If you want your show pig to impress livestock judges, you need to take every step possible. That means using the right tools and supplies, grooming your show pig properly, knowing when to start training, practicing driving him as often as you can, having the right registration and health forms—and of course, being patient.
But above all, you need to make sure they obey your commands and walk properly, because if your pig runs, your judges will think you haven’t the trained your pig.
So how do you train your pig to strut his walk and not run?
Watch our video demonstration, courtesy of NEO livestock-judge-in-training Carter (or keep reading) for tips and tricks to get the best results.
You Need to Have the Right Pig Whip (and Use it Correctly)
You can have the best pig whip on the market, but it won’t do you much good if you aren’t using it properly. Fortunately, you can follow these common-sense steps to use your whip so your pig won’t run.
Hold Your Whip Properly
This might seem minor, but the way you hold your whip can mean the difference between a pig that walks where you want one that starts to run.
It’s important to grip your whip firmly. You should always hold it with your thumb and index finger extended. This will give you much better control over the whip (and your show pig). Above all, never hold the whip loosely in your hand the way you might hold a pencil (with the whip between the index and middle fingers).
Walk Your Pig at an Even Pace by Using the “Go Button”
The best way to ensure your pig walks when you want them to—and at a steady, even pace—is by tapping them gently on what’s referred to as the “go button.”
But where can you find the go button, exactly?
It’s on your pig’s side about midway between their shoulder and their flank. But don’t tap your pig on their head or on their rear end, as you want their head held high and confident.
“When their head is up and their back is level, they look their best,” says Carter.
And if you want them to walk (not run) a little faster, you can tap them gently on the side.
Tap Your Pig on the Side of Their Face to Turn Them
During the show, judges will ask you to turn your pig a certain way. The best way to turn your pig is by gently tapping the side of their face. If you want them to turn left, tap the right side of their face. If you want them to turn right, gently tap the left side of their face.
Use the Whip on Your Pig’s Chin to Keep Their Head Up
Judges won’t like it if your pig’s head is down. So, if you want to make a good impression, simply tap your pig on the jaw and they will instinctively raise their head.
“You really want to watch where you’re placing the whip because sometimes, if you don’t tap exactly underneath their chin, they’re not going to look as good for you,” explains Carter. “So you’ve got to get right underneath their chin to get their head up.”
Start Sooner Than Later
You can’t wait until the day you show your pig to get this right—you should begin training them well in advance. This is for two reasons: You want to give your pig plenty of time to understand your expectations, so they respond to your commands.
But it’s also about strength and conditioning.
“When you first start out, you just kind of want to let them walk where they want and then eventually slowly start building up their speed and working longer times to build their endurance. You want to start at five to ten minutes and then work your way up to a half hour or forty-five minutes,” recommends Carter.
You’ll learn during your practice sessions how (and how often) you need to use your whip so your pig holds their head high through the entire showing.
Show Some Piggy Patience
Scientific studies show that pigs are remarkably intelligent—more intelligent than dogs, even! That means your pig should be able to to learn and to obey your commands relatively easily. That said, it’s important to be patient with your pig especially when you first start training him. They’ll need some time to understand what you want them to do.
As with dogs, the best rule of thumb is never to scold or punish bad behavior, but rather to reward good behavior by petting them and giving them their favorite treats.
Making Sure Your Show Pig Doesn’t Run
To ensure your pig walks the way you want, turns on command, keeps their head high—and doesn’t run—you need lots of practice and lots of patience (especially if you’re training a stubborn show pig). You also need a whip that simplifies training for the best results when you show your pig.