Pot Bellied Pigs/Tank
QUESTION: Our mini potbelly pig will be four months in about ten days. He has done pretty well so far with training. The only thing I'm concerned about is that when he is sleeping and I touch the side of his face he starts to make a low grunting noise that progresses to a higher pitched noise and he jerks his face back, (well to the side) and bites. Its not a mean bite its just a test bite and normally he doesn't even get my hand. But its still concerning because soon he will be around my family. I've tried yelling at him, I've tried talking calmly, I've tried timeouts, and I've trying putting him off the couch, scolding him and not letting him back on the couch. I don't know what to do :(
ANSWER: I think the key here is that you are doing this while he sleeps. When people - or pigs - are sleeping, they aren't aware of the world around them. If they are disturbed or touched, instinct takes over.
When you touch his face as he sleeps, he is reacting instinctively to you as if you were another pig. It's easy to teach a pig to behave when he's awake, but it's harder when he's asleep.
Give him a small safe space like a laundry room, bathroom or closet. Put a comfy bed in there and encourage him to sleep there.
When he is out with you and resting, wake him by talking to him or touching him somewhere else before touching his face.
When pigs live in a herd, they often sleep together in a pile. When the bump and bother each other in the pile, they react the way Tank reacts when you touch his cheek while he sleeps.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Okay, so I tried that and he still does it. Even when he's away and looking at me. When he is naughty we used to tap his nose, so I thought that might be the problem so my husband and I stopped doing that. But like I said, he still does it when he's awake and relaxing and knows it's me. Sometimes, not always.
Oh, I did not realize this happens when he is awake, also. Yes, he is probably worried you might nose-tap him again.
Try telling him that you are going to rub or touch his face, like "Gonna Face-Touch!" then do it for just a very quick second or two at most. Then stop and tell him Good Face Touch or something similar, and give him a reward. Do this maybe twice a day. He will quickly learn what the words mean. If he snaps or reacts badly, say something like "Knock it off" and then stop touching him. No rewards. After a couple of weeks you can start touching the face a little bit longer each time.
But the important thing is to first get him to understand what "Face-touch" means, and that if he tolerates it he gets rewarded. When he seems to understand, you can try touching longer, and telling him what a good pig he is the whole time.