California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc
Aggression Part 2
This is an answer I wrote to a member who was starting to experience aggression problems with her female pet pig.
First and #1 is: Is your pig spayed? An unspayed female goes into heat every 21 days, and can be or will eventually become very aggressive during that time. Also an unspayed female potbellied pig will probably develop uterine tumors in later life which will be costly and/or terminal.
Second, potbellied pigs are extremely territorial, so occasionally using a gate to keep her from guests or just for general control will let her know that she does not own the entire house...you do, and you can and will control it.
Third, what has become called the "lunatic attack". If she never shows any aggression at all towards you, this becomes more difficult as most people would not like to do this in front of casual guests. The idea is that most pigs who were not properly left with their mothers and litter mates for 8 to 10 weeks, never really learned that they are pigs and how to behave. This usually creates problems with potty training and aggression. When baby pigs misbehave, the sow will get in their face loudly oinking, snarling and growling, poke them with her snout in their jowls (area below the ears) and push or poke them until they turn tail (a sign of submission). If they almost immediately turn their face back at her she continues her pushing more vigorously. The pig learns his position within the herd. Pigs actually NEED to learn this. They are hard wired to challenge other living things within their environment until they reach their position. If strangers stay a little too long, they must be challenged. If they back away, they are now below the pig on the hierarchy.
In practice, the "Lunatic Attack" is done by dropping to all fours and advancing toward the pig while loudly snarling and growling. Place your fist in the jowl area and push. Continue the snarling and growling. Run the pig out of the room. Do not allow it to turn back at you. You MUST win. Some people prefer to wear heavy gloves and a jacket for protection and with larger pigs even football helmets. The first time you do this the pig will be somewhat surprised and will probably submit fairly easily. If and when you need to repeat it, and you probably will, be more cautious as you may get challenged, but don't back down. If the pig does not recognize you as being above her, you will never get her to accept guests that you bring into HER house.
If the guests are to be constant visitors and are willing, they could also participate. Our own pigs know their place with us, but will still occasionally start whining at guests (especially overnight guests). Usually a word or growl from us will calm the situation. We also use gates within the house to reduce their contact with guests, especially any guests that seem to be particularly annoying to them.
I'm aware this is hard to do to our loving little piggies, but better than handing them off to someone else who has developed no special feeling for them.
I hope this helps.
Chris Christensen CPPA
This is an answer that my wife received from a member whom she had spoken to about aggression problems.
My name is Katrina. My husband, Aaron, called you for help with our newly aggressive mini-pig a few weeks ago, and you told him about the "Lunatic Attack" and he mentioned that you would be pleased with a blurb for your site about our experience. Please see below for "our story" and our credit to you and your incredible advice. We can't thank you enough!
Sugar, our mini-piggy, came to us in September 2012. She was born in August 2012, so she's now just under a year and a half. She is pretty well tempered and didn't have any bad habits it seemed. Even with being our second "child". We have a French Bulldog named Kaela who does not possess a mean bone in her body and had the spirit of a brand new playful puppy, and was 4 years old at the time. She and the pig got along pretty well.
Sugar is our first experience with a domesticated pig and although we researched as much as we could, we tried training her as we would a dog, using punishment for bad behavior. Since the books/websites/breeder never really clarified how different training a pig is, we had to find out the hard way that the differences are night and day. We never gave up. We just thought she was maybe "not the brightest piggy in the litter". We know in general, pigs are VERY smart, but she didn't respond to simple training like "sit" as the pigs in the videos and books did.
We then moved to a new home (for unrelated reasons), and even though pigs do not like change, things seemed to go very well. She really wasn't having any noticeable issues. Finally, about 3 months after we had moved, she began to be more territorial of her area (our kitchen), and when we were in the kitchen doing something, mostly when we stood right near her bed and she was in it, she would side-swipe our ankles. We again, tried to just lean down and say "No" and use our index finger to "swipe her back". It didn't seem like it was a huge issue but the attacks carried on becoming more and more frequent for a couple of weeks. Then, it really seemed like overnight, she started lunging and charging at our dog, Frenchie, and they would get into full on brawls that we had to break up. It started one morning and then for the next 2 days, it was like 3-5 times each day. At this point we contacted The CPPA (California Potbellied Pig Association), and it was recommended by Marcie Christensen that we attempt to "put Sugar in her place" by trying the "Lunatic Attack".
The Lunatic Attack, as it was described to us, is in short, acting or reacting towards your pig as the "momma" pig would. This means getting on all-fours, lowering yourself to the ground, snarling and growling louder than your pig and even pushing your knuckle/finger into the pigs neck (below/behind the ear) to push them to face away from you and "turn tail" which is forcing them into submission. We made some very weird almost zombie-like sounds and pushed our knuckle into Sugar's neck (almost like a parent pig using their snout) to make her turn tail until she stayed turned and stopped making popping sounds with her mouth (a sign of aggression).
This was seemingly very successful, but as explained to us, there would be some "push-back" sooner or later even if Sugar responded well at first. Well after breaking up a few more fights for a few more days using the "Lunatic Attack", we both endured some battle wounds as she would switch from attacking the dog to then biting one of us as we got between them.
We stuck with it though, as Marcie said to, and we didn't skip any sign of aggression. The aggressiveness really quickly subsided from Sugar. Who had started charging like a bull at even the sight of my Frenchie (who up until this "terrible-two's" stage was her snuggle and play buddy). Her attitude changed from mouth popping and "posturing" (where the pig stands sideways, to basically keep a glaring eye on you) to where she would walk past Kaela, then graze by her, and now, about 2-3 weeks after the "attitude" started, they are basically back to normal (although they don't snuggle like they used to).
We owe it all to Marcie and her husband and their life-saving advice. We can't thank you enough. Sugar may not do cute tricks like some other pigs, but at least she now knows who is surely in charge. ;)
(Editor's' Note) Despite the somewhat unappealing name that got applied to it over 20 years ago, the "Lunatic Attack" is a very effective "non-violent" correction method for potbellied pigs. Our present pig, Mason, who most of the time is gentle and wonderful, will on occasion seem to forget where he is and nip at some fingers or lunge for some food. Usually a deep growl and a gentle nudge on his jowls will awaken his better instincts, but when it doesn't, I drop to the floor and nudge into him until he turns tail. At which point he usually acts very repentant, like. "Oops, I just messed up didn't I", and all becomes well again.
”We can only love what we know,
and we can never know completely what we do not love"