If you’re going to mix ferrets and dogs, there are a few things to take into consideration. Most importantly the age, breed and character of all pets involved.
I think it’s safe to say that introducing a fuzzy kit to a puppy shouldn’t pose any problems. Obviously, you’ll need to supervise, especially if there’s a huge size difference, i.e. a mastiff puppy is, well, pretty massive compared to a fuzzy kit…
But generally when young pets grow up together they become BFF’s.
Introducing adult ferrets and dogs takes a little more work. But it’s still very doable, after all, plenty of people have done so in the past. Personally, I’ve introduced two ferret kits to a 3 year old dog.
Even though my ferrets and dog get along pretty well, I never leave them together without supervision (not including both times the fuzzies broke out of their cage while I was at work). Tassie even acts as a referee when the fuzzbutts are playing together and things get too rough. She just butts in, nudges them apart with her snout and even lies down in between them to break up the fight. She also likes to play with them, but because of the size and weight difference that can be a bit dangerous for the fuzzies.
Most dogs will look at a fuzzy as a playful puppy. And adult dogs tolerate a lot from puppies. Dogs also have pretty tough skin (especially compared to us humans), so the playfully biting fuzzy won’t cause too much damage. Then again, a dog’s nose is a very sensitive spot. My dog Tassie went a little loco when one of the fuzzbutts decided to nip her in the nose while they were hiding in a cardboard box. Good thing I was right there, the fuzzies had been taunting Tassie for a couple of minutes so I was paying extra attention. I should’ve stopped the whole fuzzy dog harassment before Tassie ended up with a bleeding nose though. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20…Needless to say I’m even more careful now than I was before.
Before introducing ferrets and dogs, consider the breed of your dog. Certain breeds, like terriers, were bred to chase, catch and even kill small animals. You know best how well developed your dog’s hunting instinct is, and whether it poses a threat to your fuzzy.
A slow and careful introduction of ferrets and dogs is necessary if you want to keep the peace in your furry family. I cannot stress enough how important it is to know both your ferrets and dogs, in order to keep everyone safe. For example, I know Tassie is possessive around food and will make sure there is no food available when the fuzzies roam free. I know Nibbler likes to steal certain dog toys (right out of Tassie’s mouth even), so I now make sure to put these toys away before Nibbler is let out of his cage.
If you have any doubt at all about letting your ferrets and dogs play together, keep them separate. Don’t risk any injuries or worse.
Giving your dog some extra obedience training can help you keep him under control, when fuzzy – dog relationships are turning sour. Best thing is to start the training before you bring home the fuzzies. You can practice several commands with a stuffed toy, teaching your dog not to chase, not to bite, to let go,…
For some reason, fuzzies are fascinated with doggy ears. Now I have to admit, so am I. Tassie has silky soft ears so I love to touch them. However, unlike my fuzzbutts, I don’t generally put my nose in them (except of course when I suspect an ear infection). Furballs love to nip, tug and sniff a dog’s ears. Stitch has the habit of putting his entire head in Tassie’s ear for a good sniff. Luckily she doesn’t seem to mind at all, but your dog may not react that well. So keep an eye out for this weird ferret behavior.
Possibly the biggest hurdle to take on are the pack rules dogs live by. For your fuzzies safety, you’ll want to establish them as outranking your dog. This may be counterintuitive to you, you’ve had the dog longer, it’s bigger,… but you’ll have to persist anyway. Your fuzzies will help you as they already think they outrank you as well. Always give your fuzzies treats first, before your dog.
For the first get together, put your dog in his crate or behind a gate while you (and other family members) play with the fuzzball. Your dog should be able to see you, the ferret shouldn’t be able to come close to the dog though. Don’t completely ignore the dog though, give him some attention as well.
Next you can let your dog sniff the ferret cage while the fuzzies are safely locked inside (make sure they can’t nip through the wire). If he’s calm, reward him.
A good idea is to put some of the used ferret’s bedding in or next to your dog’s favorite sleeping spot. That way he’ll get used to their smell.
If your dog remains calm when he or the ferrets can’t touch each other, you can take it one step further. You might need an extra hand though. Keep all animals on a leash, depending on your dog you might also want to make him wear a muzzle. Let them slowly sniff each other out. Make sure your fuzzy doesn’t nip your dog, you know how important first impressions are.
If your dog appears to be getting too excited, distract him from the fuzzy. Make him do some routine tricks for example, anything that will put his focus on you instead of on the ferret.
As most actions related to pets, mixing ferrets and dogs requires patience and vigilance from you. If the phone rings or there’s someone at the door, pick up your fuzzy before you answer. If you have a whole bunch of fuzzies, pick up your dog. If your dog is the size of an Irish Wolfhound, put him in a different room.
Here are a few pictures of Nibbler and Stitch and my dog Tassie.