This trick is a simple, yet super cute behavior to teach your guinea pig. Most piggies catch on to this trick quickly, which makes it a good choice for guinea pigs new to trick training. For this trick, you will need a lightweight, guinea pig sized ball that is easy to roll around, along with some cones or a miniature soccer net.
How Long Does it Take to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Play Soccer?
Most guinea pigs can learn to roll the ball around a bit in just a day or two. To teach your guinea pig to keep rolling the ball several times and guide it into a net, it takes an average of 1-2 weeks. Some guinea pigs may take longer, and some may pick up the trick even faster than this.
What You Need for Training
To teach your guinea pig to play soccer, 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 smooth, lightweight ball that is easy for the guinea pig to push around. In addition, you’ll want a couple of mini cones or plastic cups, or a miniature sized soccer net.
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 Push a Ball Around (Video Tutorial)
The following is a video of Ace learning to push a ball around. This is the main part of teaching your guinea pig to play soccer. For the rest of the tutorial, along with some more training tips, keep scrolling below.
How to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Play Soccer – Step by Step
Follow along with these steps to teach your guinea pig to push a ball into a soccer net. Remember to move at your guinea pig’s pace. Some guinea pigs will progress very quickly through these steps and some may require more time. If your guinea pig gets stuck or confused at any point, don’t hesitate to go back a step to where they were previously successful. This is one of the best ways to help your guinea pig get unstuck and back on track again.
1. Put Some Treats Under the Ball
Start by placing the ball on the ground in front of the guinea pig. Put several small treats beside and under the ball. Encourage the guinea pig to check out the ball and look for the treats.
They should nudge the ball a little as they are sniffing around and getting the treats. Give an extra treat from your hand whenever they nudge the ball.
Do this a couple more times, putting fewer treats on the floor each time. Continue to give them a treat from your hand anytime they nudge the ball, even just a little bit.
2. Give a Treat Each Time They Push the Ball
After putting treats around the ball a few times, try without any treats on the floor. Offer a treat from your hand anytime the guinea pig nudges the ball.
Continue to reward every time they push the ball until they are doing it pretty consistently.
3. Build Duration
Instead of rewarding for every single nudge, start holding onto the treat until the guinea pig pushes the ball a second time.
Keep building duration in this way until the guinea pig will push the ball several times for one treat.
Also be sure to reward randomly sometimes to keep the guinea pig engaged in the game (for example, reward after only one nudge sometimes, even if they can do five.) Guinea pigs may start to get bored or lose interest if they know they always have to push the ball several times to earn a treat.
4. Teach Them to Push the Ball Into a Net
The final step is to get out your miniature net or makeshift net and teach your guinea pig to score a goal. Start with the ball very close to the net at first. Give a treat anytime the guinea pig pushes the ball in the direction of the net. Gradually move the ball further away if they’re successful at a short distance.
It sometimes helps to set up a barrier on each side of the net to act as a guide. This can help the guinea pig roll the ball directly to the net in the early stages of learning. A barrier can be anything that stops the ball from rolling away from the net. Some books, binders, or other random objects from around the house can do the trick.
Additional Tips For Teaching This Trick
Be sure to scale the reward that the guinea pig is receiving with the amount of effort they are putting in. For example, you may be giving them one bite of a carrot every time they push the ball once. When you get to the point where the guinea pig is nudging the ball twice every time, the reward should be increased to maybe a bigger bite of carrot, or two nibbles instead of just one. This keeps the guinea pig motivated and happy to put in the extra effort.
If Your Guinea Pig Isn’t Getting it
If your guinea pig is struggling with this trick, try breaking it down and making it even easier. Spend extra time on the first and second step, just giving your guinea pig a treat each time they nudge the ball. If they can’t find the treats on the floor around the ball, keep pointing them out to your guinea pig continuously.
Make sure they are very confidently pushing the ball each time before moving on to the next step. If they get distracted frequently, start rewarding more frequently again. Also be sure to keep training sessions relatively short, ideally less than five minutes.
Soccer is a fun and easy trick that you can teach to your guinea pig. Trick training is a great way to bond with your guinea pig and provide mental stimulation and physical exercise in a fun and interactive way. And there are so many more cool and beginner friendly tricks you can teach next. Check out our list of 10 easy tricks to teach your guinea pig first for more inspiration and training tutorials.