Clicker Training Your Skunk

Clicker training is not just for cats, dogs and horses; you can use clicker training on any animal, no matter how large or how small. It is an effective way of helping an animal learn new behaviours and the unique sound from the clicker tells the animal that YES this is the right behaviour and that a reward for this behaviour will be given.

There are many websites on clicker training and there is no reason you couldn’t use the training techniques from these websites on your skunk.

Clicker training can do wonders if you have a problem skunk, it can calm them down and make them more manageable, its a great way to communicating with your skunk. Like with any animals Skunks can come with their problems, they can become boisterous, aggressive and unmanageable, some skunks you can’t even put a harness on. To help avoid this it is important to socialize and train your skunk from a young age. But even with training, a skunk can still be a problem. Some skunks are naturally more sensitive, insecure and nervous, this can cause aggression and not many people will put up with a problem animal and so may abandon them or have them put to sleep.

A problem skunk may also not like being touched a round the ears, face, mouth and feet, all areas that are sensitive.

Stage One

Clicker training starts off by teaching the skunk to respond to the clicker, the response could be as small as looking towards the clicker when it clicks, the skunk may freeze in response, wondering where the noise has come from. Either way as soon as you get your response, no matter how small, you then treat the skunk with some food, something that he really likes, do this every time he responds to the clicker.

Important: Keep training sessions to 10-15 minutes at a time

Stage Two

Once your Skunk is used to responding to the clicker, get other people to work with your skunk, making sure they give him a treat every time he responds to the clicker. This will help the skunk to socialize with other people and associate them with food, making training easier. At this stage you could try and stroke your skunk while it has its treat, do avoid the head and shoulder area to begin with, in case you get bitten, if your skunk is known to bite.

Stage Three (The Harness)

Your skunk should be responding well to the clicker by now, with you and with other people, it is important to do the training on regular bases.

Now your skunk is used to the clicker you can use the clicker to train your skunk to the harness. There are many types of harnesses that range from a figure of eight harness that is adjustable and slips over the skunks head and clips up underneath the body; Or a small animal harness that is adjustable and clips a round the neck and under the body. Any harness will do and the training is the same for either, you may also find that a Velcro harness would be easier for training purposes.

Firstly get your skunks attention by using the clicker and treating, then once you have your skunks attention show him the harness, let him sniff it or do what he will, click then treat for good behaviour only. It could be that this is far as you get on this first training session, depending on how your skunk has reacted to the harness.

Your skunk should be more interested in the click and treats then the harness. Once you feel comfortable with the progress of the training, try putting the straps of the harness around the skunk’s neck, only clicking and treating for good behaviour. If you have managed to get the harness straps around the neck, try taking it off, again click and treat only for good behaviour. Hopefully you have managed this with no problems, though some skunks may take longer to train.

Once your skunk is comfortable with you taking the harness on and off around its neck, go on to the next stage.

Continue to put the straps secure around the skunk’s neck, as above. Then try placing stage two of the harness around the under body of the skunk, if he responds well, Click and treat. Once you have done this, leave the harness on for a few minutes to allow the skunk to get used to it. Then click and treat the skunk to get its attention; undo the straps around the skunk’s body, click and treat again for good behaviour only. Continue to undo the harness around the skunk’s neck and again click and treat and remove the harness.

You may find your own way of using the clicker to train your skunk to the harness, what I have written is a guide line only and is how I used the clicker for training my own skunk.

Stage Four (Walking on the Lead)

A Problem skunk may not walk well on the lead and may hug the hedge row, which can be a sign of an insecure skunk. Again you can use the clicker to train him to feel comfortable to being outside in the open. To do this, use the clicker to distract your skunk, treating him every time you get a response. By doing this you are taking your skunk’s attention away from hugging the hedge row and getting him used to being out side. Every time your skunk becomes nervous, get his attention by click and treating him taking his mind off from being in the open. Also try scattering food around the garden for him to forage, this too will help him feel more comfortable to being outside in the open, as it will take his mind off from what he fears.

Stage Five (Tricks)

When your skunk becomes used to the clicker you may find that he will really look forward to his training sessions and becomes excited when you get the clicker out. Obviously he will be excited because he knows food will be involved and as we all know food is a skunk’s first love.

Skunks are very intelligent and can be quite easy to train, so you may like to teach your skunk to do some tricks; the training sessions will give your skunk a chance to use his brain and this I have found this to be very beneficial to skunk training and behaviour.

The First Trick (to touch and object with the nose on command)

The first trick is to teach your skunk is to touch an object with his nose on command, you may find this will be learnt in just one session, but every skunk is different.

Firstly find an object that you can use for this training session, for example a coaster, but any object will do. Show the object to your skunk, if he touches it with his nose, click and treat. Then place the object on the floor, show your skunk and say touch! Keep doing this until your skunk touches it with his nose (or even paw) then click and treat. Eventually your skunk will get the idea and will touch the object on command. You may find later on your skunk will get carried away and touch the object with his nose regardless of whether you tell him to or not, then wait for his treat.

After you have taught your skunk to touch an object on command you could add more objects, for example place four small balls with bells in (these you can get in pet stalls) in a line. Then command your skunk to touch the first ball with his nose, click and treat. Then command your skunk to touch the second ball, then click and treat, then the third ball and then forth, every time clicking and treating your skunk as he touches each ball. Then command your skunk to touch each ball with out click and treating him until he get to the fourth one, when he does then click and treat him for touching each ball in turn on command.

The Second Trick (to give a paw on command)

The second trick is to give his Paw on command; this trick may take a little longer to teach. To teach your skunk to give his paw, pick up his front paw with your hand whilst saying ‘Paw’ then click and treat him. Do this several times until your skunk gives you his paw automatically, as he will then associate the command with a click and treat.

The Third Trick (to twirl)

The third trick is to teach your skunk to twirl 3 times in a circle, do this by holding the piece of food in front of his nose and as he follows it, move it into a circle commanding him to ‘twirl`, do this 3 times before clicking and treating.

The Fourth Trick (to beg)

This is quite an easy trick, as a lot of skunks all ready know how to beg. To teach a skunk to beg on command hold the food up high and in front of his nose so the skunk ends up on his hide legs and tell him to ‘Beg`. When he has done what you have commanded click and treat.

The Sixth Trick (the tunnel)

The cat or rabbit play tunnel you can buy on-line or in pet shops, with the tunnel you can command your skunk to go through it. To do this coax him to go through the tunnel, you can do this with food, once he is through the tunnel click and treat him, use the command ‘tunnel` while coaxing him to go through. Eventually your skunk will go through the tunnel on command, or if they are anything like my skunk will go through the tunnel regardless whether you told them to and then stare at you waiting for their treat.

Disciplining your Skunk

Never hit or spank your skunk, only tell your skunk off by voice a lone, if you hurt your skunk they will not forget. Disciplining starts when you first get your skunk and using clicker training is a good way of getting good behaviour and control out of your skunk.

Baby skunks can play rough, do not encourage this behaviour as they can grow up aggressive, make sure you play with your skunk using a soft toy or puppet to avoid injury.

Skunks do go through a biting stage when Kits, they need to be taught that this is unacceptable, telling the skunk NO and giving time out in a naughty box will help, but also so would clicker training. Skunks are natural diggers, so be a where that your skunk may dig at your carpet, try to discourage this behaviour.


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