Pot Bellied Pigs/7 Month Old Piggy- A Few Problems...Am I doing something wrong?
Thankfully this site was recommended to me by a fellow piggy owner. I had wanted a piggy for quite some time and I heavily researched pigs as pets for about a year. I finally got the chance to get a little piggy on November 27, 2012. I was told she was about 11 weeks. I named her Jersey. At first everything was all happy times and lots of cuddles. I was taking her outside every hour on her leash. As soon as the snow stuck to the ground she wouldn't go outside. She would stand by my legs for a bit and then run back to the steps. I was firm at first and made her stay out there as long as I could stand, but I was concerned with her getting sick from the cold. Living in upstate NY it can get pretty chilly. So I got litter and made a box inside. I have been using pine pellets, either feline pine or feline fresh. She would go in the box sometimes, but usually just go where ever she happened to be standing. After a while of firm "no's" and putting the mess in her box, she decided to start going under thing like the couch and end tables to do her business. Which I took to mean that she wanted privacy, so I moved her box under a stand. When I moved it she would go somewhere else. Fast forward to the present- Still no change. With the weather getting a little warmer I have been taking her outside more often, but with a 9 month old it is hard for me to get her outside every hour. So I keep the box inside and take her out about 3 times a day. Every time it is fight. She doesn't like the leash, and she will not walk outside by herself. Luckily she has on a mesh harness that only comes off for bath time, I can only imagine if I had to get that on her as well. Once she is down on the ground she wanders around, ruts and explores, but still tries her hardest to get back inside as quick as possible whether she has gone potty or not. I am going to order the PBP training and behavior book everyone is raving about on Wednesday. I would really appreciate any advice until then.
Very Stressed and Overwhelmed
Piggy is confused, and does not understand what is supposed to happen.
Baby pigs can not tolerate cold very well at all. Piggy is used to being indoors and indoor temperatures, stepping outside in cold winter weather is an unpleasant shock to her body. So, that makes it hard for her to learn outdoor potty training in winter.
You took the right step in trying to introduce her to the litter box, but she didn't quite get the idea. To keep things simple for piggy, I suggest focusing on getting her to use the box. With the weather so cold, struggling to get her out is not going to be helpful right now. When the weather warms, piggy will be much more willing to go outside.
Pigs do not think the way people do. Piggy knew she might get punished if she went potty, but she wasn't sure why. So she hid.
At this point piggy has already learned some bad habits, so change will not be easy for her. And she will complain, but she is still young and can learn. It will take her a very very long time to forget the bad habits, so she'll need to stick to her new routine for months.
The trick is to set things up so that piggy can not fail, only succeed, then reward that success.
She's going to have to start potty training all over again at square one, and that means a staying in a small, confined safe space like a large closet, laundry room, bathroom or small bedroom with a bed, water dish, litter box and some toys.
The litter box should be big enough for piggy to turn around completely, have one low side for easy entry and a non-slip floor. Pigs do not like to step up or over the edge of a potty box, to them, it feels unnatural.
Before taking piggy out of the safe space, make her potty in the litter box. The trick is to pick a time when she's likely to need to potty anyway, keep her in the box until it happens (much easier to do if she really has to go), and reward her. A good time is just as she wakes up. She probably will be more interested in getting out of the space than going potty, but after a few minutes she'll go. Then reward her with a treat and let her out but only for a short time, maybe 30 minutes to an hour at the most.
Now at this point you may or may not have enough spare time to take her to the box and sit and wait until she goes. If you do, great! Reward her, take her out and let her be with you. Otherwise, put her back in her safe space for awhile. She will be bored and most likely scream, because it's something she's not used to.
Keep making her potty in the box before taking her out of the space and before meals. Put her in the box, tell her to go, and reward her when she potties. Pretty soon she'll understand to go on command. That will make it a lot easier to take her to her box on a regular time schedule.
You mentioned that she has some favorite "hidden" potty spots. Keep her away from these spots. Empty or crushed cardboard boxes fill empty space beneath couches or behind cupboards. Baby gates or plastic "deer fencing" can keep pigs out of a room or away from larger objects like under tables or shelves.
Harness training is almost impossible with the wrong kind of harness. The best kind is the kind that slips under piggy and fastens on the back, sometimes called an infinity or figure 8 harness. Make sure it fits comfortably, not too tight or loose. Pigs do NOT like to stick their heads through a harness, so avoid any harness like that.
Start by slipping her harness on as she eats. When she's accustom to that, you can slip it on while feeding her treats.
Pigs often freak out the first time they realize they are restrained on a lead. It's very scary for them. Later, they may rebel against the lead by simply poking along at their own pace. Inside, it doesn't matter, because the primary purpose of the lead is to make sure the person is constantly aware of the pig and what the pig is doing.
By the time the weather has warmed, piggy should be comfortable wearing a harness, able to go potty on command, and used to spending some time by herself in her safe space. All these will make it easier to teach her to potty outside.
I also recommend the dvd There's a Pig in the House from tophogs.com and the Yahoo group PigInfoAndChat for general information and specific suggestions for your specific situation. Harnesses and lots more piggy info is available from pigplacementnetwork.com, pigs4ever.com and farec.org