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Behavior Patterns in Pot Belly Pigs

Territorial Behavior

We are often asked: "Why is my pig being aggressive and charging at friends and/or family members but not me"? This is a natural behavior for the pig. Pigs have a hierarchy system and only one pig or member of the pig herd (family) can be the top hog. This starts when they are very young. They start by fighting litter mates for a particular teat. And this will continue for the rest of their lives.

It is just natural for them to challenge other members of the herd to see who will be top hog. And this is a major reason why you may see your loving potbelly test members of the family (his herd) to see if he can move up the ladder to top hog status. This is why children are often challenged as the pig knows they are not the top hog and they might be able to move up in the herd by challenging them.

The key to dealing with aggression is training, discipline, and consistency. Never let your 10 pound pig get away with anything you don't want your 100+ pound pig doing. If there is ever an opening or a chance to challenge they will take it. They do not understand gray areas, you must teach and train in black and white, yes and no, not well or maybe.

What You Can Do

For every person you ask you will get a different answer on how to handle a pig that is charging at you. So here are a couple of ideas you can try and then pick which one will work best for you and your pig. Again, please remember that is normal behavior for your pig to charge you, to be aggressive or assertive. It is your job to train your pig properly.

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Training Your Pig

A well trained pig is a happy pig. If you have children that might be challenged by your pig, have them teach the pig a trick. With supervision from you in the background of course.

Step in and anticipate what your pig may do and be ready to say "NO!" repeatedly. Say "NO" in a firm, strong voice, but not screaming. Push him by the shoulders to the side and divert him from his intent. This is how two pigs normally fight. They push each other around from the side at the shoulders.

Another way to push them backwards is by grabbing them near the top of the neck behind their ears with your hand in the shape of a "C" and pushing. In other words, imagine your hand around a large mug, with your thumb on one side and your index finger (and other fingers) on the other side. That is how your hand will look on the pig's neck. You do NOT squeeze the neck, just a firm grip and you push the pig backwards. This is a very effective method.

Try clapping your hands. You are communicating that this not allowed behavior.

Break the behavior when you see it forming in their minds. Yes there are times when you can see them thinking/getting ready to charge. Also keep in mind that some pigs are more territorial or assertive than others.

Try changing the tone in your voice. Sometimes a simple change in the tone of your voice can work.

A sorting board or trash can lid works good too. A sorting board is usually just a piece of plywood with holes cut out for hand grips. You hold the board in front of you like a shield, as you make the pig go backwards a few strides. This will give you some security and confidence while dealing with your pig, and a non-aggressive way to back the pig out of his space. The trash can lid also works well. Plastic is best.

Some pig owners have also found that stamping your feet hard as you do this seems to give a very clear message to the pig that you are serious, and not to be messed with.

Any of the above suggestions will work. You just need to find the one that works best for you and your situation. Make sure that the person being challenged is the one attempting the correction. Even a child can do many of these techniques with the proper instruction.

If the situation happens that you feel visitors are in jeopardy of your pet and the pet is not hitting it off well, then we suggest you put them in their own spot for everyone's safety. A small room or when the weather is good, an outdoor area.

The best would be a room where they can go and not be distrubed. Hopefully that will not have to be the case, but at least you know they have a safe place for them if the case arises. This is for everyone's protection, including the pig. A place where they can still see and hear what is going on would be ideal.

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A Biting Pig

Most times when the pig is a biter it is not their fault, but ours. This happens because we are constantly giving or offering food without making them work for it. Other than their meals, they should only be given a treat when it is earned, not because you happened to go into the kitchen!

If you have a pig that is biting or nipping stop ALL food by hand. Treats MUST be earned and it must be placed on the ground or in their bowl. They will not be happy campers at first, but this does work and must be kept up. If you let up and they see an opportunity, believe us they will take advantage of it and you will have to start all over again.

For those of you with new pigs offer treats from a flat hand with the treat sticking up between two fingers. This teaches them to use their lips and not their teeth.

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Adding a Second Pig

Thinking about getting another pig because you believe your pig is lonely? Think again and be sure you have the room and space for another pig. Why do we say think again? Well, actually most pigs hate other pigs and are quite content being the only pig. Your only pig child enjoys being an only pig child.

Pro: Twice the loving. Con: Double the trouble
If you can give another pig a good home, great. But don't think you should get another just to keep the first pig company. Most are fine on their own. There is just no guarantee that they will get along. Listen to what the pig is saying. They not only don't want the company but they resent it. One of the few times this seems to work out peacefully is if they are both babies and they come at the same time. Yet even that does not guarantee they will like each other.

Just ask our pigs, Ziggy & Flower, who have been together 13 years. Bonnie & Clyde, who are mother and son, have knockdown fights and it has cost Bonnie parts of her ears. If you want that one on one relationship with your pig, there is a better chance of keeping it if there is only one.

From A Pet Pig Owner:

"This is true. You should never count on two pigs getting along. It took over a year for Seamus and Newton to tolerate each other. Now they sleep together, but buddies they are not. They don't really fight anymore...just bicker.

Willie is another story. He is one scrappy little son of a boar. Seamus would put up with him, but Willie is having none of it and attacks him on sight if I leave one of the gates open. I decided to let them duke it out once, but had to let Rusty break it up when I saw that Willie was bleeding.

The funny thing is, that Willie is afraid of Newton and doesn't give him any trouble, but Newton can't abide Willie and has a fit if he can even see him. On the other hand, Taz and Sparky fought every chance they got for six years. I tried to keep them separate, but they occasionally ended up in the same pen.

Then one day they both got in Petunia's pen and I found them all sleeping together. They were buddies until I had to put Taz in another pen after he escaped. Go figure. I will never understand pigs."

~ Robin

Introducing the Second Pig

Keep them under strict supervision or separated for the first few weeks. If they are house pigs then fence contact with a baby gate is a great idea if they leave the baby gate in one piece. The slower you can introduce them, the better and less violent their first confrontation will be.

Introduce them through a fence, so they get used to each others smell. Let them "fence" fight and get used to each other.

After a few weeks you can introduce them for very short periods of time, increasing it daily. Ideally, this should be done on a neutral territory, because pigs are territorial. If they fight, use your sorting board or a garbage can lid to put between the heads of the pigs to break them up.

The fighting can result in a few cuts and scrapes to cut lips and ripped ears. (Be prepared.) Having the pigs on harness and lead will also give you more control.

Don't reward them for being good, or punish them for being bad. This is a natural process the pigs must go through in order to allow one pig to dominate. Just make sure they don't seriously injure each other (monitor it). When one pig retreats, the fighting is just about over.

Make sure that the pigs are about the same size and weight. Do not put a baby in with an adult, or a much smaller pig in with a larger one. A big pig can really hurt a baby (or smaller pig) if they get them cornered where they can't get away fast. This will not just be a one time thing either, they will do it several more times.

Again, it's good if you stand by with a sorting board so that you can stick it in between if things get too bad. They will usually go for the ears and once they grab on they go back to the same one over and over.

The best you can ask for is that they tolerate each other. They will appreciate each other at times, but they will still have disagreements. Plan to accommodate separate sleeping areas if needed.

Also, never, NEVER hit your pig out of anger. They will not understand and in many cases makes them even more stubborn (pigheaded)!!

Patience is the name of the game.

The information presented within our information and resources section has been collected from what we consider experts and various reputable persons including vets, sanctuary owners, and private pig owners among othsrs. Information shown is the latest available. Although we have had pet pigs for 20 years and consider ourselves quite knowledgeable, we are by no means veterinarians. Any health related information presented below should be checked out with your personal veterinarian.

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