Can You Teach An Old Ferret New Tricks?

They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but how about an old ferret? Can you teach an old ferret new tricks or any tricks for that matter?

Basic Training

Ferrets are considered to be on the intelligence level of dogs and cats. Therefore, any ferret, young or old, can be taught a number of basic tricks. The task requires patience, praise, and treats on your part, but the time is well spent. The extended interaction with your pet will not only produce amazing and amusing tricks but also a deeper bond from the time spent together.

First and Foremost

It is recommended that the first tricks you teach your ferret are ones that can literally save his life.  Teaching commands such as stay, come, back up and no, can quickly spur your ferret to action or inaction in cases of emergency. For example, if your ferret were to get away from you outside or is hiding inside, you can get him to stop or come back to you easily if he knows these commands.  It is wise to train with both commands and a certain sound, such as snapping your fingers.  Ferrets sometimes respond better to non-verbal sounds.

Fun for All

It is good to remember that this is supposed to be fun for both you and your pet.  Anytime it becomes less than this, it’s time to stop. All pets learn by repetition and by slow steps.  To keep you and your pet from getting frustrated, training sessions should be kept to 30 minutes maximum, but anytime your pet becomes distracted or bored it is time to switch to play and leave more training for another time.

Trick and Treat

Food is a great motivator for pets and humans.  Rewarding your ferret at each step in the process with a treat will keep him motivated.  To teach your ferret to come, place a treat in your open hand a short distance away from your ferret.  The moment he begins to move towards you say, “come.”  After a couple of days, you can begin to move the treat farther away.  Practice at each increase for a couple of days.  Once your ferret has mastered this trick, command him to come without the treat.  Do this for a couple of days also to reinforce.  It is okay to give a treat once in awhile for obedience, but not every time once he is performing successfully.

No Negatives

It is very important when training any pet to never punish for not performing properly.  If you treat your pet harshly, you may completely break down the relationship, and no trick is worth that.  At most, you can withhold the treat for non-performance. Speaking harshly, or worse, hitting, will not produce the result you desire, it will only make your pet afraid of you.

Patience is a Virtue

Be prepared for the long haul when training.  It can take months to successfully train your ferret to do a trick, or it may take only a few days, but patience will pay off in the long run.  The idea is to spend time with your ferret working together, bonding, and having fun.

Photo Credit:  istockphoto.com

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