It is only human nature to want to give your pet pig a wonderful life. Knowing how much pigs enjoy food, makes giving them treats an obvious choice as a way to show your pigs some love and spoil them a little bit. However, most of us know that too many snacks are unhealthy for pigs (and us!), and can add extra weight on a pig, which will lead to potentially serious health issues down the road.
What to do?
At Ross Mill Farm, we strongly urge people to spoil their piggies in different ways (not always with food). Giving them extra yard time or a whole bunch of belly rubs are something that can benefit both piggy and parent. it will certainly help ensure the bond between the two. You can make your pig a mud-hole or get them a piggy-pool as ways to enhance their quality of life and to show them how much you love them. Give them extra blankets in their bed for them to snurdle in and make their pig nest. There’s lots of ways to show a pig love!
Sometimes though, you do want to give them a special treat and that’s okay. It’s all about giving them something that is okay for them to eat, not giving them too much, and something we like to call “no free treats!”. Make your pig work for the snack. It will help to ensure that they won’t become too grabby or food-aggressive.
Treats given while training the pig are a great way to reinforce positive behavior, spoil the pig (just a little), and develop a bond between pig and trainer. This is what “no free treats” is all about. By making them work for it, the pigs are less inclined to get demanding about food. Of course, many pigs are always going to be, shall we say, “extra attentive” when food is involved, but we don’t want people to fortify that behavior by giving them snacks every time the pig wants one…. they’d never stop eating!
Sometimes you’ll see us handing out watermelon or pumpkin slices to the pigs at Ross Mill Farm. This is done mostly for the outside pigs who don’t get as much socializing and people-time as we’d like to give them. Basically, we’re just trying to enhance their lives while they wait to be adopted. We feel that these pigs deserve a little extra spoiling. When we talk about “over-treating” pigs, we’re mostly talking about those pigs that live with families and are right there in the family kitchen while dinner is getting ready or laying next to you on the living room floor while you have a snack on the couch. Generally speaking, outdoor pigs can afford a little extra spoiling in the treat department.
Giving our outdoor pigs a little extra food in winter can help raise their metabolism and keep them warmer. Plus, it gives them something to look forward to and raises their spirits.
Just remember that treats can be fine for pigs, when they are given as a reward, in moderation, and sensibly, as in training. Also, other types of “treats” include belly-rubs, extra outdoor time, piggy pools, and mud holes. Don’t think you can’t give your pigs treats… just be smart about it. Think a slice of an apple as opposed to an entire apple, or a couple cheerios and not a bowl. If your pig should start to look a little on the portly side, then ease up on the snacks and encourage more grazing time (which is a treat in and of itself, but it also gets the pigs moving!). Above all, use common sense and be responsible. After all, you’re the boss… even though your pig may think differently!