Oscar hates baths. This is how it all started…
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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