Oscar is 15 months old, so it’s time for his weigh in! After Oscar’s first birthday, I decided to stop posting his weight every month and just update once every three months. Although mini pigs can grow for up to three to five years, I figured his growth would slow enough after his first birthday that the posts wouldn’t be interesting. I sure was wrong!
Right after Oscar’s one year weigh in, he had a big growth spurt. In fact, he grew so quickly that he started looking a little thin, so we increased his pellet amounts to make sure he was getting enough. After a while, his growing seemed to slow and his weight caught up, and now he’s back to his happy, healthy self.
We’ve had some of our biggest behavior challenges with Oscar in the past three months. Oscar’s snipping and head whipping really increased after he turned one. He was attempting to bite us and the dog on a daily basis for a while, and I eventually hit one of my highest points of frustration with him. We weren’t sure if he was in pain and lashing out from teething or if he was just being mean, but we were really frustrated and left wondering where we went wrong with him.
After a ton of frustration and research, we decided that Oscar has Spoiled Pig Syndrome and tried to address his behaviors accordingly. I put Oscar in mini pig behavior bootcamp by restarting Move the Pig, making him work for his meals, not allowing him to nip at toes, and by being more firm with him overall. Due to those changes, we have seen a huge improvement in his behavior. He’s not perfect and still has an attitude and nips at times, but everyone in the house, including Oscar, is much happier.
Our big lesson throughout the past three months is that we will always have to stay on top of Oscar’s behavior. The hardest part is keeping up on Oscar’s structure and discipline, particularly Move the Pig, when he’s sweet and loving. But, when I forget, Oscar takes advantage of those moments and starts challenging for hierarchy again. This is a pattern I expect we will deal with forever with Oscar, and it’s been a hard lesson to learn. In order for him to be the best pig he can be, I need to embrace and live in his world of hierarchy with him. When I am acting as his leader, the house is much more peaceful and happy.
The upside to Oscar’s recent behavior issues is that I feel more bonded than ever with him. The bond helps balance out the behavior problems and gives us sweet, happy moments with him that we love. Oscar still loves cuddling, and he approaches us and wants to be around us more than ever. He used to be more independent, but he follows me around the house much more now and even greets people at the door sometimes. We are firmly in a routine with Oscar these days, so day-to-day tasks are easier and we can spend more time enjoying him.
After a year with Oscar, owning a mini pig is much more challenging than I ever imagined, but it’s also much more rewarding. I never expected the highs and lows that have come with owning a pig, but he has made me cry and laugh more than any pet I’ve owned. Someone mentioned in a comment on here that pig parenting is not for the faint of heart, and I agree 100% with that statement. In a year, Oscar has made me yell, cry, question my sanity, leave the house just to get some space, cry some more, smile, experience joy and, most of all, laugh. These mini pigs are a ton of work, but they are also amazing little (and not-so-little) creatures.
At 15 months old, Oscar is 37 pounds, 16″ tall, and 29″ long.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.