Flip the pig for sedation free hoof and tusk trimming. It’s safe and easy! Once restrained safely, you can use a dremel tool or hoof trimming tool to shorten and shape the hoof.
3 “FLIP THE PIG” TECHNIQUES
As a prey animal, pigs tend to panic when they are restrained or their feet are grabbed. Some pigs will allow their owners to maintain their hooves without restraint after lots of patience and desensitization. When this isn’t possible, and for pigs that do not allow feet maintenance, flipping the pig on their back will safely restrain them without harm. We call this “Flip the Pig”. Some pigs will scream as they adjust to the feeling of not being in control. They are very much like a turtle on their back when restrained properly.
There are several methods to get the pig flipped into position for hoof trimming, then several methods for holding the pig still where they feel secure. Choose which way suits you and your pig best based on your pig’s comfort level, their size, and your strength. Always choose the least stressful method for all involved. Be aware that pigs do not like to be grabbed, lifted, turned, or the feeling of losing control. Just like most people wouldn’t take kindly to someone sneaking up behind them at the park and lifting them up into the air! We would react, as does the pig, until they realize they are safe. Once the pig feels themselves moving, shifting, or losing their gounding, they are likely to flail or thrash trying to shift themselves upright. They are very strong, build with solid muscle! For this reason it’s important to prepare, know what you are trying to do, committ, and do it quick, then stabilize the pig immediately. Keep in mind their delicate legs and heavy body. Grab firm and move quick with steady, even pressure. Do not jerk, yank, or make any movements that could hurt the pig. Get helpers if needed before attempting to flip. If you fail at the first flip attempt the pig won’t know what you were trying to do and will be suspicous. After flipping, give them a treat and reassure them. They will understand nothing bad happened and will slowly be less uncertain about the next time you flip the pig!
1. Roll the pig on it’s side. The easiest way to flip the pig onto its back for safe restraint is to relax the pig or wait for her to lay down. When she is laying on her side, grab the four legs and quickly roll them up towards the sky. At the bare minimum, grab the two legs (one front and one back) closest to the gound to raise her legs upwards. If you can grab all four legs it helps a lot to stabilize and support the roll, especially for larger pigs. It’s ok to ask a helper to grab the front legs whiel you grab the back legs as long as you are in sync. Once she feels her body moving out of her control she will react so you need to get her rolled up before that happens! Pigs bodies are very round and barrel like so it’s relatively easy to roll them this way when you can catch them off guard. If they know what you are up to they are likely to try wrestling their way out of your grip.
2. Lift front legs, roll backwards. If the pig will not lay down, you can stand over the pig, reach under their front arms, lift the front half of their body up until they are sitting on their rump. Then you can roll them backwards onto a soft surface or a lap. This is shown in the two videos below, by pig parents in one video and a well known mini pig veterinarian’s wife in the other video. This is an easy way to flip the pig for pigs that will not lay down when needed and are small enough to lift.
3. Sneaky Flip – grab legs from under pig. For most pet owners, this is going to be the least desirable method, although necessary for unsocialized, untrusting, or larger pigs. If the pig will not lay down and you cannot catch them to stand over them, then you may need to grab their legs while they are standing. This Flip the Pig method works for larger pigs that cannot be lifted and will not lay down for a roll. The easiest way to do this is to get someone to lure the pig with a bowl of food or a pile of treats in front of them. If possible, do not let them eat until after they are done with their hoof trim. If they have food in their mouth when they are flipped and scream, they could inhale the food and aspirate. You can use the food as a distraction to get them in the place you need, and focused on the person/food so you can come in for the feet. Get as close to the pig as possible. QUICKLY reach under their belly to grab the front and back hooves that are farthest from you. Grab firm and pull the hooves towards you. If possible, have another helper standing on the opposite side of the pig. Ask them to reach over the pig’s back, towards you, and on your cue when you grab the hooves, have the helper pull the pig’s back towards them and then cushion the landing. This is likely to be more of a thump landing, not the most delicate method, but pigs are super sturdy and it’s worth it to get the hooves trimmed without any dangerous medications or risk of injury from thrashing.
Uncatchable or aggressive pig grab. The same Flip the Pig method as above, but with some extra tips for success with “touch me not” pigs. For aggressive pigs or pigs that you cannot catch, start in as small of an area as possible. If the area is too large, the pig will feel more insecure and will have more opportunity to slip away. Pigs are MUCH better at getting away than we are at catching them! The more you chase the pig, the less likely you are to catch them. Set up smart for a first try success for the least amount of stress on pig and handler(s). In the small space, have atleast 1 sorting board or something you can use to press the pig into a wall (a corner works best). You need to pin them up against the wall and while you’re pressing them securely into the wall have another person(s) reach underneath to grab the pig’s legs. You mostly need to grab the front and back leg closest to the wall to pull towards you. If you have two people grabbing legs, have one grab both front legs, the other can grab both back legs. Count to 3, release the pressure against the wall and pull legs towards you. This will slide the pig onto his side and then you can QUICKLY roll the legs up to the sky in one swift motion as described above. If you delay, the pig will start thrashing, you will lose your grip, and you will lose the trust. A pig that has been flipped and lived to tell the “not so scary afterall” tale is MUCH more trusting than a pig that experienced an escaped flip. When they escape, they think they got out of a near death experience! They don’t know what you were trying to do and that’s the scariest of all. DO NOT LOSE THAT PIG until you are done flipping. Be prepared for thrashing if you don’t get them upside down and secured fast enough. Keep hands and legs a safe distance from the face until the pig is secured and calm. Sweet soft talking and gentle strokes will help to calm them. Wait a minute before starting the trim to see if you can get the pig settled down by helping them feel secure with pressure against the shoulders, hips, and rump. The wooden holding device below is very helpful in this.
HOW TO STABILIZE THE PIG AFTER FLIPPING
Once the pig is flipped you’ll need to stabilize or restrain them. The goal here is to keep the pig still and calm. The best way to acheive this is to make them feel secure and comfortable. Gentle pressure on the shoulders and hips will give the pig a feeling of security, like being swaddled, and they won’t feel like they are falling. If they do not feel safe and secure, they may thrash, scream, and flail. When the pig is calm, it is much easier to take care of the hooves.
Flip the Pig – lap holding. One of the most comfortable options is to roll them back into your lap, or the lap of your partner so the pig is resting on the person’s legs. If the pig thrashes or wiggles you can raise your knees on either side of the pig’s shoulders or ribs to stabilize them. It helps to have a helper to hold the pig while you trim the hooves. If you have a 3rd helper, that person can sit at the rump and hold the rear legs and hips steady while you focus on trimming and shaping the hooves.
Dr. Wilbers and Sharon demonstrate the two person trim with the pig rolled into a lap for comfortable restraint. The towel over the eyes is calming to pigs, very similar to the way you would cover a bird cage or animal cage to limit the stimulation that increases their panic. Dr. Wilbers specializes in mini pigs at Quakertown Veterinary Hospital in Pennsylvania.
Flip the Pig – stand over shoulders. Another way to restrain a flipped pig is to stand over them with your legs pressed into their shoulders to stabilize them and prevent wiggling. This can also be a two person job with one person standing at the shoulders and another sitting behind the pig to hold and stabilize the back feet and hips. Some pigs are more cooperative than others. Size matters also! The larger the pig, the more likely you are going to need additional hands.
Flip the Pig – pig cradle. A favorite way to restrain a flipped pig is with a restraint device. Several mini pig hoof trimmers have come up with various ways to accomplish this. Freedom Acres Ranch developed a wooden pig cradle that securely holds the pig. Several other hoof trimmers and owners have created similar designs based on this original. The wooden cradle with padding for the pig’s comfort would be layed flat on the ground, the pig flipped onto their back in the middle of the cradle, and then the sides folded up around the pig can be secured at the top with cargo straps or a chain that clips from one side to the other.
Sharp’s Mini Pigs have also created a pig cradle with their signature rooting mat as a padding. Christabeth explains how they made theirs: “The cost was $36. We used 1 2×6 screwed to one end so the contraption is elevated on one side. (We found the pigs push forward otherwise, this way they didn’t budge) we used a 24×24 Sharp’s Mini Pigs rooting mat, Then I can shake it out and wash when needed. 3/4 inch ply wood, 3 pieces cut 30×10, 2 long hinges, 4 D ring brackets and 2 ratchets straps, on side stays attached at all times.”
Flip the Pig – utility cart. If your pig is under 100 pounds, you may be able to flip them in a utility cart. The concept is similar to the cradles shown above. The cradling affect comforts the pigs through a feeling of security. You can lift your pig into the cart then use the method of flipping by reaching under their belly, grab the legs, and gently flip them onto their side and roll the feet upwards. Then, quickly stuff blankets or pillows against their sides, under their head, against the shoulders and hips, to create a squishy safe feeling of support. As with other methods, this is a lot smoother if you have a helper to stuff security blankets/pillows while you hold the pig’s legs up to stabilize them. If they do not feel supported they will thrash and holler. This is simply telling you they need more support somewhere. You can add pillows or blankets until the pig calms down.
MORE PHOTOS – FLIP THE PIG CRADLES
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