Gentle Treat Taking
Teaching your pig to take treats gently will make your training efforts more pleasant and effective. This is a great lesson to teach before starting tricks or commands. This is a multi-step process and there is no perfect solution. As pigs are individuals, some will be mouthier, some will be more gentle, and some will frustrate easily or become overly excited. Pigs learn quickly, both ways. If you tolerate undesirable behavior, they will take advantage and increase that behavior. They will push and push and push until you push back. If you set clear boundaries, they quickly realize what they have to do to get that food. It’s all about the food! They are absolutely willing to learn and work for the food. Consistency is the key to success. Teach them exactly which behaviors are tolerated or not tolerated and you will have a pleasant pig in no time.
First, address the problem. Is the pig being impulsive and grabbing the treat without realizing your hand is in the way? Or is he being insensitive and not caring that your hand is in the way? Is he overly excited and cannot control himself? Is he simply focusing
on the food and forgetting his gentle manners?
If the pig is being overly excited, or even aggressive, and biting you on purpose, then you need to reel in the intensity and set boundaries. When you get treats ready, do not give him any morsel until he is calm. If he jumps, lunges, or grabs at the treat before it is offered, pull your hand back with an “aaa-t!” sound. Don’t overreact or startle him, but act with purpose and tone to let him know his behavior is not tolerated and will not be rewarded. As soon as he is out of line, the treats leave his zone. When he behaves, the treats show up again. Over, and over, and over. Repetition and consistency. You can do this!! It may seem futile at times, but that is because again, pigs are smart!!! They look for weakness that they can exploit. Be smarter and more determined than your pig. Leave no room for that little smarty pants to take advantage. Keep at it until you are confident you are seeing eye to eye.
On the other hand, if the pig means well, is otherwise gentle, but accidentally bites down too hard or doesn’t realize how hard he is chomping, then take a milder approach. Set him up for success. If he seems to clamp down on a finger as the treat is offered, then hold the treat inside a closed fist. Offer your closed fist while saying “good pig!!” Let him sniff it for a second, then open your hand. This gives him the chance to recognize your hand and differentiate it from the treat. If he accidently clamps down on your finger or knuckle, firmly say “ouch!!” and pull your hand back along with any treats. Wait a minute before resuming training to let the intensity settle.
Another way to teach your pig to pay attention to finger vs food is to offer a dab of peanut butter, yogurt, or canned pumpkin on the tip of your finger. He will naturally gulp your finger. Watch out for teeth! He will use his tongue and roof of his mouth to suck the peanut butter off your finger. A little bit of a reaction from you will give them immediate feedback on what they just chomped on. It reminds them to pay attention to what is in their mouth, pay attention to textures and density, to be considerate and gentle.
You may also place a treat between your first two fingers only exposing enough of the treat to be grabbed by the pig’s lips. This requires the pig to work slowly and gentle to retrieve the reward with no teeth. Say gentle, gentle to remind the pig this is the behavior related to the command.
If you prefer not to use yourself as bait, use a metal fork instead of your finger. A few chomps down on metal and the pig will be motivated to pay attention. Over time, expect mistakes or tests, but never allow or reward it. They may get a bit excited at times, they may forget their manners, they may get frustrated, or they may be looking for weakness in your resolve. Don’t fret. Just repeat your initial gentle
training. Do not reward behavior you do not want continued. They will see it is futile to work against mom or dad and they will fall back in line to their gentle brilliant selves