Mini Pig Oscar’s Spoiled Pig Syndrome

Before we got a mini pig, I read about Spoiled Pig Syndrome and was determined to not spoil Oscar. Then we brought him home and I realized very quickly how difficult it is to not spoil mini pigs. When pigs first come home, they are often scared and slow to adjust, so pig parents have to focus on making them comfortable and work toward bonding with them. This requires a ton of attention and affection. In the beginning, focusing so much on them is necessary because we want them to feel safe and happy in their new home.

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It can be really challenging to not spoil mini pigs.

Even once they’ve adjusted, mini pigs are so cute and curious that we want to continue giving them our attention and affection. Even on a challenging day with a piglet, it’s hard to resist their cuddles and little grunts. Also, they seem so happy with each bite of food they get, we shower them with treats and watch as they adorably smack and enjoy every single bite.

By the time our mini pigs are a few months old, we’re aware that they are spoiled but it’s hard to stop. These pigs have a way of wiggling themselves deep into our hearts, and we so badly want them to be happy. When Oscar is content, I feel like I have done my job as a pig parent and, when he isn’t, I stress about what I’m doing wrong. Am I not giving him enough love? Does he need more treats? Does he need more rooting and outdoor time to just be a pig? Maybe more play or toys is the answer. Maybe it’s more cuddle time that will make him happier. I try to make more time to focus on him and go through my mental checklist of what he needs to be a happier pig.

Typically, my answer is to spoil him more. I give him more attention and more affection hoping that he’ll love and respect me more. Then, when that doesn’t work, I get frustrated and angry. I try to write this blog based solely on my experiences as a mini pig owner and, in case I’ve ever given off the impression that I’m an expert, let me be the first to tell you that I’m not. I’m still learning and going through all of these new experiences as a pig parent, and some days are amazing and other days are really tough.

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Me? Spoiled?

This week, I had a completely new experience of learning the realities of Spoiled Pig Syndrome. Like many mini pig parents, I often joke and laugh about how spoiled Oscar is. In some cases, it is funny. Similar to so many other pampered house pigs, Oscar has his humans trained ridiculously well. We want so badly to make him happy, and we spend a ton of time and energy on giving him a good life. But, while it’s not uncommon to joke about mini pigs having Spoiled Pig Syndrome, the reality of it is not as humorous.

Last weekend, Oscar’s attitude was getting out of control. He was snipping at everyone in the house, including the dog, growling, and head swiping. When we went to move him after a nap, he tried to bite us several times. We even saw the first signs of him charging at us when we attempted to bring him back in from rooting outside. When we grabbed his leash and started toward the house, he would charge at our feet and then act as if he was going to bite us. In one of the worst moments, he was playing with the sandal on my foot like he always does and then just bit my foot out of nowhere. By the end of the weekend, my husband and I were extremely frustrated and wondering what to do.

On Monday morning, I decided maybe Oscar wasn’t getting enough direct attention. I have been making sure that he gets plenty of outside rooting time and he always gets cuddle time at night, but I thought maybe he needed more attention during the day. So, I tried getting on the floor with him where he was napping and, when I went to pet his head, he growled, whipped his head at me, and then ran off. I felt like he hated me and didn’t even want me near him. I’ve mentioned before that owning a mini pig can be heartbreaking, and this was one of those moments.

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After that incident Monday morning, I was wondering how I was going to deal with Oscar as he continues to grow and become more aggressive. He didn’t seem happy and definitely not grateful or content, despite all of my efforts, so I was at a loss. I thought about it for a long time, did some research, and decided to take a different approach this time.

During my research on mini pig behavior, I came across an article on Spoiled Pig Syndrome (SPS) that caught my attention. I knew about SPS, but I never really took it seriously until now. Oscar had all of the signs of SPS: grouchy, screaming, biting, charging, snapping, and head swiping, What I learned was really hard to take in and accept. When pigs are spoiled, they don’t respect their humans. They essentially treat their humans as lower-ranking herd members and will swiftly and sternly correct the lower-ranking members for not following their orders. As hard as this was to hear, I knew it was true. I was not the herd leader and, since Oscar didn’t respect me, he was correcting me for doing things he didn’t like, such as not feeding him when he wanted, moving him during his naps, and bringing him inside when he wanted to stay out and root longer.

This is where pig parenting gets really hard for me. I’m not a dominant personality, and I don’t enjoy having to assert myself in order to be Oscar’s herd leader. It feels unnatural, and I much prefer the answer to his problems to be more love and play and treats. But, he’s a pig, and that’s not how he functions. So, while my approach of more attention and affection might work well for a dog, it actually makes Oscar’s behavior worse and everyone in the house more miserable. This has been really difficult to accept because it feels counterintuitive, but I’m learning that it’s necessary in order to live a happy, content life with Oscar.

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So, Monday afternoon I set some new rules as a kind of mini pig behavior boot camp. Oscar has to earn all of his food, so no treats without doing a circle or other trick first and his meals will come from his Bob-A-Lot so that he works for them.  He will also eat at 8 am and 4:30 pm, no earlier even if he’s upset. Everyone needs to Move the Pig a few times a day and never step over or around him. Oscar will continue to get plenty of rooting and outside time to keep his rooting needs satisfied. Here’s the big one for us: no more playing with feet. I have always let Oscar play with feet and shoes because I thought it was cute and innocent, but the feet are where he’s really showing aggression lately. He has been charging and nipping at feet, and I found a really useful article that suggests that allowing them to do this gives the pig dominance and can cause hierarchy problems.

After less than a week of the new rules, I feel like have a completely different pig. He’s sweet again and has growled a few times but hasn’t even tried to nip or bite. I can lay down on the floor and get close to him without any negative behaviors. He is no longer charging at our feet when we try to bring him in or take him somewhere on the leash where he doesn’t want to go. Things aren’t perfect and he still growls some when we try to move him after a nap, but I can barely believe the changes I’ve seen in him this week. I went from crying and wondering how I was going to handle him to enjoying being around him and having my sweet pig back. Best of all, despite what feels like more harsh rules and behavior toward him, Oscar seems happier and more relaxed. He seems comfortable knowing his place and isn’t bothered by his lower position in the hierarchy.

I know this isn’t a permanent change because we go through these cycles with Oscar’s behavior. I will get busy and forget to move him and keep up with the new rules, and he will start to challenge for hierarchy again. But, it’s important for me to remember the pig that he can be when I’m acting as the leader. Although it feels more natural to shower him with love and affection when he’s grumpy, I need to remember that he functions differently and that hierarchy is very real to him. In order for him to be the best pet he can be, he needs love and affection, but he also needs a leader with structure and rules.

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Owning a pet pig can be really challenging at times. With my dog, I never think about hierarchy or moving her or any of these mind games that I feel I have to play with Oscar. But, these are the challenges of life with a mini pig, and they truly can be the difference between having a spoiled pig who runs the home or a sweet pig who respects her family. A spoiled mini pig is not fun for anyone; they are typically aggressive, grouchy, and just unpleasant to be around. Fortunately, there is real hope. I am amazed at the changes I have seen in Oscar in just a week and hope to implement these new rules as part of our daily life to avoid future SPS issues.

In case you’re struggling with Spoiled Pig Syndrome and some of the same behavior issues we’ve experienced recently with Oscar, I’ve listed below a few of the articles I found most useful in creating Oscar’s new rules.

Mini Pig Facts – Spoiled Pig Syndrome: This article gives a good explanation of the “ladder” that pigs live by and also gives some ideas for dealing with SPS. My favorite part about this article is the discussion about not letting pigs play with feet. Not allowing Oscar to play with feet has caused a huge positive change in his behavior.

American Mini Pig Association – Spoiled Pig Syndrome (SPS) in Mini Pigs: This article is where I learned a ton of general information about SPS and, in particular, was helpful in “diagnosing” Oscar through their list of SPS signs.




Happy 4th of July from Mini Pig Oscar!

This year is Oscar’s second 4th of July, so we decided to try recreating some of his pictures from last year. Although he’s still as cute as ever, Oscar noticed that his hat seems quite a bit smaller this year.  Happy 4th of July from Mini Pig Oscar, Rylee, and family! Have a safe and happy 4th!

Oscar on last year's 4th of July (left) and this year (right).
Oscar on last year’s 4th of July (left) and this year (right).

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Happy 4th of July from Oscar and Rylee!

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Mini Pig Oscar’s First Out-of-State Trip and Car Sickness

Oscar recently reached a new milestone by going on his first out-of-state trip! Although Oscar has gone on several car trips with us, this was his first longer trip out of state. I wrote a previous post about how Oscar likes to ride in the car with us to visit his grandparents who live in state, which is about a three-hour trip. For those trips, Oscar has always done well traveling and either naps in someone’s lap or sits quietly in his booster seat (affiliate) for the entire trip.

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Over Memorial Day, we decided to visit Oscar’s grandparents who live out of state. The car trip is about six hours, and it’s the longest trip Oscar has been on so far. Since Oscar has always done well in the car, we didn’t think much of it and packed the car up like usual. We put Rylee in her booster seat and put Oscar on a blanket in the passenger’s lap. We started out on our trip, and Oscar quickly fell asleep in my lap like he normally does.

We were a little over three hours into our trip, and Oscar slept the entire time except for a few minutes when he woke up to oink adorably at the toll booth attendant. Then, all of a sudden, Oscar woke up and started to smack his mouth repeatedly. My husband and I thought Oscar might be thirsty and it was also close to his dinner time, so we started looking for a good place to stop. Oscar kept smacking, and then I felt his body shift and knew immediately something was wrong. Seconds later, Oscar started throwing up and we found a place to stop as quickly as possible to get Oscar some water and fresh air.

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Oscar enjoying his trip once he made it to grandma and grandpa’s house.

We pulled off the highway and into a gas station to figure out our next move. I panicked for a while about something being really wrong with Oscar before realizing that he was likely just car sick. Once I calmed down, we focused on getting everything cleaned up. I went into the gas station bathroom to get paper towels, but the dispenser was empty. I considered explaining to the employee that we had a sick pig in the car and needed some supplies when I saw a janitor’s cart out in the open and decided to quickly raid it for paper towels and trash bags instead. Back at the car, we cleaned things up as best we could, got Oscar settled, and headed out again.

About 15 minutes later, Oscar started smacking again, and we knew we needed to pull over. At least this time we were prepared and had a trash bag with us, but Oscar threw up two more times at that stop. We needed more supplies, so this time I spotted a Petsmart and went in to stock up again. We set back out on our trip, and after two more episodes along the way, we finally made it to grandma and grandpa’s house.

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Oscar hanging out on the deck during his vacation.

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I was relieved to have arrived, but I was also worried about keeping Oscar hydrated. He didn’t want to drink for a while after we arrived, but he started drinking normally the next morning and seemed to be back to his spunky self. My next concern was that we had to turn around in two days and make the same trip back, so we needed to see if there was a better way to get Oscar home. Oscar’s grandma knew a veterinarian in the area, so she contacted him to get some advice for mini pig car sickness. The vet told us that pigs commonly get car sick and recommended holding off on food and water before the trip and putting Oscar in his crate instead of on a lap.

During our actual visit, we had a great time. Oscar loved the sunny deck looking out onto the lake. He was really well behaved and spent most of his time resting and napping while everyone petted him and scratched his belly. He was back to eating and drinking normally after the rough car ride there, and he got plenty of grapes and other fruits for snacks, which he loved.

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Oscar eagerly anticipating his next grape.

When it was time to return home, we left early in the morning since we planned on not giving Oscar food or water until we were back home. We figured he would scream and throw a fit without his breakfast, but he handled it surprisingly well. He gave us some angry grunts at first, but he calmed down and napped once we were on the road. This time we put his crate in the back seat with his blanket inside and let him ride in there to reduce the risk of car sickness. We also stopped every few hours so that he could get his hooves on the ground and enjoy some fresh air. He didn’t throw up at all on the way back! We fed him and gave him water as soon as we arrived home, and he was a happy pig again.

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Oscar getting head scratches from his grandma.

Now that we know Oscar gets car sick, we will prepare for trips differently, especially longer ones. Although we prefer Oscar riding in a lap, he did well in his crate on the way back. So, for longer trips, we will likely have him ride that way and avoid food and water before the trip, when possible, so that he doesn’t have as much moving around in his belly. We also need to plan more stops so that he can get out and get some fresh air. For supplies, I now keep trash bags and towels in the car so that we are always prepared just in case.

Hopefully Oscar continues to do well on shorter trips since we really enjoy letting him ride around with us in town. We’ll likely avoid longer trips with him in the future since they make him not feel well, but we’ll also know how to prepare when we need to take him with us. If nothing else, it was a trip we’ll remember for quite a while!

Yawning from his nap on the deck.
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Rylee enjoying some relaxation time on vacation.


Mini Pig Oscar’s New Favorite Toy

Oscar has a new favorite toy, the StarMark Bob-A-Lot! Oscar received a Bob-A-Lot as a gift for his first birthday, and he loves it. Oscar will only play with food-dispensing toys, so I’ve had to be selective with the toys that I buy him. When he was little, I bought him all kinds of dog and infant toys hoping one of them would spark his interest, but nothing ever did. If it doesn’t dispense food or treats, Oscar isn’t interested.

Watch as Oscar plays with his Bob-A-Lot for the first time. (I shot this video over a month ago. I wanted a video of Oscar using his Bob-A-Lot for the first time but also wanted him to use his new toy for a while before writing about our experience with it.)

I first discovered that Oscar loves food-dispensing toys when he was a baby, after buying him the IQ Treat Ball. As soon as he figured out that he could nudge the ball around to get food, he went crazy for it. Some days I put entire meals in his treat ball and other days I just put treats in. So far, the treat ball has been Oscar’s favorite toy, and I love that it keeps him busy and stimulated for a while.

I had been eyeing the StarMark Bob-A-Lot for several months because I thought Oscar might like it, but I held off initially due to its large size. The Bob-A-Lot is a much heavier and bulkier toy than the IQ Treat Ball, and I was afraid little Oscar would hurt his snout playing with it. As Oscar’s first birthday approached, I decided he was big enough to give the Bob-A-Lot a try. I’m so glad I got it for him because he loves it!

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Oscar excited after opening his Bob-A-Lot at his first birthday party.

Now that Oscar has been using the Bob-A-Lot for over a month, here are some observations I’ve made about it.

Pros of the Bob-A-Lot: The biggest pro of the Bob-A-Lot is that Oscar loves it. Although that sounds like an obvious pro, it’s huge for us. There are very few toys that keep Oscar’s attention, and the Bob-A-Lot can keep him entertained for up to an hour. Since it’s a relatively large toy, I can fit Oscar’s entire pellet meal in it which is why it keeps him busy for so long. I put about half of his meal in the larger bottom area of the toy and the rest in the top neck portion, and I love that I can fit so many pellets in there at once. Also, the size of the holes in the Bob-A-Lot are adjustable, so I can make it really easy or really difficult for Oscar to get the pellets out.

Cons of the Bob-A-Lot: The biggest con of the Bob-A-Lot is that it’s a heavy toy, so it’s pretty loud. This doesn’t really bother me because I’m used to loud things after a year with a mini pig, but it might bother some people. It does bang around a bit, especially on floors and walls. I prefer to close Oscar in a carpeted room when he plays with the Bob-A-Lot because the toy is much quieter on carpet than on harder floors. Although the heaviness of the toy is a drawback, it’s a small issue to me compared to the value it provides in keeping Oscar occupied. But, if you have a lot of fragile items in your home or know that the “thudding” of the toy against the floors or walls would bother you, you might want to pass on this toy.

The second con is that the Bob-A-Lot is tougher to clean than the IQ Treat Ball. I’ve been spoiled with the IQ Treat Ball because it comes completely apart for thorough washing and drying. The Bob-A-Lot doesn’t come completely apart, so I swish soapy water (and sometimes vinegar) in the base part to clean it and then set it out to dry. Again, this isn’t a huge problem, but it’s a slight con for me.

The Bob-A-Lot vs The IQ Treat Ball: I’ve mentioned before how much we love the IQ Treat Ball, and we still do. I like having both toys for Oscar because, although similar, they have some differences. For young or small mini pigs, I recommend the IQ Treat Ball. It’s significantly lighter and holds a smaller amount of pellets and treats, so it’s the perfect option for getting your mini pig started with food-dispensing toys. As your pig grows, the Bob-A-Lot is great because it holds more food and can keep your pig busy for a long time. These days I tend to prefer the Bob-A-Lot for Oscar’s meals and the IQ Treat Ball for quick, fun snacks.

Toys for mini pigs can be difficult to find. We have only found a few that keep Oscar’s attention at all, so I get really excited when we find a new toy that he enjoys. I highly recommend both the Bob-A-Lot and the IQ treat ball, based on Oscar’s experience with them, for help with keeping your mini pig entertained and stimulated.

I have no affiliation with the companies that make the IQ Treat Ball or the StarMark Bob-A-Lot. I purchased them myself and simply find them to be great mini pig toys based on Oscar’s experience with them. 

Although I personally recommend the items discussed in this post, some of the links are affiliate links. LifeWithaMiniPig.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

6 Things to Try When Your Mini Pig is in a Funk

Sometimes Oscar gets in a funk. When Oscar is in a funk, he goes from being a sweet, loving mini pig to grumpy and moody almost overnight. He can be a happy, content pig for months and then have a few days or weeks when he’s just not pleasant to be around. Sometimes he’s just fussy and oinks and squeals more than usual, but other times he gets snippy. He doesn’t like to be bothered and starts whipping his head and air biting all of a sudden. Since the behavior change seems to happen out of nowhere, it can be frustrating and a difficult challenge to solve.

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When Oscar is in a funk, getting him outside to explore often improves his behavior.

We have dealt with several of Oscar’s behavior changes since we brought him home. Although I never enjoy his funks, they are a good opportunity for me to stop and check to make sure I’m not overlooking something. Oftentimes, I’ve slipped in keeping up with his training or behavior work, and other times I haven’t been spending enough time with him or giving him enough opportunities to root and stay stimulated. Of course, if your pig has a behavioral change, it’s also good to make sure your pig isn’t hurting or sick, so make sure to check that off the list first by checking with your veterinarian. 

When Oscar is in a funk, here is a list of the six questions I ask myself to make sure I’m not missing something important that might make him happier and more content.

1. Am I keeping up with Move the Pig? We have struggled with Oscar’s aggression tendencies, so we use Move the Pig to deal with his biting and head swiping. When we are using Move the Pig regularly, Oscar’s behavior improves. However, it’s very important to keep up with Move the Pig and to use it on a regular basis. I usually try to do Move the Pig a few times each day since it’s quick and easy now that I have a system down. Sometimes though, life gets busy and I don’t realize that I haven’t been using Move the Pig. When that happens, Oscar can slip back into his old tendencies of challenging me for hierarchy and the nipping starts back up. This is always a good reminder for me to get back on track with Move the Pig because it’s important to keep Oscar’s aggression under control. This is the first question I ask myself when Oscar gets in a funk.

2. Is Oscar getting enough food? Since Oscar is still young and growing, I use his behavior changes as opportunities to make sure I’m feeding him enough. This is usually a pretty simple thing to check off my list since he would never let us forget to feed him, but I do stop to check that I am feeding him the correct amounts and that he’s getting the nutrition he needs. As he grows and gains weight, it’s important that I keep increasing his food rather than just continuing to feed him the amount he was eating at a lower weight. So, when Oscar is in a funk, I stop and make sure I’m feeding him sufficient and appropriate amounts so that he’s a happy and healthy pig.

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When the weather is nice, Oscar can get outside to explore and to eat grass, keeping him both happy and full.

3. Am I keeping up with Oscar’s training? I train Oscar because it’s fun and stimulating for him. He loves the opportunity to earn treats! I normally train Oscar once or twice a day in really short sessions, and he loves training time. As soon as I get out the clicker and the treats, Oscar is excited and ready to learn or perform his tricks. Sometimes I teach him new tricks and other times I just have him practice ones he already knows. Either way, he seems to enjoy the stimulation that training provides, and it’s something fun we can do together. I also love that training requires him to listen to me and practice some basic obedience. When Oscar is in a funk, I check to make sure I haven’t slacked on his training sessions because he really enjoys that time.

4. Is Oscar getting enough rooting time? Pigs love to root. It’s a natural behavior that is important for them to stay happy. When the weather is warm, Oscar usually gets plenty of rooting time. In the winter though, making sure Oscar gets enough rooting time is challenging. I take advantage of any decent weather days and get Oscar outside to root, even if it means putting his coat on. An indoor alternative is a rooting box or ball pit. Oscar has a ball pit that he really enjoys, so I put some treats or even entire pellet meals in his ball pit when he’s bored and let him root around for a while. I’ve found that rooting makes a huge difference in Oscar’s behavior and attitude, so I always make sure to check that he’s getting enough rooting time when he’s in a funk.

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Oscar loves rooting! It’s an easy way for him to stay stimulated.

5. Is Oscar getting enough stimulation and play? Oscar doesn’t really like toys, so making sure he has enough stimulation and play time is tough. Unlike with my dog, I can’t just throw a ball or give Oscar a toy to chew or play with on his own. This means that sometimes I get busy and forget to make sure Oscar is getting the stimulation he needs to be a happy, non-destructive pig. Of course, Oscar is only interested in food-related toys, so I have to be careful about how many treats he’s getting while he’s playing. My go-to toy for Oscar is his IQ treat ball because he loves it, it keeps him busy, and I can put his meal pellets or treats in it. So, when he’s in a funk, I put some of his food or treats in his food ball and he’s much happier after getting to chase the ball around.

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Here Oscar stopped for a nap in the grass after a day of rooting and playing outside. When Oscar has had plenty of stimulation, he’s happy, worn out, and less likely to be destructive.

6. Is Oscar getting enough cuddle time? Oscar loves to cuddle, and it’s a great way for me to get some quality time with him. Normally Oscar gets tons of cuddle time, mainly because we love cuddle time with him too and look forward to it in the evenings. If we’ve missed cuddle time for a few nights though, Oscar starts to get really fussy. So, I make sure to stop and save him some cuddle time even when life gets busy.

When Oscar gets in a funk, those are the questions I ask to check and make sure Oscar is getting everything he needs to be a happy, healthy pig. I try to keep up with these things on a regular basis, but sometimes life just gets hectic and it’s easy to forget. So, while I don’t love when Oscar is not his happy, content self, I have learned to appreciate his funks as a time to check and make sure I’m not forgetting something he needs.

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Come meet Oscar and watch as we adjust to life with a pet mini pig.