Welcome to Part 3: How to Stop Ferret Biting of our 3 part series on ferret biting. If you would like to understand what your ferret may be trying to tell you, feel free to go back to Part 1: Why Baby Ferrets Bite or Part 2: Why Adult Ferrets Bite One of the most common questions we receive at The Modern Ferret is how to train a ferret not to bite. Unfortunately, many ferrets are abandoned because they have a problem with biting. Lucky for you, teaching a ferret not to bite is a relatively easy process with a little training and a lot of patience! In this article, we will provide you with a step-by-step protocol we personally use to teach aggressive ferrets not to bite. Our Own Ferret Biting Experience In the steps below, I list exactly what we did in our own home to stop an extremely aggressive ferret from biting. The first day we took her home, she bit both me and my fiancé hard enough to draw blood. After a month of round-the-clock bite training, she improved by 90%. We were able to adopt her out to another couple with a ferret and after checking in with them months later, they confirmed she hadn’t bitten them once! If your ferret is a biter (even a really aggressive one!) there are proven steps you can take to train them to stop. Our Step by Step Ferret Bite Training: Step 1: Get Bitten. Let your ferret bite you. I know this sounds scary and frankly kind of silly but you need to present your ferret with an opportunity to learn. I am not advocating that you provoke your ferret to react out of fear or aggression on purpose. However, I encourage you to play with your ferret in a normal, gentle manner and allow them to ‘take it too far’ by biting you. Step 2: Freeze. Once they bite you, stop playing immediately. Do not give your ferret the satisfaction of pulling away from them so they can play tug-of-war with your hand. Show them play time stopped as soon as they bit you. It hurts – but try your best to not yelp or yank away while they’ve latched onto you (ouch). Optional Step: Hiss. Ferrets for Dummies recommends you hiss at your ferret when they bite you -because this is what a mother ferret would do to scold her kits. Step 3: Scruff. After you freeze and stop playtime (for about 2 seconds), calmly use your other free hand to gently but firmly scruff your ferret (grab the skin on the back of your ferret’s neck). IMPORTANT: NEVER SCRUFF YOUR FERRET OUT OF ANGER! As long as you don’t pinch the skin too high or too aggressively, this does not harm your ferret (ferret mothers use the scruffing technique to control their kits). Since you are using one hand to scruff, try to keep their butt on the floor as you drag them off from their bite. O Once detached, while still scruffing, use your now free hand to support your ferret’s bottom (you’ll need to lift your ferret for Step 4).At this point, if they are not deaf, tell them in a stern voice “NO biting”. “He’s not letting go!” If your ferret simply is not releasing their bite or is biting onto a particularly sensitive area (e.g. your nose), or is simply doing too much bodily damage (e.g. making you bleed), you’ll want to skip Step 2 altogether and begin scruffing immediately. If it’s your finger they have latched onto, you can push it slightly into their mouth and induce a gag reflex, which should trigger them to release. Step 4: Time-out. If you have done steps 1-3 multiple times in the last 10 minutes or so and your ferret is clearly not taking the hint, go through steps 1-3 next time they bite and then place them in ‘time-out’. Personally, we prefer to use a space separate from their cage because we don’t want our ferrets to associate their cage with punishment (we put them in their cage every night before bed). Time-out should be an entirely different zone associated only with bad behavior. For the aggressive ferret we mentioned earlier, we placed her in a tall, clean, empty trash bin with a lid. You’ll want to keep it empty and lidded to keep it dark and boring. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Super Important: Do not leave your ferret in time-out for very long! They only have an attention span of 2-3 minutes. After that, they will forget why they are in ‘ferret jail’ and the punishment becomes confusing, unnecessary and cruel. Step 5: Remove Ferret from Time-out. After the 3 minutes is up, gently take your ferret out of their time-out box. For very aggressive ferrets, you can use a glove to protect your hand. Try to make sure you are calm when you pick them up. Place your ferret on your forearm (like in the photo above) with their head away from your body (so they can’t easily bite you). Use this as an opportunity to calmly pet your ferret and use a soft voice to praise your ferret for being calm. You can do this for about 10 seconds, and then gently set your ferret down. Ferret Biting Mistake #1: Hitting One common misconception is that it is okay to hit your ferret on the nose (or any part of their body) when they bite you. While this may feel like an appropriate knee-jerk reaction (“ouch! Knock it off!”), this will only confuse your ferret. Also, you could potentially injure your little guy. When you hit your ferret after they bite you, it doesn’t tell them “stop biting me!” -instead, it communicates to them, “playing rough is good!” Aggression from you will only be met with more aggression from your ferret. Ferret Biting Mistake #2: Jailing Another common mistake new or frustrated ferret owners make when their ferret bites is to put their ferret away for extended periods of time, and eventually cease to interact with them at all. We have seen the repercussions of this ineffective method firsthand. Channing and I adopted a ferret from a family that had given up altogether on their pet. After a few aggressive interactions with her previous owners, she was forced to spend 99% of her time away locked away in a (small) cage. I can understand why her owners were scared (she bit hard and drew blood, and they had young children) but locking your ferret up for good is no way to improve their behavior. If you truly wish to provide your ferret with a good life, you must put in the time to train them. You may collect a few scratches along the way but the bond you make will be well worth it. Bite Training Success The first day we took Puddle home, she bit us and promptly went into timeout 10-20 times. It was no fun at all. However, we used the protocol outlined above to break her of this bad behavior. The second week, she bit 5-7 times per day. By week four, she stopped biting altogether. Channing even risked getting his nose bit just to make sure, but she only licked (though we were still very nervous)! The secret: We used this step-by-step protocol every single time she bit. We never let her get away with it. After a month, she knew biting meant time-out. She also grew to learn we would never hurt her or leave her in a cage indefinitely. An important note – ferrets inherently interact with their mouths (just like the puppy in the photo above). So you should never aim to completely punish and rid them of gentle gnawing, playing and mouthing you. You only want to punish hard and unacceptable bites. In fact, if your ferret starts to softly gnaw and graze you without pressure throughout the bite training process – reward that behavior by simply not using a biting protocol. They are testing and learning the limits you’ve set! If your ferret bites, we encourage you to empathize with your little fuzzbutt and try to understand why they are doing it. Are they scared? Show them they can trust you. Are they in pain? Take them to the vet. Are they confused? Give them the patience they deserve to show them how to be a better pet. At the end of the day, you are each other’s family. And we don’t give up on family! Want to brush up on what your ferret may be trying to tell you? Check out Part 1: Why Baby Ferrets Bite or Part 2: Why Adult Ferrets Bite Want to learn just how smart your ferret is?