Rabbits are very intelligent and sociable animals and can be easily trained. Many people fail to train them because they use the wrong approach or don't spend enough time on the task. If you want to have a better relationship with your rabbit and train him properly, just read this article to find out how to get started.
Method 1 of 4: Understand Rabbit Behavior
Step 1. Understand what motivates your rabbit
These little animals are very intelligent and respond well to incentives. Physical punishment or screaming doesn't make them more cooperative. With the right incentives, most rabbits will react as expected.
- Food is often used as a motivator, but toys are also a great reward.
- Rabbits are prey; if they feel scared, they will usually try to run away and hide. If they exhibit this behavior, it means that you will need to find a way to make them more comfortable and secure before resuming training.
Step 2. Understand how a rabbit uses its sight and smell
Rabbits don't see very well what is directly in front of their faces. Their vision of what's next to them is significantly better, and they also see far into the distance.
- A rabbit will use its sense of smell and whiskers to detect something that is immediately in front of it, so it's best to put treats and rewards under its nose and mouth.
- You may notice that rabbits turn their heads as you approach. This is an effort to see you better: it's the same thing a person who wears glasses does when he adjusts his lenses to his face.
- Rabbits need to see very well in the distance, as they need to see predators before they are seen to save themselves. Before touching them, you need to allow them to smell you. This will make your relationship with the animal much easier. Through the smell, the rabbit will verify that you are not a predator and, therefore, there is no danger from him.
Step 3. Remember that being kind to the rabbit is very good
They are great companions who respond positively to your voice and presence if treated well. Although you must command respect and train the animal, your chances of success are greater if the animal feels loved and comfortable in your presence.
- Not all rabbits like to be petted, but some find it an even greater incentive than food. Spend a lot of time petting your rabbit and meet its basic needs so that it feels safe and comfortable in your home.
- Never hold your rabbit by the ears! This could hurt him. Be nice and kind to your furry friend, he will respond positively to your training.
Method 2 of 4: Teaching Your Rabbit to Follow Commands
Step 1. Spend a lot of time on training
For best results, it would be ideal to spend some time each day. Two or three sessions of 5-10 will keep your rabbit interested in learning.
Step 2. Use your rabbit's favorite rewards
Since the training will be based on incentives, you will need to find out which one gives the most positive response. Maybe some experiments need to be done. You can offer a new food in small amounts to avoid digestive problems. When he likes some of the foods provided the most, use it in training.
- If you are unsure whether a food is suitable for your pet, consult a veterinarian (who is familiar with rabbits). Don't give your rabbit anything but fruits and vegetables.
- If he's not used to eating fresh fruits or vegetables, don't give him large amounts to avoid diarrhea and other digestive problems.
- Your rabbit might like blueberries, kale or carrots. Try using these foods as rewards.
Step 3. Prepare your pet for training
You need to train him in the place and situation in which you would like to teach a certain behavior. For example, if you want to teach your rabbit to jump into your lap when called, place it near the couch. If you want him to learn to sleep in his crate at night, make sure you don't move it so you don't confuse the animal.
Step 4. Have an action plan
Start simple. Carefully plan the trick you want to teach the rabbit and break it down into small steps. Reward the pet after completing each step. When he learns a task, give it a name.
Step 5. Reward your rabbit immediately after he responds well to training
If he sits down when you give the command, reward him on the spot, or it may leave him confused. The encouragement will be most effective if given within about 2-3 seconds of the behavior.
- If the rabbit does something else before you offer the reward, you are reinforcing the wrong behavior.
- If you want your rabbit to come to you when called, begin training by placing him near you. When he leaves and returns to his call, give the reward. Be consistent so your little friend knows why you are being rewarded.
- Always use the same commands, such as “sit (name of your rabbit)”, or “jump (name of rabbit)”, so that he will learn to recognize your requests and associate those words with obtaining a reward.
- Congratulate the behavior when giving the reward. For example, say “good boy” when he obeys.
Step 6. Keep this training until your rabbit is almost always right
When trying to teach a new skill, don't be stingy with your rewards. The idea is to make sure he understands what you want from him.
If you're training your rabbit to accept a collar, start by rewarding him for smelling or touching the object. Keep trying until you get the pet to be quiet while you put the collar on. The process is gradual, and should not be rushed. You should also reward him when he walks beside you on the leash. Don't rush or scare the pet. Let him wear the collar for a few minutes and then take it off. Work until you make him fetch the collar for you
Step 7. Consider using a Clicker for training
Many people suggest this object as a way to strengthen the association. Every time you feed your rabbit, use the clicker to make the rabbit associate the sound with the food. When training him, use the object again to let the rabbit know there is a reward on the way.
Another good idea is to use the clicker when the animal reproduces a desired behavior, so it knows what to do to receive the reward. Reward the rabbit every time you use the device, even by accident. When your friend learns this association, he will do his best to earn the clicks
Step 8. Remove rewards gradually
When your rabbit learns a skill, start rewarding him less often. In time, Mimos will no longer be needed.
- Replace food with petting and toys, using food only occasionally when it is necessary to reinforce the behavior.
- Rabbits like to pat their heads gently, but doing this to their body is alarming to them. Be patient, and avoid frightening your friend.
Step 9. Reinforce training as needed
From time to time, your rabbit may need to relearn a skill. That is, it may be necessary to come back with the rewards. Don't be afraid to do it.
Never scold, punish, yell or even say “no” to the rabbit during training. This will make him fearful, preventing him from properly associating information
Method 3 of 4: Training Your Rabbit to Use a Litter Box
Step 1. Find out where your rabbit is defecating
Usually he will choose a particular spot on the cage to do this. If so, you can use this information to your advantage.
Step 2. Put some of the poop in the litter box you bought
This will encourage the rabbit to use it. Be sure to clean the rest of the cage.
Step 3. Place the litter box in the place where the rabbit has chosen to defecate
There are boxes designed to fit into the corners of cages. If the cage is big enough, you can use a rectangular version. If the position is correct, the rabbit should continue to use the place naturally, just in the litter box.
Larger boxes are also an option, especially when your rabbit spends a lot of time outside the cage
Method 4 of 4: Dealing with an Aggressive Rabbit
Step 1. Make sure your rabbit knows who is in charge
He'll probably try to rule the house. Although these animals' submission level is lower than that of a dog, you need to earn their respect to train them.
Rabbits tend to assert their dominance by biting, scratching, or trying to get you up from where you are sitting. If this happens, make a short, loud, screeching noise, put the pet down (if it jumped on you) and get it away. Do this firmly and smoothly. You don't want to hurt or scare your rabbit, just show who's in charge. If he continues to misbehave, put him in the box for a while
Step 2. Deal with your rabbit's aggressive responses
Approach him calmly so that he is not frightened. Sit on the floor beside him. Leave some treats on the floor. Reward the pet for getting close to you. Keep your hands down. If the rabbit comes to you and doesn't look scared, try stroking its head gently for a few seconds.
- If you don't walk away or run away, your rabbit will learn that it can't intimidate you.
- Never hit the rabbit. Your hands should be sources of food and pleasure for him.
- If you're afraid of getting hurt, wear long pants, shoes, gloves, and long-sleeved shirts to protect yourself from bites.
Step 3. Find out if your rabbit's aggression has an underlying cause
Behavioral changes must be investigated to eliminate the possibility of a health problem. Consult a veterinarian to find out if he is experiencing any pain, for example.
Hormones can also influence a rabbit's behavior, and neutering it can lessen its aggressiveness and territorialism
If the rabbit squeaks or squirms when in your lap, place it on the ground securely to avoid a fall. Keep your pet safe so he has no reason to fear for your safety.
If you speak English, some good books on training rabbits include: High Five With Your Rabbit, by Bernice Muntz, Training Your Pet Rabbit, by Patricia Bartlett, and Getting Started: Clicking with Your Rabbit, by Joan Orr
- Avoid overfeeding your rabbit during training, as well as unhealthy rewards for him. In particular, be careful with processed treats. Many of them are bad for your friend, especially in large quantities.
- Do not hit your rabbit under any circumstances as this can end up in serious injury for both of you.
- Never leave your pet hungry to train him. The only thing you'll get is to hurt your rabbit.
- Don't expect your rabbit to do what you say all the time. Even though he is perfectly trained, he may not want to fulfill a request from time to time. Don't be angry or uncertain about the quality of your training. Like any animal, he may not feel cooperative at times.