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Forum BONDING Bad Neutral Space for Anxious Bunny?

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    • Lisa2626
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        I have been working on bonding my two male lionheads, 1 yr and 8 months, and all went extremely well at first with them having no problems for three hours at a time in an x pen downstairs. Then I believe the younger one (Lenny) decided he wanted to be dominant and tried, but failed, to sway the older (Frankie). They fought for a few days every time I put them in the x pen so I switched things up and started having them meet in the bathtub so they couldn’t lunge at each other on the slick floor. This has been going really well and they haven’t hurt each other at all. Lenny has been extra submissive and they are finally grooming each other again and can make it at least an hour (I haven’t tried longer yet).

        I tried taking them to the x pen again and they couldn’t make it 5 minutes without attacking. Is the problem the space? It also seems like Frankie is SUPER anxious in the new space so I’m wondering if he’s pushing his anxiety onto his brother and that’s causing the fights. Any ideas where I go from here? Should I set up the x pen in a familiar but sanitized space? Thank you so much for any insights!

         

        Spay/Neuter

        Both bunnies neutered since December

        Housing

        Have lived side-by-side since August. They do separate exercise time but can see each other during that time.

        Bonding background

        Did you allow the bunnies to “settle-in”?

        Bunnies have been in the same room for 7 months. Minor nips at cage walls but nothing to be concerned about

        How would you describe your bunnies reactions towards each other (answer for each bunny):

        Frankie (older) seems to believe he is the dominant bunny so was anxious the first month with a new bunny around but is just fine now when Lenny is exercising. He’s got old man vibes so likes calm environments .Lenny is neutral around Frankie with a happy-go-lucky attitude about everything. Has definitely started being more submissive after previously trying to be dominant.

        Have you done any “pre-bonding” (cage or litter box swaps, etc.)?

        Not too much since they have been exposed to each other for so long

        Have you started sessions yet? Yes

        How long have you been working on bonding your bunnies?

        About 3-4 weeks

        How frequently do you have bonding sessions, and how long are they?

        Every day and it depends on how long they can last. They have made it an hour in the bathtub but only about 10 minutes in a neutral space downstairs

        Have you tried any stressing techniques? Yes, in a laundry basket on the dryer. They never fight there and when I turned on the fan in the bathroom, they immediately rushed to each other for comfort.


      • DanaNM
        Moderator
        8960 posts Send Private Message

          Thank you for all the background!

          I would definitely stick with the bathtub if that’s working out better! It’s suprising they behaved that way in the x-pen but you never know what’s going on in those bunny brains. I’m not sure where their home-bases are located, but it could be something to do with the general smell of the area. If the x-pen location was more within-smelling range of their home turf that could cause more aggression. Or if the opposite is true, there are rarely buns that are so nervous they do better when they are in a slightly more familiar place.

          One thing I’ve done when they start to out-grow the bathtub is to just try them in the bathroom, as the floor is still slippery. I usually just try to block off the toilet because if they both get behind there they could feel cornered and start a scuffle, but if the bathroom is small enough I don’t even bother with the x-pen.

          I would just keep increasing the time in the bathtub and see how it goes. With bonding it’s best to stick with what works! Eventually when you get to super long sessions the bathroom may not be practical but my suspicion is by then they will be more a lot comfortable with each other.

          . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  


          • Lisa2626
            Participant
            2 posts Send Private Message

              Thank you so much for your input!!  Like you said, I’ll keep with what’s working and like the idea of expanding to the whole bathroom so they get slippery and traction. I’m just a little worried about when we go to carpet because of the experience with the x pen but there must be outside factors at play.

              They have full access to the upstairs which includes the bathroom with the tub but they rarely go in there so I assumed it was neutral enough. I’ve been doing the x pen downstairs where it’s fully neutral but that’s where the problems are so maybe it’s a smell or something that’s making them uncomfortable.

              Thank you again for your response! I was needing some encouragement on this first bonding experience but all the research in the world isn’t as helpful as asking someone experienced!


            • DanaNM
              Moderator
              8960 posts Send Private Message

                You’re welcome! It really is so hard to navigate your first time doing it! Every bond is different and what works for some may not work for others, and there are often many different approaches that will work.  And yeah, no clue why there is such a difference but it could be that Frankie is so anxious that it actually has the opposite effect.  Aggression in rabbits is fear-based, so it could be that he was too afraid? Hard to know for sure but it’s great that the tub is working out better. 🙂

                One thing you could also try before moving to carpet (assuming they are doing well in the bathroom) is add a blanket or towels to the floor to give them traction. That way they will still be in a space they are (presumably) doing well in, but can make the environment less stressful.

                One other tip I have that may help (especially with transitions to new spaces) is to be very hands-on in the early stages, especially if you have tense buns or ones that get into cycles of fighting. Whenever they approach each other I like to do a lot of petting to keep them calm and swap scents. This makes them think they are being groomed by the other rabbit and can help them communicate better without it escalating to fights. Eventually you ease off the petting but I’ve found this can help a ton in the first stages!

                . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  

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          Forum BONDING Bad Neutral Space for Anxious Bunny?