Traveling with pigs can be quite an adventure. Many pet pigs have been trained to ride calmly in vehicles. These pigs seem to genuinely enjoy the ride! On the other hand, some pigs aren’t as open to the idea of travel. This is especially the case of rescued pigs that have not had good experiences traveling in vehicles. It can be quite a scary affair for them.
Ideally, desensitization to car rides happens over a period of time. Start out by leaving the car door or van/SUV hatch open. Sprinkle high value snacks or treats on the floor. Allow the pig to enter the vehicle at his own pace, using stairs or a ramp. The pig will likely be timid and untrusting at first. Just give him time and repeat the snack ritual until he is completely relaxed going in/out of the vehicle. The next step is to close the door for a moment, then open it again. He will likely exit the car at this point. That’s ok. Give him time. As he gets more comfortable you can start the driving. Make sure there is a surplus of snacks on the floor or in the crate. Using a ruffled up blanket or towel with cheerios or dried oatmeal will give him enough distraction time to avoid the stress of the initial movement of the car.
Start with short drives and make them longer and longer. Food rewards should be used generously in the beginning, slowly using less and less food as he becomes desensitized to the experience. By going slow and keeping every car experience rewarding for the pig, it will make traveling easier and safer for your both. The key to change his mind about scary vehicles is to keep it rewarding. Don’t push him into panic. Just take it one step at a time. It’s not a race and will be worth the patience.
Unfortunately, with rescue situations there usually isn’t time for desensitizing the pig to enjoy travel. When it’s time to rescue, you must load the pig up and head on out. Since many pigs have not been accustomed to travel, it is safest and sometimes legally required to have the pig restrained or contained in a crate. A large plastic airline approved dog kennel is an excellent choice. A wire crate may be used as well. Larger pigs may be transported in a small livestock trailer.
A pig’s normal response to stress or panic in a vehicle is to defecate and sometimes urinate. When picking up or transporting rescue pigs always bring along extra blankets, towels, or clean up supplies. A trash bag to put soiled blankets or paper towels is handy for longer trips.
Pigs appreciate comfort as much as we do. Bedding will help the pig to feel more secure and comfortable. Depending on your travel setup, blankets, towels, or hay can be used. When crates are used, bedding is essential to prevent their hooves from slipping on the hard plastic.
Weather and temperature can be a major concern while transporting rescue pigs. Consider the temperature inside the vehicle, in the crate, or in the trailer. If the air conditioning will be pumping the pig will be most comfortable with some blankets to burrow under. If the vehicle lacks air conditioning or if the pig will be in a trailer, 2 liter bottles can be filled with water and frozen solid. Lay these bottles in the trailer or in the crate. The pig will use the cool air from these bottles to regulate his temperature. If he gets too cool he will move away from the ice. If he gets overheated he will lay on the ice.
Pigs typically do not require meals during shorter transports. If the drive will be more than a few hours, bring a long a small amount of food. More important is hydration. A plastic water bottle and a travel pet bowl are great to offer the pig a drink during travel. Hydrating fruits or vegetables are an excellent choice as well. Bringing dry snacks in a plastic or metal container is a smart move for the rescuer. This serves as double duty, both as a nutritious snack and also serves as a “treat shaker” to rattle in case the pig becomes loose or stressed. A quick shake of the can will grab the pig’s attention, followed by a treat reward. If a pig is known to be prone to car sickness avoid feeding for several hours before travel. Benadryl or Dramamine may be options for calming down pigs with motion sickness. Speak with your veterinarian on the best course of action.
Exercise breaks great for long trips, when feasible and appropriate. Companion pigs benefit from frequent stops to relieve themselves and graze. However, rescued pigs may not be harness trained, may not trust you, and may spook or bolt easily. It is not recommended to take rescue pigs out of the vehicle during travel until they are well acquainted with their caretakers. If a pig becomes loose at a rest stop or gas station, it is very difficult to catch them. They panic and they are fast! While we want the pig’s to be as comfortable as possible, it’s far more important to keep them safe. Keep them contained during travel and let them stretch their legs after arriving safely.
For safety tips while traveling click here.
For travel laws while transporting pigs click here.