Our last blog was on aggression, training and "Shifting the Pig" and yet I really feel obligated to touch on another aggressive and poor behavior issue that goes hand in hand with our last topic. There is a real behavior condition in pigs called "Spoiled Pig Syndrome" and it commonly occurs in miniature variations of pet pigs and even more commonly, pigs that are indoors and kept as house pets. We rarely if ever see it in pigs that are kept outdoors or as farm pets.
Let's see what Webster's Dictionary defines spoiled as: "To impaire, damage or harm the character or nature of (someone) by unwise treatment or excessive indulgence, etc. to spoil a child by pampering him." That's pretty accurate and no surprise when it comes to some of today's modern house pets, especially pigs. Unlike a dog or cat that you may spoil from time to time and not create any ill lasting affects from, when you spoil a pig excessively you are walking a very fine line. Why is this? Pigs are naturally stubborn and aggressive when it comes to getting what they want from you or another animal. Like we said earlier, it kind of goes hand in hand with the training methods explained in our prior blog. Sometimes a pig will start challenging you for dominance and hierarchy BUT sometimes... You have single handedly created the monster by over indulging your pigs every desire or want. In effect you are giving in and training your pig to push you and your family members around until it gets exactly what it wants. That's a dangerous president to set! So what examples of behavior patterns are out there to help understand what we are referring to?
When you are in the kitchen getting a snack for you or your family, you automatically give the pig some of the snacks you are having. Here you are teaching your pig they can have whatever you are having, whenever you are having it or when you enter the kitchen or a specific room of the house. Another, when your pig awakes early in the wee morning hours or demands to be fed at obscure times and you get up and feed them in hopes that it will keep them quiet, even if for a few minutes. Here you are teaching your pig that it can demand whatever it wants of you, whenever it wants it. If your pig squeals/screams loudly till something he wants is given to him, again, he has won and you are teaching him this behavior is ok and desired. The pig will continue to push, push, push till it gets whatever it is after and sometimes this can even lead to dangerous behavior. All these examples are prime indicators of a spoiled pig in the making.
We can't stress enough that every pig is an individual in personality and behavior. Some people will in fact get lucky and have a pig that is given in to constantly and yet the pig stays calm and easy to work with regardless. However, this is not the norm and should not be expected. With some pigs that remain on the smaller stature end of the scale, giving in to them is easy and possibly easier to deal with, even if they do start to show symptoms of a spoiled pig. It's always easier to scold a Chihuahua than it is an unwilling Great Dane! Even with differing personalities, we never suggest setting your pig up for this type of behavior, even if you, "don't think it will ever happen to my cute pig."
Once this behavior is established and engrained in to the pig, the training to get them back to a more normal and more manageable state is taxing! Some would even consider it exhausting and a stress on the owner and family, like nothing you have ever experienced! Pigs that display this syndrome will scream an ear shattering scream, charge you/family, chase you/family, bite people and even tear up other objects relentlessly in order to get your attention. Their aggression, once this behavior pattern has been established, knows no limits. If you have a pig that is already suffering from Spoiled Pig Syndrome you will want to revert to our prior blog on training and "Shifting the Pig." On top of that, you will want to start feeding all meals and even treats to your pig in a treat toy/enrichment toy. It is natural for a pig to have to work to find its food, this will help refocus the pigs energy to the toy for food and not people. It also helps the pig expend energy because it is "scavenging" for its food like they do in the wild. Always make a pig work for its food! Another tactic to add to your arsenal is forcing the pig in to a "time out" as soon as it starts to exhibit poor behavior. Put them away in their crate, confined area or specific room of the home for an allotted amount of time or until the behavior has completely subsided and calm is restored. You must be consistent with this in order for it to work. The pig needs to know any poor behavior will not be tolerated or given in to and they will be consistently punished by not only NOT getting what it was originally seeking but he must now be locked away for a period of time from any human interaction. Trust me, that can be sincere punishment for a pig use to his humans.
One of the worst things I hear and see people do and they even make light of it by joking, is giving in to your pig and feeding it whenever it wants to be fed. Not only does this pave the way for obesity, but the behavior you are establishing is horrifying! You wouldn't let your teenage children push you around like that and TELL you WHEN you will do everything for them, so why on earth are you doing it with a 150 pound pig that is already sleeping in your bed? We come across others that are trying to "teach" other people about pig behavior, but doing exactly what they are telling others not to do. They are spoiling to no extent and creating a monster, then wondering why they have an ill behaved and grumpy pet or passing it off as a joking matter. I see it every day and with multiple people in the pet pig community. The first step is to never start this pattern! Remember, a pig is not a dog. It is a stubborn, smart and demanding animal that when given an inch will always demand a mile! If you find yourself in the Spoiled Pig Syndrome boat, stop immediately and start addressing the behavior head on. You will have to change and address YOUR behavior before you can effectively change the pigs. It's like parenting to an extent... We have to stop enabling them and fix our behavior first!
For more detailed information on pig behavior and how to address training issues, please see our website page on behavior and our last blog entry on Training & Behavior dated December 31, 2015.
*Although the term "Spoiled Pig Syndrome" may have been originally coined by someone else (we are not sure on who that was originally), this blog was entirely written and produced by Jodi Register and did not use any references. We always site references when they are used but none were for this article. It was all free written based on experience and my own studies.
The Hog Blog...
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