One of my biggest fears when we first brought Oscar home was that our dogs wouldn’t get along with him. Not only was I bringing a new animal into the home, I was bringing our dogs a loud, squealing baby pig brother. Since both of our dogs were older and used to a quiet, calm home, I knew adding a baby mini pig would, at best, be disruptive and require adjustments and, at worst, create a dangerous environment for baby Oscar and not work out.
As I discussed in a previous post, the initial meeting between Oscar and our dogs went better than expected. For the first few months, the dogs mainly ignored Oscar; they weren’t friendly but they also weren’t mean or aggressive. As time went on, Oscar and the dogs became curious about each other. They would sniff around one another but avoid getting too close. Although I wanted them to be friends, I was content with this stage. They were happily coexisting, and I was relieved that everyone was at least getting along.
By the time Oscar was five months old, he and our pit bull mix, Liam, were beginning to form a friendship. Liam was still a little scared of Oscar, but they shared the sun spot and rested near each other. I was really hopeful that they would eventually become friends, but Liam passed unexpectedly in late September. Not only was this a difficult time for everyone in the house, but now Rylee and Oscar were left to figure out their relationship. Up until Liam’s passing, Rylee didn’t have much to do with Oscar, ignoring him most of the time and walking away when Oscar tried to approach her.
Gradually, the relationship between Rylee and Oscar improved. I felt awful about Rylee losing her dog brother and really wanted her and Oscar to be friends. So, I bought Oscar and Rylee a bed that I kept in the sun spot, and they eventually starting sharing it. Rylee still nipped at Oscar when she didn’t want him around, but Oscar didn’t mind and just left her alone and tried again later. I was so excited that they were napping together and seemed to enjoy each other’s company. They were probably not going to be best friends, but they were frenemies and that was a big improvement.
Recently, Oscar and Rylee’s relationship changed. Although I’m not positive, I suspect the change happened when Oscar grew bigger than Rylee and decided to challenge their hierarchy. Rylee was my first dog and has always been the dominant pet in the house. Even when Liam came along, who grew to be much larger than her, Rylee was in charge and Liam accepted that. When we brought Oscar home, Rylee remained dominant since Oscar was smaller than her, but things shifted quickly once he outgrew her.
Oscar began snipping at Rylee and challenging her daily for hierarchy, often going from calm to aggressive in a moment’s notice. Oscar would be quietly napping and then, suddenly, wake up from his nap and chase Rylee around to assert his dominance. Rylee, not one to back down quickly, would snip back until I intervened to stop the fight. I was never scared for their lives as one would eventually give up before the fight turned dangerous and because I could easily intervene with them both being small, but I no longer trusted them in the same room together. They could calmly be together for hours, and then Oscar would snap and challenge Rylee again.
For a while, I didn’t know what to do to stop Oscar’s challenges. When Oscar snipped at Rylee, she would look up at me and I would quickly step in, picking her up to remove her from the fight. However, that seemed to increase the frequency and severity of Oscar’s challenges, so I tried a different approach. They needed to settle the hierarchy issue between them, and I sensed that my “saving” Rylee was hurting the process. I started letting them battle it out and only intervened when I felt someone might get hurt. Eventually, Rylee started backing down more and Oscar’s challenges became less frequent.
Oscar still challenges Rylee every once in a while, but they are small nips and are significantly less severe than before. Rylee backs down quickly these days, so I don’t worry as much about one of them getting hurt. An exception is around food where Oscar tends to get more aggressive, so I watch them very closely when food is out. The biggest downside is that Rylee has grown fearful of Oscar and his unpredictable nips. For the most part, they hang out in different areas of the house. Some days they seem to be making progress and getting along, but other days Rylee avoids Oscar so that he won’t nip at her.
I feel terrible as a pet parent that Rylee is fearful of Oscar, but I’m also hopeful that the situation will improve once the hierarchy is settled. On their worst days now, Oscar nips at Rylee and she avoids him by going to a different area of the house. On their best days, they can nap or be together in the same room but don’t interact with each other. Part of me would still love for them to get along, but I’m happy to have them at least living mostly peacefully with each other.
When I brought a mini pig home, I thought our dogs would immediately either love and accept him or hate him, but the reality has been very different. It’s been a roller coaster ride, particularly between Oscar and Rylee, with many ups and downs. They started out ignoring each other, grew to become frenemies with some cuddling, switched to enemies with hierarchy battles and fights, and now are settling back into ignoring each other. Although I would love for them to be friends, I’ve learned that their relationship is largely out of my control and to do what I can to love them separately and encourage their relationship but not constantly intervene. I will always hold out hope that they will be friends, but I’ve adjusted my expectations and am content with them both leading happy lives under the same roof.
Note: I’m not an animal behaviorist or professional, and I am only reporting on my experiences and how I’ve responded to the situation between our mini pig and dogs. It might not be the best or right way, and negative situations between mini pigs and dogs can escalate quickly and be life threatening. If your mini pig and dog are not getting along, I recommend seeking professional advice on how to handle the situation so that you and your pets stay safe.