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A ferret can be a great household pet. Many people think that ferrets are a type of rodent. This is not true. The ferret is related to the European polecat. It is a domesticated animal that can be kept as a pet. They are playful animals that get adjusted to humans well. Owning a ferret is just like owning a cat or dog. However, the ferret needs to be trained properly so that it is adjusted to the home and the owner. The article tells you how to train a pet ferret so it makes a great pet.
Choosing a pet ferret
Before understanding how to train a pet ferret, let’s first look at how to select a pet ferret. When you buy a ferret, keep the following criteria in mind before you buy one:
- Choose a young ferret as it would be easy to train and manage.
- Look at the body condition, a too-thin ferret may not be in good health.
- It is important that the scent glands of the ferret be removed and it is de-sexed. Not de-sexing can make a male ferret aggressive and the female can face problems like bone marrow suppression.
- It should have a soft coat and not have any fleas.
- Check for any discharges from the mouth or anal region, as they could be indicative of diseases.
- Look for a ferret with healthy pink gums with no broken teeth.
Be ready to handle bites
Ferrets have a habit of biting people. You may end up with a ferret that has this habit. Ferrets have sharp teeth and when they nip, it can hurt a lot. Punishing the ferret is not a solution. This can make it scared and as a result, may bite harder. With a young ferret, showing a strong reaction to the biting may turn out to be counterproductive. It may think you are playing with it.
The best way to punish the ferret is to put it in a punishment cage. You can have a small cage of 60 x 30 cm. If your ferret bites, grab it by the scruff of its neck and move it to the cage. Let it remain there for 5 minutes. Doing this whenever it bites makes it realize it is not good to bite. If you keep it for long, it is unlikely to remember why it was punished.
Start with toilet training
The first lesson in how to train a pet ferret is to toilet train it. Ferrets can use a litter box like cats. It needs to be trained to do this properly. The litter box should be lined with newspapers. Avoid using wood shavings or anything that the ferret may chew on and harm it. The first time you put the litter box in the cage, let some of the excreta of the ferret be in it. The ferret will learn by its smell what to do.
Until the training is over, you can repeat this until the ferret learns to use the box properly. Make sure the cage is clean and does not have any excreta. This can spoil all the hard work. When the ferret uses the litter box, appreciate it with words and a pat on the head. This is a positive reinforcement technique that makes training effective.
One more tip is to use Apple bitter spray. Ferrets hate this smell. Spray this (or lemon juice) if your ferret does its business in some other area. It will understand that this area is to be avoided. Clean the litter box more than once a day. Once the ferret is fully trained, take out the box clean it, and put it back. Change the litter box lining once a week.
Some people don’t put the ferret in its cage. They like to leave it outside. In such a case, potty training is more challenging. When you see your ferret sniff an area and back up into it, keep the box there. Do this until the ferret learns that it needs to use the box. You can leave a bit of its excrement in the box so it uses it. If required, you can keep a few boxes around to avoid accidents. Reward the ferret with appreciation, a cuddle, and even a treat for using the box.
Train to shake hands
One of the key techniques on how to train a pet ferret is to train it to shake hands. When your ferret is watching you, offer your hand. Keep a tasty treat on your hand. When your ferret reaches out, give the treat and shake its paws. When you do this regularly, your ferret will learn to shake your hand in exchange for a treat.
Train it to sit
The next thing to do is to train your ferret to sit. This is a bit tricky. This is how you can do it. First, hold a treat above the ferret’s head. When it looks at the treat, lower it. Make sure it is out of the ferret’s reach. Use the word SIT to make it understand it has to sit. Do this until it sits. When it sits, offer the treat. Do this repeatedly until your ferret associates sitting down with a treat. Use positive reinforcement every time your pet ferret listens to you. Once it understands, it will start obeying your command even without a treat.
Train to roll
Your ferret is a playful animal. You can train it to roll over and play with you. Just like the other techniques, using a reward is the best way to do this. To start this training, you must ensure your ferret is on its back. You can make it lie down on its back before starting. Show the treat so your ferret is interested in it. Move the treat to one side. This will make it move the head to try to get the treat. Keep moving the treat slowly until it reaches the back of the head. To get the treat, the ferret has to roll over. Appreciate the ferret for mastering the rolling.
Make it come to you
Once the initial training techniques are done, you can then train it to follow your commands. You can train it to come to you. You would have taught your ferret to sit. So make it sit and move back a bit. Now call it by its name and use the word COME. The ferret is a curious animal. Once it has adjusted to you, it should come on its own. If it doesn’t show a treat to make it come. Reward it and praise for obeying the command.
In case your ferret has gone out of sight like gone to the garden then you should be able to get it to come to you. An easy way of doing this is to get a toy that squeaks when you press it. Call the ferret’s name loudly and use COME to call it. Press the toy so it hears the sound. Being curious it would come to you. Instead of a toy, you can even get a clicker and make a sound to call it.
Make it jump the hoop
Keep the hoop on the ground. Hold a treat and call your ferret to come. Use the word JUMP to make it learn to associate the hoop with this word. Once it comes through the hoop give the treat and praise it. Then move the hoop a bit up in the air. This will force the ferret to jump. Continue to do this slowly moving the hoop a little higher in the air. Do this until your ferret masters this trick.
Tips on training your ferret
- You may find your ferret ignoring all your attempts to train it. Don’t get frustrated or lose hope. Take it forward slowly. Patience is the key.
- Don’t use punishment when the ferret does not follow instructions. This will not work. The best technique is positive reinforcement where you use a treat, appreciation, a pat on the head, or a cuddle.
- Once your ferret is able to follow instructions, don’t offer the treat. Train it to sit, come, or roll without the treat. This may prove a bit difficult. But your ferret should have learned to associate the word you use with what is expected.
- The ferret is an intelligent animal. As long as you are patient and take things slowly, your ferret will be able to learn all tricks.
- Start with five minutes of training. Don’t exceed 10 or 15 minutes, else your ferret will lose interest.
The article on how to train a pet ferret gave you detailed step-by-step instructions to train your ferret. From toilet training to obeying your commands, your ferret can do everything. All you need is to be patient and take things slowly. Make sure you praise and offer a reward when your ferret obeys you. This is the best way to train your ferret to listen to you.