What any Ferret Owner needs to know about Training Ferrets

 Training Ferrets

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While ferrets may look like they belong in the forest instead of your home, the fuzzy bundles you get from stores and shelters are quite domesticated and readily trainable. Even though they can be very strong-willed and wildly exuberant, these rambunctious fellows can be taught easily with the right approach and attitude. As long as you employ consistency and patience, you can train any ferret.

In an Outlandish Class of Their Own

Friendly and naturally inquisitive, ferrets make fun pets. They’re highly intelligent but harder to train than dogs. Ferrets don’t care as much about pleasing you as a dog does. This scallywag’s main concern is pleasing itself! Plus these precocious creatures have a very short attention span for anything—especially if it’s not their idea! Ferrets have attention “points” rather than attention “span!”

To educate your ferret pet, you must first get its attention. When let out to play, the rascals are so excited they can’t focus on anything. They just run, leap and renew their acquaintance with their romping area and human playmates. Before you try to instruct a ferret to do anything, allow it to slow down after its initial bubbly play. Your frenetic friend won’t learn much until it’s able to pay attention.

As with any pet, adapt your training techniques to the specific personality of your unique ferret. But there are some basic ferret training tips you can follow.

Positive Perks for a Playful Ferret

In general, the easiest way to train an animal is by positive reinforcement. The basic principle is to “shape” the behavior that’s desired by offering a positive reward for performing the preferred behavior. Ferrets respond well to repetition and reward.

These buoyant creatures don’t respond well to punishment. Never hit your pet, thump it on the nose, or inflict pain. Your sensitive pal will then associate humans and hands with pain—and will react accordingly. It will also lose all trust with you. The most effective way to nip bad behaviors in the bud is to reward good behaviors.

Easy Does It

Training ferrets to learn the rules of the house has to be a gradual process. At first, reward behavior that is simply close to what is desired. Then gradually the frisky critter’s behavior must become more exact to get a reward. For example, if you’re trying to train an animal to roll over, initially reward it for simply laying down. But then only provide a reward when it rolls onto its side … then only when it’s on its back … and then only when it rolls all the way over.

Reward your Ferret with Treats!

The most effective reward for training is food (a favorite treat is best, as long as given in small amounts). This method is much more effective than punishment to shape positive behaviors because the animal is learning what you want it to do, rather than simply what you don’t want it to do.

Silence Speaks Volumes—and Gets Results!

If your ferret is doing something you don’t want it to do, the best strategy is to withdraw attention. This way your buddy doesn’t get attention for doing some sort of bad behavior. The theory behind this approach is that for some animals any attention, even if you’re angry or frustrated, is still attention. Therefore, if “punishment” must be used, time out (for example, alone time in the cage) may be the best approach to take. Never hit or yell at your bundle of mischief for doing something bad. These tactics are counterproductive with ferrets.

Keys to a Harmonious Friendship with your Ferret

These ferret training tips work for the big issues such as litter box training and training your jubilant chum not to nip while playing. And these teaching principles can be used for other training—such as simple tricks and how to walk on a leash. Regardless of what you’re training your carefree adventurer to do, remember that consistency, persistence, patience and positive rewards are the keys.