Our Mini Pig and Dog are Enemies Again

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.

DSCN2125

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.

DSCN2120 - Copy
Oscar looking up to his big dog brother, Liam.
DSCN2161
Oscar sharing the sun spot with Liam.

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.

DSCN2912
Oscar and Rylee getting along and sharing the bed.

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.

DSC_1079
Rylee won’t share her bed with Oscar these days because she doesn’t know when he’ll snip at her.

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.

DSC_1411
Rylee hiding on a shelf to get away from Oscar.

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.

DSC_2399
Rylee doesn’t hide her dislike for Oscar very well.

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.


Related Posts

10 thoughts on “Our Mini Pig and Dog are Enemies Again”

  1. Yes, I think it’s best to let them sort things out on their own, so long as they’re supervised so no one gets hurt. Fortunately I have not had this problem with Elmer. Maybe that would be different if I had a dog. I have 3 cats (1 male, 2 females). He really likes my male cat who’s super mellow. He’s never nipped at him or chased him. He’s never done that with any of them actually. As for the females, he’s very curious about them and I think wants to befriend them, but they won’t have any of that. They either swat at him or take off. He also makes a strange noise when approaching them. Not sure how to describe it. Hopefully Rylee and Oscar learn to get along.

    Oh, I really like your photos. The last one of Rylee looking at Oscar is great and the one of Oscar’s big, blurry face in the foreground made me laugh.

    1. I’m so glad you haven’t had the hierarchy issues with Elmer. It’s been hard to watch! It seems like with your cats, they have all settled any hierarchy issues on their own which is awesome. I think cats do a good job of establishing and holding to their boundaries, where it’s maybe more confusing with dogs. Not sure but, either way, it’s great that it all seems settled in your home and is encouraging for other owners.

      Thanks for the kind words on the pictures! I really like the one of his big, blurry face too! I’m not always sure how they translate on the blog and hope other people enjoy the pictures as much as I do, so thanks for letting me know you like them! 🙂

  2. Ya, it looks like he photobombed that one :o) Oscar’s too cute. He can’t take a bad photo. Although, we all know looks can be deceiving with pigs :o)

    1. Haha…that’s so true about looks being deceiving with pigs! I always tell Oscar that it’s a good thing he’s really, really cute! 🙂

  3. My mini Juliana/Potbelly pig, Tofu, is around 9 months old and when she was small she was just scared of my 4 dogs, (one shitzhu, one shitzhu/poodle, and two chihuahuas!). She was smaller than my smallest Chihuahua Chico then she grew to be as big as my shitzhu/poodle Sammy, around 20 pounds. She does the same behavior as Oscar and randomly attacks any one of the dogs, but I cant let them ‘fight it out’ cause once she attacks one of the dogs, all the other dogs join in like a pack and attack her. She got ahold of Chicos neck once and almost killed him (Although yes, my little dogs are nippy and think they are boss of the house.) What do you think I could do? I push her shoulder when she attacks them and put her in a time out but I’m thinking its not a good idea to be doing this. Please help I just want a peaceful family! Thanks!

    1. Hi Hailey! This is a really tough situation. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for you. I completely understand why you can’t let them “fight it out” and of course shouldn’t in a potentially dangerous situation. Oscar is growing, but my two are still pretty evenly matched at this point. I’ve learned that intervention on my part, like you’re doing by pushing Tofu’s shoulder and putting her in time out, makes it worse between Oscar and Rylee. I don’t know if it stalls their hierarchy process or what, but they always end up going back to the fight later and it feels like it escalates even. Normally I would try to give you some ideas of things to try, but I just don’t know what would work and don’t want to put your babies in a dangerous situation. I completely understand wanting a peaceful family, and it’s such a terrible feeling when they’re fighting. The best thing I can tell you…if you go on Facebook, there is a group called “Mini Pig Education” and it’s filled with experienced pig owners. I’m sure some of them have been in this situation, and I think it’s your best bet for finding an answer from someone who’s been in a really similar situation. Sorry I don’t have a great answer for you, but I think it’s worth throwing your question out in that group to see if there’s something you can try. Hope you can find a good and safe solution for them!

  4. Hi , my mini Piper absolute loves my 1 year old black lab . They sleep together and play together . I’m pretty sure my lab (Brody) deserves the credit for training her to go outside . Lately Piper has been jumping on Brody and when he lays down rooting his fur all over ! And making a sucking sound ! Brody lets her but eventually it leads to an all out rough housing session. Brody is a large dog. He is gentle with her when he plays but Piper just started the jumping a few days ago. She walks underneath him and try’s to lift him up lol. Brody is definitely her pack leader and not me. Sometimes I feel like she will only do things if Brody does them . How do I get her to follow me instead of my dog. And why is she all of a sudden jumping on him ? She is not biting . Just jumping and pushing . Thanks !

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have any great answers for you on this one. Our dog and Oscar prefer to be in opposite rooms, so I haven’t had a lot of experience in this area (at least where a dog and pig actually like each other…haha). I can’t tell from the description if Piper is just playing or if she’s at the point where she’s wanting to challenge him for hierarchy, and those of course are two completely different things. Hopefully she’s just playing, but it’s likely there will come a time when she starts to challenge Brody.

      As for getting her to follow you, I’m not totally sure but I would recommend looking into Move the Pig (MTP) if you haven’t already. It’s typically used for aggression in pigs, but learning about it is helpful for understanding how pigs think about hierarchy and how they function within a hierarchy. It doesn’t sound like you need to use MTP at this point, but I think you will learn a ton just by understanding it and what pigs respect, follow, etc. Here’s our post on it which includes links to some other posts about MTP that I found helpful. http://lifewithaminipig.com/move-the-pig-for-mini-pig-aggression/. MTP has helped a ton with me becoming more of Oscar’s leader, so hopefully it will help you with Piper!

  5. I guess I spoke too soon about Elmer getting along with Eicca, my male cat. He’s recently been nippy towards him, walking up to where he’s laying, nudging him and biting him. I think it’s a dominance thing. He doesn’t do it to the female cats because they run away from him, so I think in Elmer’s mind he’s dominated them, but Eicca is a very calm cat and doesn’t scare easily, so I think he’s trying to dominate him. Eicca does move away when Elmer does that, though, but probably not fast enough for Elmer’s liking…haha. That’s why I think he keeps doing it until Eicca gets the point…move, PRONTO! Not sure how to handle it. I very firmly tell him “NO”, which he understands, but not working in this case. If this were another pig he was doing this to, I wouldn’t intervene and I’d let them work it out between themselves. But it’s a cat, who doesn’t understand pig language and I don’t want him getting hurt. Not sure if I should be mad at Elmer for doing this, but I don’t want my cat getting hurt so I just try to keep him out of Elmer’s way.

    1. Hi! Thanks for updating on Elmer! This sounds exactly like the “loop” we’re in with Oscar and Rylee. I’m guessing you’re right on about the part where Eicca doesn’t move away or give in fast enough for Elmer’s liking. Oscar doesn’t have an issue with any animals who just give in and let him dominate (similar to your female cats), but it’s the ones who don’t give in immediately we have issues with. In fact, Oscar seemed to like our pit mix because Liam was scared of everything and just moved out of Oscar’s way. With Rylee, she is used to being dominant and doesn’t like to back down, so we’re still dealing with this dominance loop between the two of them. I thought for sure one of them would finally give in…but not yet.

      Actually, we are more in your situation now where I can’t let them “fight” it out. When I wrote the post, Oscar and Rylee were similar sizes. Now, Oscar is about three times the size of Rylee, and I have to intervene every time to keep her safe. I wish I had some advice or help or anything to provide, but it honestly sounds like we are in the same situation. I just never leave them out together when I’m not in the same room with them. If I go outside or shower or anything where I can’t see them or intervene, one of them goes in the crate. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best I’ve got until they figure this out. Maybe someday one of them will finally give in!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *