How Well Do Ferrets and Dogs Get Along?
If you are looking into adopting a ferret and already have some four legged friends at home, you probably have a bit of concern regarding how your new pet and pre-existing babies will coexist. It can be a bit daunting to bring a new pet home, especially when you are unsure of the reaction that will come from the other inhabitants of your house.
Dogs can be especially tricky since they form an extremely deep bond with their human and can become rather territorial. Let us ease your mind and provide some tips and tricks to help your pup adjust to their new weasley sibling.
The Scientific Dynamic
When introducing your dog to your new ferret or vice versa, it is important to be rather cautious to ensure that neither of them become frightened or injured.
Dogs are lovable friends to humans but they still were once derived from wild wolves. Due to this, your canine companion still has some lingering prey drive and hunting instincts that very in strength and impulsivity depending on their temperament and breed.
This means that even the calmest, most well trained pup might get a little antsy around a small animal like a ferret. It is not that they are a bad dog; they are just genetically programmed to hunt such animals. It is an impulse that they are not in control of.
How to introduce a ferret to a dog?
Due to this impulse, it is important to introduce your pets slowly to prevent any sudden lunges or other mishaps. Aside from your dog’s prey drive, your ferret is programmed to recognize a big, fanged and clawed animal as a predator and might be frightened. This can lead to it nipping at your dog or attempting to escape. Slow and steady is key here.
Take time in introducing your pets. Slowly let them adjust to each other’s smells by bringing small items that the other animal has laid on or played with into the opposite pet’s environment. Do this over the course of several days or, preferably, weeks to help them learn that the smell is not a threat.
From there, bring both animals out on leashes and introduce them face to face. Gauge their reactions and if either presents aggressive behaviors or seem to be anxious, end the introduction and try again at a later date. Always introduce your pets in a neutral area to prevent territorial behaviors. If they still do not get along, it might be time to make some hard decisions or attempt a sort of hail mary (which we will discuss in the next section).
Even if your pets seem to hit it off and like playing together, it is very, very important that you never leave them alone. Even if they are best friends, instinct can still take over and cause accidents to happen. Keep yourself in control of these interactions and monitor everything closely for the safety of your pets.
What if they do not get along?
Sometimes, your pets just do not get along. Your ferret is too afraid of the pup or the pup is having trouble distinguishing the ferret from prey. When this happens, you may have the impulse to rehome one or the other. While this may be necessary in some cases, there are a few things you can try before throwing in the cohabitation towel.
First, you could keep your pets in separate areas. This means kenneling your dog when the ferret is out and about and keeping your ferret’s cage in a room where the dog does not have access.
If you must have them in close proximity, always keep them leashed or otherwise separate and never leave them alone. Tragedy can strike when animals are unsupervised, so please always keep an eye on things if both are out and about, even if they are leashed.
Can ferrets be dangerous to dogs?
While a dog can certainly do more damage should they decide to act upon their predatory impulses, ferrets can still deliver a nasty bite. They have quite strong teeth and if they feel threatened they may snap and try to scare their oppressor away, resulting in a snipped snout or chomped ear. This can cause some serious pain and even need stitches to heal properly if the ferret really latches on.
This is why it is so important to watch even the gentlest dogs around small animals. Even if your pet means no harm, it still might startle the ferret or make it anxious, resulting in the pup getting injured when the ferret acts on its prey role based survival instincts.
Infections and other issues can make a simple bite all the more serious so it is best to always be on hand and ready to separate the two animals and end the interaction should they seem stressed or otherwise unfit to be in the situation.
Though unlikely, disorders like rabies and other serious illnesses can sometimes be present in unvetted or unvaccinated ferrets, especially if they are kept outdoors. It is important to also keep both of your pets up to date on their vet trips and vaccinations if they will interact to preserve the safety of both animals.
Can ferrets and dogs share a kennel or bed?
No! Though the cute Instagram photos may tell you otherwise, letting your ferret and dog cuddle in a kennel or dog bed is not considered safe by most veterinarians. Should either of the two become startled or otherwise stimulated, they could bite or scratch, resulting in injury.
Additionally, the dog may roll over on the ferret, suffocating it in its sleep. It is very important to keep a firm boundary between the two animals. They can be playmates but interactions need to be controlled and allowing them to snuggle up and sleep is creating a difficult to maintain situation that can result in some serious harm.
So, are ferrets and dogs good pet mates?
They can be but, from a genetic standpoint, are not. Dogs and ferrets can coexist very well together in the same home and frequently do but they do have a genetic predisposition to a predator vs prey dynamic that can be rather stressful and perhaps a bit dicey.
If you are going to keep both animals as pets, be sure to take steps to keep everyone safe and feeling secure. Make sure both get adequate attention and playtime and try to provide them both with the utmost quality of care.
Sometimes, separate is best and that is okay. If you need to keep your pets apart to keep them safe, then by all means do so. They will be just fine.