Living With A Potbellied Pig From Birth To One Year
This is offered as a brief outline of what your pet pig needs for the first year of his life. There are several good books and manuals available to you that expand these recommendations and insights. Please seek out advise from your breeder, veterinarian, the sanctuary, and other sources of information as you continue to live with your pig.
Piglets: Birth to 6 Weeks
Most piglets under the age of 2 months have two things on their minds — survival and eating. Because of this, it is important that your baby pig be given lessons from his mom and litter mates. It is recommended that your piglet be at least 5 weeks old before it is weaned and should not be adopted until at least 6 weeks of age.
It is the breeder’s/sanctuary’s responsibility to have all male pigs neutered at or before 6 weeks of age. Boars are not meant to be pets because of their amorous nature and unpleasant odor. It is recommended that all pet females be spayed. Veterinarians vary as to the most appropriate age to spay a female pig, but reasonable range is between 6 weeks and three months.
Piglet: 6 Weeks to 3 Months
There are several issues to consider when a piglet comes home with you. Your baby will be frightened because it is away from its home and littermates for the first time. Security is the primary concern for your baby; therefore follow these steps:
• Put your baby in his new home, a space that can be separated from the whole house that you can control (i.e kitchen, laundry room, large bathroom). It is important NOT to shut your pig out with a solid door. Piggy belongings should include his bed, blanket or sheet, litter box with either pine shavings or newspaper, two heavy bowls, any toys you would choose for a child under the age 18 months.
• Sit on the floor and allow him to warm up to you. Do not move quickly, be patient. You can use food as bait. Gradually move your hand with the food to your lap. Allow the baby to smell you and feel safe with you. Do not push him. Your baby pig, through the picture frame (link leads to a site outside of petpigs.com) of natural instinct, believes when you reach down from above or pet him on his head or neck you are a predator and want to eat him; therefore, pet him from the side and work up to the head and neck.
• Don’t pick up your pig until he is totally comfortable being touched all over. When you do pick your baby up for the first time, do it while you are sitting on the floor (link leads to a site outside of petpigs.com). Reach for him from below, not over his head (link leads to a site outside of petpigs.com). If he squeals, do not put him down until he quiets down. If you put your pig down while he is squealing, you are reinforcing the squealing behavior.
• If he should get away from you, herd him gently and quietly into a small space. Do not chase him.
• Remember your baby is looking for security and love. He is actually bonding with his new family. His preference is to be with you. Provide him with the love and security he needs, and he will be asleep in your lap in no time at all.
Teens: 3 Months to 12 months
Most pigs are eager to please their owners. They respond well to love and praise just as young children do.
Because pigs are usually intelligent, they learn quickly and have very inquiring minds. They remember everything you wish they would forget. They are constantly checking out the newest additions to their environment. They are making up games for themselves that you would prefer they wouldn’t. At about 3 or 4 months, they begin to test their boundaries. And to top it all off, they become more self-centered and want things their own way. Your pig’s hearing may become selective and he may even ignore your request. Your pig is testing his position in the new family. This is a typical teenage pig. Because of the problems pig parents experience during this period, adolescents pigs run a high risk of being abandoned or taken to a shelter.
Some pig parents are taken by surprise with the normal maturation, behavior, and needs of the young pig. Others are so wrapped up in how cute and adorable their new piglet is that they let him get away with anything his heart desires.
Although adolescence can be trying time for the pig parent, there are a few steps to help you through the next few months.
• Play and Exercise: Make sure your pig gets ample time outside to graze and play. This is an excellent time to teach your pig tricks. When your pig is at home alone, provide him with appropriate pastimes. Also consider such activities as nursing home visits, trips to the park, and other public and family social events.
• Neuter/Spay your pig: Both male and female pet pigs must be neutered/spayed or they will display sexual behaviors — males all the time and females every 21 days when they cycle. By neutering/ spaying your pig you are ensuring your pet freedom from the hormonal problems of an intact pig.
• Be Consistent: Your entire household needs to treat the pig the same way. He will become confused if one family member punishes while another tolerates a particular action. Decide exactly how you want your pig to live in your house and be consistent in how you teach your expectations.
• Be a Leader: Your pig is hierarchical in nature. He views the entire household as members of his herd. He will test for his position in the herd. Unless your pig sees you and other humans as higher up the herd ladder, he will think twice about doing what you ask. He may even challenge other humans who enter his herd. You control his food, his environment and his exercise. Nothing is free. Make your pig earn what he wants by teaching him tricks and asking him to perform before he gets what he wants. Take control and don’t spoil your pig.
• Be Accepting: It is unfair to punish your pig for his curiosity or pigheadedness when this is a young pig’s nature. Remind yourself that eventually your pig will learn what is acceptable in your family and what is not. Try to be patient and consistent in your approach. Use positive reinforcement for good behavior, and reasonable, loving, and consistent direction when you pig does something wrong.
Remind yourself that eventually your pig will be mature from his teenage period and move on to adulthood. The time you spend training your pig during this period will provide you pleasure for years to come. Have a sense of humor and enjoy your young pig’s personality and behavior.