Pot bellied pigs have individual personalities, but initially many baby pigs (called piglets) often do not like to be held or touched. Usually, baby pigs grow up to enjoy being near the people they bond with but piglets can be quite aloof or fearful at first, especially if they have not been well socialized by their breeder.
Socializing and Training Baby Pot Bellied Pigs
Even well socialized pot bellied pigs may take a while to learn to trust their owners. When you bring a baby pig home you first need to gain their trust in order to have them accept handling readily, then work on training basic behaviors (such as leash walking and house training). You must also work on being able to restrain your pot bellied pig so necessary grooming and medical care can be done as needed. Although most pigs quickly outgrow being picked up, it is worthwhile to get them used to being picked up as they will be more willing to be handled and restrained if they are used to being carried.
Positive reinforcement is the key to success with most pets, including pot bellied pigs. They won't respond to force or punishment very well at all. To a pig, the most obvious kind of positive reinforcement is food. Most pigs will be happy to work for small tidbits such as raisins, small pieces of apple or other fruit, or even pieces of their regular rations. When you are trying to tame a stubborn piglet, you may even want to hand feed them all of their food, since the quickest way to a pig's heart is through their stomach. However, obesity is a common problem, so keep treat foods to a minimum and make sure you are not overfeeding your pig by feeding full meals while using extra food for training.
Bonding With a New Baby Pot Bellied Pig
When you bring your new baby pig home they will probably be very nervous and scared so remember to be patient at first. You will want to keep your pig in a small, confined area until they are more comfortable in their new home. Let your pig explore and once they don't seem apprehensive, try to get them to approach you by tempting them with food. Sit on the floor with your pig and offer a bit of food (for piglets, it is probably best to just use their regular food for most of the training - small bits of vegetable or fruit could be used for special treats) to entice them over to you. You may just need to put the food on the floor in front of you at first and gradually work up to your piglet taking the food from your hand. Do this repeatedly over the course of the first few days at home and have everyone in the family have a turn so that the piglet can bond with all the family members.
Once your piglet is comfortable with being near you and taking food from your hand, you can reach out and try to scratch your piglet gently under their chin or along their sides. Move slowly and speak calmly and gently to your pig. Remember to give treats as you do this and your piglet will eventually realize this is a pleasant experience. Move at a pace that your piglet is comfortable with. If they resist to being scratched or pet back off a bit until they are more accepting.
There is a fine line between spending enough time with your piglet and spending too much time with them. While you will want to take the time to get to know your pig and gain their trust, you will also want to make sure you do not lavish too much attention on your baby or they will come to expect attention all the time. This is also true of using food as a training tool. Remember that in addition to offering your pig food, be sure to spend time with your pig without giving treats or they will think of you as a food dispenser and may start to expect or demand food constantly. Keep the bonding and training sessions short and regular, with breaks to give your baby pig time to rest and develop the ability to entertain themselves a bit too.
Picking up a Baby Pot Bellied Pig
Generally, pigs do not like to be held or picked up. When a pig feels threatened, they will squeal loudly. Even though you may be trying to pick up a baby pig to cuddle them and you know you are not a threat the baby pig may be scared and squeal. Over time your piglet will bond with you and they will eventually trust that you are not going to hurt them.
Once your pig is used to being handled and scratched (using the techniques mentioned prior), try to entice them to sit in your lap. If your piglet has a favorite blanket you can use that by putting it in your lap and encourage your baby pig to lie in your lap. Once your pig will climb into your lap willingly, gradually work from petting their body to eventually gently wrapping your arms around them. Then start to apply gentle pressure with your arms while holding your pig. You'll want to cradle your piglet gently, but firmly. Hold them against your body so they feel secure. Continue to pet and talk gently to your baby pig and give them treats (having a helper to feed treats while you try to cradle your pig works well). Once your pig is okay with being cradled, try and lift them up a bit. If they squeal or scream for more than three seconds back off and work on just holding them longer. Do this slowly and be persistent. Offer treats and distract your pig while you are picking them up. Repeat this process three times each day until your pig is okay with being picked up.
Teaching a piglet to be picked up can be difficult since it requires teaching them something that they naturally do not like to do. If you are patient and remember that training is a gradual process you and your piglet will be happier in the end
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT