Potbellied Pigs As Pets

Vietnamese Potbellied pigs were imported into the U.S. from Canada in 1985 as companion pets. They were promoted by the national media as clean, smart, small, and affectionate pets. The first potbellied pigs sold for extravagant sums—as high as $25,000!

Potbellied Pig

Today, the popularity of potbellied pigs has plummeted. There are sanctuaries for unwanted potbellies that are filled to capacity. Potbellies have become so unpopular that they are often advertised in the "For Free" section of newspapers. The situation has become so bad that the pigs are even found abandoned by the roadside. So, what happened?

Of course, with any new, exotic breed of animal, prices fall as the supply met the demand. This goes with the territory. But, in the case of the potbelly, other factors have come into play.

Potbellied pigs are very "special" animals. Potbellies are like two-year-old children— intelligent, curious, mischievous, and, sometimes manipulative. They are sensitive creatures that can be playful, and even almost humorous. Many owners bond to their pigs as if they were their own children. Many owners sleep with their pigs, travel with their oinkers, dress them in costumes, and share every aspect of their lives with them. Potbellies love to have their bellies scratched, and snuggle with their owners. In the intelligence scale, they are only two species away from the intelligence of humans!

Unfortunately, their intelligence and ability to learn quickly is often detrimental. The porker quickly learns to open refrigerator doors and cupboards in its eternal quest for food. Pigs learn to scream, to wake their owners for breakfast, beg for food, and raid pantries. They can be demanding, overly sensitive, or even neurotic. A potbellied pig’s personality is complex and intriguing. Because of this, they need a lot of discipline and monitoring. Very often, a bored pig will root and knock over house hold objects.

Pigs are not good pets if left alone with no mental stimulation. In their eternal quest for treats, they can get aggressive with young children. The good news is that pigs are very trainable. First, a pig must be taught that it can trust its owner. Firm, gentle discipline works well. Because of their love for food, positive reinforcement is very effective. Negative physical reinforcement absolutely does not work. Pigs have a great memory, and respond well to commands. They are capable of learning to slam dunk a basketball, play a piano, or golf, play soccer, jump through hoops, dance, ride a skateboard and a scooter, and dozens of other feats. Housebreaking comes very easily to pigs.

Potbellied pigs average about 125 lbs. at three years of age. By the time they are fully grown, they are often too large to lift into a car. This problem can be overcome if the owner trains the pig to use a ramp. All pigs must be neutered to be good pets.

Potbellied Pig

Potbellies are herd animals with a strong pecking order. If spoiled, they often become territorial and aggressive towards humans. The pigs have an instinctual urge to be "Top Hog" and defend their territory. Pigs need lots of subtle, daily discipline. They also need to know their boundaries in the home. If they are well trained and disciplined, they usually do not exhibit this aggression. The potbellies must be taught the word "NO" and to respect humans.

Porkers need to spend time outdoors, in a fenced yard, secure from hostile dogs. This helps reduce their territorial nature and keeps them from becoming bored. Pigs root by instinct, however; this can often be slightly curtailed. They do not get fleas, but do get mange. Mange is easily treatable.

In general, pigs have the potential to be great pets—or terrible pets. It really depends upon the expectations and efforts of the owners. Pigs are not small. They are not easily transportable, and they do not belong in apartments. They get bored easily, can become aggressive, and can make a mess of your house. And, OF COURSE, pigs will do ANYTHING for food! That’s what being a pig is all about!

But, if you do not expect a pig to be anything other than a pig, a potbelly can be a marvelous lifetime companion. They are adorable, loving, affectionate creatures with incredible intelligence.

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