Biting

When a pig bites, it is usually for one of  three reasons:

  1. Fear, usually in piglets
  2. Aggression,  usually if you tend to give treats out of your hand.
  3. Dominance, when your pig is settled and trying to dominate your house/being territorial

When you first get a piglet, they are usually fearful, this is due to them being a “prey” animal.  They don’t have many defenses but biting is one of the few they do have.  What you can do is desensitize your piglets face and head (actually the whole body but I am discussing biting).  This means when you have a quiet relaxed moment with your pig. You rub his or her head, all over!  In the ears, the snout, under the chin, between the eyes and when your pig relaxes used positive reinforcement, tell your pig “good” and give a treat.  This positive reinforcement has to be immediate.  IF during this process your pig swipes or bites at you they get no positive reinforcement until they “submit” or do not bite.  They need to learn that you will be handling their face in gentle manner and its not going to hurt them.

 

If your pig bites out of aggression this is due many times to people not handling the pig properly from the beginning.  When you treat your pig or give positive reinforcement tell the pig “good” and place the treat on the ground in front of your pig. Also feeding lots of sweets by hand tends to lead to biting.  The pig is getting greedy.    You can also give treats out of a treat ball or just the use of your voice or pets can be a reward, it does not always have to be treats and it should never be sweets.

 

When your pig realizes that he is not longer prey, he will then want to be head of the pack!  This is when your pig becomes territorial/dominant.  You see them getting nippy on the couch, in the feed area or where they sleep. If you have company, the house is their territory and they start to charge your company.  Many times you see this with small children, they are easy “prey” for a dominant pig or a dog.  The pig needs to know from the beginning that the feed area, sleep area, kitchen, house etc…is not their territory. You start young, you move their feed bowl to a new location daily and feed at a different time, this way your pig never knows one area as their feed area.  For sleeping I recommend crate training  your pig or a small confined area.  A sleeping pig, especially a 60 pound sleeping pig, is not a pig you want to anger, they lounge at any movement in their sleeping area.  If you want your pig to be friendly you need to make your pig “worldly” they need to go with you in the car, on walks, they need to have visitors or go be a visitor themselves and those visits need to make it clear that the pig is not the boss.  Do not let the pig dominate the couch because it’s cute.   If you have small children or dogs do not leave them unsupervised with the pig, the pig will get their way and become the “leader.” If you are passive, your pig will know and become the leader, it happens in many species (think of a fearful rider on a horse).

 

If your pig starts to bite, what you need to do:

  • Put the pig back in his area and ignore them, ignoring is very “effective” discipline.
  • Start from the beginning, desensitize the face, and use lots of positive reinforcement.
  • Start to introduce new toys, your pig needs constant enrichment.
  • Make sure you supervise the interactions between the kids and pigs, dogs and pigs.
  • If you are feeding in same area, mix it up.
  • If the pig sleeps in a certain bed/room, time to crate train, remember the positive reinforcement.

   

The last thing you want to do if you pig bites is show fear or hit your pig. Your problems will grow out of hand quickly.

 

Most pig aggression problems are because the piglet got away with “cute” antics as a young small piglet, it’s the handlers issues, not the pigs. The pig is communicating with you, it's your job to get the message.

Reprinted with permission. ©Anita Jacobson, Just Mini Pigs FB Group

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