From the Farm: How About a Pig?

A well cared for pig can become an entertaining much loved member of the family!

Although some people would never consider sharing their home with a pig, there are many people who are charmed by the intelligence and personality of their pet pigs. There is no doubt that given proper expectations as well as care and training, a pot bellied pig can make an interesting and much-loved addition to the home. However, many people find that pigs are demanding pets and are overwhelmed by their needs.

Before discussing the negative aspects of pigs, it must be noted that pigs have several desirable qualities. They are quite intelligent, readily trained, affectionate, curious, playful, clean, generally quiet, odor free and usually non-allergenic. Many owners consider their pigs an integral part of the family and involve them in all their activities. However, there are a few things potential owners should know. Pigs are complex creatures and require an owner who understands their needs.

Pigs are very intelligent. This is usually a positive trait, and pot bellied pigs are quite trainable, much the same as a dog (i.e. can be house trained, leash trained and can learn a few tricks). However, their intelligence can make them a bit of a handful, too. They are curious and playful, but also headstrong and sensitive. Without appropriate stimulation, they will become easily bored and possibly destructive in their quest to find something to do.

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Pigs are also unrelenting in their search for food. They can learn to open the refrigerator, cupboards and pantry doors where food may be found. They can become demanding, begging for food, and even getting aggressive with kids that have food. Pigs also "root," or dig and explore with their snouts, but in doing so may overturn items in the house, including wastebaskets, small furniture and may even disrupt the landscaping. This is instinctual, so an area of soft dirt should be provided in the yard where your pig can satisfy its need to root and dig.

Another problem some people have encountered with their pigs is aggression. Pigs can be territorial and have a drive to be dominant ("top pig"). Unless shown that the humans in the household are number one, pigs can exhibit a form of aggression known as dominance aggression (which is also seen in dogs). Pigs need to be taught to respect their owners. Owners can set rules and boundaries, teach the word "no" and use gentle but firm discipline to make clear who is in charge. It’s good to keep in mind that pigs respond well to positive reinforcement too (e.g. using praise and treats when the pig is doing something desirable) and do not do well with physical punishment. From day one, the owner should be setting the rules and enforcing them. Consistent rules, praise for good behavior and correction/redirection with lots of repetition and patience will help produce a well mannered pig who has a good relationship with its family.

On a more basic level, a pig will live an average of 12 -18 years, but can live up to more than 20 years. Although often called miniature pot bellied pigs, the term miniature is relative - they are smaller than most pigs kept for food production, but they still usually weigh 125 pounds or more when fully grown. Responsibility for their care is not to be taken lightly, with respect to time or finances. Pigs should be obtained from conscientious, reputable breeders, and will need a good quality pig food, regular vaccinations, hoof and tusk trims, and will also need to be spayed or neutered. Regular access to the outdoors for exercise is a necessity as well. Pigs are social animals so needs lots of attention and interaction, and if feasible, owners should consider keeping more than one pig. Of course, as with any other exotic pet - an owner needs to check local regulations to make sure pot bellied pig ownership is permissible in their area.

For people with appropriate expectations, a pot bellied pig will make a rewarding, entertaining and much-loved pet.

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