Dominance is typical behavior in animals, and guinea pigs are no different. But why do guinea pigs show dominance? What are the signs of guinea pig dominance, and what should you do? As a curious guinea pig owner, I did some research, and here is what I found out.
When kept in a small enclosure, guinea pigs will compete for limited resources, including food, water, etc. The competition is sorted out when one guinea pig proves their dominance. The dominant guinea pig will mark his territory and always show dominance to subordinate guinea pigs.
Guinea pig showing dominance is a natural phenomenon whenever they share a living space.
While sometimes it happens peacefully as one guinea pig shows dominance, the subordinate one gives up pretty quickly and accepts the other one as the leader.
Sometimes, things can go differently as both guinea pigs don’t want to give up, and hence a battle for the throne of leadership starts.
But are all guinea pigs dominant or is it a problem with some of them only? Let’s learn more about it in detail.
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Do all guinea pigs show dominance?
No, not all guinea pigs are dominant. Dominance can vastly differ from one guinea pig to another depending upon their behavior, living environment, and their cage mates.
While some guinea pigs are more dominant than others, we must understand that it is their natural process of bonding, and we must not intervene in the same.
Male guinea pigs are more likely to show dominance behavior than female ones and usually last for a more extended period as well.
Guinea pig’s dominance usually ends with one guinea pig giving up and accepting their defeat, thus lowering their head and producing a rumbling or chuttering noise. The dominant guinea pigs then mark off their territory and stand as a leader.
So, now that we have learned some basic things about guinea pig’s dominance, let us move ahead and learn what are the signs of dominance in guinea pigs, and do the signs differ from one to another?
Guinea pig dominance behavior
Sometimes the dominance phase passes quickly, and hardly you will see the sign of it as one guinea pigs give up immediately.
Usually, you will hear a loud squeal followed by running away, indicating I am no match for you; hence I give up!
However, sometimes the faceoff lasts long as none of them wants to give up. The faceoff usually starts with a verbal confrontation, and if both of them still remain dominant, then it may lead to physical confrontation.
Guinea pig dominance sound: Verbal Confrontation
Whenever the guinea pigs decide to prove dominance, they usually first start with a verbal confrontation.
Mild teeth chattering is typical behavior that guinea pigs begin with. purring or low rumbling are some other noises that can be commonly noticed during this phase.
These are the signs usually seen during their initial dominance behavior and indicates that the guinea pigs do not like the situation they are in.
If the situation continues and none of them backs out, then the vocal sounds start to intensify in this phase.
Sounds of guinea pigs snorting(it’s like hissing or sneezing you can say) followed by stressed squeaking & loud teeth chattering are some noises you can notice during this phase.
If you notice such behavior, then you can expect to see some physical dominance coming in soon.
Guinea pig dominance behavior: Chasing and mounting
If both of the guinea pigs don’t back up during the verbal confrontation, then one starts to show some physical dominance behavior.
It usually begins with raising the chin high, wiggling their bottom(moving bottom side to side) accompanied by a rumbling or chuttering noise.
Then one of the guinea pigs might start rubbing their bottom in the area marking their territory. If the other guinea pigs don’t back off by now, then the dominance escalates to chasing and mounting behavior.
Usually, the more dominant guinea pig chases the other one around the cage, nipping at their back and rumbling loudly.
Once the guinea pig chases and corners the other one, they start mounting and humping the other guinea pig.
They will stop and drop down for a few seconds in between for rumbling and starts back again for some more humping.
Usually, this dominance behavior lasts until the other one gives up and accepts its new role in the cage as a subordinate guinea pig.
In most cases, one guinea pig will take the lead, and the peace in the cage will return as usual.
However, sometimes there is a possibility for a serious fight. If none of them decides to give up, then the dominance behavior can take some severe turn.
Usually, at this phase, the struggle can get dangerous, tackling each other, loud rumbling and biting each other off can be some sign of serious dominance.
If the dominance behavior takes the dangerous turn, then you might need to intervene to stop the same as both guinea pigs can harm each other severely, which can be fatal for them.
Stopping them and moving them to a separate cage or adding a divider in the cage can help in such a situation.
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Guinea pig dominance behavior male
Male guinea pigs are known for their dominant behavior, which they show off by fighting and humping each other.
Although the fights are usually not a serious one, things can change quickly, and it can escalate to an aggressive and serious one in no time.
There are a lot of factors that can trigger dominance behavior in male guinea pigs. Some of the most common reasons are:
- The transition from a young age to an adult one
- Seasonal changes affect on behavior
- Presence of a female guinea pigs
- Lack of space or inadequate resources
- Introduction of a new cage mate
Introduction of a new cage mate:
Whenever you introduce a new guinea pig in the cage, there are going to be clashes among the old guinea pig and the new guinea pig.
The old guinea tries to convey the message that the territory belongs to him, and he is not ready to share it with you.
If the newer guinea pig takes the subordinate role, then there won’t be much of a fight.
However, if the further guinea pigs also standoff to show his dominance, then they might get into a battle to prove the dominance.
Lack of space or inadequate resources:
It is recommended to have at least a 7.5sq feet cage area for a pair of guinea pigs.
However, if you have two boars, then you might need more space to house them.
Boars can get territorial, especially if you have a smaller cage where they have to battle for resources.
The transition from a young age to adult one:
If you house a young guinea pig with an adult guinea, the young guinea pig might consider themselves subordinate in the beginning.
However, with time as he steps into the adult phase, he will fight back to prove his dominance over the older guinea pigs.
Seasonal changes affect on behavior:
Hot & spring weather often brings in hormonal changes in guinea pigs. As guinea pigs warm-up, they tend to be more aggressive and hence triggering a fight among cagemates, which settles down with one proving the dominance over the other.
Presence of a female guinea pig:
If a female guinea pig is kept in the cage of two or male guinea pigs, then the male guinea pigs will fight with each other to prove the dominance and hence attract the female for mating.
Sometimes even the smell of a female in the room or a mere sight might enlight the fire in males that can result in fighting.
Guinea pig dominance behavior female
Female guinea pigs are not as dominant as male guinea pigs. However, even they can end up fighting with other sows in the cage to prove dominance.
Although they are less aggressive with their cagemates unless they are suffering from some health issues.
In most cases, vocal confrontation and some humping and chasing with rumbling noises are some common signs of guinea pig dominance.
Some sows do get into a severe fight to prove their dominance, but in most cases, they sort it out by chasing and humping on their back only.
Just like factors that trigger male dominance, there are a few factors that trigger female dominance as well. Some of the most common factors triggering female guinea pig dominance are:
- Introducing a new cage mate
- Change of environment
- Health issues like ovarian cysts
- Behavioral issues
Introducing a new cage mate
The introduction of a new cagemate can trigger dominance behavior in guinea pigs.
Although the reaction is not triggered because they don’t want to share their territory, the behavior is triggered because they are not familiar with the new guinea pigs.
The uncertainty and fear in female guinea pigs often trigger the dominance behavior in them.
Change of environment
If you move your guinea pigs to a new cage or living enclosure, then the change in the living environment can also be a factor to trigger dominance in sows.
Fear from the new and uncertain environment can make guinea pigs aggressive, thus triggering the dominance in them.
Health issues like ovarian cysts
The ovarian cyst is also a common disease that can make sows aggressive. A hormonal disbalance can cause guinea pigs to develop an ovarian cyst, which leads to pain in their ovaries, thus making them aggressive towards others. Usually, guinea pigs suffering from such diseases need immediate medical assistance.
Just like every human being is different, the same goes for guinea pigs as well.
Every guinea pig has its own personality and behavior. While some carry a calm and friendly temperament, the other ones are aggressive and mischievous.
There are going to be some of them who will always fight and never settle with a cage mate. It is wise to keep such guinea pigs separately if you end up having one.
How long does guinea pig dominance last?
Guinea pig dominance behavior can last for anywhere between two days, two weeks, or even longer. There is no period specified for the same as it depends upon whether or not one guinea pig is ready to step down and accept the other one as a dominant one.
Until and unless one guinea pigs take the subordinate position and start respecting the dominant guinea pig, they will continue to fight for the same.
Male guinea pigs are more dominant than female guinea pigs, and usually, the behavior lasts long in boars than in sow. Sometimes the dominance behavior can last for years also.
For example, if you pair an adult guinea pig with a younger one, the younger one may remain subordinate for a few months until he grows strong enough to challenge the dominant one, and the cycle of dominance kicks back.
How to stop guinea pig dominance?
So, by far, you have already learned the factors triggering dominance behavior in guinea pigs and what are the signs of the same.
As you already know, guinea pig’s dominance behavior can last for quite a bit of time, and if they get too aggressive, they might even end up hurting each other.
So, let us learn a few tips which can minimize their dominance behavior in them:
Get a fairly large cage
Guinea pigs can get territorial, and having a smaller cage can trigger the fight for their territory even more.
When guinea pigs have ample space, then they can take their own area, and thus they don’t feel scarce of space to live.
However, if they have a smaller living space, than the fight for space lights up, triggering the dominance behavior more often.
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Provide each guinea pigs with their own resources
When you confine two animals in a space with limited food, water, and other resources, they are going to fight for the same.
The same principles apply to guinea pigs as well. Providing them a separate food bowl, water bottles, and hiding space can minimize the fight for resources; thus, the dominance behavior settles down quickly.
Keep male and female separately
If you keep two male guinea pigs with a female or even if you have housed the female nearby, then two males might start showing some dominance behavior.
Male guinea pigs often prove themselves worthy of mating my showing dominance over the other one.
So, if you want to keep the supremacy low, keep male and guinea pigs in separate parts of the home or get the male neutered to keep the aggressiveness low.
Use a divider if needed
Using a divider to separate guinea pigs could be the last resort if your guinea pigs don’t stop dominance behavior.
Sometimes guinea pigs do get into some fights, which can end up hurting either of them. Using a divider in the cage can come in handy if such situations arise.
Introduce new cagemates slowly
If you are planning to introduce a new cage mate, then make sure you do it slowly. Start by keeping them by the side of your guinea pigs in a separate cage.
Once they get a little used to themselves, try diving the old enclosure and housing them there and slowly removing the divider overtime to keep them together.
Usually, this works better than tossing a new cage mate directly. You can also use hay pile and veggies for diverting their attention to make sure they don’t get into a fight.
If your guinea pig’s dominance behavior lasted for a long time and you feel that they are not setting in or one guinea pigs are getting lot aggressive, then visiting a vet and getting a checkup done can often find the cause.
Diseases like the Ovarian cyst can often be the reason behind aggressive behavior. Make sure you let your vet know any doubts or questions in your mind at that time.
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Sources: The effect of human interaction on guinea pig behavior, Reduction in aggression and dominance status in guinea pigs, Guinea Pigs: Aggression and Dominance, Social confrontation in male guinea pigs, The environment, hormones, and aggressive behavior: a 5-year-study in guinea pigs, Effects of domestication on guinea pigs.