It’s Rylee’s 11th birthday! We started off Rylee’s birthday with a long walk, followed by a nap, and then we kicked off her real celebration. I wanted something special to celebrate Rylee today, so she got to eat some frozen yogurt and a birthday cookie. I stumbled upon some frozen yogurt made for dogs that both Rylee and Oscar could eat, and I was really excited to let them try it. It’s The Bear & The Rat’s Banana Peanut Barker frozen yogurt, and both Rylee and Oscar loved it!
Overall, the celebration was a success! Here is a video and some pictures below to recap Rylee’s big day. Oscar was super sneaky and managed to steal Rylee’s birthday cookie at one point in the video but, don’t worry, I saved an extra for her to make up for it.
Happy 11th Birthday to my very first dog. You have been with me through so many changes, and I am forever grateful for your constant, trusting love. Happy Birthday, Rylee!
Last summer, my Facebook and Instagram feeds were full of pigs cooling off in small plastic pools. Their pig parents put a little water in a kiddie pool, and the pig climbed in and happily sat or splashed around, cooling off from the summer sun. I was so excited to let Oscar play in his own little pool! I waited until he was about 5 months old and then found him a pool to fill up for his first pool party. It was going to be his first time in water, and he was going to love it! I put him in the pool, but then he jumped right out. I put him back in; he jumped out again. He finally jumped out the last time and ran off. He hated water.
I gave up on the pool, but then I started wondering how in the world we were going to bathe him if he hated water. Since Oscar had several skin issues when he was younger, including mange and a skin infection, we intentionally held off on bathing him for a long time. We didn’t want to stress him out or dry his skin out more than necessary, so we just wiped him down every few days with a damp towel instead. However, even that was a challenge because he didn’t like even the small amount of water on the towel touching him.
Wiping Oscar down kept him pretty clean until we were ready to try giving him a bath. Oscar was about 10 months old before we finally tried because we knew it would be a struggle. We also waited until the weather warmed up a bit because we didn’t want to risk getting water in Oscar’s ears and increase his chances of pneumonia during the cold winter.
My husband and I teamed up for Oscar’s first bath. I got the shampoo and towel ready and added a small amount of warm water to the bath tub. My husband grabbed the peanut butter, a spoon, and Oscar. Our plan was to put Oscar in the warm water and then I was going to wash him quickly while my husband fed him peanut butter from a spoon. A lot of people prefer to put peanut butter on the side of the tub, but we just used a spoon since there were two of us and we wanted to avoid any chemicals that might be on the side of the tub.
We put Oscar down in the tub, and he freaked out! He panicked and kept trying to jump out of the tub, which meant his poor little hooves didn’t have any traction and kept slipping. On top of it, he was squealing and splashing water all over us. We didn’t want him to slip and fall, so we picked him up, put him in the towel, and dried him off. We needed to rethink our strategy.
Our biggest mistake for Oscar’s first bath was not having a bath mat since he didn’t have a way for his hooves to grip in the tub. It probably would have been fine if he stood still, but his panicking and wiggling made him slip, which made him panic even more. We decided to get a bath mat and then try again but without water. We wanted to just get him used to being in the tub and make it a happy place by using peanut butter before we even added water. I bought Oscar’s bath mat from Target so this isn’t the exact one I use, but it’s really similar.
I bought a bath mat, put it in the tub, and we tried again. We set Oscar down on the bath mat and immediately started giving him peanut butter from the spoon. So far, so good! I let Oscar get used to the tub and enjoy the peanut butter for a few minutes and then I started slowly running warm water in the tub. I figured he would panic as soon as the water touched his hooves, but he didn’t. He was so focused on the peanut butter that he didn’t even notice. I ran just a small amount of water, enough to clean off his hooves and splash some on his belly, since I didn’t want to scare him. I quickly bathed him and rinsed him off, and he didn’t mind at all as long as the peanut butter kept flowing. As soon as the peanut butter stopped though, he remembered he was in water and all bets were off. We finished up, dried him off thoroughly, and considered it a success!
Oscar has had two other baths so far, both of which were successful. Each time I run just a little more water and bathe a little more of him, being careful not to get water in his ears, and he handles it fine as long as he has constant peanut butter. He eats more peanut butter during his baths than I would normally give him in a day, but we only bathe him when it’s absolutely necessary, so I don’t worry about it.
My husband has helped me bathe Oscar each time, which has made the process easier.However, I have received some really helpful tips over the past few months to make bathing a mini pig easier, particularly with just one person. A really popular one is to smear peanut butter on the side of the bath tub to keep your pig busy during her bath. I avoid that one if possible just because I’m worried about Oscar licking up chemicals from the side of the bathtub, but I am open to trying it someday when I need to bathe Oscar by myself. Another great idea someone shared with me is to cut up apples or use some other small treat like blueberries or Cheerios and put them in the bathtub. Many pigs will keep themselves busy searching or bobbing for the treats and won’t mind the bath as much. We started with peanut butter since it’s a really high-value treat for Oscar, but hopefully we can switch to something smaller and healthier once he’s more used to the process.
Once Oscar’s bath is finished, I towel dry him as much as possible. He doesn’t like the towel much, so then I dry him off the rest of the way with a hair dryer. I keep the heat low and usually put his harness on before blow drying him so that I have a handle in case he tries to run off. He doesn’t care for the hair dryer, but I like to make sure he’s dry to reduce his risk of pneumonia.
Don’t worry – Rylee was next but she got Cheerios too.
There are so many pigs who love water and don’t mind baths. However, if you’re like us and have a pig who hates water, hopefully our experience will help as you try to bathe your mini pig!
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Oscar is 15 months old, so it’s time for his weigh in! After Oscar’s first birthday, I decided to stop posting his weight every month and just update once every three months. Although mini pigs can grow for up to three to five years, I figured his growth would slow enough after his first birthday that the posts wouldn’t be interesting. I sure was wrong!
Right after Oscar’s one year weigh in, he had a big growth spurt. In fact, he grew so quickly that he started looking a little thin, so we increased his pellet amounts to make sure he was getting enough. After a while, his growing seemed to slow and his weight caught up, and now he’s back to his happy, healthy self.
We’ve had some of our biggest behavior challenges with Oscar in the past three months. Oscar’s snipping and head whipping really increased after he turned one. He was attempting to bite us and the dog on a daily basis for a while, and I eventually hit one of my highest points of frustration with him. We weren’t sure if he was in pain and lashing out from teething or if he was just being mean, but we were really frustrated and left wondering where we went wrong with him.
After a ton of frustration and research, we decided that Oscar has Spoiled Pig Syndrome and tried to address his behaviors accordingly. I put Oscar in mini pig behavior bootcamp by restarting Move the Pig, making him work for his meals, not allowing him to nip at toes, and by being more firm with him overall. Due to those changes, we have seen a huge improvement in his behavior. He’s not perfect and still has an attitude and nips at times, but everyone in the house, including Oscar, is much happier.
Our big lesson throughout the past three months is that we will always have to stay on top of Oscar’s behavior. The hardest part is keeping up on Oscar’s structure and discipline, particularly Move the Pig, when he’s sweet and loving. But, when I forget, Oscar takes advantage of those moments and starts challenging for hierarchy again. This is a pattern I expect we will deal with forever with Oscar, and it’s been a hard lesson to learn. In order for him to be the best pig he can be, I need to embrace and live in his world of hierarchy with him. When I am acting as his leader, the house is much more peaceful and happy.
The upside to Oscar’s recent behavior issues is that I feel more bonded than ever with him. The bond helps balance out the behavior problems and gives us sweet, happy moments with him that we love. Oscar still loves cuddling, and he approaches us and wants to be around us more than ever. He used to be more independent, but he follows me around the house much more now and even greets people at the door sometimes. We are firmly in a routine with Oscar these days, so day-to-day tasks are easier and we can spend more time enjoying him.
After a year with Oscar, owning a mini pig is much more challenging than I ever imagined, but it’s also much more rewarding. I never expected the highs and lows that have come with owning a pig, but he has made me cry and laugh more than any pet I’ve owned. Someone mentioned in a comment on here that pig parenting is not for the faint of heart, and I agree 100% with that statement. In a year, Oscar has made me yell, cry, question my sanity, leave the house just to get some space, cry some more, smile, experience joy and, most of all, laugh. These mini pigs are a ton of work, but they are also amazing little (and not-so-little) creatures.
At 15 months old, Oscar is 37 pounds, 16″ tall, and 29″ long.
Before we got a mini pig, I read about Spoiled Pig Syndrome and was determined to not spoil Oscar. Then we brought him home and I realized very quickly how difficult it is to not spoil mini pigs. When pigs first come home, they are often scared and slow to adjust, so pig parents have to focus on making them comfortable and work toward bonding with them. This requires a ton of attention and affection. In the beginning, focusing so much on them is necessary because we want them to feel safe and happy in their new home.
Even once they’ve adjusted, mini pigs are so cute and curious that we want to continue giving them our attention and affection. Even on a challenging day with a piglet, it’s hard to resist their cuddles and little grunts. Also, they seem so happy with each bite of food they get, we shower them with treats and watch as they adorably smack and enjoy every single bite.
By the time our mini pigs are a few months old, we’re aware that they are spoiled but it’s hard to stop. These pigs have a way of wiggling themselves deep into our hearts, and we so badly want them to be happy. When Oscar is content, I feel like I have done my job as a pig parent and, when he isn’t, I stress about what I’m doing wrong. Am I not giving him enough love? Does he need more treats? Does he need more rooting and outdoor time to just be a pig? Maybe more play or toys is the answer. Maybe it’s more cuddle time that will make him happier. I try to make more time to focus on him and go through my mental checklist of what he needs to be a happier pig.
Typically, my answer is to spoil him more. I give him more attention and more affection hoping that he’ll love and respect me more. Then, when that doesn’t work, I get frustrated and angry. I try to write this blog based solely on my experiences as a mini pig owner and, in case I’ve ever given off the impression that I’m an expert, let me be the first to tell you that I’m not. I’m still learning and going through all of these new experiences as a pig parent, and some days are amazing and other days are really tough.
This week, I had a completely new experience of learning the realities of Spoiled Pig Syndrome. Like many mini pig parents, I often joke and laugh about how spoiled Oscar is. In some cases, it is funny. Similar to so many other pampered house pigs, Oscar has his humans trained ridiculously well. We want so badly to make him happy, and we spend a ton of time and energy on giving him a good life. But, while it’s not uncommon to joke about mini pigs having Spoiled Pig Syndrome, the reality of it is not as humorous.
Last weekend, Oscar’s attitude was getting out of control. He was snipping at everyone in the house, including the dog, growling, and head swiping. When we went to move him after a nap, he tried to bite us several times. We even saw the first signs of him charging at us when we attempted to bring him back in from rooting outside. When we grabbed his leash and started toward the house, he would charge at our feet and then act as if he was going to bite us. In one of the worst moments, he was playing with the sandal on my foot like he always does and then just bit my foot out of nowhere. By the end of the weekend, my husband and I were extremely frustrated and wondering what to do.
On Monday morning, I decided maybe Oscar wasn’t getting enough direct attention. I have been making sure that he gets plenty of outside rooting time and he always gets cuddle time at night, but I thought maybe he needed more attention during the day. So, I tried getting on the floor with him where he was napping and, when I went to pet his head, he growled, whipped his head at me, and then ran off. I felt like he hated me and didn’t even want me near him. I’ve mentioned before that owning a mini pig can be heartbreaking, and this was one of those moments.
After that incident Monday morning, I was wondering how I was going to deal with Oscar as he continues to grow and become more aggressive. He didn’t seem happy and definitely not grateful or content, despite all of my efforts, so I was at a loss. I thought about it for a long time, did some research, and decided to take a different approach this time.
During my research on mini pig behavior, I came across an article on Spoiled Pig Syndrome (SPS) that caught my attention. I knew about SPS, but I never really took it seriously until now. Oscar had all of the signs of SPS: grouchy, screaming, biting, charging, snapping, and head swiping, What I learned was really hard to take in and accept. When pigs are spoiled, they don’t respect their humans. They essentially treat their humans as lower-ranking herd members and will swiftly and sternly correct the lower-ranking members for not following their orders. As hard as this was to hear, I knew it was true. I was not the herd leader and, since Oscar didn’t respect me, he was correcting me for doing things he didn’t like, such as not feeding him when he wanted, moving him during his naps, and bringing him inside when he wanted to stay out and root longer.
This is where pig parenting gets really hard for me. I’m not a dominant personality, and I don’t enjoy having to assert myself in order to be Oscar’s herd leader. It feels unnatural, and I much prefer the answer to his problems to be more love and play and treats. But, he’s a pig, and that’s not how he functions. So, while my approach of more attention and affection might work well for a dog, it actually makes Oscar’s behavior worse and everyone in the house more miserable. This has been really difficult to accept because it feels counterintuitive, but I’m learning that it’s necessary in order to live a happy, content life with Oscar.
So, Monday afternoon I set some new rules as a kind of mini pig behavior boot camp. Oscar has to earn all of his food, so no treats without doing a circle or other trick first and his meals will come from his Bob-A-Lot so that he works for them. He will also eat at 8 am and 4:30 pm, no earlier even if he’s upset. Everyone needs to Move the Pig a few times a day and never step over or around him. Oscar will continue to get plenty of rooting and outside time to keep his rooting needs satisfied. Here’s the big one for us: no more playing with feet. I have always let Oscar play with feet and shoes because I thought it was cute and innocent, but the feet are where he’s really showing aggression lately. He has been charging and nipping at feet, and I found a really useful article that suggests that allowing them to do this gives the pig dominance and can cause hierarchy problems.
After less than a week of the new rules, I feel like have a completely different pig. He’s sweet again and has growled a few times but hasn’t even tried to nip or bite. I can lay down on the floor and get close to him without any negative behaviors. He is no longer charging at our feet when we try to bring him in or take him somewhere on the leash where he doesn’t want to go. Things aren’t perfect and he still growls some when we try to move him after a nap, but I can barely believe the changes I’ve seen in him this week. I went from crying and wondering how I was going to handle him to enjoying being around him and having my sweet pig back. Best of all, despite what feels like more harsh rules and behavior toward him, Oscar seems happier and more relaxed. He seems comfortable knowing his place and isn’t bothered by his lower position in the hierarchy.
I know this isn’t a permanent change because we go through these cycles with Oscar’s behavior. I will get busy and forget to move him and keep up with the new rules, and he will start to challenge for hierarchy again. But, it’s important for me to remember the pig that he can be when I’m acting as the leader. Although it feels more natural to shower him with love and affection when he’s grumpy, I need to remember that he functions differently and that hierarchy is very real to him. In order for him to be the best pet he can be, he needs love and affection, but he also needs a leader with structure and rules.
Owning a pet pig can be really challenging at times. With my dog, I never think about hierarchy or moving her or any of these mind games that I feel I have to play with Oscar. But, these are the challenges of life with a mini pig, and they truly can be the difference between having a spoiled pig who runs the home or a sweet pig who respects her family. A spoiled mini pig is not fun for anyone; they are typically aggressive, grouchy, and just unpleasant to be around. Fortunately, there is real hope. I am amazed at the changes I have seen in Oscar in just a week and hope to implement these new rules as part of our daily life to avoid future SPS issues.
In case you’re struggling with Spoiled Pig Syndrome and some of the same behavior issues we’ve experienced recently with Oscar, I’ve listed below a few of the articles I found most useful in creating Oscar’s new rules.
Mini Pig Facts – Spoiled Pig Syndrome: This article gives a good explanation of the “ladder” that pigs live by and also gives some ideas for dealing with SPS. My favorite part about this article is the discussion about not letting pigs play with feet. Not allowing Oscar to play with feet has caused a huge positive change in his behavior.
This year is Oscar’s second 4th of July, so we decided to try recreating some of his pictures from last year. Although he’s still as cute as ever, Oscar noticed that his hat seems quite a bit smaller this year. Happy 4th of July from Mini Pig Oscar, Rylee, and family! Have a safe and happy 4th!