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BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > BONDING > It's a father and son thing - BONDED
Last Post by LittlePuffyTail at 8/21/2012 1:56 AM (13 Replies)
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User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/10/2012 12:38 AM

Watson is my rabbit and he lives with me, 2 friends/flatmates and their rabbits Piglet (Watson's brother) and Sweep (his father). All are neutered. Piglet owns the house and is blind, so he hates other rabbits. This leaves Watson, Sweep and the garden. My flatmates are both experienced bunny keepers, while Watson is my first.

Initial introductions were done in a neutral territory. Both Watson and Sweep are generally sweet towards other rabbits and they had no grudges, having been separated before Watson became a man, so to speak. We introduced them in a friend's living room and they chased each other and humped each other. They had a couple of little scuffles before my flatmate separated them for fear of things getting worse.

 I left for 10 days during which flatmates did introductions. Sweep had been living in the garden and they put Watson in there. He went for Sweep repeatedly while Sweep ignored him, eating grass and not retaliating. Watson ripped out a chunk of Sweep, which drew blood, but Sweep didn't seem to care. Flatmates put Watson in the garden and Sweep in the rabbit run, which is huuuuge and mostly rabbit-proof, but Sweep is Houdini reincarnated and escaped. Watson acted the same way as before and my flatmates gave up.

 I returned and started dates with the bunnies. They sat on our laps about a rabbit head width apart and mostly didn't interact, but Sweep's heart rate was going and when we shut Piglet in a room and put Sweep on the floor he thumped his feet. I think Sweep fears Piglet's smell (which is overpowering, even for me sometimes - Piglet seems to scent mark and musk everything so he can find his way around) which wasn't helping. I fixed the hole in the rabbit run and put Watson in the rabbit run and Sweep outside and watched them for a while. Sweep ran round the outside, occasionally going right up to the wire. Watson followed him and they punched each other through the wire (quite funny since they couldn't get their paws through). After a bit they gave up. Every time I went out there I gave them each a leaf of something and pets, together at the same time. I made sure that neither had a chance to get jealous. They ignored each other and lay down and groomed next to each other with the wire between them. It seemed to be going well so the next day I swapped them over (with help of flatmate to prevent jealousy). Sweep did NOT like being contained - I can see how he could get out,he was determined. This time they just stared at each other through the wire a couple of times. The next day, Watson was in the pen. That was today. Unfortunately he got out (this time through my negligence, when I ave them vedgies I didn't close the door of the run properly). I went out there to see fur tufts everywhere! I watched them for a minute or so to see what they were doing before I intervened. Both were attackers but Watson seemed to be the main initiator. They would mostly hit each other and in one instance bit each other. Fights lasted about 1-2 seconds of furry fury before they separated and sat or lay down and took a breather, before going at it again. They half-heartedly came when I called them but wouldn't take a leaf. I rugby tackled Watson and checked him to see if he was ok - he was fine, albeit somewhat furless. I put him back in the run and secured it this time. Sweep was lying on the ground breathing heavily so I picked him up and checked him over inside, thoroughly to see if he was ok. He needed a good breather. He seemed very scared but fine. I put him back outside and they sat and stared at each other.

 

 This is to date my experience with these two bunnies. I intend to keep switching them around every day for another week and a half, as suggested in the bonding advice. Then we will continue dating sessions but in a different place, not sure where yet. Depending on how they act together we can then introduce them again. These guys have to get along - otherwise one will have to go, and I'm not prepared to face that. This is my current plan - what do you more experienced bunniers think?

One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline LittlePuffyTail
New Brunswick, Canada
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7/10/2012 1:19 AM

Do you have any place to work with them that is neutral territory?  Like a room, where neither bunny goes in? Having 100% neutral territory is essential, even more so when dealing with aggressive rabbits. Trying to bond two rabbits that are having a territory war is dangerous.

Proud to be a Bunny Hugger and a voice for the voiceless
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User is Offline Buzz
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7/10/2012 12:37 PM
We don't really, unfortunately. Piglet uses all the rooms and we have no bath. Piglet goes in the car as well. Piglet and Watson have both been to work. I suppose we might be able to use a friend's house but only once. The first bonding session was in completely neutral territory but we could only do that once. I'll try and find some neutral territory. When Watson was first introduced to his mam, she lived in the garden and Watson was put in with her due to lack of space. She quickly fought with him, a fight which he lost. They kept fighting and fighting and then he ran away and she chased him. She chased and chased him until they were both worn out - and then they were the best of friends. I reckon something like that might happen with Watson and Sweep, but I was planning on trying to do it a bit more by the book this time.
One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/12/2012 8:02 PM

Well, we have a very small toilet which none of the bunnies go into muuuch, so I cleaned it from top to bottom with anti-smell stuff and sat in there with Watson and Sweep and a squirt gun. To start with they sat right up close to each other while I stroked them, before one of them (can't remember which) bit the other and then they did the yin/yang thing where they bite each other's bottoms and run around in a circle together. I squirted them and they separated, but Sweep bit Watson and he squealed and ran behind the toilet. I retrieved him after a short cool-off period, then sat with one on either side of me, petting them. They stared at each other. I pushed them together little by little and their noses came together. They stayed like this for about 5 minutes, Watson slowly easing his muzzle underneath Sweep's and Sweep seeming to be happy that he was doing so. Their heart rates were elevated but not extremely so as they have been in the past. I kept stroking them, paying attention to their heads so I could separate them if need be. We stayed like this for a while and then I decided it was time to separate before one of them decided it was too long.

 I think this was a positive session since Sweep apparently seemed not to mind Watson dominating and they sat for a while together without fighting. The fights weren't too bad but this may just have been because they were both getting really wet. Watson had a tiny nip on his nose that wasn't even bleeding - what a wimp! Tonight Watson's inside and Sweep's outside, it's a bit difficult though because they both seem to be suffering from cuddle withdrawal but I can't just cuddle one of them without making the other jealous, so I'm not cuddling them at all at the moment - but tonight with my flatmate we cuddled them silly and they seemed really glad of it! I'll try this again tomorrow night.

One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline LittlePuffyTail
New Brunswick, Canada
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7/13/2012 1:11 AM
Its good to keep the sessions short at first and gradually increase their time together so they don't get overwhelmed. You can even do several short sessions a day, depending on how they are progressing.
Proud to be a Bunny Hugger and a voice for the voiceless
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User is Offline Buzz
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7/13/2012 9:26 PM

Today we went out to get the rabbits for bonding and to start with we had them together in the garden while we gave them a lemon leaf each (their favourite treat) and they had their noses together. For a change, Sweep was trying to be dominant rather than just accepting Watson under his chin. This led to them having their cheeks smooshed up together. We stopped stroking them for a bit to see what happened and they started fighting, so we split them up and brought them inside. Then I sat in the toilet with them, pistol at the ready. Immediately they fought, Watson on his back and Sweep clawing at him. It was Watership Down type fighting, teeth and claws and red-eyed hunger for blood. The pistol made no difference: they were determined. So I separated them manually and forced them to stay at opposite ends for a short time-out (Sweep was breathing heavily, he seems to be a bit of a wimp). They tried to get at each other but I kept them separate for about a minute while they cooled down. Then I sat on the floor and had them side by side as I stroked them. Sweep kept trying to get to me for extra cuddles by putting his paws up on my legs so I put him and Watson together on my lap. Watson didn't like this at all (I suppose I am HIS master) and, in trying to get to Sweep, bit through my wrist. I separated them before fighting began, then sat like I did yesterday with one rabbit either side of me. They slowly got closer together and then smooshed their noses together. Watson's head went down but Sweep was not prepared to let it go under - he pushed his head down, trying to go under. I kept stroking them and whenever they were being stroked, they wouldn't move at all - it was only when I stopped for a couple of seconds that they did any communication at all. They stayed with their faces together and I put them side by side in the middle, whereupon they sat there together with no problem - and I chose this moment to end the session, take them outside and feed them together.

 When they are in the garden, they sit by each other a lot. Sweep lies down, flat out next to Watson but my bunny just seems to clean himself. Since he was a week old he was the cleanest bunny of his litter and in his teenage months he is no different. As he is imprinted I am wondering if he has problems communicating with other rabbits - he is relaxed around Sweep outside but he doesn't show it by lying down. They often have their heads or their butts against the wire. Yesterday Sweep had his head against the wire and Watson had his bum against it, and Sweep was nudging Watson's bum - as if to get him to turn around. I'm not sure Watson realises that it's a bad thing to have his bottom towards Sweep.

I have a question - should I keep stroking them during their encounters and keep them just sitting next to each other with their faces smooshed up but not moving or communicating dominance? I am pretty sure that I could keep them from fighting just by stroking them, but I am worried that if I do this they won't be able to work out a pecking order and we will have a status quo. How much fighting should I allow?

 I will take your advice and do shorter sessions now - they have already been quite short but I will make them shorter. I can't do many in a day as I am writing up my thesis at the moment, as is my flatmate, so we don't have much time to grab bunnies and sit in the toilet with them, but we also need them to bond asap so if two is better than one then that is what we will do.

 Thanks all for your help and advice, it feels good to log and talk about this most difficult course in animal behaviour. It feels like today no progress was made, but I take it that bunny bonding is a roller coaster and we'll see what tomorrow brings.

One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/20/2012 7:23 PM

I have been doing short sessions, about 5 minutes or so, as often as possible. Unfortunately this hasn't been too often and we had a 2 day break at one point. I also did one bathroom session for about 15 minutes. During the short sessions Watson now cowers with his chin pressed against the ground. He often pees and sometimes even musks (which is unheard of from him). The tables have turned somewhat as Sweep appears to be the dominant one, pressing his head to Watson's. They stand hunched together, their heads together in a slow, silent and powerful war. After a 2 day break I put them together yesterday and they did a head war with me stroking both of them. Then I let Watson run around getting occasional pets while Sweep lay next to me. Sweep was terrified as the blind bunny had been in the room. Today I had a bit of emotional turmoil so Watson spent the day in my room while Sweep had the run of the garden. I decided to do a quick 5 minute session and they weren't doing anything - no head pressing, nothing. Just standing there together. I stopped stroking to see what happened and it quickly escalated into a fight. To start with they nipped and ran away so I thought, hey, maybe something's changed. But then Sweep pinned Watson down and tried very hard to bite his flank. I separated them and rugby tackled Watson to get it under control, sustaining some nasty bites and scratches in the process - they really meant it. Sweep came over, tail up, and I petted both of them while Watson did his jumpy freak out routine. He relaxes his head then jerks it back up again repeatedly. He does this quite a lot when introduced to Sweep. I let them settle for a few seconds, seeing that Watson was stressed, before returning the latter to the run.

 As I type they are sitting with their bums facing each other, very pointedly. I can see that things are now moving very slowly. Is there anything I am doing wrong that is preventing them from moving on? I know it takes ages for rabbits to be friends but it would also take ages if my inexperience was getting in the way, and these two really have to be friends.

One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/21/2012 11:33 AM
This morning I was woken up by my flatmates who said the run had busted open. Looking out of the window I saw Sweep outside and Watson inside the run. My flatmates had given them each a pile of pellets to distract them. There was fur in the run but my flatmates said most of that was bedding from the house! They had checked over both boys and found them to be missing fur but not injured. The run is split into two sections with the house in the middle - Sweep can easily get between them as he has worked out how to get on top of the house, but Watson is a lot slower than he is at moving between them. Most bunnies can't work it out. What I think happened was that Sweep got in, went over to Watson's side of the run, attacked him and lost then ran back outside again.

I'm just sitting here watching to see what happens now. They're not seeming to be interested in each other. Sometimes they both go up to the wire and sniff but otherwise they are cleaning together and lying down together. Sweep has not been back in Watson's side of the run yet but it will be interesting to see what happens.
One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/21/2012 12:47 PM
Now both bunnies are covered in mud! But they seem to be working it out themselves. Watson charges at Sweep and bites him in the bum. Sweep either runs away and hides somewhere or turns and bites Watson's bum, they circle for a bit and then have a time out. Fights last at the most 5 seconds. In the time out sometimes they sit together. Occasionally fur is pulled out in the fights but there are no injuries and they are not going for the ears. Just the bum. We are keeping a very close eye on them. Time outs are getting longer and fights are getting shorter. They are both peeing and Sweep pooed on Watson's back! Right now they are lying down a couple of metres apart, not facing each other, Watson in the run and Sweep outside.
One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/21/2012 4:26 PM
Well really, I should be doing my thesis, but this is too interesting. Watson was getting territorial over his part of the run so I closed the run off. Now the bunnies don't fight - the most they'll do is run up to each other, jump in the air like March hares and then run away. Sweep sometimes chases Watson when he's far enough away, but when Watson stops running Sweep also stops running, so they have no hope of catching up. They are ignoring each other mostly. This happened before with Watson and his mam too, and they became the best of friends. They are both looking terrible, mud does not go well with white coats. It looks like they are in the trenches in WW1.

I put 2 piles of vedgies out for them but while one will eat at a time, two won't eat together.
One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/24/2012 2:45 PM
The bunnies continue to self-bond. They can now be 1 foot away from each other, eating pellets, quite happily. If Sweep goes up to Watson (in a semi-friendly way with ears facing sideways, not back) Watson moves a small distance, no longer running to the other end of the garden. He doesn't trust Sweep but they no longer resent each other. They eat together, lie down together and when I go into the garden they both come up for pets. It is only direct sweep-oriented contact that makes Watson a little nervous.

It seems this rather direct bonding technique has worked a few times for our Flemmish giants, but I don't think it would work all the time - it's important to see what the bunnies are after first, if they want to kill each other or if they just need to fight it out to see who will be dominant. Watson and Sweep, when they were fighting in the garden, weren't doing it dangerously, they just wanted to ascertain dominance. In the bathroom, before, they were pinning each other down and I could tell by my own injuries the severity of their feud. A few positive notes however and now they no longer want to kill each other - Sweep just had to put Watson in his place. They still aren't completely bonded but they're definitely getting there.
One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
7/27/2012 8:51 PM
Houston! We have grooming! Sweep's licking Watson's head and they're snuggling together! It is cold out...they keep doing it! sooo happy...
One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline Buzz
29 posts Send Private Message
8/19/2012 7:53 PM

Well, there have been a couple of mishaps since I last updated but Watson and Sweep now have a friendship that seems to be able to withstand some ups and downs.

The first of these mishaps was when Watson investigated a hole, and Sweep followed him - except that his big manly bottom got stuck in the hole, so he and Watson were confined for a few minutes while I rescued them. Sweep was furious after that (Watson was probably making fun of him), and ruthlessly pursued Watson with murder in his actions. We quickly separated them, and let Sweep cool off. We started introductions again - this time putting them both in a small cage and shaking it if there was any sign of trouble. At first they would not even eat together, but eventually they relaxed (it took about a week and a half) and we put Watson out so he could get some grass and sunshine, with Sweep in the run. When we put them back together a couple of days later they chased each other for a bit and then settled down for a few days. They would do the half-hearted chasing and occasionally grab each other but it was just a little scuffle and nothing more.

The next mishap was what seemed to be an accident. I went out there and the two of them were sitting peacefully together - but Sweep's eye was closed and weeping. Watson (or something) had scratched the surface of his cornea. Luckily that healed quickly, but coincided with a GI stasis problem (Sweep has a sensitive tummy and we're trying to find what things in particular he can eat). All this time they had to be apart. When all seemed fine, we put Watson in the run and waited for the day when it would bust open (it seems to be on a time release). That happened a couple of days ago. When it opened, there was no sign of fighting or fur and the two bunnies were like something from a very bad love story - snuggling together and licking each other's heads. Gone were the head wars, the butt biting, the screaming. There was the odd half hearted chase and nothing more.

 So, in summary - the first introductions took a long time before they stopped trying to kill each other. Then we put one in the run and one outside it and swapped them around daily. Introductions were about half an hour in a neutral territory. The first time the run busted open, they fought for a bit, but only for dominance. It took weeks before they started snuggling. Sweep got stuck down a hole with Watson which wasn't good, so they had to be separated. Introductions were begun again, in a cage. It didn't take long before they were relaxed together. The next time the run busted open they fought a bit for dominance, then Sweep injured himself so they were separated again. Then they were put back in the yard with one in the run and one in the garden, and after a few days the run busted open - but there was no fighting and now they are quite soppy with one another.

I expect there will be the odd fight from now on, and it could be that another incident happens - but their friendship seems to be much more capable of recovery now.

I hope this thread can be of use to someone going through the arduous business of bunny bonding - if anyone has any questions please post them below.

One of these bunnies
mao
Is not like the others

User is Offline LittlePuffyTail
New Brunswick, Canada
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8/21/2012 1:56 AM
I'm glad your bunnies seem to be making out well. It is definitely arduous business!
Proud to be a Bunny Hugger and a voice for the voiceless
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