Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The boys talk harnesses.

Ok, so after an infuriating time trying to find the 'right' harnesses for us and our fuzzies I feel that I can have some say on the matter. We bought a H type harness with clips and a figure 8 type when we first got our little guys. Well, we gave the H type to Shiro, and after many attempts we managed to fit it, to find it was too big. So off the harness came to be adjusted a little bit before we put it back on again. And repeat. Finally we had the harness set to the correct size so all that we have to do now is put it on and clip it together. Shiro found the whole experience rather confusing, 'what is this?' And he wasn't always too keen on being hooked up to 'the contraption', we actually found it easier to scruff him for the 'putting on' process.
The figure 8 shape harness that we bought for Alfie is designed to slip over the head and fasten around the belly. Well, this should be much easier than the H type right? Well, some may find it easier, we did not. It basically has to be adjusted every time it is put on. Once the top part is slipped over the head (not an easy feat) you then have to pull it tighter until it fits properly around the neck. Very easy when you have a wiggling ferret to contend with. Once that challenge is complete You can then fasten the belly strap....'Oh wait, it's too big, we just need to adjust the slide buckle to tighten it....Ok, he's wiggling far too much, lets take it off to do it....' Then you have to start over as you have loosened the neck loop to get the thing off! Once you have made the belly strap shorter however, the buckle stops you from feeding both sides through to loosen the neck part, so you have a ferret desperate to be free, wiggling like crazy and you have to try and remember the side that you can pull etc. etc. Well we made the belly strap as short as possible and tried again, to find that the belly strap hung there limp and lifeless, not so much as touching his ribcage. I was surprised it didn't fit as it was designed for ferrets! After fighting to remove said harness I threw it to the ground and declared I would get a H type like Shiro's.
Instead of travelling to the large pet store we bought the original from we had a look in our local pet store, to see what they had. We found a H shape with buckles (like belt buckles) and an extra long lead. This was easier to fasten than if it had designated holes as the prong could be pushed through anywhere. It was only after we returned home and tried our purchase that it dawned on me. You still need to adjust it every time! I couldn't believe I had been so foolish. Some people may find buckles or 8 shape harnesses easy to use but they just were not right for us or our ferrets. We need harnesses that we can put on quickly and easily, and to be honest we found the H type with clips the easiest to use. The only downside we have found is that as the clips are small it can be a bit fiddly to press the buttons in to undo them.
The boys are still a bit wary of their harnesses, they slide around backwards on the floor trying to wriggle free, but I know it can take a while for ferrets to get used to the idea.
I would suggest that you buy whichever harness that you feel comfortable with, try the clips/buckles/slide fasteners in the store to get a feel of it. Just remember that what seems fairly easy in the shop will be significantly harder once there is a ferret involved! Unless you have a very well behaved ferret of course. If you find the harness difficult to use in the shop I really wouldn't buy it, or else you will probably end up wasting your money as I did.
The harness is properly fitted when it is snug and they cannot wriggle free. I would be sure that they cannot escape before I take them outside, to be on the safe side. Do not make the harness too tight as it will cause stress and discomfort and could cause injury. You should be able to slide your little finger between the strap and your ferts body.
When putting your ferret in a harness for the first few times you need to understand that it can be stressful for them, and personally I find it hard watching them while they are in the harnesses, but they do need to get used to it as it is vital they do not go outside without one on as they can easily slip into a gap/hole never to return. I would recommend putting them on for a short period of time at first and then gradually increase the time they spend in the harness. Do not leave your ferret unattended while in a harness as they can easily get caught on things which can then cause injuries. Also when you have your ferret attached to the lead never pick the ferret up by pulling on the lead, dangle your ferret by the lead or pull him around if he doesn't want to go in the same direction as you, simply scoop him up and carry him to your destination.
For more information on safe harness use and fitting I recommend http://essentialferretguide.com/tips/harnesses.php.
If you are looking to purchase a harness then you could have a look at

http://www.companionschoice.co.uk/category_Ferret_Harness_And_Leads_1.htm or http://ferretcouture.com/shop/harness-sets.asp
The prong buckle H shape
The figure 8 shape harness




Shiro in his clip buckle H shape
Alfie finally in his perfect harness

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