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The subject of intentional breeding or meat rabbits is prohibited. The answers provided on this board are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet.  It is your responsibility to assess the information being given and seek professional advice/second opinion from your veterinarian and/or qualified behaviorist.

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Forum BONDING Does it take this long to bond with a rabbit?

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    • A_Rob
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        I adopted a 1 year old female bunny in September 2020. I had her spayed by December and she is the only pet I have. I knew bonding would be a lengthly process but I am starting to think she either does not like me or prefers to be alone.

        I keep her in a large bedroom, which doubles as my office area. I work from home so most of the time, while I am sitting on an office-style chair, I am close to her. She herself has a large space to herself. It is caged off, but I leave her an opening so she has the option to venture out and explore.

        It took her months to leave the caged area (all the while being open) but she sticks to the same spots, it’s as if she prefers her caged area. I usually sit with her while she’s eating, sometimes feeding her from my hand but she still seems skiddish and is easily spooked. For example if I uncross my legs she will run and hide as the sudden movement or sound can scare her. Sometimes I will sit at the edge of her space and read a book and she will come hop around me but it doesn’t last long. She usually goes back to what I can only refer to as “her spot” and ignore me entirely.

        I will admit, I have had some health problems lately so I haven’t been consistent, I want to bond with her and have a good relationship but I feel like it’s one step forward and 2 steps back. I don’t know what I am doing wrong or what more I can do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


      • DanaNM
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          Some bunnies take a long time and are very easily spooked, so what you’re experiencing isn’t too uncommon.

          I had a foster for a while that was very similar to what you described. I would simply walk across the room and it would cause him bolt across the room to his hide. He finally started to relax after about 5 months, so don’t lose hope yet!

          Forum moderator Bam’s bunny Bam took about a year to realize that things were safe and to trust her. So some bunnies can take a very long time, and then one day decide you are to be trusted!

          I would keep up with hand feeding as much as you can. Spend as much time as possible in the same room as her, but “ignore” her and play hard to get. You can speak softly to her as often as possible, and keep up with the floor time. If the area is very quiet, some members have also had success with playing classical music quietly a lot of the time, so the bunny isn’t used to silence (and thus more likely to get startled by the slightest sound).

          Does she have any hides in the main room area? That might also help her feel more inclined to explore.

          If she will take food from you, you also might look into doing some clicker training with her. It could be a nice way to bond with her and start to build more of a relationship that doesn’t involve petting just yet. It can also help bunnies be less hand-shy, if you train them to “target” to your hand.

           

          . . . 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.  


        • A_Rob
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            Interesting, I didn’t think about providing hiding spots outside of her caged area. I will definitely give that a try.

            I’m unsure about clicker training. I always assumed I needed the bunny’s trust to be able to train her. I’m currently trying to teach her “come here” and I’ll offer her a treat if she comes. By now I’m sure she knows the command but she is stubborn. She hears me and I can tell she recognizes the command but she will stay put (it almost seems likes she does it on purpose lol).

            Thanks for the encouragement, at least now I feel like I’m doing ok 🙂


          • DanaNM
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              I would def give clicker training a try! Here’s a little article on getting started with it with rabbits: https://rabbit.org/journal/4-12/clicker.html

              Keep us posted on how it goes with adding some additional hides. 🙂

              . . . 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.  


            • Ellie from The Netherlands
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                Some buns play a bit hard to get, especially when they’re young and energetic. At that age our bun was a little bouncy ball of energy and was way too busy playing and tearing up phone books to be petted. I don’t know if she’s a dwarf breed or dwarf mix, but these breeds can be more aloof. Our bun is a Netherland Dwarf.

                Rabbits are a prey species, and they work with different senses than we do. That’s something to keep in mind while bonding: some things that are not scary for us are very scary for a rabbit. Rabbits rely most on sound, touch, and smell. Their vision is not very good, and they make a mental map of their surroundings so they can run for cover in case of emergency. This is why hiding boxes are a good way to start with making a scared bunny feel more secure. Rabbits also prefer it if they can interact with you on their level. If your health allows for it, you could try lying down on a mat or blanket and see if she approaches you.

                When I meet a new rabbit I often to through these steps to make them trust me: proving that you’re not a hunter and showing them that you’re in a calm state of mind. Move slowly and end in a position where it doesn’t look like you’re hunting them (vision), get down to their level (vision/scent), close your eyes (I’m not hunting) and speak a few soft words in a relaxed voice (sound). A rabbit that is not very scared will come to investigate, and I always let them sniff me for a while before I open my eyes. If the rabbit comes to me I get some food and offer it, and close my eyes again to let them eat.

                If the rabbit doesn’t come to me I do things that a calm rabbit would do, signaling: I trust you. I eat something which both human and bunny can share (psst, bananas are bunny crack!), or gently move my hands through my hair/across my face to look as if I’m grooming myself. I also mimick the sound of a happy rabbit by purring softly. Rabbits do that by softly grinding their teeth together, luckily we’ve got a way to save our enamel 😉 Here’s how to do it: wet your tongue a bit and lay it against the roof of your mouth. Keep your lips closed and make a sucking motion with your tongue as if you’re drinking something through a straw. The sloshing sounds a bit like a rabbit’s click. Rabbits purr in sets of 3 soft clicks if they’re happy: *click click click*  pause  *click click click*… Combine this with a sleeping posture and keeping your eyes closed and your rabbit may start to purr along, even if she’s a bit further away. My bunny and I often purr together before we fall asleep, we each purr in turn. Just that can be a real solid start to get a connection.


              • LittleLionMan
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                  This is a few months old so maybe you’ve had more success since, but I figure I’d answer anyway!

                  When you say you sit with her while she eats, do you mean on the floor? I find the best way to get to know a bunny is to sit on the floor with them. We’re scary huge beings that tower over their little bodies. I would be scared of us too! I just got  second one last week and our bond happened pretty quickly. I usually start by playing “dead,” laying on for floor with an outstretched arm. In general, try to Let your bun come to you and explore you on their terms and to the extent they feel comfortable. You can always offer an outstretched and relaxed hand with palm up (non threatening) so they can smell you from a distance. And try to resist the urge to grab at and pet them until they’re comfortable.

                  If you work at home, I wonder if you have a laptop or a way you can work on the floor occasionally? You can also watch tv with them on the floor. I spend most of my time on the floor with my buns, and I will pretty much drop everything if they come over for a cuddle. Let’s be real, we are all bunny slaves. Anyone who thinks they “own” a bunny is doing it wrong haha!

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              Forum BONDING Does it take this long to bond with a rabbit?