One of my male guinea pigs was humping the other male. My brother was fascinated, but I knew this was a sign of guinea pig dominance. How long does guinea pig dominance last?
Do you have to step in when guinea pigs try to establish hierarchy? Sometimes I get involved and say, “Hold it guinea pigs. I’m in charge here!”
Guinea pigs are social animals that wish to establish their pecking order in the wild, but do they have to do this in your own home? Can you prevent it? Can you shorten this dominance phase?
In this article, we’ll find out how long guinea pig dominance lasts.
How Long Does Guinea Pig Dominance Last?
The guinea pig dominance that we were witnessing could have taken weeks or months if we didn’t intervene. Thankfully, we stopped it within two to three days.
We know it’s normal for guinea pigs to established hierarchy, but there are factors and conditions that we can use to help including:
- putting guinea pigs together of the same age
- setting up a larger habitat with many hiding spaces
- adding more than one feeding area
- stocking plenty of hay
- keeping a mix of female and male guinea pigs together
- bonding them slowly before placing them in a cage together
- increasing exercise time with you as their primary caregiver
My husband enjoys watching it, but it causes me stress. He likes being the referee, but I know that the dominant guinea pig will always win if I don’t step in and change things up.
All jokes aside, you can help thwart guinea pig dominance. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Guinea Pig Dominance?
Guinea pigs are going to be aggressive with each other in many situations. One of them will try to become the dominant guinea pig when they established hierarchy.
A guinea pig that is more timid, shy or a new member of the group, may have to surrender to this dominant alpha. In their natural environment, this is quite normal. There are leaders and there are followers.
guinea pigs who have paired well together and formed a tight bond, will usually display one being more confident than the other.
If the dominance is not challenged, this could be a good thing in the long run. It may lead to less squabbles and minor fights.
What Dominant Guinea Pigs Do
A dominant guinea pig is going to act slightly more confident than the others. They may choose to put themselves forward when you arrive or when you present food. They may try to make the other guinea pigs back off.
Other features include:
- teeth chattering
We had one female and two male guinea pigs. Before they were neutered, these two male guinea pigs used to break out in fights to see who could show off more to the female to prove their worth.
One time, one of the males used his sharp teeth to bite the other male. Thankfully we were there to step in before things got worse. We separated the males for a while in separate cages.
We brought them back together in a neutral area, in the living room, on our lap and in the playpen. We use multiple strategies to help reduce the aggression and dominance.
Would you like to find out more about how we did it?
How To Stop A Dominant Guinea Pig
Sometimes we don’t need to stop these guinea pigs who are trying to be the dominant leader of the group.
If the others do not challenge the dominance, the hierarchy could be formed and peace may result leading to much less squabbles or disputes. Remember that they are only trying to mimic what they do in the wild.
11 Ways To Handle Guinea Pig Dominance
- Start with careful observation and monitor the behavior to make sure that no one is getting hurt.
- Separate the dominant guinea pig who is acting out of aggression by showing teeth, constantly growling or lunging and incessantly mounting the others.
- Put the aggressor in a different cage for a while.
- Keep the cages at least 10 cm apart so they can’t make contact with each other physically. Place their resting areas in the farthest ends of each cage.
- Bring them out to a neutral area and supervise their behavior.
- If the dominant subsides and there is peaceful interaction, consider bringing them back together.
- Make sure their habitat is large enough for all of them to live comfortably.
- Add more hiding spaces like cardboard tubes or other creative ideas for them to tuck themselves away when they need a break.
- Add more stations where food and water is available and space them out.
- Make sure you keep their cage clean because living in filth can agitate them.
- Care for their health because a weaker or sick guinea pig is more prone to being bullied.
With your help, dominance in guinea pigs that lead to aggression can be stopped within a few days. Do not be frustrated if it takes longer than that. Remain confident and know that you are the leader in the end.
Are Male Guinea Pigs More Dominant Than Females?
We can tell you what happened in our home. We know that many people say that males are more dominant than females in the guinea pig world and this was true for us as well.
The two males that we placed with the female were fighting for dominance. This is something that was going to continue to last for weeks if we didn’t intervene.
Neither male was going to give up and accept inferiority to the other. They were:
- teeth chattering
- circle dancing
- chewing on cage
Sometimes the opposite is true. Females can become dominant against each other as well. They are also known to spray urine to warn the others to back off.
What we do in terms of how we set up their habitat, how we intercept, observe, adapt and maintain a peaceful environment for them is more important than which gender of guinea pig is more dominant.
To find out more about guinea pigs chewing on cages, look at this article we wrote about that.
What Noises Do Aggressive Guinea Pigs Make?
My brother called me over and told me to listen to our three guinea pigs. One of them was definitely making an intensified hissing sound. Another (female) was bashfully retreating to the far corner of the playpen. A third (male) guinea pig was standing his ground.
- The dominant guinea pig was now starting to snort.
- It sounded like hissing and sneezing at the same time.
- Then he started chattering his teeth.
These were the vocal sounds that we heard while we stood nearby and witnessed what was going on. We knew from past experience that the next phase was going to be a physical one.
There could be circling, chasing, mounting and all out fighting. We separated them before any of that could occur. Sometimes when you hear the vocal cues, you can be proactive and get involved before it gets worse.
Why Are Male Guinea Pigs More Dominant?
Male guinea pigs can show off their dominance in many ways including:
- Teeth chattering
Why is your male guinea pig being so dominant? We raised one of our male guinea pigs since birth and he used to be very docile and affectionate. What happened?
- His transition from a young guinea pig to an adult included the addition of a female guinea pig. His behavior changed after that.
- In some cases, guinea pigs change their behavior and turn aggressive with the changing of the seasons.
- In many cases they become aggressive when there’s a lack of space or a dispute for limited resources such as food and water.
- Finally, we knew we had to become more proactive when we introduced a new male guinea pig into the cage.
When the Dominance Got Out of Control
The aggressive male kept trying to display that the territory belong to him. We knew we needed a larger cage.
A 7.5 square foot cage area is the minimum recommended amount for two guinea pigs put together.
Two male guinea pigs together might need more space than this.
Heat and humidity make guinea pigs become more aggressive or irritated as well. Maintain the temperature between 60 and 85 °F.
If you bring a female into the group, do so slowly with separate cages for now. Bring them together in a neutral area and control the amount of time and playing conditions to make sure that you are the one who is always in control.
How Do Dominant Female Guinea Pigs Behave?
Female guinea pigs can also become aggressive and fight. In some cases, when the female is suffering from health conditions, she can become even more aggressive to warn others to back off and let her rest.
They might chase or growl with vocal confrontations. Females who develop ovarian cysts can become more aggressive or dominant.
If you introduce a new cage mate or change the environment, female guinea pig becomes very sensitive to these adjustments. They may become more territorial as a result.
Every guinea pig is different. Make sure she is healthy or visit the vet to find out if there are any underlying conditions that are leading to aggressiveness or dominance.
How To Calm Down A Guinea Pig
Dominance, aggression, bullying and fighting are common in the guinea pig world whether or not they are in captivity or in the wild. Since this is happening in our home, we need to step in.
They are territorial, but so are we. We don’t want strangers sneaking into our house and setting up residence here. Your guinea pig feels the same way.
8 Ways To Calm Down Guinea Pigs
- Make sure the guinea pigs who are already present in your home recognize that they do not have to fight for their resources. They will always have enough food water and restful areas to hide or relax.
- Bringing in a new guinea pig means that you have to add more spaces, resources in areas for feeding, drinking and resting. This means separate food bowls, water bottles and lots more room.
- You can separate the males and the females for now. This will prevent two males from fighting over her.
- Neutering and spaying are also options for you to consider. Consult a vet to find out if this decision is right for your guinea pigs because in many cases it can calm them down.
- Temporary dividers are a good way to give guinea pigs a timeout if you do not have a separate cage.
- You can’t just put new guinea pigs together with previous ones that are living there in the same cage. Start slowly.
- Keep the cages next to each other so they can see and smell each other, but place their resting areas on the opposite sides.
- Introduce them to each other and neutral areas where you are in charge.
Why Is Guinea Pig Dominance Lasting So Long?
It must be very frustrating for you to hear from me or others online that guinea pig dominance can last for a couple of days. Why is this lasting weeks or months for you?
Not all guinea pigs act the same. Some are more aggressive than others. If you are adopting guinea pigs in the later stages of their life, you do not know what kind of trauma or health conditions they may have experienced in the past.
Consult the vet and get a check-up done to make sure that there aren’t any underlying issues that may cause aggressiveness. For example, a female guinea pig could become more aggressive she if she has ovarian cysts.
Sometimes two or more guinea pigs do not form a good bond with each other. It could be hormonal and may be adjusted by getting them neutered or spayed. If your guinea pigs are continuing to fight for dominance, start again.
Please two cages side-by-side with enough room in between so they cannot touch each other. Bring the cages closer together when you notice that they are giving each other constant attention.
Bring them out to a neutral area and see if their behavior is more peaceful and calm with you in charge as the dominant one.
Is Guinea Pig Dominance Normal?
Do not be so hard on yourself because guinea pig dominance is normal. This is what they doing in the wild and it’s going to continue to happen in many people’s homes as well.
It happened to us and now it’s your turn. We hope that it doesn’t last more than a few weeks. Make sure there is enough food, space and love to go around.
If more than two guinea pigs becomes an increasingly difficult challenge, they are many guinea pig lovers out there who can be consulted or offer to adopt the cavies who cannot give up the urge to be the dominant leader.
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