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Bonding new pig pairs. Have I been doing it wrong?

Fantasimo

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Over the past 19 years that I have owned guinea pigs, I have done 5 introductions/pairings and I got all my new companion pigs from the same independent rescue.

The lady who ran/runs it (haven’t been in about 7 years so don’t know it’s still going) was fantastically calm and casual about pigs and I never had a hitch with my introductions. I would pick a pig (or she would suggest one), she would put my one and that one in a run for an hour or so and if all was well, that was it. She used to say the shared trauma of a car ride home would bond them...and the thing was, it always did. But from reading posts on here about pig dates and taking it slowly etc. I’m beginning to realise that might not be how it’s usually done!

Was I just lucky that all my replacement pigs got along? Or might there have been something to her (slightly maverick) approach? She was wonderful by the way. Knew guinea pigs inside and out so this post isn’t a criticism, I’m just genuinely curious if anyone else has ever done it this way?
 

Wiebke

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Over the past 19 years that I have owned guinea pigs, I have done 5 introductions/pairings and I got all my new companion pigs from the same independent rescue.

The lady who ran/runs it (haven’t been in about 7 years so don’t know it’s still going) was fantastically calm and casual about pigs and I never had a hitch with my introductions. I would pick a pig (or she would suggest one), she would put my one and that one in a run for an hour or so and if all was well, that was it. She used to say the shared trauma of a car ride home would bond them...and the thing was, it always did. But from reading posts on here about pig dates and taking it slowly etc. I’m beginning to realise that might not be how it’s usually done!

Was I just lucky that all my replacement pigs got along? Or might there have been something to her (slightly maverick) approach? She was wonderful by the way. Knew guinea pigs inside and out so this post isn’t a criticism, I’m just genuinely curious if anyone else has ever done it this way?
Hi!

A lot of dating and bonding depends on experience and can be very instinctive. That is what your lady has - for her the tricky bit of a bonding - the character matching - is very likely something that she would not be able to explain. She would let you choose a piggy if she felt it would make a suitable match but would suggest another one if she felt they wouldn't work out. she obviously was very tactful so you'd not even really notice this crucial process right at the off. Cherish her; you have been very lucky to find her!

I can often read fairly quickly, sometimes before a bonding, whether piggies are likely to match or not or whether a bonding is worth persevering with or not. But I have adopted a number of more difficult piggies, so matching up is not necessarily easy. In some cases with piggies with some real issues, it can be a long and arduous process of working out exactly where the problem is and then even more difficult to find a perfect match, especially if you are not a rescue yourself!
Some ages are also easier to match than others - 6 months old dominant teenage boars at the all time height of his testosterone output may need a lot of tries before he finds another boy that is neither too dominant but also not so weak that he ends up being bullied. In most other boar bondings of any age or age difference you are in with an about 50% chance of finding Mr. Right with any random boar.
While most young sows will for instant bond fairly easily; that is not necessarily the case with older ones.

Your lady had the advantage of knowing her piggies' personalities; she'd never match up two very dominant ones, for instance. But what when you bring home another dominant piggy to live with one that also needs to always come out on top? Or one that has never been with other piggies and has not the first idea of how to handle them?

Our guides have been written for inexperienced owners who do not have that instinctive sense of what is going to work or not and who do not have access to a good rescue that can try their piggy with a number of candidates to see which is the best match. Without the experience to read what is going on an instinctive or near instinctive level and this feel for whether a piggy will make a match or not the fail rate is going to be a lot higher, of course.

In my bonding guide I have tried to take as many of the extra stress factors out of the bonding process first and foremost; like giving newly arrived, very stressed piggies a chance to get their bearings.
When you bring a well cared for and confident piggy of yours to your lady, it will only meet the already settled ones that are ready to go to a new home for instance - it won't be set up with a piggy that is totally stressed out, feeling lost and threatened by being in a stranger's territory. Believe me, that makes all the difference!

I have also tried to take the different stages of the bonding process apart and show some key behaviours to help judge whether things are going in the right way or not in just a very few examples - in reality, each bonding is unique and different because it always depends fully on the personalities involved and the dynamics between them. When you have never done it and haven't owned piggies for long, it can be very scary!
How do you distinguish normal dominance from fighting when you have never seen either? Or whether a bonding is going right up to the limit, but there is a (for me at least) palpable sense that both piggies are not willing to cross this line and - when the chips are down - are committed to making a match once the leadership question is sorted; and when this is not the case and the piggies will force a show-down?
Bonding and Interaction: Illustrated social behaviours and bonding dynamics

Not every of our forum members lives in a country that has rescues at all or any within several hours drive; and not every rescue is run to a good welfare standard or by piggy savvy people, either, who know and care about the animals they rehome.

I hope that this helps you? The answer is - yes, you have been very lucky by being in very good and experienced hands! ;)
 

Fantasimo

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Oh wow, thank you for such a detailed response. Now you mention it, she would always wander through her house (cages everywhere!) and just randomly point and say, ‘that one, or that one, or that one,’ etc. I just always assumed they were ones who were good to go. Silly me!

Just checked and her rescue still seems to be going, so now I know how lucky I was to find her, I won’t even hesitate if I need her again (which hopefully I won’t as my boys are only young)!

Many thanks again, I’m learning so much from this forum ☺
 

Wiebke

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Oh wow, thank you for such a detailed response. Now you mention it, she would always wander through her house (cages everywhere!) and just randomly point and say, ‘that one, or that one, or that one,’ etc. I just always assumed they were ones who were good to go. Silly me!

Just checked and her rescue still seems to be going, so now I know how lucky I was to find her, I won’t even hesitate if I need her again (which hopefully I won’t as my boys are only young)!

Many thanks again, I’m learning so much from this forum ☺
From the description it is rather doubtful that your lady is on or ever will make it onto our own recommended rescues list as we also include welfare (including costly veterinary care, mandatory quarantine, pregnancy watch etc.) at all stages during the rescue process, rehoming standards/home checks, involvement with breeding etc. in our selection.
There is a lot more going into the rescue business than you would think; our recommended rescues are the ones where we can guarantee that any adopted piggies and any forum member piggies are in safe hands at all stages of the process. And a lot has changed in recent years in this respect.

Unfortunately anybody can call themselves a rescue or a breeder in this country, so you get all levels right down to the places that need rescuing from themselves, and all shades between breeding/rescuing, too.

But the instinctive knowledge of who will get on with who for bonding a bereaved piggy is in itself definitely not an ability to be despised!
 
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