Overcoming seasonal boredom
In the summer, it can get too hot, in the winter, it can get too cold and sometimes even impossible to get out of your home, much less trying to get your pig to go outside for ANY reason. First, let me say, I feed my pig outside regardless of the weather. Why is this important? Because no matter what the weather is like, my pig is willing to go outside because she knows she will not eat of she doesn't. I try not to take advantage of this and leave her outside during extreme weather though. However, she also knows she isn't coming back in until she potties. THIS is her routine and it is known by both me and her. Admittedly, I sometimes have to stand there with her holding an umbrella over her head, but that is still better than having to literally push her out of the door to get her outside to start. No need to let it rain on your pig's parade. (So to speak)
So there is inclement weather, and you are not able to let your pig outside for extended periods of time. Your pig is bored and driving you crazy....what can you do? Certainly you could give a few treats to quiet your pig down, but guess what that does? Reinforces that if they whine and cry, you will get up and get them a treat, so we have come up with some other activites to keep your pig stimulated when they aren't able to be outside. Despite mother nature's plans, it is still important for both their mental and physcial well-being for to exercise our pigs. Sometimes that means exercising indoors. Maybe you have noticed your pigs eagerness and willingness to particpate with training is great for the first 15 minutes, but then your pig just wants treats, that is because just 10-15 minutes of mental stimulation, sometimes that really makes them focus, concentrate and process information is equivalent to physcially exhausting 30 minutes of moderate exercise. So if your pig is stuck inside, try exercising the brain in additon to the body.
1. Do not give your pig massive amounts of treats because your pig is screaming, instead, work on training. Work on obedience training. Teach your pig a new trick and reward accordingly. Sit and spin are easy tricks for pigs to learn and even more fun to watch. Click here to go to our training page to learn how to teach some of these tricks. One piggy mama (Jaharia Zamora with Blue the pig) even wrote out instructions on how she was able to teach her pig colors. Not only do these things strengthen the bond and communication you have with your pig, but now you have something to show your friends and family. Mothers bragging rights.
Some people use books or videos to learn, but your pig may not think like other pigs and some of the tips may leave you confused. Watch your pig, look at how he/she reacts to certain circumstances and create a plan that works for you and your pig. Try to keep training limited to 15 minute intervals though. Once your pig has lost interest, stop, but end on a positive note! If your pig hasnt mastered the trick you are trying to teach before your session ends, go back to a trick your pig HAS mastered and stop the session after having your pig do that particualr trick so he/she will remain excited about the next session. Pick it back up later in the day or even another day.
2. Create an indoor obstacle or agility course. Agility tools can be purchased online and at some pet stores. What these tools do is provide you with basic/consistent items to use for training. Most of these prepackaged kits contain small orange cones, a tunnel of some kind, sometimes a limbo type bar you could use to teach your pig to hop over or crawl under. You can certainly use items you already have to accomplish the same thing, but these kits contain items designed specifcally for this purpose. Consistency is key! You must continue to use the same tools over and over again for your pig to "get it" and understand what he/she is supposed to do. Naturally, since pigs are extremely food motivated, treats work as rewards. You do NOT have to give massive amounts of treats for your pig to master these things. They will work just as hard for 1/4 of a single cheerio that they will work for a handful.
3. Use the forced indoor time for grooming. I realize alot of people have limited indoor space dedicated soley to their pig, so placing a blanket down to "collect" loose hair or dead skin, perhaps even hoof nails as you trim them is ideal. Rubber brushes work wonders on loosening up dry skin and helping to remove it. You can purchase these at most pet stores. If your pig has exceptionally dry skin, you may need to take it a step further and provide supplements or you can check out our page dedicated to helping those who are battling dry skin which is so common in pigs. You can check that page out by clicking here. We also have pages for hoof trimming which you can read through by clicking here. If you are interested in giving your pig a bath but not sure how to go about it, click here to learn more about bathing your pig.
4. Use a treadmill for your pig. Pigs must remain mobile. Pigs that tend to lay around are at risk for pneumonia (just like people) and also chronic constipation. Gut mobility has alot to do with overall diet, water consumption, but also general mobility. Pigs that do not move around alot typically have more constipation issues. When you are already having a difficult time with your pig being stuck inside the house, the last thing you want to do is complicate that by tacking on constipation. Try your pig on a treadmill. You may have to entice them alittle to get it started by using air popped popcorn as a motivator and starting off at the slowest speed possible. Some pigs will not like this and will hop off, so be sure to have someone for both sides and behind the treadmill to prevent your pig from being injured should he/she not catch on immediately.
5. Use treat brain games, puzzles and/or treat dispensers to help exercise while also being rewarded. Some more complicated or complex toys are available on Amazon.com and can range from beginners to pigs who easily master simple puzzles. Please start off with easy puzzles, allow your pig to master those before trying more advanced puzzles. Do not set your pig up to fail.
6. Scent games and hide and seek. Essentially this is hiding a treat in your home and letting your pig look for it. You can use a rooting box to acheive the same thing. Rooting boxes are some kind of box, large enough for your pig to get in and out of, that you can fill with ball pits balls (easily found at Walmart or Amazon) or anything lareg enough for your pig NOT to swallow and sprinkle in some oats or air popped popcorn (unsalted/unbuttered) and let your pig have a blast!
7. Phone books. I never knew how great these were until my pig found one in my house and had a ball ripping it to shreds. She quickly learned that ripping paper makes an awesome sound and although sometimes she eats a littleof the paper, normally I find wads of paper she has spit out later on in the day. I like phone books because I know the paper inside in super thin and poses very little risk to cause obstructions. The video above is one I found that demonstrates how much pigs can have with paper.
8. Play with your pig. Watch a movie with your pig. You would be quite surprised at how much your pig just wants to sit with you and have belly rubs. Quality time spent with your pig is never wasted time.
9. Use what is available to provide entertainment. Harley was kind enough to send a video of her pigs "bobbing for apples". This is a great example of something anyone can do for their pigs. Be sure to make your pig does actually get rewarded, frustration can easily turn into anger/aggression, so make sure whatever you're using is appropriate for your pig and your pig is able to acheive the ultimate goal.
10. Take lots of pictures and videos and create something unique and fun! As you are working with your pig, create a video and show others what worked for you. Take notes and wrote something up that can be shared from one pig mama to another. (We are always happy when others reach out to us with ideas and videos and would be delighted to add them to the website). Or create something fun just for you. You pig will only be 6 months old once, or 10 years old once, so capture these memories so you can cherish them forever.
Any of these activites can be done indoors and provide your pig with hours of entertainment. We will be adding much more content to our enrichment page, so check back to see if there are any new activites you can try with your pig! Feel free to check it out now as well. You can do so by clicking here. If all else fails, send us your pig shaming pictures to be featured in our next pig shaming movie! And smile, that's just how pigs roll. We have ALL been there....