Your Guinea Pig Isn’t Getting It
If your guinea pig is really struggling to learn a paw target, try using a smaller or different type of object. Some guinea pigs find it easier to step on or paw at your hand instead. You can also teach the paws up trick to get them used to stepping on your hand and other objects. Some guinea pigs find paw targets hard, so it may be a good idea to teach something else first to get them used to training and learning new skills. Touching a target with their nose is often easier for most guinea pigs to learn first.
Once you’ve successfully taught your guinea pig to paw at a target, you’ll find that your guinea pig learns certain paw oriented tricks much faster. There are so many adorable paw related tricks you can teach. Wave is one of my favorites, as well as high five and give a paw. You can also teach your guinea pig to wave while they’re standing up on two feet.
There are also so many other fun and easy tricks you can teach your guinea pig too. Trick training is a lot of fun and there are countless awesome tricks you can choose from.