The Prey Intellect Awareness Technique (PIA Technique) was developed and mastered by Johnathon and Katelyn Goltz of The Mini Pig Farrier. After being introduced into the miniature pet pig community by accident, we quickly learned about the need for a sedation-free option for pigs in need of routine hoof trimming services.
Early Pig Hoof Trimming Discoveries
Educational materials were sorely lacking for miniature pig hoof trimming in 2017 before the formation of our blog. The videos we came across showed barbaric practices. Some farriers used ropes to yank a pig down. Others used their knees to dig into the sides of pigs while attempting to get pigs off balance to flip. Snout snares were used to catch potbelly pigs and hold them in place for trimming. Other videos show pigs tied to a fence panel to be trimmed while standing. Far more materials mentioned use of sedation in the form of alcohol and veterinary prescribed sedatives.
All of this material was shocking to us. With both of us coming from various backgrounds in pet industries, we view pets as part of the family. Pigs were no different. Why were others treating these highly intelligent animals with such disrespect?
The Prey Intellect Awareness Technique
Due to the lack of educational materials (and overall treatment of pet pigs), we developed our own unique style. We observed what NOT to do. Performing controlled simulations and troubleshooting helped further our style. Having the opportunity to pivot and adapt on-site with various temperaments of pigs at private sanctuaries also helped prepare for the unexpected. To date, we learn from clients about more outdated (and dangerous) methods sadly still being used by other hoof trimmers.
We felt the need to open up to our technique as a full-time specialized trimmer whose daily clientele is solely pigs. Anyone can develop a technique or method. What’s important is to know how to explain why one does what they do. Always be curious. Ask your hoof trimmer why they use a certain tool, why they hold your pig the way they do, why they believe sedation is the “best” option.
The Mini Pig Farrier uses a holistic approach to sedation-free miniature pig hoof trimming. There is a much bigger picture many pig owners and curious parties do not see or notice in person or videos. Our technique is just the surface of providing top-notch hoof trimming services. The Prey Intellect Awareness Technique involves the following understanding and application of the following components pre- intra- and post-trim for miniature pigs:
Pigs Are Prey Animals
Pigs are prey animals. They respond to situations much more differently than predators. A pigs’ last resort is using violence. Running, jumping, hiding, squealing are first choices. Pigs are quick, strong, and intelligent. What you may have planned will be a totally different plan for a pig if they can help it.
Dominant Stance Over a Pig
A pig being flipped on their back to immobilize them is the most standard form of restraining. Yes, flip the pig is a type of restraining method. Far too many trimmers and veterinarians stand over pigs’ bellies the full duration of hoof trimming. A pig’s most delicate area least protected by their thick skin is their belly. By understanding prey, their typical response is going to be SURVIVE. This is when most pigs kick, squeal, and some attempt to bite. They may also try to flop back and forth, especially if they have a longer torso. Our patent-pending pig restraining system helps keep pigs securely on their back, protecting their shoulders, spine, and hips. The compression of this system also calms about 90-95% of our cases compared to previous experiences mentioned by owners. This also allows us to sit at the sides of a pig, alleviating stress of a typical prey response.
Pig Fight and Flight Response
As mentioned before, a pig’s first response will be running, jumping, hiding, and squealing. This can be especially frustrating for a pig owner or service that doesn’t work with pigs regularly. By understanding a pigs’ natural response can also include swiping, biting, charging, we can prepare for all spectrums of pig behavior upon arrival. This includes but is not limited to:
- Use of livestock sorting boards
- A PDF explaining ideal pen or enclosure setup prior to our arrival
- Removal of items that can potentially injure the pig and trimmer
- Safety equipment (such as our HexArmor gear)
- Keeping all other animals away or separated from a trimming area
Sensory Adaptation During Pig Hoof Trimming
Sensory adaptation is a reduction in sensitivity to a stimulus after constant exposure to it. We use sensory adaptation with the grinding tools we use on pig hooves. Our two main tools used are Hoof Boss and a Milwaukee rotary too. The way we acclimate a mini pig is in the following steps:
- Turn the tool on
- Allow the tool to run
- Gently touch the back of the tool to the leg/hoof so the pig feels the vibration
- Slowly ease into filing the hoof
- Repeat the process with each leg
We believe in a slow and steady approach. Sure, we could rush the process, but this doesn’t help the pigs’ mental state. This allows for a positive experience. Pigs realize they are not being hurt. Fight/flight mechanism begins lowering.
Calming Methods During Pig Hoof Trimming
During pig hoof trimming, calming methods may be implemented. Some pigs prefer music being played. Others prefer a pillow under their head or a blanket tucked over their eyes. We have had some owners sit at their pigs’ head and talk to their critters which further strengthens their bond energetically. As a team hoof trimming service, John (trimmer) is able to focus on the hooves while Katelyn (assistant and content curator) is able to focus on talking to and gently petting pigs on their back.
Always end on a positive note. Use kind words when talking to a pig. Don’t talk down to or bully a pig who is in a vulnerable position. It’s detrimental for their mental state.
Another suggestion given to our clients is to have a nice treat or meal ready for their pig post-trim. This tiny gesture of positive reinforcement helps your intelligent pet pig relate hoof trimming as a positive experience. Allow your pig the space to move away from the area if they need the decompression. Don’t run after, yell, or get into your pigs’ space immediately after. Let them make the choice to come to you or come back to the area. If they were a bit more fussy than you would have liked, that’s okay. Hoof trimming progression and behavioral training isn’t linear. There will be hiccups along the way.
By understanding and mastering these intricate components, our hoof trimming technique has made us the most well-respected and highly recommended service by pig owners, trimmers, mixed species behavioral trainers. and Veterinarians today. Implementing these practices has become much less stressful for pigs who have had a previously traumatic experience. Owners are less anxious. Pigs are less reactive. Balance restores.
We believe hoof trimming is more than hoof trimming. A hoof trim is a long term requirement for most pigs who cannot fully self-maintain their hooves; therefore, making a hoof trim a positive experience is essential. We invite you to learn more about our approach through our blog, social media posts, and videos.