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Help needed- obsessive digging

Discussion in 'Ferrets' started by Claire7815, Dec 4, 2018.


  1. Claire7815

    Claire7815 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi,

    I'm a first time ferret owner, my partner and I brought home our pair just over three weeks ago. They're a mum and daughter (18 months and 4 months), and we've been really really struggling with behaviour issues.

    The mum is obsessed with digging at the door; she wants to get out and explore more, but even when we open up the door for her to have supervised play in the next room (we thought maybe she just wanted to know what was beyond the door) she just finds her next door to dig at. When we've settled them in a bit more and they've had their vaccinations we plan to walk them in the local park, so hopefully that'll help with her need to explore, but in the meantime it's getting chronic.

    We're doing all the things the books say discipline- scruffing, saying no and putting her in a time out when she's been digging, plus rewarding her good behaviour when she digs on the scratch pad or in her box of rice that we got her so she knows there is somewhere she's allowed to dig. She stops for a short while but then starts up again.

    Does anyone have any advice? I wonder if she needs more outlets for her curiosity/energy. She doesn't seem that interested in playing with us (we've tried chase, teaser toys, balls and treat puzzles). She tries to play with her daughter but she's quite rough and the daughter mostly runs away and hides.

    She also bites really hard sometimes when you've annoyed her. After telling her off for digging she climbed up my partners back and bit his scalp and wouldn't let go. The other day she launched herself at my leg and bit me after I'd been telling her off for digging.

    What with the fact that she also poos in corners of rooms and her daughter bites any scrap of flesh she can find, we're really at our wits end with the situation!
     
  2. Babyshoes

    Babyshoes PetForums Senior

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    I've never found a way to stop a determined ferret from digging at doors - I use a plastic carpet protector to stop them making holes in the carpet & try to redirect the behavior when it starts, as not all ferrets respond to the training methods that are traditionally used - it sounds like your girl sees this method as fighting rather than discipline. Extra exercise & mental activity helps to reduce the digging at doors behaviour, but some just seem to enjoy the digging, and being bored makes it worse.

    Mine are trained to come for a treat, which is always a useful way to distract or find them if they've managed to hide in a tiny gap behind furniture! You can also train them to do simple tricks like rolling over or standing up to get a treat, which is a good bonding activity. Some ferrets learn quite complicated tricks.

    As for pooing in corners, that's what ferrets do - they feel safe in a corner. They *generally* won't poo in a bed or food area though, so choose one corner that's easily accessible to clean & put down newspaper for them to use - I fold 2 sides up to protect the wall too (& praise them when they do use it), then put blankets or food bowls in other corners. Don't forget corners under furniture! One leg of our bed stands in a box filled with old blankets... Regardless, there will always be occasional accidents - get some enzyme cleaner like simple solution for easy clean up.

    Biting can happen for very different reasons. Often it's an invitation to play & they've simply never learned how soft human skin is - squeaking "ouch" loudly & stopping the game usually teaches them to play gently, though it can take a while.

    If the biting is deliberate, as it sounds like yours is, you need to try to figure out why it's happening, as it's a form of communication. As you and she get to know eachother better, you'll learn the warning signs to avoid the situation, plus she'll trust you more & hopefully feel less need to bite.

    One technique that I've used only works if the ferret is clearly trying to dominate me by biting - I roll them onto their back & hold them there with my hand around the chest for a few moments, look them in the eye & say "no" firmly. This action of holding them on their back mimics the way a ferret would dominate another ferret, so they know I'm the boss. The main thing with any training is patience & persistence.

    Otherwise, if you need to get a ferret to let go when they've clamped down hard, scruffing firmly will usually make them open their mouth, and should be the first thing you try to avoid accidentally injuring the ferret.

    Good luck, and please do persist through this phase of learning about eachother! Once you learn to communicate, things will get easier!
     
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