F o x e s   &   F r i e n d s

Educational Site & Fox Rescue

Pet Training

First I would just like to say everything on this page is what worked for me or I have taught in my dog training classes. 

These training techniques can also be used on cats and dogs, I have used a few of these skills to teach my cat as well. But on a little side-note for Fennec foxes and other smaller foxes, since they have such hyper personalities, and often refuse to partake in such training due to a smaller attention span, it might be harder and you might have to double the practice time. They need to CONSTANTLY be enforced with these behaviors. I have been able to teach my fox to sit and other skills, but it takes patience and persistence. Feel free to contact me about any of these skills. 

And remember, with any animal (especially foxes!), the training will take much less time by being a positive, fun, happy, and rewarding experience. Yelling, shouting, or hitting will negate the training and should never occur.
First Skill - Clicker, SNAP, or Whistle Training
Some people use what are called clickers, but since you might bring your fox for walks, the beach etc. like I do, the SNAP or Whistle method is more useful than a clicker (not to mention if you are forgetful like me and leave the clicker behind you will be out of luck). I use a sharp SNAP of my fingers to get the fox's attention, or a quick unique whistle. The sharp SNAP of the fingers should grab your fox's attention as would the whistle. If your particular fox is stubborn and this sound just isn't loud enough, then I would recommend a clicker or using marker words. They have some cute ones that can go on your keychain. They even have new Clicker leashes you can buy.

What we are trying to do here is get the fox to respond and be alert to the SNAP of your fingers, whistle, or the clicker, much like a dog would respond to you calling them and expect a treat. However, since foxes do not have an instinctual desire to please the alpha, or their masters, you must reward them for each desirable behavior, like a cat. The only and best way to train any stubborn animal is to show them what's in it for them with plenty of praise.

The important thing with snap, whistle, or clicker training is to make sure as soon as the sound is made, you must have the treat ready or they might lose interest and wander off to do something, considering all foxes have a shorter attention span than dogs.

Now for the training. This step works even better when your little one is hungry. Stand or sit with your little one and give them a treat, but right before they take the treat, make the snapping noise or click the clicker. Even though they might look puzzled at first, they will catch on.

You have to make the noise every time before they get the treat, so it is viewed to them as a reward. Repeat this about 4 more times for a total of 5 treats this session. I would repeat this training every day for 2 weeks - 1 month. The more familiar your little one gets, the longer you can wait to give them the treat after the SNAP or the click.

If your fox starts to revert to losing their attention span again, you can always go back to the immediate SNAP then treat technique (or with a whistle). However, you must always give a treat even if you SNAP, whistle, or click randomly to, say, a song you hear. This way they will never doubt the training and always perform for the SNAP.

This skill comes in handy later when you are teaching sit, shake, fetch, or any other skill.
Second Skill - Word Recognition
This skill is very useful and very easy to teach. The best way to start to teach word recognition is with treats. Obviously your fox will want it when they realize it's in your hand, so say slowly and clearly, "Treat" every time you reward them. Click or snap before giving, and repeat this process every time you give them a treat. Then, the more they become used to this idea, the easier it will be to teach commands later.

You should soon be able to say the word "Treat," and the fox will become excited like a dog.

Make sure each of these skills are understood and mastered before moving on. 
Third Skill - Come When I Call

Prerequisites: If your fox knows the skill "Sit,' this will be much easier.

This skill was successfully taught to even my cat. Treats can be extremely motivating, so if you want your fox to come when you call, try whistling. Foxes are very nosy and inquisitive, so naturally they should come running if there is a weird noise occurring. 

If they do come when you whistle, as soon as they make it to you, say "Good Come" and give them their reward immediately. If you have a hungry fox, try repeating this after they have lost interest and ran off to play. If they repeat the desired behavior, reward them again.
Fourth Skill - "Watch Me!"
Prerequisites: Clicker or SNAP training,and knowing the word 'treat' would be preferred but not necessary.

This is extremely important to get their attention for when you are not only teaching other skills, but if you decide to stop in the middle of play biting, or if you are in a situation that might be loud and confusing.And naturally, since foxes are so A.D.H.D., this helps keep their attention span in check.

Make sure you don't try to teach this skill until your fox completely understands the concept of SNAP training. First off, like if you say "Watch Me", make sure anytime you use this phrase and your fox responds, even if you blurt out this phrase by accident, you reward your fox. Otherwise, they will see there is no reason to keep following this command. Consistency is always key (even with children).

First, after your fox knows you have a treat in your hand (and I would always stand up for this skill because it displays dominance), as they watch the treat raise it up to your face so they have to focus on you. Say "Watch me." As soon as they make eye contact, SNAP or click and give them the treat they have been wanting. Make sure you practice this anywhere from 3-5 times a day, and after about a week you can stop bringing the treat to your face to get their attention.

 Approach your fox now and say "Watch me" without bringing your hands up to your face. If they make eye contact, immediately reward them. If they misunderstood what you want them to do and look instead at your hands, you can put your hands out of site when you command them "Watch me." As long as they make eye contact, you can reward them immediately after SNAPping or clicking.
Fifth Skill - Sit
Prerequisites: I would recommend your fox knows "Watch Me," either clicker training or SNAP training, and the word treat, though not completely necessary. Don't get upset if your fox refuses or is too hyper to sit, some have that personality type.

This is probably the most recognized and easiest to train skill.With any animal, having them sit while trying to teach them more skills will help. Besides, you do not want your fox squirming or being jittery when teaching new skills.

 First make sure your pet is in a relaxed mood, because you do not want them in play mode while you are trying to teach, it will make it more difficult and frustrating for the both of you.

Then take your fox's favorite treat - it can be people food, mine loved lettuce and bananas - and let them know you have it. Hold the treat closed in your fingers without letting go, but let them smell it. If they bite your fingers, simply say, "No."

Then after you have their attention, stand up. Hold it over their head as you sternly say, "Sit." Chances are they won't do it for the first few tries, so don't get upset. They will probably instead try jumping, moving around, whining, yelling, or any other undesired behavior to get the treat. Do NOT give it to them, but wait until they calm down and sit, probably to look at you like, This is really cruel, why are you doing this to me?

As soon as their bottom hits the floor, SNAP or click the clicker, and give them the treat, constantly praising them for being such a good little fox for sitting! Repeat this 3-5 times a day. If your treat of choice is lettuce or veggies, it's healthy for them so you don't have to worry their health.

If you want to further exemplify this skill, have them sit longer to get the treat. Once they have mastered sitting, count the next time in your head 1-Mississippi-2-Mississippi-3-Mississippi, treat. You can adjust this as you wish but remember as soon as their bottom touches the floor, click or SNAP then treat.

If you want to increase their focus, and have them concentrate faster, try saying "Sit" then counting 1-Mississippi-2-Mississippi-3-Mississippi and if they don't sit within the specified time they don't get the treat. If your fox has problems with this, try counting to a lower number. 
Sixth Skill - Shake
Prerequisites: I would recommend your pet knowing "sit" and be accustomed to clicker training. "Watch Me" is also good but not 100% needed. And remember, these skills work best when your fox is hungry. 

Shake is a very easy trick for foxes to learn, since they use their paws primarily in the wild for most tasks - climbing, catching prey, ripping prey, finding items and playing.

First what we want to do is get your fox's favorite treat, and hold it in your closed hand, with your palm facing upward. Let your little one sniff your hand, and they might frantically try to get it open by licking, or nibbling, or biting, but do not release the treat. Eventually, your exasperated fox will probably paw at your hand, trying to get it open. The instant they do, open your palm and click or SNAP.

They will catch onto this very fast, and when practicing this, make sure you say "Shake" before your fox paws your hand. Every time you practice, move your hand up higher, saying "Shake" until it is the desired length from the ground, and your fox will catch onto this fast. The difficult part is next. Try putting the treat in your right or left hand depending whichever one you use, and rewarding them with your opposite hand. For example, if you are right handed, have them paw your right hand and get a treat from your left hand. This will help them realize if they paw one hand, they get rewarded with the other. Don't forget to repeat the command "Shake."

Once they grasp this concept, you can just show them an open hand, like you would give a low five. Once your little one is completely comfortable with this, you can make them hold their paw in your hand a little longer, and you can gently shake their paw. Then instantly click or SNAP and reward them with a treat. They will learn shaking is a good thing.  
Bonus - Toilet Training
*Disclaimer*

I have to start off just saying this was the method used to teach my cat and I do not guarantee it will work on a fox, nor have I tried this on a fox. I am not claiming this will work with every animal, this is just what worked for me. And if you have multiple cats or small dogs, etc, it will be extremely hard since they will mimic bad behaviors. 

Okay, so I keep getting asked how I possibly trained a cat to go to the bathroom on the toilet. Well this method can be used to toilet train any animal that goes in a litter box (In theory!). My dream is to train the fox how to use the toilet, but I am not getting my hopes up, since just using the litter box is an accomplishment. And remember, you should only change steps EVERY OTHER day, or if your pet has trouble, every few days. Here is a day by day guide of how to train the animal;


DAY 1

-Move the litter box or potty pad right next to the toilet and give plenty of praise and a treat when they go on it. If the litter box or potty pad was far away from the toilet you might want to split this step up and move it a little closer and closer each day to the toilet. Chances are, they will like this new "game" of getting a treat for something they have been trained to do, and will want to continue these behaviors. Also make sure if it is cat litter, that you switch to a brand they like of flush-able litter.
 
DAY 3

-Add a phone book under the litter box or potty pad, so it is elevated a litter higher than the ground. Make sure it is even so nothing runs off to the side. And make sure it doesn't wobble, as this will make your pet uneasy about utilizing the litter box or potty pad.

DAY 4

-Add another phone book. Keep adding phone books every day until it is level with the toilet. Keep giving lots of praise and treats for good potty behaviors. And remember, it must be stable or your pet will feel uncomfortable. This step might take longer for different animals, since each pet has varying levels of desiring to please.

DAY 6

-Remove the litter box or potty pad. Now there are many kits for this step, but I was cheap and used a giant piece of cardboard from a pizza box. Draw 4 circles so you have 4 layers on the cardboard inside your toilet seat ring. Place the huge square (or you can cut it to fit the shape of your bowl) under the round toilet seat. Add litter (preferably flushable) to the hole on top of the cardboard. It will be smelly with such a thin layer of cat litter for a little while, but well worth it in the end.
 
DAY 7

-Cut the smallest ring (which should make a tiny hole about half the size of your palm) out of the cardboard and put litter around the rest of the cardboard in a circle. Some pets will be unfazed, others will freak out. Let your pet adjust to this for a few days, I waited two, it depends how reliable you are about giving them treats for going potty. Always keep giving plenty of praise when they go on the cardboard, it should ideally be a 100% potty-treat ratio, but obviously life happens and you cannot always reward every single time.

DAY 9

-Cut the next ring of cardboard out, and sprinkle new litter around the smaller cardboard ring. Give plenty of praise when the pet performs their skills on the toilet. Remember, if your pet decides to go on the floor or has an accident, you can always go back a step, and NEVER yell or spank them. Yelling makes them associate negative things with going to the bathroom in general.

Note: My friends cat wanted to hide his poo in the bathtub and only would urinate on the toilet. Since most cats are afraid of water, I would fill up your tub when you cannot watch your cat. This stopped my friend's cat's behavior immediately.

Day 11

-Remove the third ring. You should only have one ring left. Your animal will have to balance on the outer part of the cardboard, or the toilet seat to go. And keep in mind, this whole process will be a little stinky for the two weeks it takes to accomplish toilet training. If they can go on the potty well, give them treats, if they are having problems, go back a step or two. Always make it a positive experience, never a negative one.

Day 12

-Cut out the final ring, but leave the unseen cardboard ring under the toilet seat. Leave this here for smell, familiarity, etc. Your pet should be able to balance on the seat now, and when they go, give them double the treats for balancing and performing their tasks correctly. Leave the ring on the toilet for about another 5 days so they get used to the smell, etc., then they should be able to go without it all by themselves like this;