The Basics of Training Your Ferret

brown ferret and ballContrary to what most people think, ferrets are actually quite intelligent animals and they can be trained to perform a few tricks. That’s right. With little treats, praise and a great deal of persistence, you can train your ferret to give a high-five, shake paws and even sit. Of course your little friend might not perform acrobatic or magic tricks, but a little training can make life more interesting for you and your pet.

Boot Camp and Discipline

Why train a ferret in a boot camp? Well, like any other animal, they need to learn their boundaries and the younger they are when the training begins, the better. Interestingly, ferrets are intelligent and curious, but sometimes they need a little direction. Also, don’t panic at the word ‘discipline.’ This training does not involve hurting your pet. In fact disciplining can help your pet learn the tricks.

Does Your Ferret Bite?

Perhaps the biggest problem you may face with your ferret is nipping. These cute little mammals love to bite and chew everything and this also includes you! Sometimes nipping is your pet’s way of being playful; however, you should never promote this behavior.

Throwing your pet, hitting him with a water spray or punishing him is never going to help. In fact these methods only make the situation worse and ferrets bite even harder. Perhaps the easier way to stop nipping is spraying bitter apple scent on furniture and toys.

Is Training Ferrets Difficult?

Ferrets can be little difficult to train for several reasons.

  1. They have very short attention spans
  2. When ferrets are left to play, they get so excited that they only run and roll around. Simply put, they won’t be interested in learning new tricks.
  3. Ferrets are curious mammals and they prefer to please themselves.
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When it comes to effective training, positive reinforcement is the key. Like dogs and cats, ferrets are also interested in training when you decide to give away treats, praise and cuddles. Whenever your pet does something good, give them a treat to help them stick to the training.

Time out is a gentle, yet effective form of punishment during training. It’s recommended that you have a separate time put cage with a water bowl and a small litter tray. If your ferret bites too hard or does something wrong, put them in the time out cage to help them understand why the fun stopped.

Another useful tip for training younger ferrets is to make sure they have a nice full tummy. Hungry ferrets get angry soon and their playful nips are quite painful.

Can You Potty Train Your Ferret?

Of course you can … but with a little patience and persistence. First spray some bitter apple on the spots you want the ferret to avoid and watch him bypass the area. If you can’t find bitter apple, lemon juice also has the same effect.

You need to ensure that your ferret has a clean bedding every day and that the litter box is changed completely once or twice a week. To make potty training work, take your ferret to one particular spot on a consistent and frequent basis.

The location you choose (i.e. the bathroom spot) should be easy to identify for your ferret. Also, praise and appreciate your pet every time he or she eliminates at the designated spot. You should treat the furry ball immediately after he’s finished eliminating because it will help him recognize his bathroom spot.

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If you catch your puppy in the act in the wrong spot, you need to interrupt him*. You can make a surprising noise (never scare the ferret) and immediately take him to his bathroom. If your pet finishes eliminating in the bathroom spot, it’s time to treat him for the job well done.

*If the ferret is pooping, let him finish because the poor guy cannot shut off his poop immediately.

Never, never ever punish your ferret for doing his business in the wrong spot.

First of all, ferrets don’t remember punishment. Second and more importantly, punishment does more harm than good. Remember ferrets are very clever and some might even use the litter just to get the treats. So whenever you guess that he wants to go to the bathroom elsewhere (not his litter box), say No firmly and quickly place it in the litter box.

Ferrets love to dig!

Ferrets will dig everything – household plants, carpets, food bowls, and water container and even closed doors and furniture. Making a high pitched vocal sound can be useful but if it doesn’t work, put the ferret in time-out.

Shaking Paws

Put your hand out in the front of your pet when they’re paying attention. Place a small treat on the palm and when your ferret steps onto your palm, shake his paw, and hand over the treat. You can give your Ferret a cuddle as well and keep practicing!

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