Pot Bellied Pigs/mini pig
QUESTION: I emailed you a few times before and the things you've said have helped.....I'm just curious if you can get pigs to He'll snort an then start squealing lowly. Everytime he wakes up he expects to get fed and he's put on quite a few pounds since getting him last month. I do have him on a diet. But whenever he goes outside his hooves are caked in mud and he won't allow me to clean then without being fed handfuls of food. If there's no food he just runs around squealing like you're killing him. His noises are getting a little unbearable because there's NEVER any quietness in our house. He's always making some kind of noises. Whenever we get up to get a snack he wakes up and follows you out to the kitchen expecting food and we don't give it to him, but then he complains for like 30 minutes. I don't want to get rid of him but I can't do 20 years of him acting like this.
ANSWER: Some pigs are noisier than others. Usually, female pigs are talkers, males tend to be quieter. Right now, he might be whining out of confusion. Pigs learn quickly and unlearn very slowly, so he may still be unlearning old rules.
The key is consistency. The easiest rule is no treats except as training rewards, and no between meal snacks.
It's easier to hold on to a pig wearing a harness. So, start harness training as soon as possible, so you can hold the harness when cleaning his hooves. Usually food is a great reward. However, if he is eating handfuls of food but the hooves aren't getting cleaned, then the "food reward" is rewarding bad behavior.
When piggy is harness trained, then you can hold the harness and clean his feet every time he comes inside. In the meantime, no more food while hoof cleaning. Instead, try to wipe his feet outside, before letting him in the door. Or, lay down mats from the door to a small space like a bathroom or laundry room, with a washable mat on the floor. When piggy comes in, he goes straight to his new "foot cleaning" spot, staying on the mats. This might be the only exception to the no food rule, if he will follow you for just a small treat. Then, he has to stay in this spot until his hooves are cleaned. He will not be happy about this, but it will help keep some of the dirt up off the floor.
Again, the key is consistency. It will be time consuming to wash his feet every single time either indoors or out, and he won't be happy, but with time he will learn to allow his feet to be washed. The problem is, if he "gets away" with going inside without foot washing even once, he'll want to skip it every time.
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QUESTION: Okay, but when the dirt is dry he doesn't need his feet cleaned, so you're saying I still need to do it? Is there a better way to clean his feet? I mean I have to take a towel and literally clean one hoof at a time and get between his nails. It is very time consuming is there a better way? And I guess my big question is will he always squeal like he's being killed every time I clean his hoof or make him leave the room or does it get better? If it gets better then when should I see a change? I've had him 6 weeks now and I've got most of his snapping under control. He still snaps every now and then but it's a lot better. But if he was just a little quieter it would be so much better. I've tried to get him into a harness and his previous owner did as well to no avail. He runs and screams something awful. Also I want to give him a bath but I know they hate water unless they're hot. What should I do?
There's a lot of things he doesn't like which is making this difficult.
He hates being picked up. He hates his hooves being touched. He hates having the top of his nose cleaned. He won't go in a harness. He hates being touched with 2 hands at the same time.
I feel like there's so many obstacles and I'm not sure I can deal with them. Like I said I want it to work so bad, but I'm having a hard time listening to him shrieking something terrible every time you go to do something. If he gets kicked off the couch, gets kicked out of the kitchen, or doesn't get food these are all times he yells. I do feed him vegetables not at his meals times. Is that the problem with food? Every time he wakes up or we get up to get a snack he follows us snorting up a storm.
I just want to know that he won't be this loud forever, because if he will be I can't keep him. Because as I said before, he doesn't snort for a minute, he'll do it for like 30 minutes. Is there hope? Thanks
Yes, the secret to getting a pig to do something is to require it EVERY TIME. It takes awhile for pigs to unlearn old habits, so when it happens every time, piggy learns to accept it as part of the routine.
A long, soft bristle brush might help you get his feet better and quicker. It's tough to get the mud out of hooves. He may always complain about the process, but as long as the water and brush are a reasonably warm temperature, he should, eventually, stop screaming. And, you may find he is a lot quieter when you use a dry brush on days when his feet are pretty clean anyway.
I know it seems a little strange and maybe not what you want to hear, but the fact that he feels comfortable enough to complain about things he does not like means he is starting to understand that he is going to be staying with you.
Some pigs are naturally noisy, but there's a big, noticeable difference between a whiny, complaining pig and a pig that's just sharing what's on his mind. The first is loud and annoying, the second is quieter and sounds almost like conversation. The whining will eventually stop, but, piggy first has to learn that he is not going to get that random treat.
He will complain when you make him move off the couch or where ever, but again, that's really a good thing! It means he is understanding that you are in charge, not him. He's just not really happy about it. He may always respond this way, because he's telling you he understands that he has to do it even tho he doesn't want to.
As for being touched, the way to get him used to that is to use the usual technique for socializing a piggy. All food must come from your hand or a dish in your hand (when he's comfortable with you, another person can take over the role as "Food Person"). Sit on the floor, let him come to you. Tell him what you're going to do before you do it, like "Touch piggy belly" then try to tickle his tummy (pigs usually love belly rubs). Make him climb into your lap to eat. If he backs away when you touch him, pull the food closer to your body. Do this for every meal. After a while, he'll get used to be rubbed and touched, even with both hands at once.
Pigs in the wild are never, ever picked up. Pigs need to learn that it's ok for you to lift them. Continue with the touching and hugging while feeding. Start by getting piggy used to being held, then lift piggy as you stand on your knees then as you are standing upright.
These steps usually go quickly with a young piglet, slower with an older pig. But, again consistency is key. All food is only from your hand (like trick training) or the food dish, and during mealtime you get to touch him all you want. If he backs away, he's backing away from food, and pigs don't like to do that.
Harness training is the next step in the process. Piggy is introduced to the harness at mealtimes, first you rub him with it, lay it over his back, then start buckling it while he eats. I recommend the kind that are passed under the pig and buckle on the back, so the pig doesn't have to stick his head through anything.
The book Pot-Bellied Pig Behavior and Training by Priscilla Valentine and the dvd There's a Pig in the House and Amazing Pig Tricks from tophogs.com are excellent how-to resources for harness and trick training, and general piggy care.