I had a chance encounter over the weekend with the owner of a miniature pig. I sparked up a conversation with the owner (Karen O. of Virginia) and doted on her porcine pal (Valentine) for a bit. When it came up that I run a blog on miniature pigs, Karen exclaimed with joy, “Oh! Great! Do you know how I can teach Val to use the stairs? She won’t climb up or descend down the stairs unless I carry her.”
It’s a common lament that can lead to considerable frustration especially when the owner is a little thing like Karen and the pig has grown to a compact 50+ pounds. I nodded sagely and then, without cracking a smile, told her to install a water slide.
After letting her stare at me as if I were an alien for a few seconds, I laughed, swore I was just kidding and let her know that the two solutions to her problem are to 1) cater to a miniature pig’s greatest love and 2) exercise patience.
I went on to ask if her pig had a favorite treat (turns out Val loves celery) and suggested she train her by setting her at the top of the stairs and placing bits of celery leading down the stairs in a follow-the-bread-crumbs approach. Step two is to leave her alone, be patient and let Val’s passion for crunchy veggies do the rest. I recommended this process should be repeated several times a day for as long as it takes while gradually reducing the amount of celery used until Val happily trots down the stairs on her own without the incentive of food.read more information about training a micro pigs by clicking here
Once Val is comfortable heading down the stairs, train her to go up them as well using the same technique.
I warned Karen that it may be some time before Val’s comfort level makes a fear of stair climbing a thing of the past, but that catering to her love of celery and exercising patience while she learns is a proven method to help get past hurdles such as this.
It’s important to note that Valentine is big enough to navigate the risers of Karen’s stairs. If your own miniature pig has this problem but is particularly young and small, a jaunt to the hardware store may be in order. Build yourself a small set of stairs. The stairs should have a shorter than usual rise (the part that goes up) and a wider than usual run (the platform part you stand on). Place your custom mini-stairs against a platform, put your mini pig on the platform and then follow the bread-crumb technique above with your pig’s favorite treat.
For those wondering why miniature pigs balk at traveling up and down stairs, it likely has to do with poor flexibility and no real natural or instinctive climbing incentives. Without the agility and flexibility enjoyed by cats and dogs, stairs can be a real challenge. With that in mind, be prepared for your piggy to slip or take a tumble and be on standby to help catch her fall. I’d suggest keeping her harnessed and on a leash until she gets the hang of things but she may simply ignore the food and wait for you to carry her if you remain nearby. You’ll have to decide for yourself how to safely teach this lesson but a short set of stairs (if available) baited with food and you out of sight will probably be most effective without representing too much of a risk.