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Forum BONDING Bonding help for shy female and confident male

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    • Jacquelyn
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        Hello,

        This is my first time bonding bunnies and I really don’t want to mess it up and cause things to go backwards. I have read what feels like every article written and watched so many videos and have followed all the best advice. However, my female is very shy and she’s seemingly very annoyed with the bonding process.

        Oliver, is a 10 month old male and was neutered a little over 6 weeks ago now. Lola, is a year and a half year old and was spayed a year ago. We got her 2 weeks ago and put them in large side by side x pens. We swap litter boxes, toys, blankets and now pens as well.

        The first session was only 10-15 minutes in a 1’x2′ x pen and consisted of Oliver nipping, fur pulling, chasing and excessive mounting. I was able to smoosh them together and pet their heads side by side before ending the session. The second session went much the same way. The third lasted about 30 minutes and Oliver calmed down enough to lay beside her 3 times. Today’s session was also 30 minutes and Oliver was nipping more than anything else. He still mounted her, but markedly less.

        My concern is that Lola is a shy and timid bunny and these sessions are really stressful for her. She runs away from him, loudly thumps at him and makes these heartbreaking squeaking sounds when she’s trying to get away from him. She does demand grooming, to which he ignores. He does the same and she ignores. I haven’t tried banana yet, because I don’t give Oliver banana, but I will try it if it’s going to help. Do I continue with short sessions ending with petting them both or let them work it out and increase their time and area?

        What’s the best technique for shy stressful bunnies?


      • DanaNM
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          I think this sounds pretty normal and not too bad! In my experience this is the easiest combo of personalities to bond. Bonding can be pretty stressful for buns, even when it’s going to plan. All of the running, thumping, and squeaking is her communicating with him, so that’s actually a good thing, believe it or not.

          I would try using a larger space (like a full x-pen at least), but keep doing the sessions as you have been, 20-30 minutes seems like a good length of time. The larger space will help her not feel so trapped as she will be able to actually get away from him. It’s OK if they are not interacting the entire session, because choosing not to interact is also part of the process (as in, she runs away, he respects that, she starts trusting him more).

          I wouldn’t do the banana just yet, but when one requests grooms you can pet them both to make them think they are being groomed. Sometimes the petting will also trigger them to groom on their own. Eventually you will ease off doing this but it can really help a lot to keep everyone happy and calm in the early sessions.

          Once you are noticing they are pretty calm by the end of 30 min and you don’t need to have your hands on them constantly you can start increasing the session length.

          . . . 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.  


        • Jacquelyn
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            This puts my mind at ease. I’ve been worried that the process is overly stressful on her, especially being in a relatively new environment with new people. I really appreciate the feedback and advice. Thank you!


            • DanaNM
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                Bonding is definitely stressful! It’s ok to take breaks if you feel she’s getting overly stressed. Def keep an eye on eating and pooping, and if it’s taking her a while to get back to normal after bonding sessions you can take a slower, more gentle approach.

                . . . 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.  


            • Jacquelyn
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                So I did as you suggested and increased the x pen to full size. I put a new litter box and hidey in as well and things have been going well until last night. Last night my female attacked my male and I had to break it up. I calmed them down and it was fine, until she mounted him and when he nipped her for it, she attacked him again. I calmed them down and then put them away for the night. I had them together again today for nearly 2 hours before she again attacked him. I’m finding this strange at 11 days in. Is this normal? I did read that females tend to end up being the dominant one, but now I am concerned that they’re both going to be vying for dominance and I will have a lot more fights. She definitely has been coming out of her shell a bit more as she is getting used to being here, but she still is pretty shy and flighty. I am confused by the sudden change in response to him. Is this normal?


              • DanaNM
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                  Sometimes with bonding there are steps forward and back, so yes this can be normal.  How many hours were they together when the fight happened? Did you see what triggered the fight?

                  I have found that adding litter boxes can cause issues, so I usually don’t add a litter box at all until sessions are very long (like 6 hours +), and I just put pee pads down instead.

                  It is actually a good thing that she is coming out of her shell a bit more now, during the bonding process, because it means they will keep working things out. It can be a problem if one bun is just shut down during bonding, and you think things are OK, but then once they get more settled in start trying to re-establish dominance once you think they were bonding.

                  I would remove the litter box and go back to somewhat shorter sessions to try to break this cycle.  Pet them a lot and don’t be afraid to have your hands on them (wear thick gloves though!) to prevent fighting. If they fought after 2 hours, maybe aim for 1 or 1.5 hour sessions for a couple days. It really could just be that the litter box triggered her to be a bit more territorial, buns can be very particular about their potty spots!

                   

                   

                  . . . 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.  


                • Jacquelyn
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                    The fight broke out as I was petting them. She pulled away and so I was just petting my male when she attacked him. She also attacked him today when I sprinkled a few pellets into their hay. So I’m wondering if she’s just being possessive? A sign of dominance? It doesn’t seem to be the litter box as they will share it no problem. My male was free roam before we brought her home and so far, he’s been such a gentleman, not showing any signs of being territorial. I started bonding them in a neutral area and had to move them into his territory in order to make the pen bigger. He doesn’t seem to care. There’s been no changes in behavior at all. We even let them free roam last night for 20-30 minutes and they were binkying and laying down beside each other at times. He was still following her around trying to mount her, but other than that, it went great. I’m guessing just patience and close monitoring is the course of action? I’m looking forward to them figuring out their hierarchy 😊


                    • DanaNM
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                        Interesting! Pellets can definitely be a trigger, sometimes they just make the buns too excited. The attack during the petting is interesting. I wonder if maybe she just got confused? Buns can’t see very well right in front of them, so perhaps she mistook you petting him for him lunging at her? No way to know for sure, unfortunately.

                        Patience and monitoring is indeed the way to go, sounds like they are making slow progress!

                        . . . 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.  


                    • Jacquelyn
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                        It seems that they’re at a stalemate. It’s been 2 weeks now and although they’re doing well all things considered, they’re not really moving forward much now. Will they eventually get over this stalemate or could this possibly be as close as they’ll be? There’s no grooming, no laying beside each other at their x pen fences, no further progress it seems. What if neither one wants to be the submissive one? Will they ever be able to be in one enclosure together? Or is it still too early to tell?


                        • DanaNM
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                            What’s the longest session you’ve had?

                            In the grand scheme of things 2 weeks is not long! I’ve had a few bonds that took 3-4 months, and the buns were SUPER closely bonded at the end, so don’t worry! If they were fighting before and now are not, that is progress. Patience is really the most important thing.

                            When I’ve hit plateaus with my buns, it has helped to increase the length of sessions and/or switch up the bonding location. So you can try a different, still neutral space if you have one, and try to just start increasing the session length. You can also try making the bonding area larger or smaller. But often all they need is more time. Sometimes they need to realize “Oh, that other rabbit isn’t going away”, to get over the final hurdle. Switching up the time of day you do sessions can also help.

                            If you don’t have another neutral space available in your home, I’ve had really good success with doing some bonding sessions at a friend’s house. Sometimes having a completely new space really helps them decide they want to be friends because the other bun is a familiar face in a new and scary place. You could also try doing some short car rides (10-15 min) with them before each session. I don’t like using extreme stressing, but car rides are something that buns have to do anyway, so I don’t have issues with using car rides as a bonding tool.

                            You can do things to encourage positive feelings between them, like feeding them their salad together, because eating is a social activity in buns.

                            . . . 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.  


                        • Jacquelyn
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                            Well the last few days I have been letting them both free roam in our finished basement and they’ve been fine together, but definitely not bonded. It’s been anywhere from 2-5 hours. I have kept them in the full x pen as well hoping the smaller space might help, but there’s no difference. They spent a week side by side before we started the bonding sessions, so it’s been 3 weeks in total. They still occasionally get in tiffs, but generally they are just existing together, which is definitely better than fighting, that’s for sure. I might try the car ride and see if that inches them closer together.

                            Thanks, I really appreciate the support


                          • DanaNM
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                              Sounds like progress! 3 weeks total is really no time at all. I think I would keep trying to do the longest sessions possible, and even go for an all-day or overnight if you can. Sometimes it takes those long sessions to go from co-existing to bonded.

                              . . . 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.  


                            • Jacquelyn
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                                I have successfully moved them in together with no more fights or any issues. They’re still at a stalemate though. They eat together, sleep near each other, follow each other around and are generally always in the vicinity of each other, but still no grooming or affection towards each other. They still occasionally try to mount each other, so they still haven’t figured out hierarchy, but they’re coexisting well. So I guess that’s it, time will tell if they get any closer than this, I suppose. Thanks for all your help! It’s been greatly appreciated!

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                            Forum BONDING Bonding help for shy female and confident male