CPPA received an E-mail from a potbellied pig owner concerned about her aggressive potbellied pig. We asked CPPA's friend, Jane McPherson, if she could offer some help. Jane has studied potbellied pig behavior and come up with some excellent insights.
We thought the questions and Jane's answers might be of interest to other potbellied pig owners who are dealing with pig aggression.
We have a 2 year miniature pot-bellied pig. I just read an article on your website about aggression.
Our pig, Samie, has always shown signs of aggression since we first brought her home. However, my husband & I felt like we were able to easily establish, from time to time, that we were the "Alpha Pigs". However, now Samie is growing tusks that are rather large & quite sharp. We have a 5-year old bulldog, that Samie has known for the past 2 years. Suddenly, Samie is constantly picking fights with our dog, is extremely aggressive when we have guests in the house and just recently she attacked me several times in one weekend causing some serious bruises and pain.
Should I follow the instructions in the article linked above in re-establishing dominance? What about my dog, who is a beloved family member who was around for years before we introduced Samie. When they get in fights, they both end up with bloody scratches. Also, my husband & I are trying to start a family. I get VERY nervous when I think about what an aggressive pig might do to a baby or toddler in the future :(
Any advice you could provide would be helpful.
Thank you =)
I think that without question, the first thing that should be done is to have your vet trim Samie's tusks. Before you re-establish dominance, you need to be absolutely confident that you will win. In addition to ensuring that no one will be seriously injured by the tusks, this will also help your confidence in dealing with Samie. If you are not 100% confident when you go in to re-establish yourself as top-pig, Samie will be able to sense this, and will more than likely take advantage of what she sees as a lack of confidence from you. This will also give her more reason to try and become 'top-pig' if she senses that you are not a confident leader. If you are nervous around your pig because of her tusks (even subconsciously) you are setting yourself up to fail, and you are setting up Samie to continue to push the envelope....
Samie is at the age where she will begin to try and work her way up the 'social ladder', and she sees you and your husband (and probably your bulldog- more on that below) as her herd mates. Once the tusks have been trimmed, you can begin re-establishing dominance. The article on aggression and how to deal with it, is REALLY wonderful and should be a big help. I think that the most important thing to take from the article is to push your pig, EVEN WHEN , (AND most importantly) your pig is NOT exhibiting aggression. YOU need to push her around, WHEN you choose... And the key is to do it OFTEN. No matter what happens, anytime you decide to pick a fight with her, you MUST win.
If she is primarily an indoor pig, I would recommend changing that to where she spends the majority of her day outdoors, with areas to root, to help keep her mentally stimulated and to help her burn off energy. Have you considered getting a second pig? A very reliable way to stave off human-directed aggression in pigs is to have more than once pig in a household.
If your pig does not know any tricks, teach her one or 2... Then EVERY time she gets fed or gets treats, INSIST that she perform one of the tricks before giving her anything. This will help to show her that YOU are in charge, and that she has to do as you say before she is given anything.
In regards to the relationship Samie has with your bulldog. Unfortunately, dogs and pigs, in general, don't mix well (although there are exceptions)... She may be attacking the dog because she is trying to establish dominance (I would guess this to be the most likely situation based on the rest of Samie's behavior), but she also could be attacking the dog out of fear (pigs are natural prey animals, dogs are natural predators, this can make for an especially tenuous relationship, at best for many pigs and dogs)... This may be the most difficult aspect to deal with in regards to Samie's behavior. If it is because of dominance issues, you may find that you simply have to keep them separated. Because of the behavioral differences between these animals because they are different species (with different means of establishing, determining, and maintaining hierarchy in the 'pack' or 'herd') you cannot reasonably ever expect them to sort things out and determine a hierarchical dominance structure. The behavioral cues that each species would look for in determining who has 'won' are completely different, and even if one animal backed off eventually and submitted, those behavioral cues would most likely be lost on the other animal, and you would still have attacks and fighting amongst them.
Please let me know if you need clarification or more info on any of the above topics... Hopefully this will at least give you some insight into how to begin resolving these issues. Each pig is different and I am by no means an expert- you may find that you need to 'tweak' any suggestions that you get to better suit your particular situation.
Take two pigs and call me in the morning.