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Forum BEHAVIOR Getting a bun more comfortable with contact?

  • This topic has 13sd replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 1 week ago by LBJ10.
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    • prince dorian the bun
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      Dorian is a love bug, he generally happily lets you snuggle or pet him. He’s not a fan of being picked up, but is also not freaked out by it. Best description is he is pretty bonded to me and sees us as family. Now there is Miu, she doesn’t really get humans… if she wants snuggles she goes to Dorian, if we say something, she looks to him for translation. She flips out if I have to pick her up and does her best to wiggle away if I try to pet her. I think a lot comes from she’s always had Dorian as a buddy and didn’t really have to bond with us in the same way that he did. There’s also different personalities at play, I don’t think she would be ever so snuggly, and that’s fine. I do want her to be less freaked out if we do have to pick her up, and be able to get comfort from pets if she is stressed as it will make things easier for her (vet trips, nail clippings, etc). She’s very sassy and not afraid of us or timid per-say, if you are on the ground with her she will come investigate and if you are doing anything she’ll come help (even vacuuming). She’s a sweetheart in her own right and I don’t expect her to turn into Dorian Snuggle Prince Extraordinaire, but how can I get her more comfortable with people contact?


    • DanaNM
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      My first instinct is that Miu likely just needs more time! In the scheme of things you haven’t had her very long, and much of that time was bonding sessions which are stressful. And then a lot of it probably is personality differences, as you mentioned.

      As far as petting goes, it’s best not to force the issue, or rather “play hard to get”. Many rabbits from the shelter are very hand shy at first and hate being picked up and it takes them time to trust you. I’ve had success with spending lots of time on the floor with them but ignoring them. When the bun gets to the point where they will relax near you on the ground consistently, then I will “ask” if they want to be petted by placing my hand on the ground near their head with the back of my hand facing them (not directly in front of them due to their blind spot). This mimics the way rabbits request grooms or greet each other. If Miu puts her head down, she’s asking to be petted. If she flinches, then don’t force it and try again another day. This step can take a lot of time! Even solo buns can take a long time to warm up to petting, so don’t worry if you don’t see results right away.

      There are also approaches involving clicker training to get buns desensitized to touch. So that’s an approach you could try as well! But to me that’s more of a desensitization, rather than an earning of trust. Both are helpful and important, but different mechanisms!

      Bonnie HATES being picked up, and the best thing for her is to only do it when absolutely necessary. She had become so cage aggressive at the shelter from constant handling that I don’t plan to try to get her “used to” handling. A key for buns that don’t like to be handled is to experiment a bit with different ways of holding them, as dif holds work better for dif buns. I use the “football hold” for most of my buns. It is of course important to be confident handling the bun and to be able to pick them up in an emergency, but IMO this is more about the person doing the handling than the rabbit. Any time I have to pick Bonnie up I always give her an extra special treat after (1 raisin!). She knows to turn around for her treat when I set her down so I think she forgives me pretty quickly.

       

      . . . 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.  


    • Wick & Fable
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      Admittedly did not read through @DanaNM’s response, so some of this may be redundant!

      I’d think of it as a science experiment and really keep in mind several things: 1) human bodies are confusing to rabbits (size, clothes, limbs, angles…), 2) rabbits cannot read your intentions, and 3) what your rabbit is currently focusing on may not be what you think (e.g., you’re approaching with your right hand, but the rabbit is focused on your left hand). It is very important that you try to be on the same page with what your rabbit is perceiving and respond from there. Passive attention is always helpful, and then trying different angles, body positions, etc..

      For example, I contrast my Fable and a rabbit I recently boarded for a month. Both really enjoy pets, but in very different ways. Fable will NOT tolerate being pet if you are in front of her. You need to be sitting by her side. In contrast, the rabbit I boarded will NOT tolerate being pet if you are to her side. I needed to be directly in front of her, with her nose touching some part of my body for her to accept pets. Both rabbits enjoy pets and would request them, but I had to learn how to read their body language and what I was doing right and wrong. Dorian speaks bunny, so it’s obvious for him what Miu is communicating. It will be harder for you, but experiment and see what works!

      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.


    • LBJ10
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      For pets – Yes, I think ignoring and building trust is a good approach. Then asking for permission to pet. This way she thinks it’s her idea.


    • prince dorian the bun
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      Thanks for advice, I am happy to give her time and let her meet us on her own terms for pets. It’s not just for pets though, but those times I do have to hold her or such. Today she was gassy and I had to give her simethecone twice and a massage. She was terrified. (She’s fine now, and getting love from Dorian). Nail clippings, going to vet, it is all super traumatic for her. She kicks and struggles so hard I am scared she will hurt herself. Dorian is not a fan of any of this either, but will eventually just snuggle close and get comfort from me, so it’s easier to do it.

      She does come approach us and likes when everyone is on the floor, and she’s a big “helper” and believes in being u der foot (or on foot) if you’re doing anything, even vacuuming. The only time she is open to pets is when she’s sleepy. Also when she’s asleep but mainly cause that little girl totally conks out hard and is dead to the world, it has caused panic attacks.


    • DanaNM
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      What technique or position do you use to hold her, if you don’t mind me asking? Some buns do better with certain holds. Giving an extra special treat after (I use raisins, dried cranberries are also popular!) is also helpful.

      Using the bun-rito with a towel can be useful for giving meds with buns that don’t like handling as well (I have to do this with Bonnie if I have to give her meds).

      You can start to desensitize buns to touch with clicker training. There was a video I loved on using dried spaghetti to desensitize buns to the sound of the nail clippers but it’s unavailable now. 🙁 But here’s a good one on using clicker training to help pick a rabbit up (this channel has lots of other ones as well): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi5b3zi8_gA&list=PLn9xVcGXrVa5t-XUXErt_cTmjBPRKPnGZ&index=2&ab_channel=Pewterrabbit1

       

      . . . 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.  


    • prince dorian the bun
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      <p style=”padding-left: 40px;”>I watched the video, I can’t imagine Miu doing that to be honest though she’s a bit more food oriented than Dorian. I  could try to see if she would do clicker training, but how do you deal with handing out treats to just one bun?</p>
      <p style=”padding-left: 40px;”>I generally hold her on my lap while I sit with my knees up on the floor and rest her back against my knees. Mainly do that when doing meds as I can’t find her mouth otherwise and back nails are easier to reach, also since my body is stopping her from kicking, I can hold with just one hand. If she does get iut we’re on the floor so she’ll be fine. I will hold her in a sort of football hold as well. I try to just let her go into the carrier on her own with maybe a treat. Dorian I pick up like a cat, as he likes looking over my shoulder, but I hold him the same way for meds and nail clips. I wouldn’t try it with her as she kicks and leaps and that’s happened even with vet and her assistant.</p>
       


    • DanaNM
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      For training, you would likely need to separate them for the session (you could just use an x-pen to block off a training area). I was mostly thinking you could use the concepts to desensitize her to touching etc, you wouldn’t necessarily need to use that exact approach. The key is to build up the training sessions. The first step is to build an association between the click and the treat. So at random times you click and treat. Then once that association is built most people teach the animal to “target”. The idea with teh clicker is you click at the moment they do the behavior you wanted so the bun knows that behavior will be rewarded. Without the clicker there is always a delay between the behavior and the treat, so it’s harder to “capture” behaviors. Some trainers refer to the clicker as being like taking a photo of the behavior you want.

      Keep sessions super short so the bun doesn’t get too full. For buns a lot of people will use the bun’s pellet ration as training treats, with some “high value” treats for really important behaviors or the end of the session. High value treats don’t have to be big, but should smell and taste really good (so like a 1/4 of a dried cranberry).

      As for meds and nails, you may find it easier to put her on a towel on a table. I’ve found when on the ground my buns KNOW they are on the ground and they will try harder to get away. Once they are on the table they are like “ok I guess this is happening…”.

      Do you have someone to help you with nails? If so there are some other holds you can try. Bun Jovi and Cooper do not like to be held vertical for nails, so I will kind of keep them in a more normal position on the table but lift them so one paw at a time comes off the ground, using a hold like she shows at around the 4:30 mark here (great tips in this vid in general, I have used most of these techniques on really squirmy rabbits, even though her bun is super well behaved!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIXdvtNwAPk&t=202s&ab_channel=Howcast

      . . . 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.  


    • prince dorian the bun
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      I watched that video and tried it with Dorian when I first got him. So did not work. I can try it with Miu. I don’t want her high as she does leap and kick. She’s calmer on the ground. She totally panics and goes into full flight mode. Her little heart also starts to race really fast and she pants. On the ground she feels a little less out of control. I can trim her nails and give her meds, I just prefer if she wasn’t as panicked about it.

      I can’t picture separating them for clicker training, Miu is nervous if Dorian isn’t with her. She won’t always eat without him. Sorry don’t mean to be shooting down all your very helpful suggestions! I really appreciate them and will try and see how I can adapt them to her. I think just time and patience will be the best thing. As you said she hasn’t been with us that long and even with Dorian who was always more chill from day 1, it was close to 2 years before I felt we had a true close bond. She does eat out of my hand and come check us out when we are about, so she is not scared of us… more just wary.


    • LBJ10
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      If you’re struggling with medicating, I’ve had good luck with the “sit” method. Basically, you sit on your knees and sandwich bunny in between your legs. Make sure to tuck your feet in so they can’t back up. Then your hands are free to administer meds, critical care, etc.


    • prince dorian the bun
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      @LBJ10, so they are on the ground kept in place be your legs? That might work well for meds with Miu as the she will not be off the ground at all. How do you trim back feet nails though? Thanks!


    • LBJ10
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      Yes, all four feet are on the ground and they are kept in place by your legs. They aren’t being squeezed tightly or anything like that. They simply have nowhere to go. I had a lot of luck with one of my buns that was very difficult to medicate. I actually was able to do his front nails this way too. The back legs didn’t work as well though.


    • prince dorian the bun
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      I can see her being okay(ish) with that! I’ll give it a try next time I need to trim her nails (technically sooner rather than later since I maybe managed 4 nails last attempt) . Thanks @LBJ10!

       


    • LBJ10
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      Good luck!

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Forum BEHAVIOR Getting a bun more comfortable with contact?