Welcome to Guinea pig camp!
Roger Abrantes has trained many different animals for scent detection, among them the Gambian Giant Pouched Rat, Cricetomys gambianus. He is the author of the Trainers Handbook that Apopo trainers use to train the famous Hero Rats that detect landmines and TB. He was also their instructor. He is a special advisor to the GNR (Portuguese Police) and instructor at the CNCA (California Narcotic Canine Association).
In these workshops, Dr. Abrantes will be your instructor. You and your team will train a Guinea pig to detect gunpowder or tobacco and a series of agility skills.
Why should dog trainers train Guinea pigs?
Training dogs is easy compared to training other species because of the particular relationship between humans and dogs throughout the times. Dogs forgive us most of our mistakes; they give us a second chance. With animals with whom we do not have such a close relationship, it is a high priority to be precise, to plan our training, to develop our observation skills, and to have a plan B available. Training Guinea pigs will make you a better dog trainer, more attentive to details and the feedback your dog gives you.
There are several beneficial aspects in training Guinea pigs. You will be more objective than in your dog training because you don’t have the same strong bond to the Guinea pig. You will not have bad habits either because you have not trained Guinea pigs before. You will not feel embarrassed if your Guinea pig makes a mistake because you don’t identify yourself with the Guinea pig as dog owners identify themselves with their dogs.
Training a Guinea pig will improve your theoretical knowledge as well as your mechanical skills. You will be amazed by how much you can teach a Guinea Pig in four days!
Training Guinea Pigs
You will work with a team of three persons and one Guinea pig. Each team will have a Guinea pig, a training box, a set of agility obstacles, a scent detection set, and food treats. Each team organizes itself as necessary. Each team member can take turns as a trainer, a sample-handler, and a coordinator, or keep the same functions throughout the camp. The trainer trains, the sample-handler handles equipment and samples, and the team leader registers the session and ensures it follows the previously planned POA (Plan Of Action). Since all three will follow the same plan, there is no problem with them taking turns at performing the different functions. Their training will be mostly consistent. We will take the small variations that will occur as a bonus and an opportunity to compare factors that may influence training.
A day at camp
A day usually starts at 9:00 and ends at 5:00. Lunch is between 12 and 2 PM. Teams decide when to take small breaks. We’ll provide snacks, fruit, water, soft drinks, tea, and coffee. We need a long lunch break to give the Guinea pigs time to rest and recover.
About 60% of the coursework is hands-on training with 40% of theoretical issues such as designing of POAs, review of training sessions, briefing and debriefing of teams.
The maximum number of participants is 30 (ten teams).
We recommend reading “The 20 Principles That All Animal Trainers Must Know” or taking the online theory course.
We want to give everyone the possibility to attend a Guinea Pig camp. Therefore, we recommend the following low fees for 2016: EUR 315 (in Europe), USD 395 (in the USA), AUS 395 (in Australia), CND 395 (in Canada) and JPY 29,900 (in Japan). EUR 295 anywhere else in the world. This fee does not include accommodation, transportation or meals before 9:00 AM and after 5:00 PM.
Guinea Pig Camp organizers may need to adjust these recommended fees slightly to accommodate particular local conditions.
Would you like to host a Guinea pig camp?
Please, read “Hosting a seminar in 10 easy steps” and contact Dr. Abrantes directly.
Research and development
The Guinea pig camp in which you participate may vary slightly from the above description. We are regularly reviewing our training and implementing improvements in the areas where more efficient methods will lead to better results. One of the exciting aspects of the Guinea pig camps is that there are never two camps the same. We always discover new interesting details for each camp we hold.
For example, the first Guinea pig camps led us to (1) focus on the verbal reinforcers speeding up the bonding process with the Guinea pigs, (2) hold more and longer breaks allowing the Guinea pigs more time to process the work from each session, (3) better imprinting and socialization of the Guinea pigs prior to the camps.
Learning is an ongoing process, and improving is our goal.
Welcome to Guinea Pig camp!