A guinea pig’s primary way to show dominance is through a rumble strut. The rumble strut is a low-pitched rumble followed by rear-end shaking. If the rumble strut does not work, the guinea pig will become aggressive in an attempt to establish dominance.
Guinea pigs are just like any other species that have a backbone. They are built to protect themselves and will do what they must to feel safe.
Keep in mind that there are major differences between guinea pigs in the wild and our domesticated companions. In this article, we will explore the behaviors of domesticated guinea pigs, as they depend on their human friends to know what’s going on so they can stay happy, healthy, and less Hulk-like.
What You'll Learn
Why Do Guinea Pigs Need to Show Dominance?
Fear or Stress
It’s important to remember that guinea pigs are prey animals. They are genetically predisposed to be very sensitive because they need to be hyper-aware in order to survive.
Simply put, guinea pigs scare easily. When something is frightened, its stress levels go up.
They don’t appreciate the feeling of being dominated because they obviously see this as a threat, so they will, in turn, show their dominance.
You may be wondering, “Well, what could my guinea pig possibly feel threatened by? They are safe and sound in the little home I made them, surrounded by a bunch of love?”
Yes, but there are three common actions guinea pig pet owners do that can upset their piggies:
- They touch their backside
- They chase them
- They make them wear costumes
Guinea pigs are not dogs. They do not like any of these three situations. They also do not like to be picked up (although you can train them to enjoy it).
You can hold them to show affection, but it is not uncommon for a little piggie to lose its patience after fifteen minutes. Experts attribute this to the fact that guinea pigs have to use the bathroom every fifteen minutes. Have you ever known an animal to be so courteous?
Establishing a Hierarchy
Another reason guinea pigs will show their dominance is to establish a natural hierarchy.
It may seem easier to keep your guinea pigs separated to avoid confrontation, but they need friends. They are extremely social animals and will become depressed if alone.
However, they do still form a hierarchy. Yes, ego even impedes friendship for guinea pigs.
The older and biggest guy or gal will establish dominance above the others, but it’s not uncommon for a younger piggie to challenge their elders as they grow.
Everyone is trying to find their place, and you must let them figure that out.
We can’t forget the circle of life as well. Guinea pigs will display dominant behaviors to the opposite sex to begin or initiate mating.
However, it is important to note that research has suggested guinea pigs aren’t just all bravado but actually have very specific mating rituals to show off their individuality to the opposite sex, ultimately showing they are the right pick.
What Are Dominant Behaviors For a Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs are very vocal animals. They will let you know when they want a snack by wheeking. They make a chutting sound when they are relaxed. When they need to show dominance, they do a very specific rumble-strut.
This is basically a low rumble accompanied by shaking their rear-end. Interestingly enough, guinea pigs will also use this technique to help calm down other piggies that are fighting near them.
They even do what’s called “complaining.” They make a low, record scratching type noise when they are irritated. This is usually because they don’t want to share food or their personal space is being invaded.
But they aren’t just all talk with a little fancy strut. Guinea pigs will chase, nip and raise their heads to appear larger when establishing a hierarchy in their living space. Both males and females will essentially “size” each other up to establish who is king or queen of the cage.
Male guinea pigs will often circle and chase a female around to begin the wooing process. They also have been known to stand on their hind legs to establish dominance when trying to mate with a female.
Both male and female guinea pigs will shake their hips to gain the attention of the opposite sex. If there’s any competition in the cage, their behaviors may be exaggerated.
Preventing Dominance From Turning into a Fight
If things get a little too serious and your guinea pigs are endangering each other, the easiest and safest way to break up a fight is to lightly toss a blanket over one of them.
A minor distraction can go a long way. But this should be a rare occurrence, as once again, it’s important to let them establish a natural hierarchy. Once the hierarchy is established, you shouldn’t see too much fighting unless you introduce a new member to the family.
Remember to keep your guinea pigs stress-free to ensure there is only peace and love in the cage.
Guinea pigs thrive best with friends, but they need their space just like everybody else. Be sure to follow recommended cage sizes for the number of piggies you have and give them plenty of cozy hiding places.
It’s pertinent that you also give them plenty of space between water and food areas so they don’t feel like they have to compete for basic survival.
They are very sensitive to loud noises. If possible, try to remove them from an area if you use loud equipment such as a vacuum. They are also extremely clean animals, so their cages must be cleaned daily and remain dry at all times for them to be stress-free and comfortable.
Combine all these recommendations along with a few light scratches behind the ears or under the chin, and your little piggies will be chutting and purring happily ever after.