The Who, What, and Why of Adopting the Older Pig
By Kay Cranisky
Puppies, kittens, piglets…there’s no denying that baby animals are cute. Most people find them irresistible; and, when buying or adopting, they usually think “baby”. Nowhere is this truer than in the world of potbellies where smallness is prized and piglets are considered the “cutest”.
Unfortunately, all piglets do not end up to be pigs with happy homes. As more and more potbellied pig lovers try to take responsibility for homeless and unwanted pigs, more owners willing to adopt the older pig will be needed.
Should you welcome an older pig into your home, or are you just taking on someone else’s problems? Will he or she bond to you, learn the rules, respond to your training?
My pig was a year old when I adopted him. He had been a “barn pig”. To complicate matters, I had no access to potbellied pig reference materials or other pig owners. Fortunately, I was not working, and could devote the necessary time to our pig, Hamlet. After lots of work and mistakes, I am now very happy with my pig.
In order to help new and potential owners, we went to the experts for advice on adopting, training and socializing the older potbelly.
As John Vincent of “Hoggin” points out, there are some advantages to adopting an older pig. If size is a priority, an older pig may be for you. A year-old pig will have a good part of his adult size. A two-year-old is probably just about full-grown. You will also be able to see his “adult” personality. He will not need to eliminate as frequently, which can be an advantage in housebreaking. I might add that older potbellies are less expensive to acquire. While most pet piglet prices start at $300-$600, older pigs may be much less, or even free to a good home. Pigs can also be adopted for a nominal fee from rescues, adoption committees, etc.
If you are considering adopting a pig, be sure that you have the time to devote to a companion animal. Pigs can be more work than dogs. The pig will test you. He is not as eager to please as a dog. If you are looking for a low maintenance pet, it might be better to dust off your Pet Rock, and wait until your lifestyle permits more time.
Susan Armstrong, President of DVPPA, points out that it is especially important to learn as much as possible about the pig’s background and health records. The placement must be a “good match”. For example, if the pig was thriving in an indoor setting with children, a similar setting would be a desirable second home. However, if the pig was indoors and alone all day and became destructive, an outdoor setting or one in which the owners are home more would be preferable.
Bringing an outdoor pig indoors is a difficult transition. This requires teaching housebreaking skills and other “manners” that may not have been necessary in the previous home. Armstrong recommends having an outdoor area ready for all pigs before bringing them home. Remember that pigs prefer a low ceiling (crate, under table) where they feel protected.
Sharon Smart, of SCAMPP (Southern California Association of Miniature Potbellied Pigs) tells us that her club has successfully brought several “outside” piggies indoors with the help of a very experienced trainer. She also notes that the pig must be given the chance to “re-learn” skills in the new home.
John Vincent’s pig, Hoover, was adopted at about two and a half years of age. While Hoover is not as affectionate and approachable as the other pigs, he has responded well to training and lives in the house. Vincent gives the following tips:
Take patience to educate your pig. He must learn what is expected. No hurting or frightening! Establish house rules in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Move slowly. The pig will be more comfortable in a particular place in the house that is near his food. Work on approaching the pig slowly but not to the point that he runs away. Training is critical. Adapt basic techniques to the pig’s personality. Learn your pig’s patterns. Follow the same housebreaking steps you would for a young pig. Set up situations where your pig will not fail. Give him the same opportunity to learn that you would give a baby pig. Make him earn his food. In the beginning, this may mean letting the handler stand across the room while the pig eats. Formerly aggressive pigs usually will not be aggressive at first in a new setting, but will become so if not trained. Stand up to the pig and set rules from the beginning. (See Vincent’s “Amazing Pig Tricks” video for additional training tips.)
Susan Armstrong stresses the need for letting the pig come to you. Get on the floor or ground at his eye level. Patience is key. Pigs have long memories and will remember the separation from the first home. It will take time to earn trust. Pigs also thrive on a consistent schedule and routine. Armstrong recommends using petting, belly scratches, and general touching to win a pig’s affection. If only food is used, he may view you as a vending machine, not a companion. Armstrong’s other tips include:
Try to find an experienced owner who will offer advice and support. Get a vet-check after the pig adapts to his new home…sooner, only if an immediate problem arises. Transport your pig home in a crate! A dose of Heartland’s Pig Survival Plus or some Recsue Remedy before leaving the old home and for a few days in the new home can help counteract the effects of stress. “Blown coat” syndrome may occur in some pigs in stressful situations. The pig will lose its hair, but no treatment is necessary. Groom the pig if he is calm. Housebreaking should be done by introducing the pig to a room at a time.
Can an older pig adoption work out? The answer is, definitely, YES. With time, patience, training, and an understanding of your pet, your efforts can pay off with many years of loving companionship.
About the Author: Potbellies, Ophelia and Hamlet Cranisky, graciously share their home in Stockholm, New Jersey with Kay, her husband Bill, their children Lauren and Drew, Casey the mutt, Eartha Kitty, Kitten Kaboodles, and assorted smaller critters.