Several months ago, Oscar went through a biting phase and would try to bite us when we put his harness on or moved him after a nap. The biting wasn’t very serious and he never clamped down, but he was definitely sending a warning that he didn’t like what we were doing. Still, we took the biting seriously and succeeded in stopping his biting using positive reinforcement.
After months of no biting issues, Oscar has started biting again. The one bright spot is that he doesn’t just bite randomly; it’s always for the same reasons. He attempts to bite when we wipe him down or put lotion on him and also when we try to move him after cuddle time. For the grooming issue, I have tried everything to make these parts of his grooming more pleasant, from warming up the towels and the lotion to giving him scratches and rubs but nothing helps. Even treats only help for a second and then he is back to trying to bite. As for moving him after cuddle time, I’ve tried giving him verbal “notices” that I’m about to move him or giving him a little scratch to wake him up a bit first, but nothing has helped.
Although he consistently tries to bite when I’m wiping him down or trying to move him after a nap, he never actually clamps down. He growls, whips his head around, and will even put his mouth around my hand, but he never bites down. Nonetheless, I take this behavior seriously. He is quickly growing, and I want him to know that any sort of biting or even attempts to bite are not acceptable behaviors. Biting at his young age needs to be addressed so that it doesn’t become a serious problem when he is older and stronger.
Here is a sound clip of one of Oscar’s bite attempts. In this clip, I needed to move him after cuddle time, so I was reaching to pick him up. When the clip starts, you’ll hear him grow increasingly agitated with a low growl as I’m putting my hand under him to grab him. When the sound peaks, he is whipping his head around and air biting as I’m picking him up.
Although mini pig biting should never be tolerated, I’ve become unexpectedly sympathetic toward Oscar’s biting attempts. Mini pigs have so few defenses. As I watch Oscar roam around the yard, I think about how susceptible he is to attacks or punishment from other animals and people. He doesn’t have claws or size to defend himself; he only has his bite. It doesn’t make biting in a safe environment like our home okay, but it helps me understand that he’s using his only defense to protect himself from something he doesn’t like, helping me take a more compassionate approach to fixing the issue.
I need to be able to safely groom and move Oscar when he’s older, so I stubbornly continue to wipe him down each day and move him after cuddle time. We are working through the biting issues, slowly making progress. Since his biting isn’t serious at this point, I use his grooming each day as an opportunity to work on his biting. Using advice from the North American Potbellied Pig Association (NAPPA), I am working on establishing my dominance with Oscar using Move the Pig (which I plan to write more about in a future post) and also using the technique of gently holding his snout closed when he is aggressive. The corrections have been difficult because I hate upsetting Oscar, but they don’t hurt him and are important for establishing our household hierarchy and ensuring we don’t have more serious biting problems in the future.
If your mini pig is biting or even attempting to bite, it’s important to take it seriously even if your pig is young and small. Mini pig biting can become a serious issue, so it’s better to deal with it before it becomes a real problem. Although Oscar’s bites are just warnings for now, we are working hard to stop them so he doesn’t become aggressive as he grows bigger. If you’re having biting issues with your mini pig, I highly recommend checking out the NAPPA articles linked to above for steps to help stop the biting.