Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Stairs vs Ramps For Mini Pigs

Can pigs use stairs is a question we get a lot. Yes, pigs can use/do stairs, but that doesn't mean that they should. We find that younger pigs can handle stairs much better than older pigs, and as they get older they no longer want to use the stairs. And in most cases they won't go down steps, but will come up them. They prefer to go down a ramp and will come up the step(s). This is something that you need to consider when getting a pig for a pet.

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 lose 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 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 (on or off of furniture) or climbing stairs (they do not jump or climb stairs in the wild). Try not to encourage this, particularly if they are adult pigs.

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 either buy or 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 sure it sturdy. Some pigs don't mind a little movement, but others will not get on it if it moves the slightest amount. They need to feel secure on the ramp.

Our ramps were made of wood, and very heavy.  Make your ramp 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. Use what makes your pig feel safe.

Portable ramps that are made for dogs are nice for your vehicle. Just make sure that it will hold the weight of your pig. I have a portable ramp that is from PetStep and will hold up to a 500lb animal. I had a friend add 2x4’s under it though for extra support since it was being used on a regular basis.

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.

I don’t have any directions for building a ramp, but can show you some pictures and info and hopefully you can duplicate or make something similar that will work for your needs. This is a really good ramp that was built for a friend of mine many years ago...so I don't have directions. As you can see this is nice and wide and has a support in the middle (which you might want to consider with a longer ramp) along with "sides" with a couple of braces that seem to be 3 2x4's. It is just enough to keep them going down the ramp and not over the sides.

Mr. Einswiner's ramp.

Below you will see the ramp that we used for Ziggy to go down a couple of steps and up/down into the Explorer. We had slats every few inches and just a 2x4 along each side to help guide. Each pig is different so they have different needs.

Ziggy on his ramp coming out of the Explorer.
Below are before and after pictures that were sent in after someone had emailed me for help on getting their pig to go outside. Once we figured out that the issue was probably the ramp I sent them a picture of Mr. Einswiner's ramp. Their pig now goes in and out with no issues.

Ramp before

Ramp after                                 

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