Mini Pig Training Basics and Oscar’s First Trick

Oscar learned his first trick! Since mini pigs have a reputation for being stubborn and spoiled, I am training Oscar so he learns some basic obedience and listening skills. Hopefully these quick training sessions at a young age will help minimize behavior problems as he grows.

Here is a video I put together on basic mini pig training and you can see Oscar perform his first trick near the end.

I train Oscar with a clicker because I find the click provides a consistent and concise message to him that he’s doing exactly what I asked him to do. Some people use words and that’s fine, but I prefer the clicker as it’s quicker and I don’t forget which praise word I was using and confuse him.

For training treats, I keep them small which allows me to do more training without overfeeding Oscar. He likes Cheerios, so I often break them in half for training. I’ve learned that he doesn’t really care how big the treat is, just that he’s getting a treat consistently for each trick done correctly. Occasionally I give larger treats for challenging tricks or just to keep him interested and excited about training, but I try not to overdo it. You can also use cut up carrots, peas, or fruit if your mini pig likes those. When Oscar seems to be bored with the reward, I switch up the treats.

Keep the training sessions short, preferably no longer than 2-3 minutes each. I train in two short sessions each day after his meals so that we can make progress without him getting distracted or bored. Training sessions should be fun for you and your mini pig, so if you or your pig is getting frustrated just stop for that session and try again later or the next day.

To see Oscar’s first trick, check out the video and watch him circle. If you want to hear more about mini pig training basics, start from the beginning. If you just want to see the trick, jump in around minute 3.

Mini Pig Training: How to Hold a Mini Pig

One of the trickier parts of our first few days with Oscar was learning how to pick him up and hold him. Mini pigs generally don’t like to have their feet off the ground, and that includes being picked up or held. A lot of the advice I read prior to getting a pet mini pig was to wait several days before trying to pick him up. That was my initial plan, but we ended up needing to lift and hold him from the first day to get up and down our porch steps to take him to potty. We learned quickly what to do and what to avoid.

The first hurdle to picking up and holding a mini pig is getting through the squealing. Since they don’t want to be picked up, they squeal and it can be surprisingly loud and piercing. It’s important that you continue to hold them through the squealing and resist putting them down so they don’t equate squealing with getting put down. It’ll be difficult, but do your best to hold them until they calm down or at least stop squealing. It will get easier.

The second hurdle is figuring out how to hold them. Oscar squirmed a lot when we first held him; between the wiggling and the squealing, my panic mode kicked in and made the situation even more stressful. On top of it, I swear he could sense my fear. So, go in confidently and pick up your mini pig and get your arms under his legs and feet to support him. If you can get the legs or feet supported, your mini pig will calm down much more quickly. Here is a video showing how I hold Oscar.

Now that Oscar is used to being held, he generally falls asleep soon after being picked up. It’s great being able to lift and hold him, but it took time and patience. If you’re in the first few days of learning to hold your mini pig, hang in there and stick with it through the squealing. You’ll get there!

What to Get for a New Pet Mini Pig

Once we put a deposit on our new pet mini pig, we had a week to get everything prepared for his arrival. This was a hectic week since I had no idea what a mini pig needed to be comfortable and happy. We went through some trial and error and bought a few wrong things before stumbling upon what worked best. Here is a list of the items we found most useful for starting out with Oscar.

1) Food and water bowls. Mini pigs like to flip their food and water bowls over. You can try training them to not do this, but it’s easier just to find bowls with the right shape and weight to make flipping difficult. Start with heavy, larger bowls that they can still drink and eat out of while young but that they can also grow into. Those tiny bowls at pet stores are cute and tempting, but they will be upside down in no time leaving you with a mess and needing to buy new bowls (I found this out the hard way). Even when mini pigs are young, their snouts are strong.

We ended up with these bowls from Target and took the bottom rubber part off since it was trapping water and spilling a bit. These aren’t perfect, but they are working better than others we tried.

Boots & Barkley Metal Striped Dog Bowl Small

Boots & Barkley™ Metal Striped Dog Bowl Small- Colors May Vary

2) Blankets. Mini pigs love blankets, so buy several. Since I knew they would get dirty at first, I searched for soft, large blankets on sale or clearance and made sure they were easily washable. Some of them have held up well and others, well, needed to be thrown out due to accidents. You can buy your piggy some nice blankets eventually, but I recommend starting out with some that you aren’t overly attached to.

3) Bed. I had a hard time deciding what type of bed to get little Oscar. I wanted it to be perfect, and I picked one with a cupped shape. The sides come up pretty high on it and, once he’s in, he sleeps comfortably. The problem with the bed is that his little legs can’t crawl into it. If we place him in, he’ll generally stay but he rarely manages to get in on his own.  After all of my searching for the perfect bed, he prefers the dog bed that’s low to the ground and easy to step onto. My recommendation is to find one that’s easy for the pig to get into and easy to wash. Frankly, Oscar prefers his big, fluffy Sherpa blanket to any of the beds, so you could go that route as well.

Update: We finally found a bed that Oscar loves, and I talk about why he loves it here.

Oscar Trying to Figure Out Cuddle Cup Bed 5.2015
Oscar having a hard time getting into his bed.

4) Crate. I love the crate we bought Oscar. His crate opens in the front and on the top which has been really helpful. When I take him places, I can keep him in the crate securely and open the top to pet him or let people see him if they ask. If I forget to put his favorite blanket in the crate at night, I can just open the top and put it in rather than opening the front and having to deal with a piggy trying to push his way out. It’s also easy to put together and clean.  We bought this Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel.

5) Play Pen. This is probably my favorite purchase of the ones we made for Oscar. The play pen allowed us to keep Oscar contained (to avoid accidents, running amok, etc) while also being near the family. He has plenty of room to move around with a bed and some toys, and he can see out so he doesn’t feel alone (which limits the squealing a bit). The play pen is light which makes it easy to move from room to room; it also travels well which is great for taking Oscar to grandma’s house. From experience, cleaning it isn’t fun but works enough that I feel like it recovers well from accidents.

6) Litter Box and Puppy Pads. We initially planned on using a litter box, so we bought one along with some puppy pads. We ended up not using the litter box, but many pig parents do and find it’s a great potty training solution. We bought a ferret litter box which was recommended by other mini pig owners because it has a lower front side and is easier for a pig to step into. Also, we didn’t want to deal with cat litter (and the clumping kind can be dangerous for mini pigs because they like to eat everything…), so we bought some puppy pads to place inside the box.

7) Harness. I’m still working on finding the right harness for Oscar. We have tried both the step-in and the over-the-head kinds and cannot find a perfect fit. Most people recommend the step-in kind for pigs but we have had a few slip outs with those and are using the over-the-head kind for now. If you are looking for an over-the-head harness to try, we have had good luck so far with Top Paw dog harnesses from Petsmart.

Top Paw Dog Harness

With the use of some treats, Oscar is getting better about putting his harness on and taking it off, but it’s still a challenge. You will notice in pictures that our little boy mini pig has purple and pink harnesses; we have been using our dog, Rylee’s, old harnesses until we can find the best one for Oscar. My advice: find the kind that you and your mini pig are most comfortable with and go with that. Once Oscar is a little older and isn’t growing so quickly, I might invest in one of the harnesses made for mini pigs and see how that goes. Here is a video (featuring Oscar!) about how we learned to put a harness on our mini pig.

8) Cleaning Products for Accidents. I recommend having pet cleaning products at home when your mini pig arrives. It’s important to make sure the products you choose clean up the accidents completely, including any odors, so that your mini pig doesn’t have repeated accidents in the same spot. Here is a list of of the cleaning products we use for our mini pig’s accidents.

Those are the items we bought to get started with little Oscar. As he has grown, we’ve found other items helpful, such as treats, toys, and a bean bag chair; however, the items above should be sufficient for starting out with a mini pig. Since there aren’t a ton of items on the market made specifically for mini pigs, we had to try and adapt dog, cat, and other animal items to work. Different items may work better for your family and your mini pig. However, if you’re looking for some items to get started, these are ones that we have tested and worked for us and Oscar.

Note: 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.

Mini Pig Potty Training

During my mini pig research, I read over and over that mini pig potty training is easier than potty training a dog, but I was skeptical. I have potty trained two dogs, and one was a nightmare (I’m looking at you, Rylee) and the second dog was a little easier since he followed Rylee’s lead and learned to use the dog door quickly. I wasn’t going to be fooled by thinking that potty training a mini pig would be easy and then be angry and frustrated later. Nope, I prepared for the worst: sleepless nights, constant crate cleaning, surprises of unexpected accidents in random places in the house.

As it turned out, potty training Oscar was much easier than potty training my dogs. In fact, we really didn’t have to potty train him. From the day we brought him home, he preferred to go outside instead of in the house. Since pigs prefer to go to the bathroom in the same spot (sometimes uncomfortably so), we picked a spot for him outside and took him there each time we went out.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t have accidents to clean up, but they weren’t due to Oscar not knowing where to go. Most have been our fault and just needed adjusting our strategy. We ran into two main issues.

Consistency: Young piglets can’t completely hold their bladders until they are older, so getting Oscar outside consistently and frequently enough and at the right time was a challenge. Unlike our dogs, Oscar won’t go a little each time we take him out. Instead, he likes to hold off until he really has to go and then goes all at once. What this meant for us is that we could take him out three times in a row with no result and then the fourth time he would go because that’s when he really needed to.

This has been frustrating at times, but the issue vastly improved once we figured out the pattern and adjusted our process. The key for us was getting him out every hour or two knowing that sometimes he would go and sometimes he wouldn’t, but we needed to give him the opportunity. The alternative is that he wouldn’t be able to hold it any longer at some point and would pick a spot in the house. Frequency and consistency in taking him out was key.

Meal Time:  We soon realized that most of Oscar’s accidents happened within an hour after meal time. He would pee two or three times in the house after a meal which we figured out was due to drinking too much water too quickly while eating. In my research, I read how it’s important for piglets to have access to fresh water at all times, but having it available for him at meal time didn’t work. He would go back and forth between his food and water bowls every few bites and take in too much water which was causing the bathroom problems. So, we found some fun and different ways to feed him or just put a little water in with this food pellets and then made sure he had access to his water bowl at all other times.

I know a litter box is a great solution for mini pigs and their families, but we ultimately chose to not go that route. My husband is not a fan of odors in the home and preferred we stick to outside, and I’m home to take Oscar outside frequently so we didn’t need an indoor option. That’s also good because we tried a litter box the first night, and Oscar preferred to use it as a sleeping box.

Oscar Asleep in Litterbox First Night 5.8.15
Oscar sleeping in his litterbox.
Oscar Asleep in Litterbox First Night 5.8.15
Oscar asleep in his litterbox.

Mini Pig Oscar’s First Meal at Home

We made it through the first night with our mini pig! Little Oscar was sleepy from the ride home and the big garage chase, so he slept well through the night. Now it was time for us to feed him for the first time. What to feed him was easy since the breeder gave us a container of ground up mini pig food (Mazuri Mini Pig Youth), so we measured out 1/4 cup of that and put it in a bowl we bought him.

Now, where to feed him? This was a little more complicated since we have dogs in the house. One of our dogs was already a food guarder when we brought him home from the shelter and it makes feeding him and the other animals challenging, so I wanted to make sure Oscar felt safe and comfortable while eating as to not develop any guarding tendencies. We decided to use the play pen and put Oscar in it with his food and water bowl; that way he would feel safe while eating but could still see out and be part of the family.

How did the first meal go? Ground food + water + a hungry mini pig = Messy! We were glad we fed him in the play pen so that we didn’t have to worry about the mess as much and enjoyed watching him eat instead. Having never watched a pig eat, it was entertaining and even adorable. He really loves his mini pig food! Note: the mess gets less adorable each day but switching to the pellet version of the mini pig food and trying some creative feeding methods such as using his ball pit and food ball solved that issue.

Oscar First Meal at Home 5.9.15
Oscar eating his first meal at home.
Oscar First Meal at Home 2 5.9.15
Oscar with a mini pig mustache.

One successful meal down and many to go!

 

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