Guide to Keeping, Raising and Training Pet Pigs
Hi, my name is Georgia Gowanloch and
I own Australia’s famous performing porkers
“The Wonder Pigs”. They have performed
many times on Australian television, International
networks, at agricultural shows and special events
around Australia. I have successfully raised and
trained many pigs for obedience and to learn tricks.
I have 9 pigs in total and they have their own houses
and are never confined into pens. They free range
on 900 acres, with 14 dams and 2 creeks. They are
all obedient with good temperaments and range from
60 kilos to 160 kilos. Size has never been an issue
or problem for my family or me.
I have put together the following information for
anyone who is thinking about getting a pet pig.
The information should only be used as a GUIDE to
help you keep your pig/pigs healthy and happy and
to help understand your pig’s needs &
characters a little better. The information is also
based on my experience as a pig owner and trainer.
Some health topics were advised and assisted by
my Vet. The information is useful, interesting and
New Arrival - Handling your Piglet
and Bonding Together - Piglet Care
Why Pigs Dig
Housing and Outdoor
Pigs and Mud
Biting and Nipping
Training and Tricks
Toilet training Piglets
(including worming) and Regular Worming Treatment
How Big Will My Pig
Grow? - This is the first and most important question
asked when enquiring about or buying a pet pig.
A pig's size is determined by genetics, exercise and
diet. Underfeeding a pig will not "keep it small".
It is simply an act of cruelty.
A pig will continue to grow until its bones
stop growing. Overfeeding will make the pig overweight
Pigs grow quickly within the first 12 months then
continue to grow more slowly until they are between
three and four years old. Your tiny piglet will grow
into a 60 kilo or more adult. Don't believe
anything else! Pigs generally live up to
12 years, every year after that is a bonus!! Some
have been known to live over 15 years.
Pigs will eat almost anything that is offered as
they have astronomical appetites. Unfortunately
obesity is a huge problem with pigs. Signs of obesity
are rolls of fat around the face, inability to feel
hipbones and lack of visible waistline. Overweight
pigs suffer from heart problems and arthritis. Underfed
pigs (often in an attempt to keep them small) can
die from malnutrition or other complications.
The first 24 hours are always
the most difficult for you piglet, as it has
just left its mummy, siblings and other piggy
friends and is going to be looking for them.
It may runaway from you, as it does not recognize
you as its new parent or friend yet. When
you bring your pet piglet home, it will need
to earn your trust and feel safe with you
before it can be handled easily, once that’s
achieved you can begin training it.
Confine the piglet to a safe and secure area,
allowing it to run around and investigate.
(eg: your laundry or a small pen). Unfamiliar
surroundings and people will probably scare
the piglet. Place food and water in an easy
to reach area. Sit beside your piglet, offering
it food, patting it, or placing it on your
lap. Introduce family members and pets to
the piglet once it has gained your trust.
Be patient and don’t panic or feel disappointed
if your piglet doesn’t let you near
it. Give it time and within a short space
of time your piglet will be your best friend.
other things that can help settle your
piglet are soft toys and food, such as
pieces of fruit. If it is still feeling
scared and discontented during the first
night, a large box, cage or crate with
a blanket over it might help settle it,
or place it beside your bed or your children’s
bed so it responds to the sound of a voice.
That didn‘t work with any of my
piglets, all of them ended up sleeping
in our bed.
Handling Your Piglet
& Bonding Together
The easiest way to pick up a piglet without
stressing it is to pick it up with both hands
around its body. Pigs feel uneasy when their
feet are off the ground. (In general, piglets
don’t really like being picked up, some
eventually get used to it.)
If you get your piglet in the colder months
a puppy jumper is ideal. Piglets are sensitive
to sudden temperature changes.
After a week or two, you might decide to begin
leaving the piglet outside more often. During
this time your piglet might squeal when you
leave it on its own. The piglet will eventually
learn to amuse itself. As they are social
animals, they will bond and socialise with
Should your piglet begin to show cantankerous
and irritable behaviour and seek your attention
by squealing, be firm and don’t respond
from the start and you should see changes
in its behaviour within a few days. Pigs are
very headstrong and stubborn animals and will
usually persist until they get their way.
prepared for a surprising new experience!! Pigs
are complex animals. Each pig has his
or her own personality and character and every
pig you get will be different (if you get more
than one) some are sooks and some are independent,
but all pigs are mischievous, affectionate and
incredibly intelligent. Their intelligence can
sometimes make them a bit of a handful.
Pigs are generally sensitive, head strong, curious,
inquisitive and playful which can make them
demanding at times. All pigs are strong, robust
animals they can open fridges, food pantries
and cupboards or any other places where food
may be hiding in their continual pursuit of
food. They investigate everything with their
snouts. As a result, they might tip over things
in your house. Their continual insistence for
food can turn them into beggars.
Pigs, no matter what shape, breed or
size make great pets for the right people and
the right environment. They are one
of the smartest of the domesticated animals
and learn very quickly, their intelligence makes
them easy to train. Their loyalty and affection
towards family members as well as other pets
and animals is extraordinary because they bond
so quickly. A lonely pig is a sad pig.
Pigs in nature are use to lots of exercise.
They will walk up to 60km a day. They love to
walk and follow you around. They are easily
trained to wear a dog harness. All pigs love
attention and a good scratch on their bellies,
underarms, chin and behind their ears. They
will happily grunt and snort in appreciation.
When you enter a pig’s pen, the pig will
come up and say hello, nuzzling you till you
give it a scratch.
Pigs, although are intelligent
animals can also be very destructive. They love
to dig, root, plough and excavate your yard
or paddock. They will do it with joy, enthusiasm
and attention to detail. They also love to graze.
So why prohibit your pig from digging? They
were created with a nose that’s a digging
tool. It’s their natural instinct to dig,
in search of food, starchy roots and grubs in
the soil or to cool themselves in warm months.
The soil is also a good source of iron and other
minerals. Attempts to stop a pig digging are
not always successful. Rings or wire through
the nose, trimming of the snout have all been
tried but failed. Pigs will find alternative
ways to dig such as using their lower jaw.
& Outdoor Runs
If you live in Suburbia and
are thinking about getting a pet pig to put
in your back yard….please think again!!
Heavy fines are imposed if no permit or permission
is given to you by your local shire or council,
not to mention removal of the animal may be
Personally, I’m against Pet Pigs
Breeders selling pigs to people to keep in their
backyards!! Why? For several reasons,
firstly I own 9 pigs and know what pigs are
like, I’ve seen a backyard after pig has
lived in it, no grass, holes the size of “meteorite
craters” mud, dirt and mess!! Pigs are
destructive, they dig, they investigate everything,
are in continual pursuit for food and they wallow
in mud. Your backyard will be trashed in very
little time and may end up looking like a demolition
site!!. Keeping your pig in a pen all day isn’t
a life for any animal and putting a nose ring
to stop it digging is simply cruel (so don’t
get a pig if you would have to do those things).
I have been contacted to rescue and
re-home many pigs due to their size living in
backyards over the past few years.
It’s most unfortunate that pigs have a
stigma attached to them that they are dirty
and smelly animals because they wallow in mud,
but the truth is pigs are very clean animals,
they don’t smell and are extraordinarily
It disturbs me greatly to read Pet Pig Breeders
advertising “backyard pigs” how
they can all of a sudden change a “farm
animal’s status into a “backyard
pet.” If that’s the case, then why
aren’t sheep, cows and horses being encouraged
to become backyard pets?? Sheep, horses and
cows make great pets but you don’t see
them being advertised as backyard pets, so why
does the poor pig get singled out from this
group of farm animals?? Money hungry breeders
perhaps, trying to make a quick buck??
The minimum space recommended for your pig is
at least one acre or a pen the area of a tennis
court or bigger with some access to grass. Pigs
need space and graze on grass just as cows,
sheep and horses do.
Pigs will defecate and urinate in the same area,
usually far away from where they eat, drink
and sleep. If you are planning on keeping your
piglet outside, shelter is required such as
a large dog kennel. They require shade areas
from the sun and shelter from wind and rain.
Straw or hay is recommended for their bedding,
because they usually like to burrow into it
to sleep. Other bedding materials can be used
but avoid dusty materials.
It is suggested that you build a run or holding
area in which you can catch the pig, treat it
or lock it away if necessary. If the run has
a cement floor, don’t leave the pig on
it for long periods of time. They can develop
disabilities in their legs, which can lead to
permanent problems. Sows squat to urinate and
may slip if the surface is wet. Remember they
like to defecate and urinate away from rest
If you have a pet pig that lives in your backyard,
please remember it has some special needs. If
you keep your pig confined for too long in a
small pen with out access to other areas or
paddocks, it could affect its health.
Secure fencing, including electric fencing,
is important and usually a successful way of
keep pigs from entering other properties, vineyards,
orchards or nearby roads, unless you want them
to consume any excess fruit, veggies etc…
Pigs are intelligent and learn where their boundaries
Pigs can jump, but don’t generally jump
high. A 900 mm high fence will easily keep your
pig in. Pool fencing makes a good enclosure.
There is special pig fencing or pig wire available,
strained tightly to star posts or wooden posts
at approximately 2 metre intervals makes an
If you choose to use chicken wire or other materials,
make sure your pig's snout can’t get stuck,
caught or injured in it. Pigs being curious
animals will dig and try and find a way to escape.
Pigs don‘t sweat because they don’t
have sweat glands. On hot days pigs love to
wallow in mud to cool their bodies. You’ve
heard the term “Happy As A Pig
In Mud”. They are truly at their
happiest when wallowing. Your pig may dig its
own hole in the ground to cool down.
Five or more centimetres below ground level
is cooler than at ground level. Mud also keeps
them free from external parasites and protects
their skin from sunburn. Pigs generally don’t
like deep water or swimming. An alternative
to wallowing is providing a cool area such as
a shed with good ventilation.
All animals bite, including pigs. Animals will
usually bite from fear or aggression. Piglets
are born with “needle teeth”. These
teeth fall out during adolescents and are replaced
with adult teeth. It is your responsibility
as an animal owner to teach your pig manners
hand fed all my piglets. It teaches them
to be gentle and not snatch food. Start
teaching your piglet as soon as it has
gained your trust, using the words “no
biting” if they snatch food. Remember
to praise them for taking food gently.
If your piglet is being naughty, give it a
light, quick tap on its snout and say “No”
This is the best way of disciplining or punishing
it. Your piglet will react to composure and
generosity. Take it slowly and teach one thing
at a time. Do not over train other wise it
can become bored or uninterested.
you want to be able to lead your pig around
by harness, start as early as possible.
You will find it easier if two people
put the harness on for the first time.
The piglet will probable squeal because
you are restraining it. After a few times
having the harness fitted the piglet will
be fine. Leave the harness on the piglet
for an hour, so that it gets used to having
it on. Increase the time gradually till
it is used to wearing it. If the piglet
bucks and wobbles about in the harness
when you are trying to walk it, try distracting
it with some food (such as dried fruit,
sultanas or bread) but don’t overdo
this or it will get used to being fed
when walking on its lead.
My Performing Pigs can do up to 16 different
tricks. A simple trick to start with is “Circles”.
You hold the food in front of their nose and
do a 360 degrees turn or circle saying the
word “Circles” making sure the
piglet is turning slowly following the food
in your hand. You can also teach them to sit.
Pigs sit easily, they have a balance point
beyond which they fall back and eventually
sit. I find the best way to teach them to
sit is when bottle-feeding them because you
have control of the bottle. If they will not
sit, gently place your other hand on their
bottoms and push down. They’ll learn
to sit eventually. You can also teach your
pig to do lots of other tricks the key is
time, repetition, patience, praise, reward
and a lot of love. You piglet can become a
“Wonder Pig” too.
Training Piglets Kept Indoors
Put some newspaper down where the pig went
to the toilet, leave a small piece of dung
on the paper and gradually move the paper
to where you want the pig to go or alternatively
place the dung in the litter tray (filled
with kitty litter) using the word “toilet”
or “potty“. Training is very similar
to a dog or cat.
Because pigs are very clean animals, when
kept in a small yard or pen, they will defecate
in one place. This makes house training with
a litter tray easy. Eventually you should
teach them to go outside, usually after they
wake up or have had a drink or a feed.
my own experience I have found both males
& females easy to toilet train. You
do get accidents (such as on the lounge
or bed, if you are raising you piglet
in your house), but they eventually go
to the litter tray or outside. I prefer
to use a “recycled paper”
cat litter, such as: “Breeders Choice”
as it is free of toxins and chemicals
that others may contain. When stressed,
pigs “defecate” more than
“urinate”. Sometimes when
picking up a piglet when it doesn’t
want to be picked up.... it might accidentally
defecate on you.
It is ILLEGAL to feed left
over meats from your table or any other meat
products to your pig.
If you wish to continue feeding you piglet
milk, the recommended Milk Supplement is called
from your Vet or Pet Shop) Be sure to follow
instructions correctly, as incorrect concentration
may lead to scours or diarrhoea.
Scours is the main problem encountered with
piglets. E. coli bacteria can cause scours.
Other causes are when piglets are very stressed,
changing milk from their mothers to powdered
milk supplements, and moving location (eg:
leaving its mother and arriving to its new
Fluid replacement is important if your piglet
has scours as it may dehydrate and die. An
Electrolyte Solution can be added to their
drinking water. Contact your Vet for advice.
If you don’t want to bottle feed your
piglet, that’s fine. You can still give
them a milk supplement to be sure they are
getting enough calcium while their bones are
still growing. Some cereal mixed with Di-Vetelact
is a yummy breakfast for your piglet. Make
up 250mls of Di-Vetelact milk add 1 wheat-bix
or some bran flakes and even some pellets
(but no more than 1/4 of a cup) add 1-2 table
spoons of yoghurt, some chopped banana, kiwi
fruit, pear, or any other soft fruit.
bottle fed all my piglets. It’s
a good way to have them bond with you
and other family members. Also it makes
raising and training easier when they
know you are the food source. Finally
because I train my pigs to perform tricks,
I want to be sure they are getting enough
calcium for their growing bones.
Supplementary feeding of grass morning and
night is a good idea. This can commence after
the age of 2 weeks. Feed no more than a 1cup
of grain based food or pellets. Introduce
vegetables, fruit and bread etc.... on the
side. Remember, everything in moderation.
Get into the habit of feeding at regular times,
(eg: same place and time) so your pig becomes
familiar with its feeding pattern. Don’t
feed your feed pigs snacks as they will become
beggars and harass you constantly for food.
feed my piglets twice a day until they
are six months old, then once a day, usually
in the afternoons. They get treats throughout
the day such as dried fruit and fresh
fruit, mainly apples. I hand feed snacks
and treats when training my pigs, it teaches
them to be gentle and not snatch food
from my hand. Pigs graze on grass, so
don’t think that grass isn’t
a good food source. Grass fattens up calves
and lambs and it will fatten up our piglet
too. If your piglet has no access to grass
then substitute it with fruit or vegetables,
a little bread or a hand full of mixed
nuts, or household veggie scraps.
Do not feed your Pig Grower’s Pellets
as this will fatten you pig and make it grow
too fast. An “Alpaca Feed Mix”
or similar is also ideal as it has various
grains, corn, sunflower seeds, pellets, lucerne,
molasses and other goodies in it. I use a
mixture of calf pellets, alpaca meal &
horse feed (it’s got everything in it)
If you run out of pellets or dry feed, they
replace it with fruit or vegetables till you
get some more. Do not over feed your piglet,
as your piglet has a small bone structure
and over feeding can cause skeletal stress.
winter when the grass is scarce, I supplement
with a good meal at night. In a large
pot, put in 1-2 cups of pasta or rice
and assorted chopped veggies, cover with
water, boil for 15-20 minutes, stirring
occasionally. It stores in the fridge
for days. When raiding or cleaning the
fridge, you’d be surprised how many
leftovers (excluding meat or meat products)
you can feed your pig. When fruit begins
to soften or ferment, make a fruit salad
and store it in the fridge, your pig will
love it. My pig’s favorite fruits
are apples and watermelon.
Your piglet will go through stages of “taste
bud changes”. You will find that it
spits out for example, apples and eats bananas
or it eats watermelon but not kiwi fruit.
This will all change when they begin to mature.
They will eat anything and everything and
they will have their favourites too.
Fresh water must be provided daily
in a strong bowl or dish, as they love knocking
it over and attempt to wallow on hot days.
Some breeders de-sex their piglets before
selling them (which should be included in
the cost when buying it) however it
is up to the new owner to de-sex their piglet,
not the breeder!! It is your responsibility
as a pet owner to de-sex your pets.
Piglets are no different to other pets such
as kittens, puppies, rabbits etc… The
recommended age for de-sexing a piglet is
6 months of age. Some breeders de-sex piglets
at 4-5 weeks of age, which I disagree with.
You don’t see kittens and puppies being
de-sexed at that age, so why should piglets
be any different?? By de-sexing them too young,
we really don’t know if we are doing
them any long term damage by removing hormones
they need while growing into adulthood. Pigs
can reproduce from about 9 months of age.
By having the males de-sexed they are free
of the odour that boars get & by having
female’s de-sexed it stops them coming
in season every three weeks.
If you have purchased a breeding pair, your
pigs should be a least 12 months old before
they begin breeding.
A female pig has tusks but they don’t
continue to grow like those of a male. Female’s
tusk are about 1-2 cm long and don‘t
need to be trimmed or removed. Tusks on a
male (boar or barrow) can grow up to 5-7 cm
long. There are two techniques used on tusks.
Most farmers and pig breeders trim them down
to keep the pig easy to maintain and control.
The animal has to be restrained in this procedure.
The other is to have them permanently removed
by an experienced Vet. Pigs in the wild use
their tusks as a digging tool and as a weapon
to fight off predators. Most pigs will run
from danger and would only charge if cornered
my male pigs have had their tusks permanently
removed, but they grew back on two of
my pigs. This is a very delicate operation
and there is no guarantee that all the
roots can be removed successfully, this
procedure should only be done by an experienced
Vet. The end result is that the tusks
don’t grow back if correctly removed.
Some vets remove the pigs “needle
teeth” thinking that they are the
tusks and by the time the tusks grow,
it’s too late to remove them. The
recommended age is 5-6 months no later
as the roots begin to set into the gums
and anaesthetics can be a problem in older
Pigs are susceptible to a condition called
Some anaesthetic agents may increase the risk
of you pig dying from this condition. Check
with you vet to be sure the anaesthetic being
used is safe for pigs. Gas anaesthetic should
All piglets should be vaccinated before
they are sold. They should have had
their first Vaccination shot at 4 weeks and
a second shot at 6 weeks before they are sold.
The Vaccine is called “Lepto-Eryvac”
which offers protection from the two most
common infectious diseases (Leptospirosis
and Erysipelas). It is recommended
to vaccinate your pig every twelve months.
Parasite Control (Including
Your piglet or piglets should be wormed
before they are sold. Pigs may suffer
from internal parasites (commonly called Worms)
and external parasites (mites and lice). There
are very few products on the market that kill
both worms and external parasites.
The life cycle of most parasites is
about 21 days from hatching to laying eggs.
Should you find little insects on your piglet,
you are most probably seeing sucking lice
(Haematopinus suis). These are insects normally
found on pigs and are not capable of living
away from the host pig. They are transmitted
from pig to pig on contact and are not transferable
to other species such as: humans, dogs and
Note: Only adult and immature lice
are killed by the Ivomec treatment. Should
your pig have lice eggs on its coat you will
need to wait till those eggs hatch before
they are susceptible to the treatment?
The product used to kill the parasites (internal
" worms" and external insect lice)
on your piglet is Ivomec Antiparasitic
Injection for Pigs. This product
is injected under the skin of the neck and
is also available as an oral preparation called
Ivermectin Premix for Pigs.
(You should be able to buy it or order it
from your local Stock & Station Agent,
Produce Shop or Stock Feed Supplier or Vet).
Ivermectin, the active ingredient
of both of these products (it is the drug
of choice for your pig) will effectively rid
your piglet of immature and adult lice but
due to the presence of lice eggs on your piglet’s
coat, you will need to repeat the dose of
Ivermectin at two weekly
intervals (3 times) to catch all hatching
eggs. Once this is done, provided your piglet
does not contact another pig with lice your
piglet should remain lice free forever.
By medicating your pig three times at two
weekly intervals and provided he does not
come in contact with untreated pigs and your
property has not previously had pigs on it,
he should remain free from all internal parasites,
provided that he is kept on clean, non-contaminated
If you have purchased a “breeding
sow” she is able to pass on
a particular worm on to her piglets through
her milk. Treat her 7-10 days before farrowing
to stop the piglets getting this type of worm.
You should consult your Vet for advice as
to what is best.
Insecticides only kill immature and adult
lice. Adult lice lay eggs that are not affected
by insecticides. Flea rinses, will kill adult
lice but are usually toxic chemicals and again
do not kill the eggs, so that they will need
to be repeated twice at two weekly intervals.
Due to their toxicity they are not
All pigs have naturally dry skin. If your
piglet’s or pig’s skin is drier
than usual or flaky and scaly, use some olive
oil to moisten it, freshen and restore it
to a healthy condition but be careful with
white skin pigs as they can sunburn easily.
It may be useful to do this in the late afternoon
or evening. If the problem persists, then
a worming product might be the solution.
Some pigs lose their coats in summer and others
thin out (like most animals) and grow a thick
coat again for the winter. Don’t panic
if hands full of hair are coming off your
pig in summer months, it is normal.
It isn’t necessary, but nice to know
a little history about where your piglet’s
family and ancestors came from?
Some breeders give you a Certificate with
your piglet, with details of its date of birth,
age, sex, parent’s names, worming, vaccinations,
age, colour, de-sexing etc… It’s
not necessary or important to have one, but
it’s nice to keep a record with important
Final Tip… your pet pig, should
not have too many health problems if its
given adequate space, good housing and
shelter, a place to wallow, plenty of
water, the right diet, regular walks and
exercise, and plenty of love, attention,
belly rubs and regular worming. Your pig
should remain happy and healthy for many
– All Rights Reserved
For More Information
on Raising & Training Pigs, General Advice,
Piglet Enquiries, & De-sexing contact:
“Happy Farm” PO Box 8 Adelong
NSW 2729 - Australia
Tel/Fax: 02 6946 2699
Mobile: 0413 842 031