Bored Pig Problems
We have all been there...you get home from work only to find that your pig discovered that the fridge DOES open...or those spectacular flowers you spend 6 hours planting? Gone.
Did you know pigs can be destructive when they're bored? A lot of pigs tend to get into some mischief when they have nothing better to do or nothing to keep their little minds occupied. So, what is the solution? Enrichment activities for your pig(s)!!
First let's see some destructive behavior from pigs that had too much time on their hands. (Or too much freedom)
We call this "hoarder corner" at my house. Anytime someone is missing something, they automatically know to check hoarder corner.
For some reason, pig love to hear the ripping sound made from fabric as well as paper.
Dirt + pigs will always equal a mess. Maybe there was some kind of treasure in there or maybe he was just curious...nonetheless, those bags were there and within reach, so they were fair game.
So, how do you avoid this?
You will hear many different answers to that question. Probably the most important and common factor, as in these situations pictured above, is that they all occurred indoors. Pigs NEED outdoor time. Not only do they need sunlight to aid in the absorption of essential vitamins/minerals, they need to have a place where they're not penalized for acting like a pig. Pigs like to dig, they like to look for things you may not have known were even there. Pigs have an incredible sense of smell and they use it to their advantage. I assume everyone has heard of pigs being used to hunt for truffles. This dates back to the 15th century and they were able to identify these fungal investments that were 3 feet deep! It was thought that natural sex hormones of the male pig are similar to the smell of the truffles and others said pigs simply love digging for food making them a great source to find the truffles so many were eager to get their hands on. Some have argued that their particular taste for truffles leads to a more devoted beast and ultimately, countries began to prohibit pigs from truffle hunting because they weren't careful diggers and caused damage to actual truffle while digging for it creating a drop in their production rate. Pigs love to dig, that is all there is to it. Taking that ability away from them by not allowing them to have time to root and investigate can lead to behavioral issues and/or destruction in the home.
Make sure your pig has an appropriate outdoor space. If you like having a nice yard, then a pig isn't the right pet for you, unless you can dedicate some separate space for your pig to be a pig. A secure fenced in area is ideal for a pet pig. Plenty of room to run around in and plenty of dirt to dig in is the type of environment a pig will thrive in.
Another important factor is providing a stimulation type activity for your pig. This can be indoors or outdoors. Some love treat dispensers, but some pigs get frustrated and quickly lose interest in them. However, to encourage exercise, as well as positive reinforcement, treat balls are often recommended to help curb a bored pigs mojo. The Kong, Busy ball and Bobalot treat dispensers seem to be a big hit for pigs. (All can be bought on Amazon.com)
Another suggestion heard frequently is puzzle type treat dispensers. These can range from fairly simple to rather complicated. Most treat puzzles are easily mastered by pigs. So, you may not want to invest in super expensive treat puzzles in case your pig quickly catches on rendering that puzzle useless. (Although, old toys can be "new" again if put away for a period of time and reintroduced later on)
Balls seem to make a lot of pigs happy as well. Big balls, bowling balls, sports balls, such as basketballs or soccer balls are all good choices. I will warn you, if you get a plastic ball that can easily be punctured or has a flimsy surface, your pig will likely poke a hole in it and it will deflate. This can cause a potential choking hazard, so be careful to choose a ball that is pet friendly. The example below is a horse product called Horseman's Pride Jolly mega ball and is 30" in size. Pet specific balls can cost little more, but they're made for them specifically and are usually a safer choice. The one below is around 29.99 on Amazon.com.
Oddly enough, one of my pigs favorite things to do is rip through a phone book. These aren't even delivered in my area anymore, so I let her have junk mail and newspaper instead sometimes. But phone books or thin paper can be a way to keep your pig from being bored. They love to hear the ripping of pages and will chew on the paper for a little bit, but they do not typically "eat" it. To be sure, watch your pig and make sure they're not swallowing excessive amounts of paper so there are no complications from letting them participate in this kind of activity. Overall, my pig LOVES this though and would prefer ripping paper to any toy I have purchased for her.
Probably the most important thing you can do is train your pig. Pigs love social interaction, but they only know what YOU teach them. Working with your pig to teach them basic tricks or how to stay using positive reinforcement will take you a lot further than ANY toy or treat dispenser. This is a basic need for pigs and shouldn't be overlooked. Neglecting to train your pig often leads to a pig that displays undesirable behavior. This is NOT your pigs fault, this is YOUR fault. Your interaction with them teaches them manners and respect as well as positive behaviors get rewarded whereas negative behaviors do not. Sit and spin are typically the simplest tricks for pigs to master. Soon enough, your pig will greet you by spinning in circles or sitting because they know they get treats for this type of positive behavior normally. This particular pig, in the video below, had some aggression issues for months prior to him being able to be trained. So once he was neutered and his hormone level normalized, he was obviously a much different pig than he was while we waited for his surgery date. Once trained, he turned out to be one of the best behaved pigs and well-mannered pigs I have ever seen and made a very good pet. To date, according to his pig mom, he is still well mannered and behaved and a "joy" to be around. (FYI, if your pig is intact, sometimes the trouble is based on the fact that they're trying to find a suitable mate. They don't realize that there are no other pigs within that vicinity, so they leave "hints" for others, just in case. Please spay or neuter your pigs!! Click here to read more about those procedures)
Or perhaps work on the command "stay"....this pig knows what she has to do before she gets dinner. This is much more advanced training. It requires a lot of patience since pigs are extremely food motivated to begin with. You must first build the foundation with your pig realizing you are to be respected and what you say goes. Do NOT give in, not even once, because your pig will remember that and continue to test the boundaries hoping that you will just let them eat and won't enforce the rule.
You can work with your pig on very specific skills such as painting pictures. You can then hang these in your home or even donate them to various pig rescues who can auction off one of a kind pieces and help your pig community. This is fairly easy to accomplish. Using non-toxic after based paint and a flat canvas, any pig can be an artist!! Combined with positive reinforcement, your pig will love to paint as much as you love their paintings. I have been doing this with my pig for a couple of years now and although her technique changes with each painting, her art is always a masterpiece.
Creating activities for your pig isn't as hard as it sounds. I have used baby toys as a training tool as well as other child electronics to teach my pig the concept of positive reinforcement. Again, they can quickly master these toys, so you may have to step it up a notch fairly quick after starting your training. My pig learned that the end result was a treat, so she would push the button, twist the button, press the button and slide the button to get a treat. For the easy ones? She would close the pop up pieces and reopen them again and expected her treat, after all, she did it again. The one I used was similar to the one pictured below.
Using household objects or household products to create an activity can be just as good for your pig. PVC pipe are often the product of choice because of their durability. Drilling holes big enough for a treat to fall out of and hanging that from something sturdy can provide hours of entertainment for your pig. This particular picture is from The California Potbellied Pig Association's website. http://www.cppa4pigs.org
Summertime can bring a host of other problems, but one way to keep your pig cooled off and hydrated is to freeze water, with or without other items added in for them to find. But since hydration is so important, using a frozen treat in the heat does create an additional water source for your pig during the hot months. (again, photo is from The California Potbellied Pig Association's website linked above)
An outside agility course can promote exercise as well as disciplined behavior. Agility courses can be homemade or bought as a set from a store, such as this set from Amazon.com. This particular course is around 200.00, but provides you everything you need to set up a working agility course right in your backyard!
Using food as motivation typically works....as long as your pig can actually eat it. This is Harley Swan's video she shared with us last year with a brilliant idea for apples. This was an easier task for one than it was for the other, but nonetheless, a great idea and way to keep your pig busy!
Pigs can bowl, its an activity that they learn the end result is what you're after, so when I was training my pig to "bowl", she would run to the end of the room and knock the pins down with her snout before the ball ever made it down there. Still fun to watch though. A cheap set of children bowling toys are less than 20.00 and can be found at most toy stores or Walmart.
We have a section of the website dedicated to enrichment for pigs. It is available, but will be updated soon, so check back often to see updated ideas and products that you can use to help your pig stay entertained. You can visit that section by clicking here. Sometimes a pig that tends to get in trouble isn't because of boredom at all, but rather persistence. These are the group of pigs that pig proofing was made for. If your pig has plenty of outside time, plenty of "enrichment" to keep him/her occupied but still tends to get into things? Well, your pig knows there is food in that cabinet, or is flat out being defiant. Again, something you can work on using training to teach respect and exactly who is in charge, but you should be sure to keep anything your pig may be tempted to "get into" out of reach or locked away.
Whatever method or technique you decide to use, just do it with consistency. Your pig is likely used to a routine (or would like to be), so taking the time to train and making it a part of your routine will give your pig something to look forward to. Pigs love to learn and explore, give them an avenue to satisfy that craving. If you have additional ideas for enriching your pigs life, we would love to hear about them or see examples. Feel free to send us pictures and/or stories and we can get them added to the website/blog.
12/8/2016 01:53:23 pm
Hello Brittany and Nicole,
12/12/2016 02:48:32 pm
Hi Gwen! We are new piggy parents on Long Island also, Huntington area. It is our first pig and we feel like the only people in NY with one ! we got an 11 week old boy from Arizona. Maybe we can keep in touch ? where are you located ? We also need resources!
1/24/2017 12:44:17 pm
10/12/2017 05:04:37 pm
Same with me I am also a mini pig owner this is the 3 week of having her I feel like I’m the only one on Long Island with a pig
10/12/2017 05:05:26 pm
I am also having a hard time finding a good vet on the island any help?
Mini Pig Info
12/10/2016 08:21:58 am
Food aggression is more common than you think, especially with food motivated animals like pigs. We do actually have a page on the website that discusses food aggression and how to correct that behavior. One thing I would like to stress though is NEVER hand feed treats. Put them in a bowl or directly on the ground. My pig was EXTREMELY food aggressive at one point and although I do not know the science behind why this method was effective, I quit feeding treats altogether, like she literally got NONE whatsoever and her behavior improved substantially over a month. Eventually she wasn't acting like a jerk at all and I gradually added treats back into our routine, but, now? She has to do something pretty special to get a treat and when she does, it is very little. I believe pigs should be rewarded for great behavior or when training, but most of us (me included) have been or are guilty of throwing handfuls of treats to our pigs when they sit on command or spin. I have a rigid training program now and my pig must do like 5 things before she gets a fraction of ONE treat, much less a handful. Here is the link though, hopefully you're able to click the link, if not, go to our training section and this page is one of the pages in that section. http://www.minipiginfo.com/food-aggression-in-pigs.html
1/13/2017 11:14:31 pm
I have a six-month-old piglet who's doing pretty well although after reading some of the comments above I guess I have to quit hand feeding him treats. He was so tiny when he was born that they waited until now to neuter him. He had an undescended testicle and it was hard for them to find so he is recovering from some stitches. My little boy has started to grind his teeth. It sounds like he's chewing gum. And I think it's a stress activity. I'm not sure what to do about it. It usually happens when he's by himself or put in his room.
1/15/2017 05:44:33 pm
Hello I have many potbelly pigs (six actually ) and I live in Alberta so it is very cold so we keep them in the shop but it's cramped but not to much and they are not lead train yet should I be concerned about bringing them outside ? I do put toys in their pen to keep them occupied but I am afraid it is not enough ! Thanks Posa
Mini Pig Info
1/21/2017 02:11:33 pm
Even though its cold outside, if you have a secure area that they can go to outside, even if its only for 10-20 minutes a day, it would be good for them. not only because the area is cramped, but they need the sunlight to absorb some essential vitamins :) plus it helps to curb boredom and also gives them a chance to stretch their legs and dig around and explore areas.
4/18/2017 07:36:34 pm
I have recently taken on a 3 year old Kunekune from someone who could no longer have him. He lived with chickens but that is all. I have to rehome him at some stage and have 2 neutered boys just over a year old he is ok with them but does try to hump them.
4/26/2017 01:30:51 pm
Leanne, I am so glad to hear that you have put your time, effort, and money into bettering the life of your new piggy! after being neutered, the pig can still impregnate a female pig two weeks after the procedure. It takes up to even 5 weeks to start noticing a change in a pig's behavior after spay or neuter. The hormones are still dissipating from the pig's system. This takes much time and patience but your money has not gone to waste! You've done exactly what you need to do. Just a little more time and patience and claiming your dominance of the household. Try teaching your pig a trick and only grant the pig food after that trick has been completed. This shows that you are in control! Good luck and try and stay positive!
Mini Pig Info
4/27/2017 07:29:33 am
I apologize for the delay in responding to you, I didn't even get a notification of this comment until someone else replied.
4/28/2017 09:58:48 am
5/25/2017 11:05:36 pm
My fiancé and I finally got a pig!! When we first got him we kept in a pen while we were at work, but now he is too big and has discovered how to get out of his pen. So now we shut all the doors and he roams around the house. Everything was fine, he used the dog door to go outside and pee/poop. All of a sudden though he has decided he doesn't want to go outside and keeps peeing inside! And on top of that since he has free range of the yard he eats grass ALL day!! To the point where he is so bloated I think he's going to pop!! I try to leave him activities to do but I guess they don't last very long!! I don't know what to do!
6/21/2017 02:16:00 pm
Hello. I have a 2 year old potbelly pig. She is the sweetest thing she snuggles gives kisses but I have a problem she will not go outside. She has her own place in my house. I have tried with treats but nothing works. She will not go outside. Can you please give me some advice on what to do.
7/11/2017 07:37:13 pm
Hello and thank you for this beautiful website to refer to! I fell so ever guilty for not being able to let our piglet outside as often as we would like. I was doing it 2x per day and it ended up getting so hot we had a scare and a vomiting pig! (We had plenty of shade and cool water available. We are first time pig parents and are having our house built. That leaves us at our in laws for now with not many outdoor options unless we are present and he is on a leash. I don't trust their dogs and they have quite a few poisonous plants around... so do you have any suggestions on how to have more outside time that is safe and leaves me at peace?
mini pig info
7/11/2017 08:02:13 pm
If you can take him out on a harness and leash for routine walks, that would be sufficient. A rooting box inside would work too. That does nothing for outdoor time, but it's like bringing the outdoors inside for him. I completely understand when you have a scare like that, but maybe monitored outdoor time while you're home would work, that way you could check up on him frequently or stay out there with him and when you're hot, he's hot. Time to come in, of that makes sense. This is a temporary situation, so think long term, he's going to have an amazing backyard soon. ❤️
6/21/2018 06:21:43 pm
We're unsure if our piggy is bored or not. He has plenty of outdoor space, a doggy door that lets him come in and out as he pleases, we do tricks (sit, spin and stay) and try to go on walks as often as possible. We usually go for a walk 1-3 times a week. He is such a good piggy in every way, except for recently, he's been eating the paint off of the walls. Do you think this is because he's bored?
Mini pig info
6/21/2018 07:18:40 pm
Hey there, yes....it sounds like your pig suffers from boredom. This is most often the reason they become destructive. Having the ability to take a walk with his family is awesome, but when he’s left alone, that’s when he’s likely bored. Look at our enrichment page, there are seve DIY projects you can make to keep your piggy’s kind occupied. :)
9/3/2018 05:49:06 am
I absolutely love this site. Thank you for providing such relevant and newbie friendly information. I hail from northern Oklahoma and have an intact male pig that is right at a year and a half now. It’s been an interesting but very enjoyable experience so far. Karl is so expressive and so involved with everything in our home. He picks up on the smallest nuances and changes in the emotional atmosphere (not to say our home is an emotional roller coaster just that Karl is incredibly in tune with the subtlest of changes). I purchased my baby when he was already 5 months old and had had little human socialization, staying in barn and run with other porcine critters. Despite my research prior to meeting Karl, I was still constantly surprised and felt completely out of my element. But thankfully, Karl is one sharp pig kid and we’ve established a loving, trusting, and enjoyable repertoire. I don’t have any trouble with food aggression personally. Funny how like us pigs are in every way including not one being exactly like another. At the beginning Karl showed some aggressive behavior about food. I termed this as him being a bully and I refused to reward such behavior. During his bully phase I was not feeding him by hand, having been raised around several horses, I’m always a little leery of a digit being mistaken for a carrot. One of the ways I worked with Karl to curb this aggression was to train him to be gentle. He gives very chaste but sweet kisses on the cheek and ever so gently nibbles treats from the hand. Very quickly after working on and mastering being gentle, Karl phased out of that bully business but I continue feeding him his reward treats by hand simply because it works for us. My next mission is to have him neutered. He doesn’t seem to have any noticeable boorish or hormone problematic behaviors....yet. And I don’t intend on checking out how bad it might get. My only issue is that he’s a rather large miniature pig (not certain he’s in fact miniature at all some days ) weighing at least 100lbs if not 130lbs or so and nowhere local or surrounding areas within reasonable driving distance considers a pig of his weight to be a domestic pet, instead he’s considered livestock. Generally I couldn’t care less if you call him livestock and I call him my kid. However, in neutering vs castration that becomes a very big deal. I can’t find a vet around me who will neuter him I can only get him castrated. And I so don’t want to go that route. It’s one thing to castrate a hog that’s bound for butcher and has a very impersonal and short life, but my baby is well, Karl is my baby. I can’t have kids and Karl is pretty much my adopted kiddo. I so don’t want to subject him to such a scary and abrupt experience such a a castration but I have seemed to run out of options here. I don’t know that that novel really served as a search for advice since I’m fairly certain I’ve exhausted all options here already. I suppose I just needed to vent some about Karl and my predicament. I don’t know anybody else near me with pigs and sure is nice to chat with like minded people. If anybody does have advice for me, please, lay it on me. Otherwise, I sure appreciate having somewhere to talk about these things :) —Christina F.
8/28/2019 04:56:01 pm
Thank you for your tip to train pigs because they love social interaction. I recently bought a pig but he keeps destroying shoes and getting bored. I'm not sure what toys to buy him or how to train him, so thank you for these tips. They will make it much easier for me to entertain my pig.
12/26/2019 12:20:37 am
Hey, everyone, I'm having a little bit of a problem with my potbelly pig her name is niche. She's starting to eat her pee pads I doing now what to do pls help 🆘 as soon as possible, please
2/2/2020 08:38:13 pm
I can't seem to find a tunnel anymore that is big enough for my Pot Belly Pig. They love the tunnels but of course tear them up after awhile. Now they've grown and the tunnels aren't big enough for them. Any advice ?
2/8/2022 05:52:13 am
I have a 8 year old and his name is Wilbur he is everything to me I just love reading these it reminds me all the things you guys are going thought me and Wilbur went through but enjoy it it gets better
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