Pigs show aggression for many reasons. It is important to determine the motive for the aggressive behaviors in order to deal with the pig appropriately to resolve the issue. Particularly in a newly rescued pig, there may be unique issues to ensure a safe bonding experience with the pig. Always prioritize safety. Pigs can do a great deal of arm, especially with tusks. Use a pig board or sorting board to protect yourself until you have full confidence in the pig. This will allow you to move the pig and respond to aggressive acts while protecting yourself. It is important to not fear the pig, but rather show him you are a capable leader of his herd. In addition to the tips below, training tricks or commands will build your relationship and develop respect from the pig. Simple commands are sit, stay, out, spin. These commands can be used anytime food is given. Each time you give a command and the pig replies then is rewarded, your relationship is solidified and strengthened.Reasons for a pig to show aggression may include fear, lack of trust, maternal instincts, hormonal surges, dominance or uncertainty of one’s place in the herd’s hierarchy, lack of structure, hunger, lack of respect, or simply bad habits that were allowed in a previous home. Aggressive acts from a pig may include head swiping, biting, nipping, teeth chomping, humping, jumping, charging, nudging, head butting, or grabbing the human’s clothes.
To determine the source of aggression, pay close attention to body language. Is the pig showing loose body language with comfortable movements, or is he stiff and firm in his movements? Does the aggressive act seem forceful or playful? Is the pig acting aggressive when you enter his area or once you are interacting with him? Does he try to get away from you? Does he watch your every move? Does he trust you? Is he tame? Does he allow petting?
Consider the situation. Was the pig rescued from a neglect or abuse situation? He may lack trust of humans, or actually fear them as he tries to protect himself from potential harm. Did he have a stressful move? Is the aggression focused around feeding time? Is the pig intact or spayed/neutered? Is the pig pregnant or does she have babies? These scenarios will all play a role in how the pig acts towards you. Some things can be changed with behavior modification and trust building while others must be addressed differently. If a mother pig is feeling protective of her babies, it’s best to give her the space she needs. There is no getting past a momma pig! If an intact pig is acting out from raging hormones, it is best to get them spayed or neutered to alleviate their behavioral problems.
Once you understand why the pig is showing aggression, you can work to ease the conflict. This may take time and patience, but will be worth it in the end. Build trust, build confidence, build a relationship. Spend as much time with the pig as you can to work through these issues until they are resolved.
If the pig is acting fearful you need to build trust. Do this by spending time near the pig. If he will allow it, spend time in his pen sitting quietly. Talk softly or sing. Do not overreact or yell. You need to build this pig’s confidence while proving yourself as trustworthy and a strong leader. Encourage the pig to relax in your presence by sprinkling food or tossing food several feet from you, in a calm manner. Reassure the pig with a soothing voice but do not approach the pig or reach towards him. Once you intrude on his personal space you will lose the trust. He needs to trust that you are not trying to get him. Move The Pig (MTP) is especially helpful in a gentle way. See Gaining Trust article. See Move The Pig article.
Pigs that give soft nips, nibbling, or inappropriate nudging are simply being disrespectful. Unfortunately, with their strong bodies, sharp teeth, and bad attitudes, this disrespect can quickly escalate to a dangerous situation. Don’t allow any inappropriate behaviors, no matter how cute or non-threatening they seem. A pig that shows these behaviors does not respect you as a herd leader as they should. Therefore, when you start to correct the pig, he may lash back and increase his aggression. This is normal and to be expected, although not acceptable. He is simply upping his game and increasing his pressure trying to prevent you from taking a leadership role above him. Once you show yourself as leader he will respect you and comply to your commands. See Move The Pig article.
A pig that is showing dominance is in fact challenging you for a higher position in the herd hierarchy. While the head swiping, biting, chomping and charging may be quite intimidating, it’s actually a very simple solution although must be taken with the utmost seriousness. Show the pig you are a strong leader and will not be pushed around. Using a sorting board you want to MTP Move The Pig. This is pig language to show leadership. When you move a pig, you are showing him you are in charge. When a pig moves away from your pressure, he is submitting or accepting your leadership. Once you have established yourself as leader above the pig, he will respect you as such. See Move The Pig article.