One of the best things about mini pig Oscar is his smile. In Oscar’s first few days with us, we would snap pictures and find that he was smiling in them. When he smiles, it’s impossible not to smile back.
If you don’t have a smile, I’ll give you one of mine. – Author Unknown
People often ask if mini pigs bite; we learned first hand that the answer is yes.Oscar has teeth on the bottom row which I call his “gopher teeth” that make a mini pig bite painful.
Oscar went through a biting phase when he was around 6 to 8 weeks old. He generally bit for two reasons: to play or to show aggression. I did not want a mini pig who bit us, our dogs, or guests in our home, so I set out to stop the biting immediately.
The playful mini pig biting happened when he would run up, bite our toes, and run off again. This was one of his favorite games for a while, and it was cute but still hurt when he clamped down unexpectedly. The fix for this took a few tries but was fairly easy. Each time he bit our toes, we reacted with a loud “ouch” or “no” so that he knew it wasn’t acceptable.We also gave him a toy to essentially replace the toe with an approved chewing option. We didn’t want him to think he couldn’t chew, but he had to chew on the right things. Over the course of a week, this consistent correction worked for the playful biting.
The aggressive mini pig biting was more difficult to correct. When we tried to move him after a nap or tried to put his harness on, Oscar would whip his head around and try to bite. Sometimes he was warning us and wouldn’t clamp down, but I knew this was dangerous behavior and had to be stopped. We used the firm “no” and very lightly tapped him on the snout to try and stop the behavior, but this only had a slight impact. I decided to try a more positive correction, so we gave him cheerios to get him up from a nap and while we put his harness on, and that worked the best. Initially I thought giving him treats would reinforce his bad behavior, but this negotiation worked almost instantly to get rid of the biting and we haven’t had any biting issues for several weeks.
One last thing to mention is that a common reason mini pigs bite is by accident when taking a treat or food from a person’s hand. To avoid accidental biting when feeding or giving treats by hand, place your hand flat on the floor with your palm up and either put the treat in your hand or between two of your fingers. This encourages the pig the take the food gently. When mini pigs are given treats from near or above their head, they learn what’s called “snapping” and can end up biting your hand or fingers when taking the treat.
If you’re having biting issues with your mini pig, give these methods a shot and see if they work for you. You never want to let your mini pig get away with biting, even at a young age, as biting can become a serious behavior problem when your mini pig is bigger. If you are dealing with a more serious biting problem, I recommend checking out this article from the North American Potbellied Pig Association (NAPPA). Part One discusses aggressive mini pig behavior and mini pig biting, and Part Two provides correction tips for more serious biting concerns.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section and I’m happy to try and help.
Update: After several months with no biting issues, Oscar is biting again. Read this post about his new biting issues and what we are doing this time to stop his biting.
Any time I’m frustrated with Oscar’s stubbornness or selective hearing, the sight of him napping is a reminder of why I’m so in love with him. When he naps, his bottom lip sticks out which is incredibly adorable. When he’s really sleepy, his tongue will even hang out a little. Watching this guy sleep so peacefully always makes my day brighter.
One thing we’ve learned from Oscar is that mini pigs have definite moods. Oscar has times when he’s curious, some when he’s happy and playful, and others when he is just plain grumpy and inconsolable.
Many of his moods depend on if he’s had enough sleep or when he ate his last meal, but some are random. For example, we went through a week recently where every other day was a grumpy day. We would have a fun day with him and then wake up the next day to a crabby, squealing pig. It was frustrating because we were putting in a lot of time and effort to bond with him and make him feel safe in our home, and we would randomly wake up to a pig who seemed to hate us. (In a low point, I did an internet search for “why does my mini pig hate me”).
What I’ve learned is that Oscar just has moods, some wonderful and some not so great. In our house, we joke that after 8 pm is like spinning Oscar’s wheel of moods because that’s when he gets tired, grumpy, and less predictable overall.
I used to panic during these grumpy times and worry it was a personality issue or that he was unhappy, but I no longer stress about his grumpy fits. It doesn’t mean that we’re regressing in our bond or our training. Frankly, he most likely needs a nap or to go to bed. His grumpy moments are when I remind myself that he’s still a baby and needs some extra love and patience and then I can laugh at his adorable grumpy face instead of getting upset.
An issue I ran into soon after we brought Oscar home was keeping him entertained. He had plenty of energy but didn’t seem to know what to do with it. This led to him finding things to keep him busy, such as rooting around on any shoe he could find, bugging the dogs who didn’t feel like playing, and biting toes and then running off quickly. These things were cute at first, but I quickly realized we were going to encourage behavior issues if we didn’t find better options for him.
I have plenty of dog toys in the house from raising puppies, but I had no idea what types of toys mini pigs liked. I did some research and found that they like some dog toys and also infant toys, but I was warned that many pigs just don’t like toys. Oscar seemed playful enough, so I was determined to find some toys he liked.
I bought him a mix of dog and infant toys: puppy chews, stuffed toys, rope toys (since he seemed to love my shoelaces), and even infant teething rings. With each toy, he would play for a few minutes and then forget about it entirely. Even when we tried to play with him using the toy, we could get him to engage for a minute but then he switched back to rooting on our shoes.
For Oscar, only food-oriented toys worked long term. I wanted to get him toys that didn’t involve food to avoid the risk of overfeeding him, but nothing else worked. So, to hopefully save you some money from buying toys that your mini pig ignores, here are the ones that little Oscar loves.
1) IQ Treat Ball
It took a few minutes for Oscar to figure out what to do with the IQ Treat Ball, but he caught on quickly and loves it now. The size of the treat hole is adjustable, and the ball comes apart easily for washing after each use. We can put different size treats in it, but we frequently just feed him meals with the ball and let him roll the ball around with his nose until he has all of the pellets out.
2) StarMark Bob-A-Lot
Oscar got a Bob-A-Lot as a gift for his first birthday, and he loves it! The Bob-A-Lot is a heavier toy than the IQ Treat Ball, so I waited until Oscar was a little bigger before getting him one. I can fit his entire pellet meals in the Bob-A-Lot, which helps keep him busy and stimulated for up to an hour. I like to put Oscar in a carpeted room to minimize the noise from the Bob-A-Lot, and that works really well. Oscar loves the Bob-A-Lot, and I love that it keeps him busy and entertained. If you want to read more about our experience with the Bob-A-Lot, including its pros, cons, comparison with the IQ Treat Ball, and a video of Oscar using his Bob-A-Lot for the first time, check out our full post on it.
3) Puppy Kong
The puppy Kong is a good mini pig toy option if you put some food in it. I put a little bit of peanut butter inside the Kong and freeze it for a few hours or overnight before giving it to Oscar. When I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll cover the holes with peanut butter and put Oscar’s regular food pellets inside before freezing (the peanut butter on each end keeps the food from falling out) and use that for his meal time. It keeps him busy for a while and is a good toy option, but the downside is that I don’t always remember to prepare and freeze it in advance.
4) Ball Pit
I initially resisted making a ball pit for Oscar. I wasn’t sure what type of balls or container to use, and I thought it would be an eyesore in our house. I gave it a try because I was desperate to find something he would play with and I wanted to make sure he had a productive place to root.
I bought him a little plastic pool from Petsmart and some ball pit balls from a major toy store which worked out well. When we put him in the ball pit for the first time, he panicked and hated it. We figured out that the slick plastic on the bottom of the pool was scary for him and that we shouldn’t have started out with all 100 balls; it was too overwhelming for him. We took the balls out, placed a blanket on top of the plastic pool and added in just a few balls and some treats. That worked much better, and he has grown to love his ball pit so much that we feed him entire meals in it most days. If you’re hesitant about the ball pit, give it a try. It costs a little more than a toy, but I wish I would have just started with the ball pit rather than buying a bunch of other toys that he didn’t like.
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.