~Socializing your new mini pig~
The name of the game when socializing is "patience." Make sure you have plenty of patience, something to keep you busy or occupied and a really comfortable pillow. You will be sitting on the floor, a lot and quite possibly for hours in the beginning. The reason you want to be on the floor is to gain your pig's trust. This cannot be easily accomplished by towering over them in a chair. So sit your butt on a pillow, on the floor, and get ready to socialize.
Ideally, you want to buy from a breeder who has already poured their heart and soul into socializing your piglet for you. But this is not always the case. Have some pig pellets, plain Cheerios, a mixture of chopped up assorted fruits, etc. with you while you start socializing. You want to have it relatively calm and peaceful in your home when you are earning the trust of a scared and unsocial piglet. Got a complete spaz of a pig? One that screams the second you get close to it? And now you are thinking, "What the hell did I get myself into??" Good question, but trust me when I say that almost, (almost ) all pigs or piglets warm up to you eventually. Granted, it is better to socialize them in this way when they are 4 months or younger, but it can be done with older piglets. I sometimes play some mellow music in the background just to get a feel for their little personalities. It seems to soothe most pigs. Many pigs will be trying their best to curl up in a ball in the corner, or they put their nose in the farthest corner away from you. This is typical scared pig behavior. Your pig does not hate you, they just don't know you. The most important tool you can use is repetition key words, such as "touch, soft and gentle, treat, good pig." All of these key phrases will be your "go-to" phrases that you use when communicating with your pig.
I always like to start out by holding the pig if it is possible. Have a blanket to wrap your pig in that supports their hooves. Usually, this support under their hooves helps them feel secure and calms them down quickly, but not always. If this does not work with your pig, you just start with a slower routine of bribery, patience and food/treats. I do not waste my time holding on to a screaming pig. It stresses the pig out and is stressful for you as well. Some breeders are adamant about holding the pig until they stop screaming. Now, this might work for them, but I have never found this to be helpful. Some pigs absolutely hate being picked up their whole entire lives.....and guess what? That's just something that you are going to have to accept about your little perfect porcine. Other pigs get used to being picked up and carried around for a while, but just like a goat, nobody walks around carrying their adult goat, mini horse or other miniature hooved animal for that matter. So at some point you are just going to have to harness and leash train your pig and walk with them side by side. Please get used to it. The smallest pig I ever had was 35 pounds and even she was quite heavy in density for me to pick up and walk around with. And that is a very small pig as far as pigs go.
You want to give your pig a relatively small space to adapt to when you first bring them home. Do not EVER give them free roam of the house. This will only reinforce bad bahavior, an undisciplined pig and will only prolong your training and socialization by months. Your setup should include a comfortable dog bed, potty pads or a litter box with equine pellets, aspen shavings or kiln dried pine shavings for them to go potty on/in. You should have their food and water bowl relatively close to their bed setup. Always have fresh water for your pig and remove pig food/pellets after 10 minutes of offering it to your pig so that it does not oxidize. You will find that this is almost NEVER a problem when you have a healthy pig. A healthy pig will have their food eaten in just minutes. Some do eat slower than others. You want to physically sit in your pig's area with them, even if they are scared. And yes, even if they are screaming their full heads off. Wear ear plugs. Pigs are very dramatic, or at least they can be when they are scared. It's ridiculous, but true. It is your job to teach them to trust your hand, your touch and your voice/commands.
Have a name picked out for your pig, because you are going to use it often during socializing. Talk softly to your pig using their name. If they do allow you to pet them, use the same key word or phrase over and over so that they know what to expect for this new action. I use "touch," and my pigs pick up on this key phrase as I use it every time I pet them. I even use it on my older pigs before I pet them. It's just habit and I think the pigs appreciate knowing what action is about to happen. For example, I'm going to pet them not feed them. Therefore the pig expects a pet on the head or scratch behind the ear and they are not expecting a treat. It is all in the repetition. All pigs have a blind spot right on the top of their heads. So be slow when you are petting them there for the first few times. It freaks them out and they normally flinch. After lots of socializing, they don't freak out at all and are fine with being pet and scratched on top of the head. I usually start out by giving cheek and chin scratches. This will also let me know right away if I have a piglet who happens to be a fear-biter. I have been bitten more times than I would like to admit and even though their teeth are small, they hurt and can leave actual punctures in your skin. So what do you do with a fear-biter, you ask? Well, you avoid petting around their cheek and chin for starters and if they do try to bite, you have to raise your voice and sternly say, "No Bite." Follow this with a little shove behind their ear. Yes, you are trying to gain their trust, but you never ever allow your pig to be an A-hole.
Allow your pig to bite you once without firm discipline, and they will quickly learn how to bully you for everything. Please remember that pigs are not like dogs. They are so much smarter, and in turn, can be that much more stubborn. It is so hard to combine being kind, with remaining the boss hog of your household, but if you and EVERY member of your household are not willing to discipline in this way, please do not even bother getting a pig. You are clearly not ready. I say this from experience, not out of being a know it all. So please take it seriously when I say that a mini pig might not be the the right pet for your household if you or your family members are a bunch of pushovers. Remember that part about pigs being smart? Well, they are. They are also incredibly observant and will find the weakest link in the household, and can ( not always) bully that family member into getting what they want. Do not let this happen. Stay consistent with your routines, make sure every family member knows what is involved with raising a pig and please be sure that everyone is on board. Even Grandma and the small minions in your home, also known as your children.
While sitting on the floor with your pig, toss some Cheerios, pellets, Gerber Puffs, or chopped up fruit in their direction. Say your key word or key phrase, such as "treat." Some pigs are naturally curious and will explore the food and eat it. Look for the change in the body language. Is your pig wagging their tail? Awesome, you have their attention! Keep at it by tossing very small pieces of food or treats in their direction, but now toss the food closer and closer to your leg. Watch for their body language again. You want to stay relatively still to gain their trust. Keep talking softly saying their name. Such as, "Hi Savanah, treat? Or "good pig, treat?" Eventually, you can place the food bits on your leg and let your pig get closer and closer until they are grabbing the food from your flat hand. You want to teach your pig to take food with their lips, not their teeth. Pig bites hurt, and can happen by accident when they get excited or overzealous to eat. Just avoid this by feeding them flat handed and teach your whole family this method as well. Once your pig is close enough, you can slowly start giving chin and cheek scratches while you are feeding them. Use the same key word or phrase such as "touch or pet." Your pig will quickly realize what these key words or phrases mean and will respond to them in a positive way. Slowly start petting or scratching their whole body with every attempt. Soon enough, you will have your pig flopping over for belly rubs. Anything done with a pig is going to involve food at first. Once they learn these tricks, they can be more of a people - pleaser by just getting praise by positive words. For the most part, pigs work for food. Start training your pig to sit, turn around, or even shake to earn their food. Not only does this stimulate your pig, but it motivates them to continue to work for their food.
If your pig is not warming up to you at all, it is best to sit in their pen with them while you pour their food. Just sit with them as they eat their food for at least 30 minutes during their feeding time. Move their bowl closer and closer to you with every feeding. Try not to make sudden movements around your pig, but rather just talk to them softly and try to read their body language. Hopefully, you bought your pig from a breeder that you can contact for lifetime support, such as one of the awesome breeders from www.minipigbreeders.com . Call your breeder and ask them what method works best for them when socializing their pigs. Breeders will have different ways, or tricks of the trade that they implement that might help out their piggy-parents. I hope this was in some way helpful to all of the new piggy-parents out there. Through education and good communication, we as a community of mini pig lovers, can help the public be more aware and prepared for their new pet mini pig.
~ Aura Aragon at Paragon Petz ~
Tips for Socializing Piglets
wrote by Aura at www.paragonpetz.com