Potty Training & Setbacks
Athough our website has a small "how to" on potty training within the indoor section, on the New Pig Parent page, this topic over the past two years seemed paramount. The amount of questions we got regarding how to potty train, best methods, best types of pans/litter boxes, going outdoors like a dog and even some interesting setbacks encountered, have really opened our eyes to how desperately we needed to formally address this topic. So much so, that we needed to make it an actual page to easily navigate to!
There are MANY angles to approach potty training for indoor pet pigs and for the most part, we need to consider ourselves lucky that our porcine friends are actually relatively clean animals when it comes to defecating and urinating in specific locations. Even if raised outdoors or in communities, pigs will almost always use the restroom in what we call a "communal dunging" area. There are many livestock species whose natural instincts push them to communal dung patterns. This pattern of behavior will typically always work in our favor for indoor potty training purposes.
THE PIGLET OR YOUNG (SMALL) PIG
When bringing home a new piglet or young pig, always start small. You will never be able to bring them home, put out a pan in a bathroom or laundry room, give them full liberty of the house, and expect them to find it and use it. That is way too much space to navigate! Instead, plan to section off a relatively small space like a guest bathroom or a laundry room and baby gate it off (see our ideas page for Indoor Pet Pigs, on other neat ideas when making a special small space for your pet). Make sure all personal items, anything small, or potentially dangerous to a curious pig, are removed and locked away. Cover all plugs within reach. Offer the small piglet a cat sized bed or blankets on one side of the room and a small, high backed litter pan on the other. As a very small piglet, we recommend either ferret litter boxes or even small cat litter boxes, either will work at this smaller stage. You don't want something super big at such a young age. Remember to NOT use clumping kitty litter, pigs can mistake it for something to eat and if ingested it can cause major impaction and kill them. Stay away from clumping litters! Many people use shavings, Yesterday's News brand or even shredded newspapers of their own. There are many non-clumping type kitty litters out on the market these days. Most people use shavings though, cheap, non toxic (PINE SHAVINGS ONLY) and can be bought in bulk from Tractor Supply, Southern States and and Farm & Garden type stores. Just make sure to not get extremely fine shavings as they can be inhaled and cause respritory issues. There are MANY forms of shavings on the market, so that shouldn't be hard to stay away from. Just ask any other pig parent what they use if they have an indoor pig and they will tell you what works best for them. :)
as time goes on, slowly increase the amount of roaming room you offer to your piglet/young pig. If they have successfully been using the litter box for two weeks or more with no accidents, increase the space by maybe adding the hallway or an additional room. Make sure they know how to get back to their litter box and still use it, every time you offer a little more space. Every week or so you add another room to their allotted space and if they successfully still use the litter box, keep adding space and be patient! Soon they will have the whole house available. If for any reason they stop using the litter box, take back that extra space and go back to the smaller offering from the week before. Till they master it in the smaller location, they can not advance to larger spaces. If they regress on more than a couple occasions, so does their larger space. It may be a game of give and take for awhile but in time, it will work.
ACCIDENTS IN THE HOME
With any litter box accidents, pick up the mess with a paper towel and bring it back to the litter box. If it is feces, put it in the litter box and show them where you are taking it. If it is urine, wipe it up with a paper towel and place a portion of the paper towel back in to the litter box. Never push a pigs nose in to its "accident" that is counter productive in any species and only teaches them to be afraid of going to the bathroom at all. You can pick them up, bring their accident back with you to the litter box and place them in the litter box with their accident, or next to the box. They will walk away or may be sniff it on their own. That is all you need. Let them see where it went. Never force them to smell it! Never force them in to the box if they don't want to go, you don't want them to associate fear with the box!
If your pig uses another corner in its small room and you are just starting out, pick up its accident, place it in the litter box and try moving the box to where it prefers to go. If the pig keeps using the opposite area even when moving the box, stop moving the box. Just keep putting its accident back in to the box. It may take awhile, especially with small piglets, but it will click at some point.
Even with larger pigs that have a moment of regression in house training behavior, there is hope. If your pig truly had potty training in the home down to a science and major accidents start occurring, put on your investigation hat! What has changed and upset the balance of the pigs daily routine? Is there a new animal in the house? A new child or baby? Do you have a new work schedule? Did you move homes? Did you try to move his "safe space" within the home? Are there new friends always coming over that the pig gets depressed or upset around? There are SO many unique situations that can unsettle the balance of your pet pigs fragile psyche. Pigs are SO intelligent and they protest subtle changes by being destructive to the home, belongings in the home, people in the home and also refusing to use the litter box as they once did. If this is the case and something has changed, go back to the basics! Let your pig know he will always have his "safe space." Regress to a smaller area again and every time your pig gets in to the litter box, offer a treat! Maybe sit in your pigs area and offer belly rubs and treat toys only in that area.
If your pig is use to going outside to use the restroom and has regressed to going inside, ask yourself why! Put that investigators hat back on. There will always be an underlining issue. Set timers in the kitchen for every 30 minutes to an hour (depending on your pigs needs) and as soon as you BOTH hear the timer, use a key word like "POTTY" and clap your hands excitedly to head outside. If the pig goes, offer it a treat immediately! Maybe even a good rub will suffice for those that adore belly rubs. Most importantly, be patient and THINK DEEPLY about WHY your pet may be exhibiting the behavior he is. It may be a tough riddle to navigate, but the answer is there!
* Another thing to ALWAYS consider when addressing an indoor pig that was a master at potty training and has regressed, is his overall medical health. Yes, something very well could have changed in daily routine with your family, but has his frequency in urinating also changed? Stool consistency? Does he have a fever? Can he move around easily, how is his gait? An uncomfortable pig will not adhere to a normal routine or use the restroom like it was trained to do. Always investigate health as well. If anything health related is in question, set up a veterinarian appointment as soon as possible. Maybe your pig has a urinary tract infection and no amount of training will help till the underlining medical issue is properly addressed or resolved.
PLAYING WITH THE LITTER BOX
Many pet pigs are curious and think their litter box is a toy you gave them to play with! This can be very discouraging to owners and the mess, intense! Unfortunately there are just some pigs that never get over this behavior. They never associate the box with a place to use the restroom as hard as you try! For destructive pigs that refuse to leave the litter box alone, start teaching them to go outdoors immediately. Get the whole family on board, buckle down for a week, expect accidents and try to be patient. Teaching them to go outside in this case, will be your only option. See Outside Training below.
TEACHING YOUR PIG TO USE THE BATHROOM OUTSIDE
In many households it is important to the owners to teach their pet pigs how to use the bathroom outdoors. This way they don't have to mess with a litter box and it's associated cleaning. You can teach your pig to go outside but it will be a process and will require a lot of dedication! We recommend using a kitchen timer that both you and your pig can easily hear. When starting, set it almost every 30-45 minutes during the day. Remember, a young piglet cannot hold its potty long and will require a LOT of trips out doors. Use a key word of your choosing, like "POTTY," and get excited about going out. Don't get so excited you scare your pig though. Bring a treat and as soon as they go, treat and praise! This will catch on in about a week or so. You will have to be VERY dedicated for the first couple weeks! Once your pig has mastered going outdoors, you can even teach him to use a bell hung on the door. Just include the bell in to your routine when saying "POTTY" and ring it before going outside and so your pig can see you. This may take time but they will get the hang of it.
With a small piglet, you can't give it full range of the home and expect it to go outside, even if you set a timer. You may need to offer a small litter box in its "area/room" as well as setting the timer. Young piglets or those coming out of a questionable situations will not get the hang of "outside" quick at all. Be patient with them and use positive reinforcement. Pigs will always respond poorly or fight back to negative training techniques, they are stubborn and too smart! Treats and food are the way to their heart and brain!
CRATE TRAINING FOR PIGS
When we mention crate training, we don't mention it in the sense that you can buy a crate and leave your pig in it while you go to work or all day excursions. That is irresponsible pet ownership of any species. A pig especially will not take kindly to it, behavior issues will abound! You can however use a crate to help train them to go outside or as a "safe place" for them when the house gets too noisy or active. There are many creative ideas out there these days that replace the need for a crate and we always suggest those first. But crate training your pig can also be very beneficial for trips and needing to go to the vet. Many older and larger pigs will refuse to get in to a crate, even with food or treats! But if you have trained your pig from a young age that it is a "safe place" they are more likely to eargerly jump in and fuss less. To start, always offer a small treat if the pig willingly walks in to his crate. Treating them in the crate will associate it with good= I get food. Some even offer a small meal in the crate if it is large enough.
When it comes to potty training them with it, this is where things can get tricky because you don't want your pig living in a crate till it is trained. That is unacceptable. But what can be done is putting it in there for specific, predetermined amounts of time (depending on the pigs age) and setting a timer. When it goes off, immediately take them outside and repeat the techniques mentioned above. Then let them play with you inside the home for awhile. You don't ever want to force a pig to stay indefinitely in his crate! It is a tool that when used appropriately can be invaluable, but mistreated, and you will sincerely regret it.
*NEVER put a litter box in to a crate and expect your pig or piglet to use its box inside its small home. That is unacceptable and will lead to confusion. You are essentially teaching your pet that it is alright to go to the bathroom indoors and in its bedding area. We have encountered a lot of people doing this and we cannot say enough, DON'T, STOP! This is exactly the opposite of what potty training looks to instill in your pet! This actually teaches your pet it is alright to go inside its home.
If you have a very specific question that wasn't addressed on this page, please reach out to us. If we can help guide you we will! There is an email button on the top of the Home page. You can also message us on our FaceBook page or IG account.
Types of Litter Boxes
There are many offerings and ideas out there when it comes to creating a litter box for your pet pig. Owners have really needed to get creative! When your pig gets bigger, your box needs to as well! We have seen everything from large crate pans purchased off Amazon or in pet stores, to Boot Pans (you typically see them for muddy boots at peoples front door) , large Rubbermaid containers with doors cut in them and even litter boxes that were designed for dogs. Others use Page horse feed pans or troughs with a door cut out. Some owners even hand make theirs with wood! We have also seen owners U-bolt the pans to the wall for stability and so the pig can't play. Get creative! Honestly, the sky is the limit! What may work for one person, may not work for the next. So be willing to test and experiment! Remember every pig is an individual! 💕