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Do Ferrets and Dogs Get Along? Important Info for Owners

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By Nicole Cosgrove

hands holding ferret near a dog

Ferrets and dogs are not exactly the most popular pet combo—especially for first-time parents. That said, on their own, both four-legged buds are cheerful, curious, and quick to bond, not to mention affectionate and cuddly. So, it’s only natural to want a double dose of fluffy cuteness.

But wait—will a dog get along with a ferret? Won’t it see it as prey?

That entirely depends on two things: the dog’s breed and how much effort you put into early socialization. So, which pups don’t make a good match for ferrets? More importantly, how can you persuade the two to recognize each other as friendlies through socialization? Our experts have all the answers!

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Are Ferrets Friendly? Can They Coexist With Dogs?

Ferrets are often picked as starter pets because of their inquisitive, playful, and charming nature. Ferrets are usually a bit shy around unfamiliar faces, but given enough time, they form strong, long-lasting bonds. So, they are rather friendly and like to be at the center of attention. But can you keep a ferret and a dog under the same roof? The answer is yes, as long as you follow a set of rules.

cute ferret lying on the bed
Image By: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

How Do You Make Ferrets and Dogs See Eye to Eye?

It all comes down to early socialization. Dogs can live in harmony with the “little thieves”, but only if both pets are properly trained. The sooner you start, the better because it’s easier for pups and kits (that’s what baby ferrets are called) to warm up to each other; adults tend to be more suspicious and aggressive. Now, by default, dogs think of ferrets as food, not equals.

That’s why you need to always be there—to provide supervision, correct the wrongs, and encourage proper behavior. This is done to create the right associations and patterns and (hopefully) start a beautiful friendship. Also, senior and young pets are not a good match. If the ferret is a feisty youngling, the dog won’t be as active, and the little bud’s energy will only frustrate it.

Introducing an Adult Ferret to a Dog: A Step-By-Step Guide

First, be patient and supportive and never push the pets. Take it slow and give the fury babies time to “hit it off”. On average, the introduction should last 2–3 days, but it might take a bit more time. We’re talking about fully-grown dogs and ferrets here, not babies. The first eye-to-eye meeting should be on neutral territory.

Here’s how it should go:
  • Let the pets sniff each other out. Keep the ferret in a secure cage and let the pup get up close and personal with it. If it’s a territorial dog, put a leash around its neck. Watch the furry buds closely: if the ferret shows signs of anxiety and stress or the doggo becomes aggressive, call it quits. You can always try later.
  • Next, get the ferret out of the cage. With the pleasantries out of the day, it’s time to let the beast out of the cage—literally. Ask a friend or relative to hold the doggo while you put the smaller pet in your hands. The idea is to get the animals as close to each other as possible. Start with 20–25 inches and go from there.
  • Put the ferret on the floor. If the dog is acting peacefully, carefully put the weasel on the ground, close to the pup. The ferret should have quick access to a tiny cage, box, or tunnel that’s too small for the dog. Don’t remove the leash just yet and keep your eye on the canine. If it stays calm, proceed to the last step.
  • Time to get rid of the leash. Now that the pets are no strangers to each other, go ahead and remove the leash. Don’t take your eyes off the dog, make sure it’s relaxed and content. That’s pretty much all there is to it! With luck, the fur babies will slowly, but steadily get acquainted and start a relationship.
  • Keep them out of each other’s stuff. Most dogs are territorial and don’t appreciate it when others poke their noses into their stuff (food, bed, toys). Ferrets are just like that; plus, they are inquisitive creatures. That can make the doggo very angry at the smaller pet, no matter how friendly it might be. Boundaries matter!

Which Dog Breeds Won’t Tolerate These Pets?

Terrier, spotter, and pointer breeds were bred with a single purpose: to track and bring down rabbits, deer, grouses, and ducks. Then we have dogs with a high prey drive (like hounds and sporting breeds) that chase prey and kill it. And, since ferrets are tiny mammals, dogs with strong prey instincts will treat them as prey. We’re talking about Greyhounds, Spaniels, and Huskies, to name a few.

Here’s a quick look at the most popular dog breeds with the highest prey drive:

If your dog is a giant, it might accidentally hurt the ferret by stepping on it. A 150-pound beast can easily break the poor weasel’s bones! Owners of Cane Corsos, Great Danes, and even Retrievers should think twice before adopting a ferret, as they’ll have to always serve as supervisors. Also, if the two pets don’t get along, and the dog ends up biting the ferret, the only solution would be to keep them apart.

Airedale terrier dog on a beige background
Image By: dezy, Shutterstock

And What About Domestic Cats and Hamsters?

The good news is that felines are much smaller than canines and they don’t see ferrets as food or prey. That said, they’re still hunters by design and come packed with laser-sharp teeth and claws. And, although this happens rarely, cats do sometimes kill ferrets just to hone their skills. Thankfully, that can be avoided via socialization. But if you adopt a hamster, the ferret will be the bully.

They are known to be predatory toward smaller species: mice, rats, rabbits, and hamsters. Much like with cats and dogs, this is a part of their natural instincts. You might be able to “stall” the prey drive by raising the pets together, but you can’t cancel it for good. Therefore, keeping a hamster and a ferret in the same house is a BAD idea.

Here are some more things to keep in mind:
  • An adult ferret might kill and eat young kittens (especially if it’s a male)
  • Any mammal that’s smaller than a ferret will be in constant danger
  • To avoid aggression, introduce the pets to each other gradually

Should You Let Children Interact With Ferrets?

Since ferrets are miniature creatures (1–6 pounds, 10–20 inches), they’re quite popular first-time pets for children. However, you should never let kids interact with these buds without supervision. They usually have no idea how to handle tiny fur babies and might end up hurting the pet or making it anxious. As a result, the pet could fight back and cause injuries, especially if the child is an infant.

The good news is—ferrets like to be held and petted, but only by the people they know and trust. Plus, you need to be gentle and not force cuddles, as that will also make the pet uncomfortable. So, make sure to always be there to “navigate” the kids in the right direction and show them proper ways to communicate with ferrets.

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Conclusion

Independent, low-maintenance, and cute—that’s ferrets in a nutshell. They are social, sweet-tempered, and easygoing pets who love to be around human parents. Dogs are just as loyal, joyful, and quick to bond. However, that doesn’t mean these two will instantly “click” and start making out. You need to be very careful when choosing the dog breed.

Any pup that was brought into this world to track/hunt prey won’t see the ferret as a friend, but rather as food. On the bright side, if you bring home a doggo with a low prey drive and raise the two pets together, they will not only tolerate each other but may also become best buds!


Featured Image Credit: Nalaphotos, Shutterstock

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