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Ferret FAQ [3/5] - Training and Behavior
Section - (7.1) How do I train my pet not to nip?

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Like kittens and puppies, ferret kits must be taught not to nip.  A
ferret which has been bred to be a pet shouldn't be vicious or bite,
but ferret play does include mock combat, and young ones won't know
how hard they can put their teeth on you without hurting you.  A
playing ferret may run at you with his mouth open or even put his
teeth on your hand, but if he presses down hard enough to hurt, you
need to discipline him.  Just remember, ferrets aren't malicious, they
just need to learn what behavior is acceptable.

A very few otherwise calm, gentle ferrets will react in an extreme way
to a high-pitched noise such as a squeaky toy (perhaps only one
particular toy) or the sound of rubbing fingers on a window or a
balloon.  Nobody's quite sure why that sets them off, though it seems
to be a protective instinct of some sort.  If your ferret is one of
those few who bites wildly at the source of such a sound, my best
advice is, don't make that sound around them.

Sometimes a ferret which has been mistreated will bite out of fear, or
an older ferret might bite because of pain, either in the mouth or
elsewhere.  In either of these cases, strict discipline isn't going to
do any good.  For an animal in pain, of course, take it to the vet.
For an abused ferret, try one of the alternatives mentioned below, and
have a lot of patience: the ferret has to learn to trust someone when
all it has known before is abuse.  Regina Harrison has created a Web
page about caring for and rehabilitating such "problem" ferrets at
<http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/1083/probintro.html>.

In all cases, positive reinforcement (giving treats [6.3] and lots of
praise when the ferret does well) works much better than punishment,
but if you need one, use a "time out" for a few minutes in a cage or
carrier.  Similarly, don't set the ferret down when he struggles and
nips -- you'll be teaching him that that's the way to get what he
wants.  Finally, whichever method you use, consistency and immediacy
are very important.

Flicking the ferret's nose while his teeth are on you is a pretty
common form of discipline, but it might not be the best.  Your ferret
might end up associating you with bad things rather than good ones.
Also, it's a very bad idea to use nose-tapping or other physical
discipline on a ferret who has been mistreated or who acts unusually
aggressive or frightened.  There are several alternatives, which you
might want to try in combination:

   If the ferret is biting too hard in play, try using a signal he
   already understands: a high-pitched "Yip!" (or "Hey!" or whatever),
   like the noise one kit makes when another is playing too roughly.
   On the other hand, if the ferret seems to interpret that as a sign
   of weakness, switch to a deep, commanding voice and act as stern as
   you can.

   Stopping the game by gently pinning the ferret down until he gets
   bored can work well, too.

   Confining the misbehaving ferret to a cage [5.4] and ignoring him
   for a few minutes can be very effective, especially if there's
   another ferret wandering around conspicuously having fun.

   You can cover your hands with Bitter Apple, either the spray or the
   paste, so nipping tastes bad.

   Some people have had good luck with either pushing a finger into
   the ferret's mouth (sideways, behind the back teeth) or holding the
   mouth open from behind (being careful not to choke the ferret)
   immediately after a bite.  Most ferrets find either of these
   uncomfortable, and it associates the unpleasant feeling with the
   taste of finger.

   If you need the ferret to let go, try covering both his nostrils
   with your fingers.  If he still hangs on, don't keep them there long,
   though.

   If the ferret isn't one of those who absolutely hate to be
   scruffed, that can help.  You might also shake the ferret gently by
   the scruff, or drag him along the floor while you hiss.  Both these
   mimic the way mother ferrets reprimand their kits.  Obviously,
   don't be so rough that you hurt him.  You can also cover his face
   with your hand, which he probably won't like.

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Top Document: Ferret FAQ [3/5] - Training and Behavior
Previous Document: CONTENTS OF THIS FILE
Next Document: (7.2) I'm having problems litter-training. What do I do?

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM