Harness & Lead Training
Harness training is really a lot easier than it sounds. ALWAYS tell the pig what you are going to do before you do it. Just remember that a harness is NOT a "pig-handle", it is a way to communicate to and to protect your pig. DO NOT leave the harness on your pig for long amounts of time and DO NOT use the harness and lead to tie your pig up. These harnesses are not made for that and can cause problems if left on for long periods.
The right kind of harness makes training much easier. The best type of harness is designed especially for pet pigs. There are two different styles A & H. Most A style harnesses slip on over the pigs head and will snap behind the front legs or girth. The H tyle has two snaps. One that snaps around the neck one that snaps around the girth. Either will fit the pig securely and comfortably. Pigs4Ever now carries what is called a Modified A style harness. What this means is that it looks and fits like the regular A harness except that it has snaps for both the neck and girth.
Whether you have a piglet or larger pig, measure the pig carefully using a flexible tape measure (the kind used in sewing). Measure around piggy's neck and piggy's girth (around the body just behind the front legs and over the shoulders). If piggy isn't interested in sharing his measurements with you, use a treat or handful of piggy food to distract him. With the right harness in the right size, you're ready to begin.
IS YOUR PIG READY FOR HARNESS TRAINING?
If you are able to touch and scratch your pig, he's ready. Touch-Me-Not pigs that are afraid of people need a bit more socializing first. Stay with piggy while he eats, talking to him and trying to touch him the whole time. In a few short days your pig should be comfortable enough with you to begin harness training.
NEVER force your pig into a harness. The first step is to introduce your pig to the new harness. Show it to him, tell him what it is, and that he will be wearing it. Let him sniff and taste it. Rub it all over his body.
HOW TO BEGIN HARNESS TRAINING
Now distract your pig by scattering a little pig food on the ground. Come up with a phrase you want your pig to associate with putting on the harness. Move slowly and speak softly. If using the H or Modifided A Style harness, put the first loop under the piggy's throat, and fasten it around his neck. If using the A Style harness, slip your pigs head through the loop. If your pig gets upset or jumpy, distract him with a little bit more food and reassure him that everything is OK. If he is really upset, and does not settle down quickly, take the harness off, using the phrase you want to associate with taking the harness off.
The next step is to buckle the second loop around your pigs girth (behind the front legs), and adjust the harness so that it is snug but not tight. (Hopefully this was taken care before you put the harness on your pig, but sometimes you will still need to adjust the harness). If your pig will not let you adjust the harness while it is on him take it off and adjust. Let him wear it for a few minutes, then take it off. Don't stress your pig out by leaving it on too long the first time. By the second or third time your pig should be comfortable enough to wear his harness for longer periods of time (provided he stays in safe, familiar surroundings).
If you need to adjust the harness while piggy is wearing it, don't just reach down and grab. Tell your pig what you are going to do first. When you can slip the harness on and off quickly and easily with minimal protests on piggy's part, you're ready to attach the lead. Do this in a confined area such as indoors or a fairly small, fenced area. Use a fairly short (10' or less) lead.
ONCE YOU GET THE HARNESS ON YOUR PIG
Pigs in the wild are prey, and the only time they are ever restrained is by a predator, shortly before they become the entree. So when your piggy realizes he is restrained by the lead and harness, he may freak out. Again remember, this is a normal reaction that Mother Natures has given them. When they are restrained, they can get very wild until they learn that the harness, lead and you guiding them is safe.
Let him wear it and drag the leash for a while. Next pick it up and let him go wherever he wants to. Then, put a little pressure on the leash, call his name, and give him a treat the minute he turns his head in your direction. Next stand a few steps away, pull the leash, call and hold the treat so he has to walk a step or two to get it. In a couple of days, he should be walking on the leash. The secret is the immediate reward as soon as he looks at you.
After a couple of times, your pig will understand that he is free to move around as long as he stays close to you. Getting a harness and lead on your pig is easy. Getting him to walk along with you is trickier. Pigs have minds of their own. It may seem as if the harness and lead will let you control where the pig goes, but from his perspective YOU are the one on a lead. He may happily try to lead you around, or take a slow and leisurely stroll, stopping to dine along the way.
To teach your pig to walk along with you at your pace, start in the direction you want to go, speaking the phrase you want him to associate with walking nicely on a leash, like "walk". If piggy stays with you, great! Give him a tiny treat and tell him what a good pig he is. If not, when you are as far apart as the lead will allow, call your pig to you and give him a single treat. When he approaches you, continue walking in the direction you want to go, and give him the treat as soon as he is close to you. Keep doing this over and over again. Remember to keep sessions short.
One other note: If you attempt any of this by forcing the pig (pulling him along, jerking him with the lead, etc.), you can pretty much forget about having a pig that is well trained with a harness. Remember, they learn and respond quickly by you using treats, gentleness and compassion.
Once a pig is harness trained, he is harness trained for life. Pigs never forget.
The information presented within our information and resources section has been collected from what we consider experts and various reputable persons including vets, sanctuary owners, and private pig owners among othsrs. Information shown is the latest available. Although we have had pet pigs for 20 years and consider ourselves quite knowledgeable, we are by no means veterinarians. Any health related information presented below should be checked out with your personal veterinarian.