Ferret Training: Teaching Your Ferret The Basics

Ferrets are inquisitive animals and, as pets, they have an amazing capacity for learning. We share the basics of how to train your ferret to sit, shake paws and more.

Contrary to popular belief Ferrets are actually quite intelligent animals and can in fact be trained to do quite a few tricks and tasks. Persistence, affection, praise and treats are required from your end and in no time you will have your little friend performing all kinds of neat tricks!

DO YOU HAVE A BITER?

It is well known that Ferrets do have a nasty habit of ‘nipping’ people. They do this with their own kind as well as humans and it is their way of being playful, however, it can hurt!

Punishing with a tap on the nose, water spray, hitting or throwing him will not teach your ferret an appropriate alternative behaviour and will exacerbate fear biting. In many ferret owners experiences, using these methods very VERY rarely helps to stop nipping, rather it makes the situation a lot worse and the ferret bites harder. So no matter what people say, avoid this at all costs!

Time out is a gentle form of punishment, when nip training its advisable to have a seperate time-out cage (so not their own cage for sleeping and when you’re not at home, and not their travel enclosure). A time out cage doesnt have to be big, 60cm by 30cm is fine, and all it needs is a water bowl and a small corner litter tray. When your ferret nips too hard imply put them in their time out cage for 3-5 minutes. But not any longer and they will forget why the fun stopped!.

Other useful tips for kits and younger ferrets is to make sure they have a nice full tummy before getting them out to handle them. Young hungry ferrets get what we humans often call “hangry” and their play nips are A LOT harder!! If you have nerves of steel, when a ferret nips too hard try not to react at all, pretend it didn’t happen and do time out. Some ferrets thing your big “no” or your squeal is a sign that it’s a game and may encourage more nipping.

Remember, punishment tends to escalate behaviour in the long-term and teaches your ferret that aggression is appropriate.

CAN YOU TOILET TRAIN YOUR FERRET?

You certainly can! It will take patience and persistence, but it can be done. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. As we now know, our little friends don’t like the smell of Apple Bitter, so if Ferret takes a tinkle somewhere other than in his designated spot or litter box, spray some on the spot and watch him avoid the area. You can always plan ahead if you know where your Ferret tends to do his business where he shouldn’t! Lemon juice also has the same effect if you don’t have or can’t find Apple Bitter. Otherwise, when changing their bedding, put their old smelly bedding where they were pooping, they dont like to toilet where they sleep!
  2. Always make sure that your Ferret has clean bedding (his business should be removed daily and the litter box itself completely changed and cleaned once or twice weekly. Also make sure that you place one of his droppings into his designated spot or litter box. This teaches your Ferret that this is his place to use the bathroom. Important tip – avoid clumping cat litter, go for recycled newspaper litter!
  3. If you want your ferret to roam the house, litter train them in their cage first. Once they reliably use the litter tray in their cage trial giving them more free range time outside, if they go to toilet put them in their cage. When they are reliably returning to litter trays in new areas you can extend their area again! Just keep an eye out for lapses in training, if they do a random toilet it the wrong spot, restrict their space until they prove to you they know where their loo really is!
  4. Shower your Ferret with lots of praise and affection when they do the right thing. You might also want to invest in some treats when you see them use their litter box!

This process may take a week or two. Remember, persistence is key!

SHAKE PAWS

A relatively easy trick to begin with – just make sure you have some treats on hand:

  1. Put your hand out in front of your Ferret and make sure you have their attention;
  2. Place a treat an inch further than your hand on a flat surface. This should intrigue him. (Ferrets are very curious animals you see and yours is no exception)
  3. When your Ferret steps onto your hand with one paw, give him a treat and shake his paw!

SIT

This one is a little trickier and may take a couple of weeks to perfect. Just remember to train your Ferret in short blocks and reward them for their persistence:

  1. Hold a treat directly above your Ferrets head;
  2. When you have their attention, lower the treat slightly, but out of their reach;
  3. When they lower their bottom, say ‘sit’ slowly and clearly. Keep repeating until they begin to understand the word ‘sit’;
  4. Give your Ferret a cuddle and a treat and keep practicing!

NEXT: KEEP ROLLING, COME & THE GRAND FINALE >