Pot Bellied Pigs/Harness training
I bought two little pot bellies, Truffles and Stella, four weeks ago making them 12 weeks old now. I just love them so much and want them to be happy. Am I too late for harness training? I bought a harness when I bought them but I just havent had the heart to put it on either of them. I havent even got them that used to being picked up. I hate hearing them squeal because I think they will associate fear with me by picking them up or putting the harness on them. They live outside in a little shed and have their little beds made up with straw and I feed them twice a day with pig pellets soaked in some water and they have been getting potatoe peels lately. Stella is black and white/pink but she has developed little red marks on her back lately from scratching. Truffles does not scratch as much as her and doesnt have any marks. She is black so it would be harder to see but she doesnt have any marks that I notice. I sit with them and rub their bellies and they love to be scratched but when I picked Stella up last week she went hysterical. Truffles stopped squealing after a little bit. I supported their legs so they werent dangling but Stella was still trying to get away from me. Also Stella does not seem to answer to her name. I would be grateful for some feedback as I dont want to leave it too late or maybe I have already?
Your babies are at the right age for training. It's difficult to work with two untrained pigs at once, so work with them one at a time in separate spaces. Pigs have a distinct social structure, and it's easier for piggies to concentrate on lessons when humans respect the piggy structure. So, try to determine which pig is the dominant pig, and always feed or work with that pig first.
To teach them to enjoy being held, start by feeding them only from your hand. All food comes from your hand or a dish in your hand, no where else. Separate them, and start with the dominant pig first. Sit quietly, let piggy come to you and eat out of your hand. Always tell piggy what you're going to do before you do it. Try to touch and scratch piggy. When piggy is comfortable with that, coax piggy to be in your lap. The next step is holding piggy close while piggy eats, then lifting piggy, then finally holding piggy while you stand up. It will take several meals to reach this point.
Now, teach them to wear their harness by letting them sniff and smell the harness, rub it on them so they get used to it. Then, while piggy eats from a dish, slip the harness on.
When the pigs are separated, watch Stella carefully. She may be deaf or hard of hearding.
I highly recommend the book Pot-Bellied Pig Behavior and Training by Priscilla Valentine, and the dvds There's a Pig in the House, and Amazing Pig Tricks from tophogs.com The Yahoo group PigInfoAndChat is another good resource.