Your ferret is a squirmy, agile, and flexible little friend who can crawl into small spaces, make you laugh with his silliness, and is always up for exploring. If you are thinking about expanding your ferret’s universe and taking him for walks outside or just for small romps around the yard, a harness is essential. It’s the only safe way to walk him.
Ferrets can slip a collar and may take off. They are able to wriggle out of collars and don’t have a strong sense of home like cats and dogs do so they can’t always find their way back to you. To prevent losing your furry buddy, an H-shaped harness that serves as a collar around the neck and around the front legs will keep your ferret near you while allowing him to walk freely. There are nylon flat harnesses and also ones that almost resemble a jacket that you can purchase at your local pet store.
The most important part of the harness is making sure it is adjusted and fits correctly. If the harness is too tight it’ll dig into your ferret’s neck and torso and could injure him. If it’s too loose you risk him slipping out and darting away. A good way to test if the harness is adjusted to a good fit is to see how many fingers you can slide between the harness and your ferret. If there’s room for more than a pinky finger, tighten the bands. If it’s the type of harness that is not adjustable, you may have to bring it back and get a different size.
Your ferret probably won’t be thrilled about wearing a harness at first. Try using treats as positive reinforcement and to train him to understand that putting on the harness means adventure and an outing. Expect squirming, fussing, crying, and fighting to get out of the harness the first few times you put it on him. No matter how much he tries to get out of it, it’s for his own safety.
Remember, it may take some time for your ferret to be ok walking around with a harness and leash. Go slow and expect it to take some time. He may want to run in front of you, tangle around your ankles, or go a different direction completely. Ferrets don’t get into a pack traveling mentality like dogs do but with some time, treats, and repetition your ferret can learn to walk with you and not trip you… or at least not trip you as much after a while.
Photo courtesy of Foster & Smith, Inc.