When it comes to to training a ferret to go for a walk, there is little chance of success if you leave the results up to the will of your critter. Ferrets can be very mischievous, and if you don’t train them properly, there is the possibility that your ventures into the great outdoors could end up in disaster.
No doubt, you may even be wondering if reigning in all of that energy and expending it on a leisurely walk around your neighborhood is even possible. The answer though is yes. It is possible to train a ferret to wear a harness and take him out in public without worrying about them slipping away and causing you anxiety.
Putting On the Harness
It is important to understand that ferrets are very different from other animals that can be led around on a leash. Don’t expect to slip on the harness and right away go for a leisurely walk. You’re going to have to give your ferret a little time to get used to the new contraption that they suddenly find strapped to them. Before you attempt to take on the outdoors with your ferret, make sure he is comfortable with the harness and doesn’t view it as a threat.
Putting on the harness is simple enough. H shaped harnesses comes with two loops on each end. The smaller loop wraps around the neck and snaps together with a plastic clip. The larger loop fits around the belly and is secured with a second plastic clip.
Make sure that you don’t fasten the collar loop too tight, especially around the neck. A good test for this is to see if you can slip one of your fingers underneath the collar. If you can’t slip your finger underneath, then the collar is too tight and your ferret will likely have choking problems.
Of course, you can harness train a ferret of any size, but the job is much easier when they are younger. You can begin to harness your little guy as early as 10 weeks old. He won’t like it at first, and as soon as you get the harness on, it is likely that he’s going to go a little crazy with the unfamiliar feeling around him.
He may bolt from one corner to another and look like a miniature bronco as he tries to extricate himself from the contraption. This adjustment could take as little as a few days and as long as a few weeks. Generally, older ferrets will take more time than younger ones. Just make sure that he is in an area where he can’t do any harm to himself and let him run crazy for a while.
It could be tempting to just leave the harness on the ferret even when he’s playing in his cage or around the house, but this is unwise. Ferrets are very flexible and can easily collapse their bodies to get into the smallest of spaces and the harness could catch on something, causing them injury. The best option is to put the harness on only when you’re planning on taking them for a walk and remove it as soon as you return.
The first time, leave the harness on for a few minutes and then remove it. Each time you put it on, leave it for a little longer until he gets used to it.
Ferret Leash Training
When you are sure that your ferret is no longer resisting the harness, you can start with the leash training. It is best that you begin this training inside so that if he resists, he will be in a safe place.
Start by attaching the lead to the harness but don’t try walking yet. Instead, just observe as he drags the leash around the house to make sure that he doesn’t get it caught on anything. Each time your ferret does this without protest, provide a reward so that he associates pleasure with the lead.
When your ferret is comfortable with the leash, hold onto the end of it. It is important that you don’t try to restrain just yet, nor should you try to get direct him in any particular direction. Just allow him to move about the house as usual with you holding the lead.
As soon as you realize that he will not resist your holding the lead, you can start to give gentle guidance by pulling slightly on the lead to move in one direction or another. Make sure not to yank or apply any unnatural force to it. This could not only make the experience unpleasant but could cause injury, which may cause your ferret to resent the lead and harness altogether.
Take it Outside
When you’re finally ready to go outside, it is important that you keep their safety foremost in mind. Remember, they are not dogs, so keep their walks short; no more than 15 to 20 minutes. Some ferrets will need even less time than that. Always carry a bottle of water so they can stay hydrated and bring a backpack or carrier along in case they get too tired.
Pay close attention to the surroundings. Keep a watchful eye out for dogs and cats that may not want your ferret walking through their territory. And if you need to cross the street, keep a watchful eye on any traffic that could pose a threat.
When you return home, give them a careful examination to make sure they didn’t injure themselves or pick up any “hitch hikers” along the way. Finally, never walk your ferret when the temperature is higher than 78F. They are highly susceptible to heat stroke and won’t be able to stand it.
Training your ferret to wear a harness is only the first step to many adventures you and your critter will enjoy together. Once they are comfortable with it, exploration will be the only thing on their minds. Remember, for the best success, move at your ferret’s pace rather than your own. They will love you all the more for it.