A guinea pig is more a natural lunch than a natural friend to a dog; and the guinea pig is likely aware of this. Although you can train a dog to behave nicely around guinea pigs, and sometimes they do get on, you should never allow him unsupervised access.
Replace your guinea pigs’ cage with a tough “dog-proof” one. Some guinea pig cages are flimsy and although they are adequate to keep guinea pigs contained, they can’t keep other, larger pets out. A determined dog or even cat could break in, at the very least terrifying your guinea pigs.
Add a large nesting box to the cage, if you don’t already have one. Guinea pigs must have a place to hide in order to feel secure and this is especially important in a household with dogs.
Position the cage on a strong table or other raised surface if possible, out of your dog’s immediate reach. It is best to keep the cage in a family room, but not if your dog sees this room as part of “his space." If you have had the dog a while and he has always had unsupervised access to the living room, place the cage in another, quieter room, perhaps the kitchen.
Install a pet gate to keep your dog out of the guinea pig room when you are not there. Alternatively, just keep the door closed.
Allow your dog to be in the same room as the guinea pigs for short periods. Keep them inside their cage. It is best to spend these sessions keeping your dog’s attention entirely focused on you. Ask him to sit and maintain eye contact or get him to do a trick that requires his complete focus. This is guinea pig training.
Allow the guinea pigs out of their cage when the dog is not in the room, partly so that they begin to view this room as their territory.
Introduce the animals very carefully. Bring the dog into the guinea pig room, catch his attention by calling his name, and let the most confident of the guinea pigs out. If the guinea pig doesn’t want to come out or the dog is showing too much predatory interest, curtail the introduction immediately by removing the dog. Remember, they don’t need to become best friends. It might be easier all round to keep them separated.
- Never leave your dog unsupervised with the guinea pigs, even if they appear to get on well. The predator-prey instinct is a strong one and everybody has occasional moments of weakness. Even if the cage is secure, a large carnivore trying to get in will badly scare the guinea pigs.
- Unlike rabbits, which take well to roomy outdoor accommodation, guinea pigs should not be kept outside. They are native to warm equatorial countries and do not cope well with cold winters or other weather extremes. Indoor accommodation also means you don't have to worry about other people's dogs attacking your guinea pigs.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.