How To Discipline A Ferret


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Ferrets are cuddly little balls of mischief.

You look away for a moment, and they’ll try to burrow into everything they can get their paws on.

They sleep 18 hours a day, and zoom around the remaining hours.

They bring endless enjoyment and are the perfect little additions to any family. They’re quiet, easy to care for and take up very little space. Their intelligence rivals dogs and they can shake hands, fetch, and learn to sit.

These zippy little creatures are curious about everything they see, and they’re ready to play at the drop of a hat.

Their high intelligence does mean they can get hard-headed at times, though.

Like every person, every ferret has their own personality that you’ll need to understand before you can train them.

So, how to discipline a ferret?

First, let’s look at common mistakes most people make when trying to discipline their ferret.

Common Mistakes.

1. Never use your ferret’s cage for punishments.

Associating the cage with punishment backfires when you place your ferret into their cage for sleep every night. They’ll stress over what they did wrong and never understand why they’re being punished every day. They might even begin avoiding their cages altogether.

So, how to discipline a ferret using time-outs then? Simply use an alternate cage as the punishment cage, and the primary cage as their home.

2. Never apply pressure on their noses.

Ferrets have an incredible sense of smell. Most people with deaf ferrets never even realize their ferrets are blind.

Unfortunately, some ferret owners attempt to punish their misbehaving ferret by flicking them on their nose. This is never recommended. Their nasal cavities can be permanently damaged because of how small and fragile they are.

3. Never have their canines removed or filed.

This qualifies as animal abuse and is completely unnecessary. Nipping and biting are problems every ferret owner faces, but there are simpler solutions.

Any veterinarian worth their qualifications would refuse anyway.

4. Never yell at your ferrets.

Ferrets are small animals. Yelling can easily frighten them and stress them out.

A stressed ferret does not respond well to training and is actually counterproductive for your training purposes.

5. Never hit your ferrets.

The average ferret is 2 pounds (0.91 kilograms). Getting hit by a human is the equivalent of a human getting hit by a car.

Don’t do it. Only light taps are acceptable, and only as a means to catch their attention when they’re being naughty.

All training can be accomplished with a simple system of incentives and deterrents. Hitting a ferret after being bit only causes them to bite harder.

Since every ferret is different, what works for one might not work for another.

So keep multiple rewards and punishments on hand. Watch what they react to the strongest and repeat those.

How to Discipline a Ferret With Rewards.

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It’s possible to train a ferret to sit still, fetch, and go to the bathroom as long as you condition your ferret,

Does your ferret have a favorite food? Immediately reward them with a taste when they perform a behavior you want them to repeat.

Yogurt treats and raisins work well. A couple of licks is all you need to associate their behavior with a positive stimulus.

You can give them cuddles and hugs or a few minutes of playtime right after the desired behavior as well.

If your reward lasts longer than 5 minutes, the ferret won’t remember why it was rewarded in the first place. The rewards should be given with gaps of 30 minutes to refresh their memory every time.

As an example, let’s see how you can teach a ferret their name with the help of rewards.

Simply call your ferret by their name until they come over. Then reward them with a treat when they respond. Repeat this as often as possible. Your ferret will only intermittently respond in the early stages. Eventually, they will come over every single time you use their name.

Ensure that whatever treatment you use, you do not overdose your ferret. Find out the overdose amounts for your treats and keep them in mind at all times.

Gastrointestinal problems are common in ferrets, so watch out for weight loss, diarrhea, dehydration and lack of energy.

How to Discipline a Ferret With Punishments.

Nipping, biting, chewing on carpeting, going to potty outside their litter box are common problems every ferret owner faces. Ferrets are incredibly inquisitive when it comes to play, so you need to watch where they like to burrow.

The synthetic materials in carpeting can actually injure ferrets when they dig into them. Learn your ferret’s habits and where they like to hide. They’re incredibly quiet so you might never be able to find them later on unless you know their hiding spots.

The simplest and best method of deterrence is loudly saying, “No!” when your ferret does something bad.

This is easier said than done, though. Ferrets can completely ignore their owner’s pleas and carry on with their naughty behavior. They can be stubborn when you try to take their fun away.

Instead, catch their attention by clapping your hands and loudly saying the word “No!”.

If that fails, you can fill a few coins in a can, and gently toss it right behind the ferret to catch its attention. Then repeat the word, “No!”.

The goal is to get them to associate the word “No!” with punishment.

If the can technique fails as well, then very lightly tap your ferret on its bottom and repeat the word “No!”.

It will take several repetitions, but your ferret will eventually learn as long as you catch its attention successfully. Failing both of these, you can pick up your ferret and put them in a punishment cage for their time out. If they repeat the bad behavior, into the time-out cage they go again until they learn.

Remember, punishments should only be reserved for actions that are destructive and damaging.

The most common need for discipline is biting/nipping at the skin.

Ferrets bite because they’re used to biting other ferrets who have the same thick skin and fur they do. Humans don’t have the privilege of a thick coat of fur, and your ferret simply doesn’t know that.

Ideally, you should socialize a ferret against biting when it’s still a child(Until it’s 6 months old). Behaviors are hard to reverse when they become adults.

Never let your children continue to play with a ferret after it’s bitten them. If a person yelps and responds emotionally after being bitten, it’s a cue to the ferret that their biting is fun and rewarding. Simply don’t respond, and stop all play when any biting occurs.

There are plenty of other deterrents for biting as well.

Pet spray is a common tool for ferret owners. Bitter apple is a popular one, meant to be sprayed on skin where they bite, or even on furniture they have a tendency to bite.

Don’t dilute your efforts by forgetting to give punishments when they’re needed.

It might seem your pet isn’t learning at times, but don’t be misled. Ferrets are smart and perfectly capable of understanding you don’t want certain behaviors.

They’re simply stubborn and don’t like having their fun taken away.

There are times when punishment is unwarranted, however.

For instance, how to discipline ferrets if they’re blind? Is your blind ferret being disobedient, or are they biting you by complete accident?

Make Sure the Punishment is Deserved.

Something extremely important to keep in mind is the fact that ferrets have limited vision. Lots of ferrets are blind and depend solely on their sense of smell to get around.

This frequently results in accidents that are completely avoidable and are no fault of your ferret at all.

Any person approaching a ferret, blind or otherwise, should do so with caution. If surprised, they can react by nipping at their source of surprise. This is never a call for discipline, but rather learn to alert your ferret to your presence before you touch it.

Even with well-behaved ferrets, there are instances where biting still occurs.

Chemical irritants that people use such as deodorants, mouthwashes, shaving creams, etc., all assault the ferret’s delicate sense of smell.

These irritants can cause them to lash out, and cause distress.

Scared ferrets often seek refuge by hiding under things like sofas and cars. If you approach a ferret that is trying to keep itself hidden, it’s possible that your sudden presence might frighten it further.

Always make your presence known to a ferret before you pick it up in such instances. You can stomp on the ground to let your ferret know you’re nearby. And look for tell-tale signs of fear and anxiety from their body language.

A scared ferret cowers down and prefers to look at the source of their fear by looking over their shoulder. They can even hiss when they feel threatened or shriek if they feel terrified.

Ferrets are harmless little animals, loyal to a fault and pair-bond with humans well. Use punishments only when necessary and consider if any aggression came from a place of fear first.

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