A little nightmare. Help!

Our ferret, Skeeter, has a big biting problem. She bites during playtime, out of boredom and pretty much whenever she can reach our elbows, hands, or toes. We’ve had her for almost 2 weeks now, and the problem has stayed pretty much the same, except now she’s more enthusiastic than ever. We’ve tried several methods, scruffing, firmly saying “no” which only seems to excite her, time out box, hissing, but nothing is doing the trick. She’s a rescue and we know almost nothing about her previous treatment, she’s an adult, and she was found abandoned deep in the canyon. She has a TON of energy and usually exhausts herself after only half an hour to an hour of playtime. We have bought another ferret (who is very well mannered) to become her friend, introduction pending. We love her silly, rambunctious personality, but we’re at a loss when it comes to nip training an adult, rescue ferret. Has anyone else had to train a habit out of an adult ferret? How about a rescue? If so, what methods seemed to work for you? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give us! She’s a sweet girl who we want to keep forever, but we’d like to solve this problem!

Best, Rebekah

Hi, the first ferret I got was a rescue and she was a nightmare for months. She would actually go out of her way to come after me and bite me when I had her out for playtime - which put me off bringing her out as I ended up a little scared of her. I tried everything, including scruffing and time outs etc. Might sound cheesy but I think the main thing for her was building trust and her realising that I loved her, that I would persevere with her training. It took six months before her biting stopped and since then she was a wee dream, I got a second rescue after that as I didn’t think I could handle two that wanted to attack me. The second one got better with the biting however would still mouth my hand if she got fed up being handled or wasn’t in the mood for me, not in a painful way but enough to leave a mark, that was just how she was for five years until she passed.
Both lived in an open hutch within a 4x4’ hut so they had plenty of space to run about when I wasn’t there.

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Thank you for this response! That’s just what I needed to hear. I’m glad that your efforts paid off in the end, we’re certainly trying our best with Miss Skeeter

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If it helps, I think the settling in stage is the worst for them, ferrets that might normally not be biters can get that way when they’re nervous in a new environment, with new people and new smells etc. My most recent addition was that way as well, she’d been abandoned in a cat box for who knows how long and I adopted her two weeks after she arrived at the centre. She was incredibly bitey for the first two months or so but has since settled in fine, she was introduced to a group of nine ferrets, one other was a recent addition, but I’m sure it was still a big fright for her and she had some initial health issues as well. It just takes them time, and with rescues you’ll never know their past or what they’ve been through. Good luck :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’d love to know, what is your process for nip training? We’re new to ferrets and have seen/researched a lot of different methods, but it seems to be more baby/adopted centered rather than grown adult/rescue. I know everyone has an opinion, and different things work for different ferrets, I’d just like to have the process locked and ready for our girl

Also, what’s your opinion about nipping during playtime? Do you let it slide since that’s the way ferrets play or is it better to be strict? Thank you

It’s hard to know how she was treated in the past, I think her previous owners may have given up on her because of the nipping, but maybe they didn’t know how to handle all her energy. It’s all speculation really. She truly is a ball of energy!

Honestly, initially it was really difficult as I had no clue, now if I was to deal with a really feisty one I’d have quite a few steps. Initially I’d start with a loud ‘ow!’ to let them know they’d hurt me, then put them in time out, but honestly that one hasn’t been effective with any of mine. My main discipline is scruffing, I still scruff one of my jills (until she yawns) when she plays too hard and breaks my skin, if she doesn’t get the message I’ll scruff her and tap her on the nose the next time. I’ve also tried the scruffing and holding them on their back until they relax to demonstrate they’re submitting, and if none of those work I’ll pinch their ear with my fingernails so that they understand they’re hurting me. The last one was taught to me by a breeder and will be frowned upon by a lot of people, but as a last resort it is effective and has worked with adults and kits.
There is a nip training FAQ on here that you might find useful.
As for the nipping I would try and cut it out completely just now so that she doesn’t get confused as to when it’s okay, later on when she’s settled you could let her away with it.
I know, with some of them you just have no idea. I’ve adopted some that were the sweetest cuddly ferrets from day one and you wonder how anyone could abandon them/not claim them. It’s just such a shame :disappointed:

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This is all really great info, thank you so much! We will definitely try some of these methods. The time out box doesn’t seem to do a lot for us either, we’ll put her inside 4 or 5 times, 5 minutes each time and she’ll still come back for more. Lately we’ve only been focusing on scruffing, she seems to listen to my brother more than me, but that’s probably because he has the “heavier hand” so to speak when it comes to discipline :sweat_smile: Some great news is we just adopted a friend for her, and their introduction has so far gone very well! Skeeter seems to gravitate more toward playing with her new friend and less toward nipping her humans, so I would call that a huge success! Genuinely, thank you for your responses, you have just the wealth of knowledge we needed to accept the process may take a while, but with a bit of consistency, we’ll get to where we want to be.

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I’m sorry but there’s no way on this earth you should be pinching any body part or tapping on the nose!!!
Whoever said that to you shouldn’t be anywhere near an animal let alone breeding them.
It’s like me banging you on your nose or pinching you everytime you do something wrong!!! It really is not a great way to build up trust and friendship with your ferret.
Time is everything and I’ll say it again!!! With rescues you don’t know their previous treatment or surroundings and really need to start from scratch.
If a ferret is biting that hard? Then I’d advocate the use of gloves until it stops.

Cheers Craig

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As a last resort it has proven to work, I would expect you to punch me on the nose or pinch me if I was to latch on to your arm and hang from it. At the end of the day they are animals and have instincts. Mother ferrets will nip their kits if they are too rough with them, as will dogs, cats and other domesticated animals who are teaching their young how to behave.
It’s my personal opinion and I have a good relationship with all of my ferrets, none are scared of me and all trust me.

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Here’s the nicer of the two, Skeeter is top left, Celia is bottom right. Skeeter just got a taste of my brother’s hand so that’s the look of pain you’re seeing :sweat_smile:

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I wonder if after you begin introductions with the new ferret that the former ferret mentioned will learn what is an appropriate nip or not. We know ferrets can play rough when they’re wrestling and playing with each other but also, they have that thick skin on their outer necks so it doesn’t hurt them. When the two finally do get together, try to let them SLOWLY work it out and see if the biting gets better?

Yes @Draycoteflyer Ur rite