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.
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.
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.
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.
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.