Returns that are Better than the Stock Market
by Diana Kyser
I attended a conference a few years ago where John Vincent (pig trainer extraordinaire of Hoggin’) explained that even five minutes a day of training time spent with your pig can make major behavioral differences. His point was that a pig who will sit and stay on command truly respects her owner and is more likely to be well-adjusted to her surroundings and lifestyle. John has eight house pigs who never show aggression and who are all living happily together in his house. As I listened to him I vowed that I would take a later train into work (the 7:04 instead of the 6:36) and spend that extra time with my pig. That was six months ago when my pig, Janey, was four months old. I now have a perfectly behaved ten-month-old pig who can play basketball to rival the Globe Trotters! I mean it, those extra minutes have compounded into a dream!
Here are some “keys to success” that I have found work with my pig. I hope you will find these hints helpful in establishing and maintaining a training program with your special pig.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
My pig loves to do the same things every day–she thrives on routine! In the morning, I feed her and take her out to her pen where she stays while I shower and get ready for work. Just before I leave for work, I bring her inside. She RUNS eagerly into the house and readies herself for “tricks.” She knows this time is different from the other times she comes in from outside. It is her time to have my undivided attention and to get popcorn! (air popped, no butter, of course).
MAKE IT FUN FOR BOTH OF YOU
I have heard that “a scared pig cannot learn.” Training time should be fun for both you and your pig so that you both look forward to it every day.
My pig seems to have learning spurts. It took me more than two months to teach Janey to “pick up” a ball, exactly one minute to teach her to fetch the ball, and five minutes to get her to put that ball in the basketball hoop. I think this is because pigs don’t naturally pick things up with their mouths and carry them around. They most commonly use their noses to root and push earth and brush around. Teaching her the activity of “pick up” was the hardest, and once mastered, the rest was a piece of cake!
Many days I am running late or am tired, but we do trick time no matter what. Don’ t let your life encroach upon your pig time! I have also found (whether it is coincidence or not, I don’t know) that the days I say, “Janey, we’ll do tricks tonight”, are the days she takes apart her brother iguana’s cage or rearranges the kitchen furniture!
SET A LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE AND STICK TO IT
Also, be consistent in the level of performance you expect from your piggy. Is sit held for a half second or fifteen seconds? Does one figure eight fetch a treat or two figure eights? I have heard that pigs get lazy (mine has not yet) and will want the treat for a less than perfect performance. Make sure you reward your pig for giving her best, and not just for an “ok” performance.
My pig learns so fast that I must really, REALLY work hard at thinking of new tricks! Pigs are the fifth smartest species in the animal kingdom, so how interesting can doing a circle or waving be? To get trick ideas you can buy a video from professional pig trainers or go to shows and watch the trick classes.
I hope these thoughts will help you and your pig have many happy trick hours. The little investment of time you put into training your pig will reap far greater returns than you can imagine!
About the Author: Diana Kyser lives in South Orange, NJ with her beloved pig, Janey, husband, John, baby son, James. Diana takes the responsibility of owning a pet pig very seriously and provides Janey with a stimulating and nurturing environment.