Update: I am conflicted these days on the best way to handle mini pig aggression. Move the Pig was helpful for us, but it didn’t solve all of our issues with Oscar’s aggression. After writing this post, I learned there is another approach to handling pig aggression called positive reinforcement, taught by Lara Joseph. If you are having trouble with aggression in your mini pig, I highly recommend researching both approaches before deciding which one to use. The articles linked below are great for learning more about Move the Pig. To learn more about positive reinforcement from Lara Joseph, check out The Animal Behavior Center. She offers many different programs, including webinars (she has one on pig aggression), online training, Facebook live sessions, workshops, etc.
I first heard about Move the Pig after posting about Oscar’s first biting phase. Oscar was playfully nibbling toes, but he was also attempting to bite when we did something he didn’t like, such as move him after a nap or put his harness on. At the time, Oscar was really young and his teeth were tiny and not very threatening, so I ignored any advice about Move the Pig and instead used some positive reinforcement to stop Oscar’s air biting behavior.
Months later, Oscar started whipping his head at us and air biting again. This time, Oscar was bigger and had very sharp teeth, so I was really concerned. Oscar would growl at us and then, if we didn’t stop what we were doing, the growl would build until he whipped his head around and air bit at us. Now that Oscar was older and stronger, his aggression was really concerning and I worried that we would end up with a dangerous pig if we didn’t do something immediately to stop the aggression. My biggest fear was that his aggression would get to the point where we couldn’t handle him.
To stop Oscar’s aggression and biting, we were putting our hand around his snout while saying “no” to teach him that biting was not acceptable behavior. This is a technique that’s recommended by some pig experts and can be effective. For us, it was keeping Oscar from whipping his head and trying to bite us while we were wiping him down or moving him after a nap, but it didn’t solve the aggression behind the behavior. What we really needed to solve was the aggression issue causing the head whipping and biting.
After I posted about Oscar’s second biting phase, people reached out to me and again recommended Move the Pig. At this point, I was desperate for a solution and out of ideas, so I decided to give Move the Pig a shot. Aside from a few people mentioning Move the Pig on social media, I had no idea what it really was or what I needed to do to try it. I researched and found out why Move the Pig is used, why it’s effective, and came up with a plan to try it with Oscar.
I am absolutely not an expert on Move the Pig, which is a technique originally implemented by Lydia Weaver. I am simply an owner who has researched it and read enough articles to feel confident trying the technique on my mini pig. However, my very basic interpretation of Move the Pig is that it’s a technique that allows us to communicate to a pig that we are the top of the hierarchy. Pigs are very hierarchical, and they need to know their ranking within a hierarchy. Their aggression often results when they decide to challenge someone for their spot in the hierarchy in order to move up, and this can be an adult, child, or another animal in the house. Move the Pig uses the same types of movements that pigs use with each other to communicate hierarchy and allows us to mimic those with our pig. What results is a way for us to effectively communicate our hierarchy with our pig so that he or she can understand and fall into place within the hierarchy. The aggression you see in a mini pig is frequently because of this hierarchical challenge so, ideally, once the hierarchy is established and settled, a lot of the aggression should stop.
My biggest mistake with Move the Pig was ignoring people’s suggestions to try it. One reason I ignored it was because I didn’t want to think of Oscar as aggressive, and I was uncomfortable labeling him that way. The other reason is that I somehow got the impression that Move the Pig was for larger rescue pigs who needed a ton of rehabilitation and were 100% aggressive and disobedient. I was wrong, and I have instead come to think that nearly every mini pig owner should learn about and understand Move the Pig.
Rather than thinking of Move the Pig as a way to rehabilitate really troubled and disobedient pigs, I now think of it simply as a way to communicate with a pig in his own language. Instead of waiting until Oscar’s aggression gets out of control, we now use Move the Pig techniques daily to communicate and reinforce the hierarchy in our household. A helpful piece of advice someone gave me is to keep doing Move the Pig even after you think it has worked and fixed your mini pig’s aggression. That helped me think of Move the Pig as a simple communication tool rather than an intimidating, complicated technique.
Move the Pig has been working really well for us so far, and I highly recommend it. Oscar’s aggression isn’t 100% fixed, but it has definitely improved and we feel like we have much more control over his aggression now and an effective tool to use when he shows any signs of aggression.
Since I am not a Move the Pig expert, I will list some resources below where you can read more about Move the Pig. From what I understand, Move the Pig techniques can vary depending on the severity of the pig’s aggression. Since Oscar is still small and his aggression isn’t terribly serious, we use some of the lighter techniques. However, for someone with a pig who is larger or has become dangerous, experts often recommend using a board between the owner and the pig when trying Move the Pig. So, before trying any techniques, make sure to research first and then try the particular techniques of Move the Pig that are most appropriate for your mini pig.
For us, Move the Pig means that we move Oscar with our feet a few times each day, sometimes from his napping spot and other times just when he’s standing around in the house. We say “move, move, move, move, move” and occasionally stomp or clap, especially when we first approach Oscar so that he knows what’s coming, and he almost always gets up and moves immediately. When he gets up and moves like he’s supposed to, we call him back into our space so that he doesn’t become frightened or see Move the Pig as really negative. I also try really hard not to step around Oscar when walking through the house. After learning about Move the Pig, I noticed how often I carefully step around him when he’s in my way. However, since pigs communicate hierarchy with their feet, stepping around them can send them mixed messages about who is in charge. So, that’s been a big change, and I simply move him or ask him to move instead of stepping over him now, which helps reinforce my communication that I’m in charge.
One thing that’s really important to address is that a lot of mini pig owners think Move the Pig is mean. I’ll admit that it feels mean at first. Many of us have babied our pigs to the point of being spoiled, so intentionally moving them from a napping spot with our feet feels wrong. However, Oscar seems like a happier pig now that he knows his place in the household hierarchy. When he’s challenging us and trying to figure out where he belongs, he’s aggressive, unsettled, and seems always on guard. Now that his place is more established, he seems calmer, happier, and more able to just enjoy being a pig. So, although it might feel uncomfortable and mean at first, sticking with Move the Pig will allow you to see the positive changes in your pig first hand, and I have come to believe they are happier knowing their place rather than constantly challenging to figure it out, even if that place in the hierarchy is lower. Also, if you still think Move the Pig is mean, search for and watch a video of pigs interacting with each other. They are often very rough when moving each other and establishing hierarchy, and it will help you to see how Move the Pig works when it’s between pigs.
To learn more about Move the Pig, check out the below articles. In all of my research, I found these articles to be the most helpful in learning what Move the Pig is and how to use it.
This article about Move the Pig on the Mini Pig Info website is written by Lydia Weaver and includes an excellent video about Move the Pig that provides an explanation of why it’s effective. I recommend starting here as your first resource.
This post on Facebook is a great secondary resource for Move the Pig. It’s basically a post about Move the Pig and then a bunch of answered questions below that helped me better understand some of the more confusing parts of Move the Pig and how to implement it with Oscar.
To see a video example of us using our interpretation of Move the Pig with Oscar, check out this blog post.