Introducing two pets of different species can be tricky, especially when the two are as different as a dog and a guinea pig. The key to a successful introduction is to avoid tension and negative reinforcement and handle the introduction in slow, careful stages.
Dogs and Guinea Pigs
According to Veterinary Behavior Consultant Rolan Tripp, DVM, guinea pigs and dogs may be able to get along if introduced properly. If your dog has never seen a guinea pig, keeping the introduction process low-key and stress-free will induce positive feelings within your household.
The age of your dog is one important factor in cross-species friendship. Puppies under 16 weeks are still developing their social skills, and are more likely to accept another animal as a friend rather than as potential prey. Also, breeds with strong hunting drive may have a harder time seeing a guinea pig as a friend rather than something to chase and attack.
The key to introducing your dog to a guinea pig is to work in stages. Let your dog see you set up your guinea pig’s cage in a safe room, but avoid letting the animals see each other for several days. Allow your dog to pick up the guinea pig’s scent by spending time near the door. Do not scold him if he tenses up or gets aggressive; instead, simply distract him with a toy or a treat. Sharing scent between the animals with a washcloth is another good idea to familiarize the two. After several days, you can progress to allowing the animals to see each other, but make sure you or your partner keeps control of your dog at all times, watching for aggressive behavior. If your dog remains calm during these visits, you can slowly progress to allowing more contact over time, focusing on positive reinforcement of relaxed behavior.
If at any time your dog seems tense or nervous, distract but don't scold your dog. Keep all reinforcement positive, to encourage him to associate good things with the guinea pig. Even if your dog seems accepting and relaxed, however, you should keep him leashed and under control until you are completely confident in his behavior toward your guinea pig. Under no circumstances should you leave the animals alone without supervision, because a larger dog could unintentionally injure a guinea pig while attempting to play. If you have any doubts, the safest option is to keep your guinea pig in a secured room, and simply split your time between your pets.
Milton Kazmeyer has worked in the insurance, financial and manufacturing fields and also served as a federal contractor. He began his writing career in 2007 and now works full-time as a writer and transcriptionist. His primary fields of expertise include computers, astronomy, alternative energy sources and the environment.