I have recently come into possession of a miniature pig called Sue. She is very sweet and affectionate, but she has a bad habit of digging up my garden with her nose. What are your thoughts on nose rings to stop her digging? — Tristan, Picton
Pigs use their snouts to find food and yummy treats like roots, grubs, and even truffles.
This activity is called ‘‘rooting’’ and is, as you have discovered, harmful for lawns and gardens.
Nose rings have been used to stop pigs from expressing their strong biological drive to use their snout to dig.
These rings makes it painful for the pigs when they are trying to dig with their snout.
Studies of porcine behaviour have shown that being unable to root is very frustrating for pigs, because the pigs can no longer express normal nesting and digging behaviour.
The RSPCA says pigs must not be nose-ringed to prevent them from rooting and foraging because this unreasonably restricts normal behavioural patterns through noxious stimulation.
I agree, and strongly encourage training and providing pigs with alternatives that allow foraging behaviour while at the same time preventing adverse effects on the environment.
I do not perform nose ringing in pigs and do not recommend it.
Here are some tips to help you have a nice garden and at the same time enable your pig Sue to express herself:
Accept the fact that she needs to dig and forage and accept this activity too as part of your daily routine.
Give your pig toys that simulate rooting and use of the snout — bowling balls, for example Kongs®, puzzle blocks.
Provide a digging and foraging area where Sue can dig. If you have a small yard and this is not practical, a sandbox can be used in which to hide treats/food and provide a foraging area for your pig.
Supervise your pig or restrict access to lawns, garden beds or areas that you do not want her to dig.
Encourage rooting only in selected areas or play zones.
Remember that pigs are very affectionate and curious, as well as being highly intelligent and responsive to intelligent and sympathetic treatment. This means that they can be easily trained too.