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Taking Your Ferret for a Hazard-free Walk

By: Bruce Stutz

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Curious, sensitive, lively animals that they are, ferrets enjoy being outdoors for a walk - as long as you and your pet abide by a few ground rules.

For ferrets, the ground rules include a collar, harness and leash. For pet owners, they require being sensitive to a ferret's need to have a safe place to hide if scared, and a chance to explore without being tugged or dragged along.

A ferret collar can be as simple as a cat collar that is made to fit the ferret; it should just slide off her neck if the ferret gets her head into a place too small. Since this is very likely with most ferrets, adjust the collar so you can slide it on over the ferret's head to make sure it will come off if it has to. A bell on the collar and an ID tag will keep the ferret entertained when you first put on the collar. Let her get used to the collar before moving on to the next step.

Use a Body Harness

For walking outdoors, a body harness is absolutely necessary. Because the collar is made to slip off, a leash attached to it won't do much good if the ferret goes one way and the leash and collar the other. The recommended harness is an H-type that fits over the back and behind the front legs and over the throat. A nylon material will keep the harness from chafing the ferret.

These harnesses are adjustable, some more readily than others. Practice tightening and fitting the harness before fumbling with it on your ferret so that you can make the process quick and painless. Once you have the harness on, let your ferret become accustomed to it by letting her walk around wearing the collar for a few minutes at a time.

Finally, attach the leash to the harness and see what happens. Let the ferret get used to this arrangement, again a few minutes at a time. Give her a treat or play with her while on the leash to feel that it's fun to have on. The first time you go out, make it brief. Again, a treat may help out. Also, carry along a carrier or a backpack that the ferret can slip into if she is suddenly frightened.

Don't Pull or Drag

Don't pull or drag her. Just allow her to explore. That's what it's all about, anyway. It's her walk, not yours.

For long walks bring water and food. Avoid places where she might pick up parasites from dogs or other animals and don't let her drink the water from puddles or ponds. If you stop and sit, don't let her off the leash. Should curious passersby want a look at your pet, let them look but not touch. You keep hold of the leash. Also, make sure that ferrets are legal in your city or the passerby may be an animal control officer.

After the walk, give your ferret a quick bath to prevent fleas or ticks from hanging on. Soon, your animal will look forward to her jaunts and you'll get some exercise as well.

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