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Pot Bellied Pigs/Spoiled Spoiled Mini Pig

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Question
Hi, I have a 7 month old miniature pig. He has been acting very bad lately. He started just screaming at me whenever I did not give him food whenever I was eating or screamed if I did not pick him up to hold him or let him on the furniture.

I did a little research and found that when pigs scream it is because I yelled at him whenever he did something bad, (pee on the rug, couch, or nip at me). So the past few months I have watched myself and spoke quietly to him and for the most part it seems like he has been better.

Right now, whenever he is bad or bites someone I put him in my lap and hold his snout and make him oink 3 times for me so he will calm down and know that he has done something wrong. But even after his time-out he will run right back to me and start screaming unless I put him next to me.

He seems like he is very needy and wants attention, but all he wants is to cuddle up to me to sleep. He doesnt like when I pet him or attempt to pet him. He just backs away and grunts.

He normally sleeps all day and when he does get up he walks under my feed or stands next to the refrigerator and continues to grunt. I only feed him veggies, friuts, or beans, and I space it out throughout the day, for treats and other things. But he doesnt seem to care. He sat for me the other day and when I was giving him the treat he bit me and then ate the treat off of the ground, (which he's never done).

I just don't know how I should discipline him. He gets outdoor time, he usually pottys in his box, but he just screams and demands more food and a warm spot. (When he has an entire area of blankets and pillows for him that he refuses to use. He has to sleep in the bed with me or he circles the bed screaming)

Answer
You have correctly identified the problem - Spoiled Pig Syndrome, or SPS. Piggy does not understand what is expected of him, so he's doing as he pleases.

His diet is a big part of the problem. He isn't getting the nutrients that he needs from pig food, and may not be getting enough calories. Starvation will not keep a pig small. A pigs DNA determines how large or small the pig will be.

The "sleeps all day" part is very worrisome. A healthy 7 month old piglet should be bursting with energy. A starved piglet sleeps because they can't do anything else. Piglets do enjoy warmth, but starving piglets crave warmth because they can not keep their own little bodies warm.

He should be getting a cup of pig pellets in addition to veggies and training treats. When he is getting proper nutrition the food aggression will ease.

At 7 months he's young enough to adapt easily, but, that doesn't mean he will like the new rules! Right now he's getting "his way" by throwing temper tantrums. When the new rules kick in, he will do what has always worked for him before - throwing a temper tantrum. When it doesn't work, he will be confused, and think "Oh, I must try harder". And he will, throwing an even bigger tantrum. Be prepared for this, stay calm, and stick to to the new rules.

Pigs learn quickly but unlearn very slowly. It's important to stick rigidly to the new rules for many months. Piggy will quickly learn how the new rules work, but he will remember the old ones for a very long time.

Pigs see the world as a ladder, with each person, pet and pig having his or her own rung. Right now, piggy thinks his rung is higher than it is.

Pigs in nature are never lifted, cuddled or held. The only time they are grabbed is when a predator has grabbed them to eat! So piglets need to learn to be petted and touched. They also stay together as a group. A piglet that wanders off alone is likely to be eaten, so your piglet wants to stay near you for safety and security. Piglets can be very needy!

Start by preparing a safe space for piggy. This is where he will be when you can not supervise him or when he needs time to relax. It can be a laundry room, bathroom, big closet or small bedroom. Put his bed, litter box and water dish in it.

From now on until he's socialized, his food comes from your hand only. No food on the floor, no food in the dish UNLESS you are holding the dish in your hand. You will be the only source of food.

Sit on the floor of his space with him. Speak softly, and always tell him what you're going to do before you do it. For example, say "Touch piggy ear" then touch his ear gently. Let him come to you to sniff and explore.

Do the same thing at dinner, but this time, piggy must come to you and eat from your hand. Keep trying to touch him as he eats. Try tickling his side and his belly.

Repeat this at each meal, first coaxing him to sit on your lap, then holding him on your lap while you hug and pet him.

Do not let him out of his safe space until he has gone potty in his litter box. Give him a small treat for going potty. Take him back to the box every hour and make him potty. Do not let him out of his space if he does not potty.

A healthy piglet left in his new safe space for the first time is likely to scream, so be ready. Remember that screaming has always worked for him in the past, that's all he knows.

Trick training goes a long way towards helping piggy understand how to behave. It isn't about a "dancing pig", it's about the pig and person learning to communicate with each other, and the pig learning to trust the person.

It's your bed, so it's up to you if you want him in it or not. If you do, get a set of steps so he can safely climb in and out. Many pigs have broken legs jumping off beds. Give him his own set of blankets.

If you want him to sleep in his own bed in his safe space, buy a set of ear plugs. At bed time, put him in his bed, make sure he is plenty warm, tell him good night, turn off the light, and leave. Put your earplugs in and go to bed yourself. Piggy will scream until he realizes no one is coming. He may whine nearly all night the first night, but within a week he will be settled with the new routine.

I highly recommend the book Pot-Bellied Pig Behavior and Training by Priscilla Valentine. Pris really understands how pigs think and why they do the things they do. I also recommend the dvds "There's a Pig in the House" and "Amazing Pig Tricks" from Tophogs.com  The Yahoo group PigInfoAndChat has lots of pig lovers who are always willing to help.  

Pot Bellied Pigs

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Helen Morrison

Expertise

Pot-bellied or other miniature pet pig care, including diet, housing, training, health care. Can provide information about zoning, adoption, supplies, and organizations. Questions about any kind of pet swine are welcome!

Experience

Owning, raising, and caring for small pet swine, including "Vietnamese" pot-bellied pigs since 1992.

Organizations
Pigs of Great Fortune; FAREC; PigCollaborative

Education/Credentials
BBA from KSU

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