So if we want to use dominance theory as a way to manage our pigs, we should be aware that it will ONLY work if we are right there, ready to stop a behavior. When a pig attacks someone or something (whether it has anything to do with dominance… that’s a topic for another day), I often hear people exclaim that we must attain dominance over the pig so that the pig knows that we control the space and stops attacking. Well, it MIGHT work… so long as we are standing right there. Are you prepared to stand within striking distance of your pig for the next 18 years? Pigs are sneaky and clever as it is. Manage them through force and they will just learn alternative strategies for getting what they want. On top of that, we often risk further exacerbating aggression problems by using force and punishment when we want to stop a behavior.
More effectively, why don’t we make sure to control the environment so that Pig doesn’t get into trouble in the first place? If Pig can’t get into the kitchen to open the cupboards, not only will we avoid being tempted to use aversives, but Pig also wont have the opportunity to learn to be sneaky and to go into the kitchen when we aren’t looking or aren’t paying attention.
Managing the pig’s environment to prevent problems is one of the most effective ways of avoiding problem behaviors. Showing your pig that you are dominant probably won’t stop behavior problems; it will simply create a pig that learns alternative strategies for getting what he wants. Controlling the environment to avoid behavior problems in the first place often leads to more successful, less stressful relationships. While it might be possible to manage a pig through dominance, we should be aware, scientifically, of what dominance actually is, so that we know what to expect. Attaining dominance over a pig won’t lead to a pig that automatically behaves and stops getting into trouble. It will lead to a pig that is sneaky and devious about getting what he wants.