Stairs versus Ramps
Stairs / Jumping
Yes, pigs can do stairs. At least younger pigs can. Carpeted stairs are the best for them. Make sure they have plenty of good lighting to see and there is no rush or bickering at the steps if you have more than one pig.
Personally, I don't like steps at all. If a pig is midsize and not overweight, they may be able to do it okay. But if they are 'weight challenged' they will not be able to see well. Remember: Their eyesight is not the best in the world to begin with. Steps that are 6-7 inches deep may look like a canyon to them. Also, stairs can eventually cause leg and joint problems for the pig as it gets older. So, your pig may be able to do stairs when young, but will not be able to when she gets older.
Doing steps can put an enormous stress on their joints, which can produce hairline size cracks at the elbow joints. Those little cracks can sometimes make the pig loose footing and fall to one side often resulting in a pinched nerve. This could be temporary, if you are lucky, or it could cause permanent damage.
Pot belly pig's skin is so tight it compresses the pinched area and when the nerve gets pinched it will generally swell up in that area. This is very painful for the pig.
This is another reason you should not let or encourage your pig to jump off and on furniture. Not only could they end up with a pinched nerve, they might end up with a broken leg or back. This has happened many times before and is very sad.
When Ziggy and Flower were younger and a bit smaller they loved going upstairs and getting into trouble. Well when Flower would come down the steps she would almost every time skip the last step and jump to the floor below. We were very lucky and no pinched nerves or broken bones here. We no longer have to worry about them going upstairs. They have decided on their own not to do them and we don't even have to gate it off when we leave the house.
Bottom line: Pigs are not really made for jumping or climbing stairs (they do not jump or climb stairs in the wild). Try not to encourage this, particularly if they are adult pigs.
This is the front of our house where Ziggy and Flower must come in and out. The one to the left is the one Ziggy uses. Flower will use either one.
To get in and out of our house here there are two steps that surround the front door. To the right is a picture as it is hard to explain. We have two ramps now as sometimes Ziggy isn't fast enough for Flower and they both get to the ramp at the same time. This is a recipe for an accident, ergo the two ramps. They are not fancy, but made nice and strong, which is good as Ziggy will freak if the ramp moves just a millimeter.
I highly recommend that if your pig must go up and down a few steps to get in and out of the house that you build a ramp. Teach them now while they are young and get them used to it. They might also need a ramp to get in and out of your car.
The most important thing to remember when buying or building a ramp is to make it sturdy. Flower isn't too bad if it moves (bounces) a little, but Ziggy will not get on it if it moves or bows at all. If it does that, that's it. They need to feel secure on the ramp.
Our ramps are wood, hand made and very heavy. You can either make your own or buy one. If you choose to buy one check places like Home Depot. Someone once recommended the RC Steele catalog. These are usually for dogs and may not hold the heavier pigs. Make it as fancy or simple as you want. Just make it sturdy. You can try putting some carpet on it, non-slip tape, diving board materials or slats.
When first training your pig to use the ramp just lay it flat on the ground and get your pig used to walking on it. Teach a command, such as "up ramp", "down ramp". Keep it simple.
Some recommend treats only when the pig has reached the top or bottom of the ramp. We taught ours by putting a treat every few slats and then rewarding at the top and bottom. Once they were comfortable doing the ramp we stopped putting treats on the slats and only rewarded at the top or bottom of the ramp.
If you stop using the ramp for an extended period of time you may have to retrain your pig. Never punish him for this. He will only regress. There were a couple of years when we used to take trips that we had to retrain Ziggy and Flower to use the ramp in and out of the car. This is because we wouldn't take them any where during the winter. Then come spring we were ready to go again and they weren't. They just had to get used to doing it at such an incline again.
Below are a few more photos of ramp usage.
This is Ziggy coming out of our vehicle and down the ramp.
We always had to retrain him after each winter.
This is Seamus using his ramp up into the van. It has just a little
carpeting on it to help with any sliding. (04/2002)
He would get so excited when he figured it out again and would go
up and down with ease, for treats of course!
Here we have Porgy and Bess with their mom Sandy. They are going
up the folding ramp that their dad made just for them.
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.