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Believe it or not, pigs can benefit tremendously from training. Training can help channel a pig’s natural behaviors into acceptable outlets and teach behaviors that can make everyday life simple for the pig and his people.
“Training a pig is very similar to training a dog,” says exotic animal specialist Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM. “They’re so smart that if you give them the time, they can really learn just about anything.”
Left to their own devices, though, pigs can be challenging and destructive to live with — which is why training is so important.
Dr. Hess advises providing structure and reward-based training from the start. Older pigs can learn new tricks, but ideally, training should begin when your pet is a piglet.
“I can’t tell you how many times pigs come into their vet appointments dressed in bonnets and riding in strollers,” she says. But, she cautions, it’s important to resist the urge to treat a piglet like a baby. “They don’t stay a cute seven pounds forever. They change very quickly and get big fast!”
Teaching your pig simple behaviors becomes especially important when your pint-sized piglet has grown into a full-sized porker. “Before getting a pig, it’s important you know what you’re getting into,” Hess advises. Pig owners need to be prepared for the pig to be “very strong, very loud and potentially very destructive.” She recalls pig owners who were at risk for eviction after noise complaints from neighbors or who were dealing with damaged carpets and woodwork inside their homes.
“They’re the right pets in the right circumstances if you have enough space and time,” Hess says. “But they can’t be left alone in the house for a few hours without entertainment, as a cat might be.”
Pig owners will need to give their pets ways to channel instinctive behaviors in constructive and acceptable ways.
“Pigs love to root and dig,” Hess says. “Without a space to do it in, they’ll dig up your floor. Kiddie swimming pools filled with paper bags, blankets and stones (larger than the pig’s mouth so that they can’t be swallowed) let the pig do what they like to do in a way that works in the home.” Food puzzles, such as a ball the pig can roll around with his snout, can also help to create a more natural foraging opportunity.
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