By L. Vanessa Gruden
How can I stop my ferret from biting too hard?
Ferrets can’t bark or meow — using teeth is their way to communicate. They play rough with each other and need to learn human skin is more tender than a ferret’s.
If they draw blood it’s certainly inappropriate, but otherwise it’s what you define as “too hard.” Play-biting or mouthing fingers is one thing, a sharp nip quite another. So, how to get them to stop?
These training tips are for garden-variety nippers — untaught youngsters or those that determinedly chomp certain places. (Note: Abused animals may need an experienced handler.)
A nip here usually means “Pay attention to me!” Someone came up with a great idea — smearing really smelly hand lotion on her bare ankles. Ferrets didn’t want to go near them! Make sure you don’t accidentally reward bad behavior — picking up a nipper can teach them nip=attention. Reward good behavior — paws on your leg should get attention and a treat.
Nips on toes are usually from curiosity, perhaps the equivalent of a ferret wondering “Is that a mouse?” The smell of feet is irresistible and wiggly toes enticing. You may never completely stop ferrets from toe-nipping. I tell shelter visitors “no sandals!”
“I know you!” There are scent glands in your hands and wrists. Many ferrets will lick, lick, nip these soft areas. Another friend suggests scruffing, shaking slightly, and saying a firm “no” to deter wrist nips.
Personally, my best trick to combat bites and nips is to allow the ferret to bite. When he or she does, I pinch his ear gently with my fingertips (no nails involved). If he bites harder, I pinch harder. If he lets up, I let up. Ear-pinching does no serious harm, but it is uncomfortable. It’s a very immediate cause/effect action, which is vital when training animals. They’re not stupid; you just need to communicate to them in a way they can understand.
Like this article? Check out:
Why Do Ferrets Bite, click here.